The Unincredibles: Why China Isn’t an Animation Superpower

For those trying to resuscitate China’s animation industry, it’s about more than cute flicks — it’s about national pride.

BEIJING — In the air-conditioned production studios of Rocen Digital, hundreds of employees sit silently manipulating complex graphics on their computers. Meanwhile, the animation studio’s brand manager Zhang Yuan stands beside a wall decorated with superheroes, pondering big questions.

“Do you think ‘Kung Fu Panda’ is a Chinese film or an American film?” she asks me out of the blue.

The question is indeed a big one: If the 2016 U.S.-China collaboration “Kung Fu Panda 3” is considered a Chinese flick, then its success makes it an aberration for the otherwise underperforming Chinese animation industry. Chinese animators worry about their films’ lack of commercial success, and many are insistent that any success they do achieve must capture something authentically Chinese. But infusing animations with local elements is no guarantee of making big bucks at the box office.

When Rocen’s own theatrical debut “The Wind Guardians” hit silver screens in August, many expected it to do well and prove the commercial value of domestic animations to investors. The movie, about a once-blind boy’s quest to rescue his mother, had been five years in the making and was heralded as the “flag bearer for Chinese animation.” Industry watchers hoped it would follow the lead of 2015’s surprise hit “Monkey King: Hero Is Back,” which brought in close to 1 billion yuan ($157 million) at the Chinese box office. Read the full article here.


This is original content by Sixth Tone and has been republished with permission.