Original animation work is on the rise, China’s animation industry continues to support “The Chinese School”

(Photo) The opening of the 15th China International Animation Game Expo

In the 1940s, the Wan Brothers produced the first Chinese animated film “Princess Iron Fan”, which was distributed to Southeast Asia and Japan.  It opened a new horizon in the Chinese animation industry, as well as the starting point when the “Chinese Work” began to flourish.

After entering the new century, more and more new technologies, new models and new ideas have emerged in the animation industry.  “Fox Spirit Matchmaker” “The Outcast” ” The King’s Avatar “ and other new China domestic IP, not only shined in the domestic market, but also went overseas.

On July 4th, Shanghai World Expo Exhibition Hall once again hold the 15th China International Animation Game Expo (CCG EXPO 2019). In the 60,000 square meters exhibition area, Bilibili, Tencent Video, China Literature Group, Xiaoming Taiji Guoman and other well-known domestic enterprises formed a platform to showcase the ultra-popular national IP such as “Battle Through the Heaven”, ” Martial Universe “ and “Dragon Prince Yuan“.  The anime fans annual event is here.

Standing on the node of 70 years and looking back at domestic animation’s past, based on the rise of domestic IP, the industry is exploring together what future possibilities will IP bring?

(Photo) The 70th anniversary of the New China Animation & Game Industry exhibition takes up the eye-catching centre area

Past:  Animation “Chinese School”

In the eye-catching centre area of the Shanghai World Expo Exhibition Hall, a special retrospective leads the anime fans to be on the “Time Machine” and meet the animation works born in this land in the 70’s since the founding of New China.  “The Monkey King”, “Black Cat Sheriff”, “Gourd Baby”... these classic animation works carrying countless childhood memories are displayed in a time corridor.  Historically, they represented the “Chinese School” in the field of animation.

Shanghai is a significant place in the development of Chinese animation.  In the middle of the last century, domestic comics have emerged around the world, and the “Chinese School” represented by the Shanghai Art Film Studio has contributed significantly.  In the era when information lacked and technology was behind, a group of animators have strived to create an artistic style of domestic animation using unique ethnic elements.

“The first characteristic of the “Chinese School” is the role model successfully learns from traditional Chinese art form, which is simple and subtle, expressive and vivid.  Any element related to folk culture can be borrowed at hand,” said Gong Jianying, Vice President of the Chinese Animation Society.  “Chinese School” animation is good at combining Chinese ancient shadow play, papercut, origami, new year painting, window flower, ink painting, ceramic and other ethnic-style materials with animation, making Chinese animated films unique.  In 1958, “Pig Bajie Eats Watermelon” applied shadow play and papercut art to animation; “Smart Duck”, which was born in 1960, was an origami cartoon.  The use of origami art made the character more three-dimensional; “The Arrogant General”, the use of Peking Opera masks, costumes and props had elevated the dramatic effect of character styling. In addition, the “Chinese School” philosophical plot also contains Chinese philosophical thinking.  The cartoon “Three Monks” was produced based on proverbs.  With vivid and simple images, it revealed the “a monk picks up water, two monks raise water, three monks have no water to drink” philosophy, the Chinese folk which had been around for a long time.

Today, the old-time animated film “The Monkey King” is still regarded as a classic by anime fans.  The festival poster of the Shanghai International Film Festival just closed also came from this feature.  And ticket of the refurbished “The Monkey King” is still in demand. Despite the technical limits at that time, the “The Monkey King” still survived the test of time with a rich cultural core.  At the time of creation, the film crew went to the Shanghai Peking Opera Theatre to invite the “South Monkey King” Zheng Faxiang to the Meiying Factory to teach, and they also borrowed a few red rattan sticks as props to try to figure out how the Monkey King on the stage danced the stick.  When the monkey king appeared, the soundtrack also boldly used the percussion instruments in the opera.  Since its release in 1964, “The Monkey King” has been exported, distributed and screened in 44 countries and regions.  “Sun Wukong” had also become one of the most well-known anime characters.

Since mid 20th century, art forms such as ink painting, paper-cutting, and white drawing have gradually become the hallmarks of Chinese animation.  The distinctive cultural selection has made domestic animations famous in the world.  “The practice of “Chinese School” animation can be attributed to the love of traditional cultural topics, the traceability of art style, the concept of continuous innovation and the improvement of artistic quality.”  In Gong Jianying’s view, the current animation creation should continue to study the visual expression of animation, and while considering the promotion of traditional culture, should also pay attention to the rich and diverse needs of young audience’s psychological and spiritual aspects, and “find the expression of the internationalization and modernization of the Chinese cultural spirit.”

