Hippity-hopping onto our screens

By Liu Zhihua (China Daily)
Updated: 2010-12-01 07:39
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BEIJING - Feeling happy? Send your online friends a dancing rabbit.

Hippity-hopping onto our screens 

Hippity-hopping onto our screens

A bit sad? Pick one with tears running down its face.

Frustrated? There's a rabbit knocking its head against a wall designed just for you.

Whatever mood you are in, you can probably find an animated bunny that captures your emotion and adds a touch of fun when sending an instant message to a pal.

And while millions of people have seen Tuzki - a cute, noseless, mouthless rabbit with a round head and threadlike eyes who waves, weeps, jumps and wriggles on screen - most may not be aware that his range of emotions come straight from the heart of his creator, 24-year-old Wang Momo.

"My classmates nicknamed me 'Rabbit' when I was a child, because my spirits pick up as easily as they go down," Wang told China Daily.

"When I wanted to update my blog, I used the rabbit picture that most represented my mood."

Later on, while communicating online with friends, Wang animated those cartoons.

"Communicating online is very different from doing so in real life," she said. "You can't see the expressions of people in messages and e-mails, but these cartoons can help."

Tuzki's cartoons have also helped her expand her own boundaries. Before she was 22, she had never traveled alone beyond the boundaries of her hometown of Tianjin and Beijing, the city where she studied animation at the Communication University of China.

"I used to be a zhainu," she said, referring to a Chinese term for girls who spend a lot of time at home obsessed with anime, manga and computers. (The equivalent term for guys is zhainan.)

But now Wang is planning to celebrate her 25th birthday at the South Pole.

"It's fantastic!" she said with a radiating smile, squeezing her eyes into two lines, reminiscent of her famous brainchild.

As one of the most popular emoticons among Chinese Internet users, Tuzki first appeared online in September 2006 in Wang's blog. Wang had no idea that two months later Tuzki would bring her out of her enclosed play-it-alone world.

Her blog, once visited only by a dozen friends, received thousands of visits a day for free downloads of the animated rabbit sporting exaggerated and funny expressions. Visitors also left requests for more creations.

The following year, Tuzki's popularity spread to fan clubs, postcards, T-shirts, posters, books, games and cards.

In December 2007, Motorola bought the rights to use the character to promote its new Motorola Q8.

Through product and campaign endorsements, Wang soon earned enough to buy an apartment in Beijing and provide a more comfortable life for her single mother, who has pushed her to learn painting since childhood.

After graduation in 2008, she chose to work for entertainment and media giant Times Warner in Hong Kong.

"I learned a lot in the company, from creative designing to commercial operation," Wang said.

Under the direction of colleagues at the company she created comics, published books on Tuzki and held exhibitions on the bunny.

However, she quit the company in August. "The company pays well, but I want to be free. I don't feel like being an office lady," she said.

On Nov 7, during a book signing session, she announced Tuzki had been sold to Times Warner, sparking controversy among the bunny's fans.

"Times Warner has a lot of experience in the comics business. They can bring Tuzki to an international market and make him unforgettable," she said.

Tuzki, who has survived in the quickly changing and fickle Internet, is considered a positive example of creative design in China's animation industry, which lags behind the West.

"I still like Tuzki as much as I used to. But now I think life outside is more fun. I enjoy traveling and photography. Times Warner will take good care of Tuzki and I want to move on."