A closely fought cat-and-mouse game is going on between domestic and foreign cartoon products, and a recent survey has only contributed to the animated debate.
The survey conducted by the Beijing-based China Mainland Marketing Research Company found that of the top 10 cartoons that Chinese children watched, six were Japanese, two were American and only two were Chinese.
Statistics show that domestic companies produced a combined total of fewer than 13,000 minutes of cartoon programming last year, far from broadcaster demand of more than 250,000 minutes.
The production fee for each minute of a cartoon is at least 15,000 yuan (US$1,814), according to the China Animation Arts Committee and in many cases that is just too expensive.
Instead of domestic cartoon characters, Chinese children are turning to foreign cartoon images such as Mickey Mouse, Tom Cat, and Chibi Maruko Chan.
Zhang Songlin, secretary-general of the China Animation Association said that the main cause of the lack of popular Chinese cartoons is lack of investment. He also added many domestic cartoons lack humor and include dry sermonizing which also contributes to the lag in the domestic cartoon industry.
The survey included 540 children between the ages of 4 and 17 in Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou and Xi'an. Some 530 samples were collected.
Findings showed that about 78 percent of children have seen cartoons in the past six months and of the 187 cartoons mentioned by name, Japanese cartoon products accounted for 40.6 percent, Americans 23 percent and mainland Chinese 25.1 percent.
Of the top 10 cartoons listed, the 52-volume cartoon "Music Up" and "Blue Cat" were the only two domestic cartoons.
However, the characters in "Music Up" are similar to Japanese cartoons and "Blue Cat" bears a similarity to Disney's Tom and Jerry. These two cartoons have a stronger educational angle rather than pure entertainment, according to the survey.
Jin Guoping, general manager of the Shanghai Animation Film Studio, said the competition brought on by overseas cartoons will surely encourage more and more domestic cartoon producers to shift their attention to the demands of the audience.
Meanwhile, an insider at the Animation Department at China Central Television indicated the most important thing for Chinese cartoon makers right now is setting practical goals based on their own conditions, and to stop blindly copying Disney and the Japanese cartoon industry.
(China Daily August 21, 2002)