(Photo) The 70th Anniversary of the New China Animation Game Exhibition, featuring Chinese excellent animated film posters and classic animation works such as “The Momkey King” , “Black Cat Sheriff” and “Gourd Baby”.

Now:  China animation IP is popular

With the upgrade of the production level and the rise of the IP concept, the market of Chinese animation has grown by leaps and bounds in recent years.  From the domestic animated film “Monkey King: Hero is Back”, “The Big Fish Peony”, to the popular online text adaptation of the anime “Break the Sky” “Wu Dong Qian Kun”, the cultivation and development of the original Chinese animation IP and the development of the entire industry chain, has become a hot spot.  In the survey on animation exhibitions, data show that more than 70% of the audiences hope to see the “national” elements in the exhibition.  For this year’s CCG EXPO, the most popular national IPs are still the biggest attraction, and many domestic new works will also be unveiled at the show.

“The era of China’s animation IP has arrived, content incubation and the operation of the whole industry chain have become the future trend.” Gao Wenzhao, a partner of Yien, observed that at present the 95’s, the 00’s, become the core viewing group of animation, and users are willing to pay for comics.  From the behind-the-scenes to the front of the stage, the cartoonist has a lot of popularity and fans, and the economic business of anime fans is gradually emerging. Per statistics, last year China’s pan-two-dimension users exceeded 300 million.  This group of young fans grew up as the “Z generation” in the Internet environment.  The proportion of willingness to pay for ACG (referring to animation and games) is as high as 96%.

Previously, the virtual singer, Luo Tianyi, had “appeared” on Hunan Satellite TV Spring Festival Evening.  The number of online users during the show was as high as 1.7 million.  The “King’s Avatar” adapted from the online novel of the same name successfully made the protagonist “Ye Xiu” hot.  On his birthday, fans rented the Beijing World Trade Centre LED screen for his birthday celebration, and the McDonald appeared in the animation became a hot spot since.

As a “young” expression, anime is entering real life in many ways.  “In the past 40 years, Chinese animation has gone through the era of paper media and TV cartoons, and has now fully entered the new era of Internet and mobile internet.” Zheng Fangping, Vice President of Xiaoming Taiji Guoman, said, “Enterprises are committed to building an IP incubator operation platform for the entire industry chain.”

In the IP wave, the industrial chain of China’s animation is perfecting.  The upstream content creation parties include individual cartoonists, comics studios, animation production companies, etc.  The mid-stream communication channels include traditional routes such as publishing houses, newspapers and periodicals, as well as rising numbers of comic reading platform, video platform; games, hand-made toys, animation movies, live TV dramas and other downstream authorized derivative industry chains have also received more attention.

Not long ago, the animated film “Saier Movie 7: Crazy Machine City” announced August 2nd screening.  From the title, this is already the seventh animated film in the “Saier” series.  “The Saier” was originally a children’s page tour product, mainly engaged in children’s community, and later successively had a series of products such as big movies, cartoons, peripheral derivatives, etc.” said Wen Hao, Director of Brand Licensing, Shanghai Taomi Network Technology Co., Ltd. . Since 2011, the “Saier” IP appeared in animation.  At present, the animation has been produced and broadcasted for 9 seasons.  The content has accumulated more than 400 episodes, covering areas with more than 1.3 billion audiences. The cumulative amount of the whole network has exceeded 10 billion, which is deeply loved by children.  In Wen Yan’s view, IP for animation adaptation must have depth, length and temperature.  “Depth refers to a deep cultural heritage.  At the same time, an IP also needs to undergo a period of precipitation and fan accumulation, which is the length of IP.  More, IP must have a positive world view and positive energy.”

Not long ago, the iron man and other anime characters in “Avengers 4” appeared.

Going overseas:  building an animation port in Southeast Asia

“The country is going overseas, and it needs ship and also port.”  With the Internet wave, domestic animation work and Internet comics platforms have risen rapidly, and gradually open up overseas market.  In November last year, WebComics, an overseas comic publishing platform, announced having raised millions of dollars in Series A financing.  It now has more than 5 million installers and monthly active users are about 2.3 million, which has been in the forefront of the US IOS reading software statistics.  In recent years, Comic Island, which has 95 million users, is also committed to go to overseas markets.  Its exclusive original work “Wedding at Dawn ” and “How to Become a Male God” have been launched on the Korean Kakao Page, Boom Toon, Ridi Books and other platforms.

