The First International Animation and Cartoon Festival in China was inaugurated on May 31 in Hangzhou, the capital city of east China's Zhejiang Province, on the eve of International Children's Day.
The six-day carnival for animators and fans, cosponsored by the State Administration of Radio Film and Television and Zhejiang's provincial government, aims to enable cooperation, competition and development between cartoon organizations from home and abroad.
The festival includes a five-day animation industry exposition, including a two-day summit forum, animation contest, Cosplay (costume play) show, a weeklong screening of classic Chinese animations, meetings of animation businesses, merchandising, and a job fair in which over 60 colleges and enterprises will seek more than 1,500 new talents.
Besides the excitement of fans, businesses taking part have also shown a great interest. Shen Ling, general manager of Hangzhou Shikong Film and TV Culture Promotion Co Ltd, said the activities would enhance public awareness of the importance of establishing and protecting original animation brands.
China has a population of 370 million children and young people, making up a huge audience for animation. But currently, 90 percent of the market is dominated by foreign producers from Japan and the US, with the largest share going to Japan. Most domestic cartoons are criticized for being old-fashioned and lackluster due to little originality in story and characters, dryness of content and persistent educational flavor.
In 1995, the Publicity Department of the Communist Party of China Central Committee and the Administration of Press and Publications jointly launched the 5155 Project to spur development of the cartoon and animation industry on the mainland.
In 2004, three cartoon channels, nine studios and four colleges were authorized and established by the government as a further step to accelerate growth.
However, Liu Qiang, associate professor at Zhejiang Institute of Media and Communications, believes the main obstacle to the development of the industry is poor distribution, not a shortage of animation centers.
Many cartoon bases have been built throughout the country, but lack of cooperation between producers and distributors still results in little payback despite the mammoth investment, Liu said, adding that in addition to offering favorable policies for anime companies, the government should give more effort to guiding the industry in its distribution system and creating a better internal environment for development.
Last year, the cartoon industry in China was worth 8 billion yuan (US$967 million), and it is expected to near 20 billion yuan (US$2.4 billion) by the end of 2005.
(China.org.cn by staff reporter Li Xiao, May 31, 2005)