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UK cartoon makers find new opportunities in China

By Angus McNeice in London | | Updated: 2017-10-18 23:59

UK cartoon makers find new opportunities in China

Animation Cloudbabies features characters who take care of the sun and moon. [Photo provided to]

The success in China of British TV shows for children, including Thomas the Tank Engine and Peppa Pig, has inspired a wave of collaboration between producers from both countries.

On Tuesday, London-based production house Hoho Entertainment added to the trend, selling the Chinese rights for the first series of animated preschool show Cloudbabies to Chinese media company Wow Dadi Technology. The companies also agreed to coproduce the show’s second series.

This follows a deal finalized last week between Belfast-based studio Sixteen South and Chinese family entertainment company UYoung that involves the creation of a new original series and the Chinese rights for Sixteen South's kids show Lily's Driftwood Bay.

"The rise of popularity in China of shows like Peppa Pig and Thomas the Tank Engine has opened a gateway," said Helen Howells, cofounder of Hoho Entertainment. "There is a real, growing appetite for international content in China."

Peppa Pig, which is owned by British film and TV company Entertainment One, has racked up 34 billion views in China since it was launched in the country in 2015. British television show Thomas the Tank Engine & Friends first entered China in 2008. China is now the second-largest market for the show’s merchandise, behind the United States.

Beyond rights deals, Howells said companies are increasingly looking to the Chinese market for coproduction opportunities.

"There is a big ability to finance in China," she said. "It is growing increasingly challenging for European companies to put together production funding. Broadcasters here are not paying – the license fees here are not what they were 10 or 15 years ago."

The agreement between Hoho Entertainment and Wow Dadi Technology involves the exclusive distribution and merchandise rights for the first season of Cloudbabies on the Chinese mainland.

Cloudbabies airs in the UK on CBeebies, the BBC network aimed at children. It is about a group of childlike characters whose job is to look after the sun, moon and clouds. Wow Dadi has also agreed to finance the production of a 52-episode second series.

And Sixteen South and UYoung have agreed to develop 52 episodes of an original preschool series. The show, as yet unnamed, will aim to "charm young viewers with its unique angle, portraying love and friendship across different cultures and nations", according to the Belfast company.

Lily's Driftwood Bay is about a girl and a seagull who hunt for treasure on a deserted beach. It has been broadcast on both Nick Jr and Channel 5 in the UK.

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