Animating audiences

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With winter vacation meaning there's a nation of children who need entertaining, three Chinese animation films are filling in this traditionally peak-time for box-office family fun: Pleasant Goat and Big Big Wolf (January 21), Old Master Q and Little Ocean Tiger (January 27) and Little Big Panda (February 3) are all scheduled for cinemas over the next four weeks. While adding their own touch of festivity to the so-called Chunjiedang (Spring Festival time slot), each film has its own selling point to attract cinemagoers.

A Spring Festival series

Cartoon characters from Pleasant Goat and Big Big Wolf.

Cartoon characters from Pleasant Goat and Big Big Wolf. [Global Times]


Adapted from the popular cartoon series Pleasant Goat and Big Big Wolf, the film is the third cinematic installment. "We want to make a habit for children to see the Pleasant Goat and Big Big Wolf every winter vacation," distributor Xuandong Media manager Yang Wenyan told the Global Times; the franchise has also hit screens each of the last two years. "When they grow older in the future, they will recall the Pleasant Goat films as part of their childhood memory."

After the huge success of the previous two installments-harvesting 90 million yuan ($13.66 million) from a six-million yuan ($0.91 million) budget for the first and 120 million yuan ($18.22 million) box-office with a cost of 10 million yuan ($1.51 million) for the second, the series has been the most profitable animation production in China, with the third now expecting box-office receipts of 200 million yuan ($30.37 million) at least, according to Yang.

As Yang pointed out, the success of the Pleasant Goat and Big Big Wolf series partly comes from the established TV fan-base, plus the fact that there are very few successful Chinese cartoons, leaving little to challenge Pleasant Goat and Big Big Wolf in China. But since the animation market in China remains very limited, the filmmakers still plan no more than one a year, while aiming for larger and larger audiences.

"Our targeted audience of the previous two years were children plus their parents.This time we're trying to attract youngsters such as university students and white-collar workers by adding popular themes such as marriage and work pressure in modern society into the film," Yang told the Global Times. Trailers and promotions have not only been shown on cartoon channels, but also on subways, bus stops and other media aimed at adults.

"The Pleasant Goat story was initially for small children and its concept is simple, with slapstick and color to teach the children about love, but I believe the simplicity also works for parents and adults," said director Zhong Zhiheng. He also admits that he studied Western animation studios such as Pixar for their skill in targeting all age groups.

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