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Hangzhou Animated with Cartoons
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The second China International Animation and Cartoon Festival opened on Thursday in Hangzhou, capital of east China's Zhejiang Province, as a grand celebration of the 80th birthday of China's cartoon and animation industry.

Cosponsored by the State Administration of Radio, Film and Television and Zhejiang provincial government, the week-long festival is mainly composed of cartoon and animation industry exposition, a forum discussing the prospect of the industry and a competition of the cartoon and animation works in China.

World famous cartoon producers from France, Japan, the United States, Hong Kong and Croatia are invited to the festival.

China produced its first cartoon movie in 1926. But it was Japan's Astro Boy of the 1980s that enlightened the country's modern animation and cartoon creations, according to Zhang Hongjian, director of the Hangzhou Municipal Party Committee's Publicity and Information Department.

"There is a remarkable gap between China's animation and cartoon industry and that of Japan. In fact China lags behind at least 10 years in terms of technique and originality," Zhang told a press conference Thursday afternoon before the opening ceremony of the festival.

Statistics show how significant this 10-year gap is to the country's animation industry and its huge deficit in international cultural trade. Currently 90 percent of China's animation and cartoon market is dominated by foreign productions from Japan and the US. The largest share goes to Japan.

However, Zhang is quite optimistic about the future of the country's animation industry and provided figures to clarify his view. In 2004 China produced a total of 19,000 minutes of animation and the figure for 2005 was 49,000 minutes.

This significant increase in production time shows a growing interest in the country's fledging animation and cartoon business estimated to be worth billions of US dollars. In 2004 the cartoon industry alone in China was worth 8 billion yuan (US$967 million) and the figure was near 20 billion yuan (US$2.4 billion) in 2005.

In the rush to get a slice of the pie, Hangzhou took the lead. In December 2004 the animation industrial garden in the Hangzhou High-tech Industry Development Zone was elevated to a state-level industrial base.

It was named the Hangzhou National Animation Industry Base. It's been home to over 20 enterprises forming a chain of animation producers. These companies made 8,580 minutes of cartoons in 2005, accounting for 18 percent of the total national production. In March 2005 Hangzhou won its bid to host the nation's first ever China International Animation and Cartoon Festival, which started on May 31 and runs until June 5.

In response to a question from the China Economic Times about whether Hangzhou planned to  be the permanent venue of the annual China International Animation and Cartoon Festival, Ye Ming, vice secretary of Hangzhou Municipal Party Committee, said the city would be the most competitive candidate for future events and is indeed working towards this end.

According to Ye, the provincial government of Zhejiang has listed cartoons and animation as one of its key interests and enacted preferential policies for the development of the animation industry. Since 2005 the Hangzhou municipal government has allocated no less than 20 million yuan (US$2.4 million) to create a special incentive fund. A production company can receive 1,000 yuan (US$120) per minute if their work is broadcast on central TV. Last year, five companies in the Hangzhou National Animation Industry Base benefited by 7.3 million yuan (US$900,000) through the scheme.

( by staff reporter Wind Gu, April 28, 2006)

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