Southeast Asia isn't just a low-cost labor pool anymore. While it continues to climb the economic ladder, it is also joining the creative class.
  That means the world is about to get eyefuls and earfuls of Southeast Asian movies and music.
  Let's join the crowd in a darkened room of an anime production company in Bangkok, where a short cartoon telling the story of a black cat that lives nine lives by selling its soul to the devil is screening.
  The word "FIN" appears, indicating the end of the seven-minute film, and shouts of joy erupt.
  We're at The Monk Studios, which made the short, "Nine." The animators are proud of the result and confident about the toon's ability to wow film festival audiences.
  Juck Somsaman, the Thai founder of the studio, predicts the film will win more than 20 prizes around the world.
  Somsaman, now 46, went to the U.S. at the age of 20 to carve out a career in animation. While chasing his dream, he refused to be discouraged by Hollywood's outsider bias and gradually developed a reputation as a computer graphics whiz.
  But Somsaman decided to abandon his star status in the moving picture capital of the world and launch a film production company in his home country.
  The decision came, he said, when he realized Thais, many of whom are great craftsmen, are well cut out for making cartoons and capable of becoming world-class anime creators.
  He named his new company The Monk Studios, hoping the homage to Thai Buddhist monks would help him attain his ambition of building a world-beating anime studio in Thailand.
  Somsaman is not just talking big. Another of The Monk Studios' animated shorts, "Escape of the Gingerbread Man," in 2011 won 18 top prizes at major film festivals all over the world.
  His company also did the computer graphics work for "Rango," which won the 2012 Academy Award for best animated feature.

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