Sunday, March 16, 2014

Animation in the Middle Kingdom

Every year China puts out a glowing, upbeat report about how well the Chinese animation industry is doing. I'm in the habit of reading the internet summaries, and was surprised to this year see this:

... In 2013, because of rising production costs, serious brand [brain?] drain and less national support policies, investment in animation industry declined and the number of animations also dropped, enterprises producing movies and TV cartoons decreased in quantities, and original animation production was dropped to around 150 thousand minutes, year-on-year decline of 32.7%, indicating China's animation industry is developing from large quantity to high quality. ...

So is that it? A 33% drop in production means quality is going up? Couldn't it just mean ... you know ... that there's been a drop in production? How do you measure "high quality"? And how do you measure how much it's risen year over year?

Disney and DreamWorks Animation are in China setting up production units, but those studios haven't produced anything as yet. Which would indicate that domestic studios aren't doing as much production for the home market.

Or so it seems to me.

But the report summary doesn't quite jibe with a concurrent press release about a Chinese feature:

Magic Wonderland, based off a popular TV series, is Zoland Animation's latest original animation movie set to be released this year. Targeted towards children ages 5-12, the animation has already won a number of prestigious awards. ...

The Chinese animation industry has evolved over recent years from an outsourcing destination for animation to one that is renowned for the uniqueness and creativity of the nation's own original animation. With sales exceeding US$5 billion in 2012, over 4,000 hours of animation content produced a year and Chinese animation penetration in over 70 markets, China looks to be one of the fastest growing countries for animation, production, licensing and merchandising in the world. ...

Well, maybe the licensing and merchandising sectors are growing. But when production is down 32.7%, that doesn't quite fit the definition of "fast growing".


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