Thursday, October 20, 2011

China's Animation Industry

Former TAG steward Kevin Geiger, now active in the Chinese animation business, reflects on its past, present and future:

... China is currently the world’s largest TV drama and comics producer, the third largest film producer (after India and the USA), and the fastest-growing film market in the world, with a reported 2010 box office of over $1.5 billion USD (a 60% increase from 2009). ...

The history of Chinese animation dates back to 180 A.D., when inventor Ting Huan created what many consider to be the first zoetrope. ... 20th-century Chinese animation began with the pioneering work of the Wan brothers in the mid-1920s. Their animated short film, “Uproar in the Studio”, created an “uproar” among audiences on the mainland. ....

The worldwide success of DreamWork’s “Kung Fu Panda” franchise has caused a great deal of soul-searching in China. Many here have asked why the Chinese animation industry is seemingly incapable of taking such a creative turn with its own culture, and have wondered when a Chinese animated film will achieve such success in the West. ...

Kevin notes that China's protection of its film industry, with its focus on large public-private animation companies over smaller, free-wheeling operations is likely not helping Chinese animated films to be competitive in world markets ... or even with its own national audience. (Read his entire piece; my Clift Notes version doesn't do it justice.)

My take on the Chinese cartoon biz is similar to how I perceive India's: It ain't the hardware and software, nor the number of bodies staring at the flat screens inside "animation hubs." It's the talent ... and the resulting content. When you opt for quantity over quality, you end up with lots of product from which audiences, both foreign and domestic, stay away in droves.

If Chinese industrial policy frustrates ambitious Chinese animation talent, that talent will soon enough ride a work visa to Europe or the Unites States in search of wider creative horizons. It's the way its worked since film was invented, and it won't be changing in the digital age. Artists go where the artistic rewards are. (Hitchcock didn't stay in Britain, now did he?)

9 comments:

VFX Soldier said...

Coincidentally I wrote a post on problems with the Chinese animation industry:

http://vfxsoldier.wordpress.com/2011/10/18/chinas-floundering-animation-industry/

Kevin Geiger said...

Cool. There must have been something in the air. ;-) ~Kevin

Anonymous said...

"China is currently the world’s largest TV drama and comics producer"

I don't know about TV drama, but comics? ,surely Japan is the biggest comics producer.

Have you ever seen a chinese comics? me neither.

Floyd Norman said...

Thanks for keeping us informed, Kevin.

el diablo said...

Print,paper and gunpowder also were invented first in China, long before it appeared in Europe. Not sure why, but this is a pattern others have noticed as well. James Burke speculated on this a while ago.

d

Anonymous said...

How about giving the Chinese people their freedoms and then see what they can create.

A lot of Eastern Bloc European animation was created during communism when the artists were trying to speak out against a totalitarian regime. It'd be great to see the Chinese people start to use animation the same way the Eastern bloc countries did.

Kevin Geiger said...

> Have you ever seen a chinese
> comics? me neither.

Just because you haven't seen them doesn't mean they don't exist. :-)

Christopher M. Sobieniak said...

A lot of Eastern Bloc European animation was created during communism when the artists were trying to speak out against a totalitarian regime. It'd be great to see the Chinese people start to use animation the same way the Eastern bloc countries did.

I'm a little surprised that hasn't happened yet, let alone at least give these people a chance to do something on their own that does not have to be under a set deadline and all that. I would love to run a studio there if I felt I'd hire the people I knew had the capable talent and interest to put their ideas on film beyond the corporate/consumerate interest of the country.

Just because you haven't seen them doesn't mean they don't exist. :-)

They're just never seen outside the country I bet. I'm certain China does have quite a domestic crop of material that never gets seen outside the borders either due to non-interest or relutance to license said material.

Kevin Geiger said...

> I would love to run a studio there
> if I felt I'd hire the people I
> knew had the capable talent and
> interest to put their ideas on
> film beyond the...

That's the business model of Magic Dumpling Entertainment in Beijing. :)

It's not easy, but change is coming.

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