Dialect Editions Beat Disney
Besides the lively plots, the movie’s marketing strategy can be thanked for its box office success.
The distributors drew from operating experience abroad. “Usually professional foreign movie distributors would consult with relevant manufacturers in advance of release regarding derivative products. They would get those products to market by the film’s release date. Then more derivative products would be promoted as episodes of the spin-off TV series are broadcast. We followed their operating model. The difference was that it took longer for us to persuade some of these famous manufacturers to cooperate with us initially,” says Liang Shanyi.
From the close of 2006, Liang Shanyi had been communicating with manufacturers on the design and production of the movie’s derivatives, a line up of books, audiovisual products, toys and clothes. Liang wanted to persuade some big-name publishers or manufacturers to get in on the ground floor, but few of them felt confidence was warranted based on the characters in the original domestic TV series. Most of them preferred to make derivatives for media heroes in well-known foreign cartoons so that there was less risk involved. “Now the success of the movie has brought manufacturers to our door, but we remain cautious in evaluating their qualities. We insist on selecting trustworthy partners who will ensure the quality of our derivatives,” says Liang.
The release of the Cantonese edition of the movie also boosted the buzz. Many critics in film circles point out that even Disney didn’t have what it takes to make the dialect editions of its cartoons on the Chinese market, but Pleasant Goat and Big Big Wolf nailed it. It is the first case in the history of Chinese animation.
All the effort has paid off in spades. According to statistics, in the three days following the Pearl River Delta debut of the Cantonese edition, the box office in the region soared to over US $1.4 million, representing one third of the nationwide total.
A Long Way to Go
Some critics feel that the success of the Pleasant Goat and Big Big Wolf TV series and movie lies in safeguards adopted by the Chinese Government in the last few years, which set the prime time (5 to 9 pm) slot for Chinese-made programming only and stipulates that the ratio of homegrown to imported content aired on the Chinese small screen should be at least 7: 3. Although the policies undoubtedly played a part in the revival of the Chinese animation industry, critics believe that such a revival cannot help the industry gain competitive edge on the international market.
Though feeling elated about the movie’s success, Lu Yongqiang, general manager of the CPE, and Li Ruigang, president of the SMG, are both exercising caution: “The domestic feature animation is an industry still in its infancy. We still have a long way to go.”
However, the movie’s success is a good start. It has enabled domestic animators to gain more experience in animation design and promotion. More important, it encourages domestic cartoon producers to seek the rewards of well-crafted creations. “Next year will see Pleasant Goat and Big Big Wolf II and more episodes of the TV series,” Chen Yingjie gives us a sneak preview of the sequel by saying that the old rivals will transform from foes to friends; with the help of the goats the wolves narrowly escape a gang of baddies. Audiences will witness how natural enemies cooperate with each other, and give animators a chance to keep their interest with new ideas.