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Animation centres to be created
By Guan Xiaofeng (China Daily)
Updated: 2004-12-08 02:08

China authorized a chain of national animation studios and research institutes to become centres for national animation on Monday to help propel a sector now dominated by foreign animators.

Nine studios and four colleges, including the Shanghai Animation Film Studio, China International Television Corporation, Communication University of China, Beijing Film Academy, China Academy of Art, are to become the first group of licensed animation centres.

"The establishment of these bases is a major step for the State Administration of Radio, Film and Television (SARFT) to accelerate the development of China's animation industry," said Xu Guangchun, director of SARFT, at the licence-awarding ceremony.

The nine studios are encouraged to produce cartoons with depth and refinement to form an animation industry chain, Xu said.

Xu said SARFT will give vigorous support to the development of national animation films and co-ordinate with the Ministry of Finance and the State Administration of Taxation to grant these favourable financial and tax policies to the centres.

Local broadcast authorities are also required to give full support to them.

"It is certainly a good thing, which reflects the central government's resolution to enhance China's animation industry. China's animation industry is now facing its best time in the history," said Lu Shengzhang, dean of animation, at the Communication University of China.

Lu said that China has a population of children and teenagers of 370 million, representing a huge animation market. But at present, about 90 per cent of the market is occupied by foreign cartoon producers like Japan, the United States, and the Republic of Korea with the largest share going to Japan.

More and more Chinese children are fascinated by foreign cartoon figures like Transformers, Dragon Ball, Garfield and Snoopy, instead of Chinese ones which they consider to be too "black-and-white."

With a glorious past, Chinese animation now faces severe competition when the international animation industry is dominated by massive Japanese and US cartoon outputs.

"China used to view animation as education and art for children instead of an industry. So the potential of domestic animation sector has not been developed fully," Lu said.

China's domestic animation output last year was estimated at about 29,000 minutes. However, the market demand adds up to a huge 225,000 minutes even on the assumption that each province shows only 5 minutes of animation programmes a day, according to Lu.

In April, SARFT issued Principles for the Development of China's Animation Film and TV Industry, an important policy document encouraging quicker development of the sector. One of its clauses mandates that domestic programmes should make up no less than 60 per cent of the total on every local TV's cartoon channels.

"No TV stations can carry out this mandate except CCTV," Lu said. "The vacuum hence has to be filled by foreign cartoons."

"We have no other choice but to catch up and time is very pressing," Lu said.

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