The animation and cartoon industry is booming in China but experts say there is still a long way to go before it will make a big impression on the international market.
A total of 260,000 minutes of animation material was produced in the country in 2011, an increase of 18 percent from 220,000 minutes in 2010, according to the State Administration of Radio, Film and Television. The growth is almost twice as much as the increase in China's gross domestic product last year of 9.2 percent.
However, experts said the gap between Chinese and foreign markets remains huge and the domestic development is not only constrained by lack of talented and creative people but also the absence of a complete industrial chain.
"We have seen significant growth in quality and quantity of the made-in-China products. However, there is a long way to go to before the nation can take a strong role in the international market," said Jin Delong, director of the publicity management department at the State Administration of Radio, Film and Television during the 8th China International Cartoon and Animation Festival.
The festival is the largest of its kind in China and involves seminars and exhibitions. It is held annually in Hangzhou, Zhejiang province. This year's event ended on Thursday.
"Many products can be further improved in terms of content and design. Currently we have very few products that qualify as special. Many are mediocre," Jin said.
In 2011, the cartoon and animation industry garnered a revenue of 60 billion yuan ($9.52 billion). In contrast, the sales reported by Walt Disney Co reached $40 billion last year.
Experts said the lack of a complete value-making chain has become problematic for Chinese animation and cartoon makers seeking profitability. Currently, many companies expect profits to come from broadcasting.
"Animations and cartoons enjoy high market demand and have a longer life-cycle (than films). However, they require high capital investment, high operating risks and a longer production and manufacturing process," said Jin. "Companies will find it hard to survive if they only charge for broadcasting fees. There should be a complete industrial chain to achieve better development."
Industry insiders said about 90 percent of companies cannot make a profit.
Meanwhile, lack of creative talent is another problem faced by the whole industry, although there are many institutions that can provide training courses.
Although the Chinese animation and cartoon industry is facing structural adjustment it remains attractive for many foreign investors because of increasing market demand.
Peter Vesterbacka, the founder of Rovio Entertainment Ltd, whose company makes the popular game Angry Birds, said in Hanghzou on April 28 that he plans to build activity parks as a way of developing derivative products for the game.
Zheng Min, president of Zhejiang Pro & High Culture Industry Co Ltd, said: "We are facing a situation in which many graduates cannot find a job. On the other hand, cartoon and animation companies complain it is hard to find the right talented people."
According to China Social Science Press, there were more than 2,400 colleges providing training programs on animation and cartoon creation in 2011, an increase from only two in 2000.
"We do not have many people who possess good creativity, which is the soul of cartoon making," said Zhang Jianyong, editor-in-chief of Contemporary Cinema.
Zheng Min said he planned to invest 100 million yuan in developing a pavilion in the Fengtai district in Beijing to allow audiences to perform activities related to his new cartoon, Mars 500.
"We should have a complete industrial chain to have better development in the future," said Zheng.