The first group of national animation centers were authorized on Monday, including nine studios and four colleges.
"Their establishment is a major step in accelerating development of China's animation industry," said Xu Guangchun, director of the State Administration of Radio, Film and Television (SARFT) at the license-awarding ceremony.
Shanghai Animation Film Studio, China International Television Corporation (CITVC), Communication University of China, Beijing Film Academy and China Academy of Art all appear on the list of institutions being "encouraged to produce cartoons with depth and refinement to form an animation industry chain," Xu said.
Xu said SARFT will support the development of films and coordinate with the Ministry of Finance and the State Administration of Taxation to grant the centers favorable financial and tax policies.
Local broadcast authorities are also required to give full support to them.
"It is certainly a good thing, and reflects the central government's resolution to enhance China's animation industry. It is now facing its best time in history," said Lu Shengzhang, dean of animation at the Communication University of China.
Lu said that China has a population of children and teenagers of 370 million, representing a huge animation market. But at present, about 90 percent of it is occupied by foreign producers from Japan, the US and South Korea, with the largest share going to Japan.
The animation industry in China has a splendid past, particularly since the 1950s. Many popular animations, such as Scatterbrain and Crosspatch (1962) (video) and The Cowboy's Flute (1963) (video) were made, and between 1949 and 1959, the Shanghai Animation Film Studio produced nearly 100 films. Other examples from this 'golden period' are: Little Tadpole Looking for Mummy (1960), Uproar in Heaven (1961, 1964), Nezha Conquers the Dragon King (1979), Three Monks (1980) and Calabash Brothers (1987).
Chinese animations won around 57 international awards and more than 200
local prizes. Its unique artistic style became known as the "Chinese School" worldwide.
"China used to view animation as education and art for children instead of an industry. So the potential of the domestic sector was not developed fully," Lu said.
Domestic output last year was estimated at about 29,000 minutes. However, market demand adds up to a huge 225,000 minutes even on the assumption that each province shows only 5 minutes of animated programs a day, according to Lu.
In April, SARFT issued Principles for the Development of China's Animation Film and TV Industry, an important policy document encouraging more rapid development of the sector. One of its clauses mandates that domestic programs should make up no less than 60 percent of local TV channels' cartoons.
"No TV stations can carry this out except CCTV," Lu said. "So the vacuum has to be filled with foreign cartoons."
(China Daily and China.org.cn December 8, 2004)