Following the biggest year for animation ever at China’s box office, Japanese and South Korean amimators are looking to cash in on the Chinese cinema market.
As China sees more and more overseas animations doing well domestically, the country is vying to create its own profitable animation industry. China’s animation market is still in its early stage and is greatly influenced by companies in neighboring Japan and South Korea.
Asian animated films were big hits in 2016. Japanese animation Your Name made US$80.5 million (RMB 556.93 million) in China. Chinese animated epic fantasy film Big Fish & Begonia grossed $81.66 million (RMB 565 million) in China. It was co-produced by Korean animation shop Studio Mir.
“Seeing this success, TV animation companies are also moving from the TV to the movie screen,” Mup Ma, CEO of CREATIVE BOMB said.
CREATIVE BOMB, a South Korean animation company recently established a joint venture with Ruyitoon an animation company in China to make a film together.
“Animation is very developed in Japan and South Korea. Japan developed animation for teenage manga fans, while South Korea developed animation for the general public, mostly for children. Since China’s animation is just starting to grow, they are collaborating with Korean animation studios,” Ma said.
Almost all the aspects of making animation have improved greatly in China, especially in design or animators themselves, according to Ma. However, China still has more room to make growth in production and story development. Currently, Chinese companies are buying the story, production, and IP from overseas companies.
“Many content companies are entering China market after they complete the story. I advise that these companies enter China when they have only the story and production plan because the content needs to be localized to China,” Ma added.
Theaters are mushrooming in China. The country has now approximately 41,000 cinema screens with approximately 27 new cinema screens built per day in 2016. Thanks to Alipay and WeChat Wallet making it easier for the public to book tickets via their phone, more Chinese people are going to theaters to enjoy movies.
“TV animation is based on stories, but animated films focus on the background of each scene, which takes three or five times longer time to create and more budget to put in. When the animation is done, it can generate up to 2000% in revenue, but it also means that there is also a high risk if it fails,” Mr. Ma said.
South Korea’s content companies usually have 20 to 30 people while Chinese companies can have up to 3,000. In South Korea, the animation is drawn chronologically, from the first series to the next, but in China, the animation is drawn 10 series at a time by a huge team of animators. For that reason, China has a middle manager who checks the drawings of each series, so that the series drawn by different animators will look the same.
Game company now getting into animation
The company previously made educational game apps for three to six-year-old kids that improve child’s cognitive ability, creativity and musical sense. Currently, the company has merchandising partners in Southeast Asia, with 2,000 daily downloads from Vietnam, Thailand, and Indonesia.
Ma worked in an advertising company, building a marketing strategy for camera phones. When he started CREATIVE BOMB in 2012, he decided to expand to Japan first, which was not a common strategy for a Korean company at that time.
“Japan is a market known to be competitive for education content, but also where the parents are willing to pay for e-contents,” Mr. Ma said. Expansion to Japan was a success as the startup earned monthly profits of US$8,200.
“As Japan is the leader in animation and character industry, Korea, China and South East Asian markets recognized these results,” Mr. Ma added. The Korean animation company came to China in November 2015, invested and was incubated at Hanwha group’s DreamPlus center. CREATIVE BOMB said that its TV series will be released this July in China.
— A version of this article originally appeared on TechNode.