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Cartoon industry focuses more on originality

Updated: 2012-05-05 10:34
By Shi Jing in Shanghai ( China Daily)

Cartoon industry focuses more on originality

A still from the 3-D animation Monkey King: Uproar in Heaven, produced by Shanghai Animation Film Studio. [Photo/China Daily] 

China's cartoon industry focuses more on originality and creativity

There is an air of excitement in the animation studios of the Yangtze River Delta, as several recent happenings indicate that China is finally ready to open its animation market to foreign investment.

Two big-ticket global names, DreamWorks and Disney, recently showed their interest in China's animation sector, suggesting the domestic market potential and its integral role in the nation's initiatives to build an innovative society. At the same time, the animation industry is also caught in a warp as it faces an acute shortage of creative talent amid an over-supply of technicians.

According to data provided by the Shanghai Cultural and Creative Industries Promotion Conference, the added value of the cultural and creative industries in Shanghai was about 194 billion yuan ($31 billion) last year, 15.8 percent growth year-on-year.

The two industries have also set a target of reaching an added value of more than 200 billion yuan this year, and to account for 10.6 percent of Shanghai's GDP by then.

Cartoon industry focuses more on originality

Shanghai, Zhejiang and Jiangsu are among the most economically developed regions, and together account for more than 22 percent of the total animation industry in China, which stood at 47 billion yuan by the end of 2010.

Since 2010, the animation industry has witnessed a sea change with its focus increasingly turning toward originality and creativity, rather than outsourcing for global studios.

Not surprisingly, television programs account for more than 45 percent of the business of most animation studios, according to figures from the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences.

Adjacent to Shanghai lies Suzhou in Jiangsu province, one of the earliest places in China where the animation industry took root. Most of these companies were engaged in outsourcing work for European and US companies.

In 2005, an animation-training center was established at Suzhou International Science Park. In 2006, the training center teamed up with other domestic universities and colleges to nurture more animation professionals.

In 2011, 1,817 new animation professionals passed out of the training center, up 9.6 percent on 2010. But even so, the industry remains starved of original and creative talent, experts say.

Dream deal

California-based DreamWorks Animation SKG Inc, the creator of Kung Fu Panda and Shrek, has decided to team up with China Media Capital, Shanghai Media Group and Shanghai Alliance Investment Ltd to form the Oriental DreamWorks joint venture.

With an initial investment of $330 million in the venture, Chinese companies will hold a 55 percent stake, with DreamWorks Animation taking up the rest.

Disney, one of the most famous brands in the world, is believed to be in talks with Chinese Internet giant Tencent over a possible tie-up in the animation sector, with media reports indicating that the two companies may form a joint venture later this year.

DreamWorks Animations Chief Executive Jeffery Katzenberg has said the new joint venture will produce and distribute animated feature films and TV series and roll out its first product by 2016.

According to Katzenberg, the joint venture aims to be the leading family-branded entertainment company in China.

Song Yuefeng, director of Shanghai Paladin Max studio, said the entry of DreamWorks will reshape Shanghai's animation industry.

"The real positive of the deal is that it will help regulate the industry," Song said.

He said that while the high-end segment of the animation industry is in a poor state, the overall industry is riddled with bubbles.

"At present, the industry is in urgent need of product and software renovation. DreamWorks has come in at the right time. It is here to set an industry standard, which will do more good than bad," said Song, whose work Baizi Welcome the Special Olympics won the PSA award of the Shanghai Special Olympics in 2007.

He said Pleasant Goat and Big Big Wolf, produced by SMG, has been one of the few successes for Chinese animation, and it has helped to expand the market.

Cartoon industry focuses more on originality

The Pleasant Goat as in the animation of Pleasant Goat and Big Big Wolf, one of the few successes of Chinese animation, produced by Shanghai Media Group Inc. [Photo/China Daily] 


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