Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Animation, Chinese Style

Mainland China is waking up to the idea that animation in all its forms is maybe a business they want to be in. But it's been slow:

Many of China's young people have been obsessed with cartoons and other forms of animation from Japan and South Korea for more than a decade. The authorities have tended to view the cartoons as a troublesome counterculture—too violent and lacking in any positive social message.

Apparently the Chinese government wants to control what gets made (who would have imagined?)

The Chinese government has begun a deliberate campaign to move the genre away from the foreign and sometimes nihilistic values of the past and use it to stress the continuing relevance of the Communist Party to a young generation. It also hopes to promote what authorities perceive as "Chinese" values...

Okay, that's the domestic model. But what about the Middle Kingdom's international business model?

The Chinese authorities are now trying to promote original creations, with the ultimate goal of challenging the United States and Japan in the global market...

Beijing's embrace of animation has so far been heavy-handed. Last year it announced a ban on foreign cartoons during prime-time television hours. "Some say giving our industry a five- or 10-year protection period is the only way to help it get going in the face of the power of the U.S. and Japan," says Zhang Xin of the Center of International Cultural Exchange at China's Ministry of Culture. But some fans have noticed a drop in quality...

...It doesn't help that government approval is required to make a five-minute short, which some experts say discourages talent.

There's the ongoing threat of "China the giant 'toon sub-contractor", but that's been around for twenty years. The other question of "Will Chinese cartoons be catching on here?" is fairly easy to answer.

Not any time soon.

(h/t Kathleen Milnes)


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