From “import” of genuine comics copyright agents, single-line translation, to the current reverse export, Chinese animation is entering the overseas market with a lower threshold and more efficient way.

Each CCG EXPO builds platform for communication and interaction between animation and related companies at home and abroad.  In recent years, via exhibitions and multiple platforms, China animation industry has gained deeper understanding of the markets in the countries and regions along the “Belt and Road”.  Through cooperation with local platforms and enterprises, China animation has gradually gained a place in the overseas markets.

“When exporting culture to overseas, it must start from popular culture. From the perspective of global online cultural market, net text and comics account for 62.67% of the cultural market participation.  Comic as cartoon can spread better in the post-95’s. ”  In the eyes of the commercial director of the animation platform MangaToon, Tong Xizi, “Web-based change” will be the best combination of web and comics.  On the platform, the top ten works in the rankings are all web-based.  Under conditions of shrinking domestic traffic and accelerating Internet growth in emerging markets, MangaToon regards Southeast Asia, which has the closest geographical location, rapid economic growth and small cultural differences, as the first stop of China animation export.  As a figure of speech, Tong Xizi said. When China animation goes overseas, it is necessary to build a ship and set up a “port” in the local area.  “We have established a national port in Indonesia, Vietnam, Thailand, and the Philippines with a population of 600 million. Carefully run per individual area and provide translation services collectively.”

“The Middle East animation industry is still weak and is expected to become a potential market for Chinese animation going overseas.” Zong Yu, General Manager of Beijing Jess Culture, believes that the country can also look at the Middle East.  “The Arabic countries rely on imported animation mainly from Japan and US Disney.  Chinese works are rare, market opportunities are large.”  The first Arabic version of China’s 3D fixed anime “Pocket Forest Mini Town”, China and Saudi Arabia film and television cooperation cartoon “Kong Xiaoxi and Kazakhstan Kim” and others have been trial screened.  In his view, the key factor for China animation to go overseas is localization.  “To choose the right subject matter and content to get close to the audiences, we must also pay attention to the translation of the details and achieve local transformation.”

The future:  new technologies bring new possibilities

At present, many animation exhibitions are being held in original serious art museums. Regardless of the controversy, as an animation of a young culture, it has gained more and more recognition.  As the animation culture moves from the niche to the masses, the cultivation of animation talents has become an enduring issue.  Following the release of the new Chinese hero last year, Marvel once again teamed up with CCG EXPO to launch the “Marvel China Cartoon Talent Discovery Event”, which will announce the list of the first Chinese painters selected during the exhibition.  “This is equivalent to an opportunity to go directly to the Marvel’s editorial department.” Zhang Wei, a spokesperson for the China International Animation and Game Expo Organizing Committee, said, “From 2010, the exhibition has been dedicated to supporting young cartoonists and hopes to give them a stage to find their first bucket of gold.”

On the other hand, advances in technologies such as 5G environment, big data, and artificial intelligence have also opened up new possibilities for the future development of the animation industry.  Li Jing, the founder of Shanghai Lijing Culture, takes the IP activation of “King’s Avatar” as an example. “Let AI learn the character and characteristics of each character in the novel, reinvigorate the characters, and then recover the characters and their characteristics from the dialogue between the user and the character. ” In the view of Mu Yiran, senior research analyst at Qiye Data, the animation industry can also use big data to boost industry upgrades.  “Big data can provide crowd portraits for animation production.   It also provides suggestions for role selection, story selection and even fund allocation.”  The new application scenarios brought about by the development of 5G technology will undoubtedly become the next hot spot for the development of Chinese animation.

A few days ago, Chinese animation came up with new news.  The animated film “Jiangnan” jointly produced by SMG Shangshi Film and China Shipbuilding Culture Media announced screening of the film on National Day, together with special events and related derivatives at the exhibition.  It is worth mentioning that “Jiangnan” has a strong “Chinese style.”  For the first time, the film presented an unobtrusive group of military craftsmen on the big screen.  It tells story in the late Qing Dynasty in Shanghai, the naughty alley boy, Aunt Yin, accidentally became an apprentice in the Jiangnan Manufacturing Bureau and started a wonderful life adventure.  This is like a signal: in the era of the rise of the original Chinese animation, the industry is continuing to write the glory of the “Chinese School”.

Writer: Zhang Yi

Editor: Maggie


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