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HK Could Boost Animation Industry
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Hong Kong's experience in overseas distribution and strong investment support could pave the way for the Chinese mainland's animation film industry to penetrate global markets, according to industry veterans.


"The animation production houses on the Chinese mainland seldom consider the overseas markets because they don't have access to the channels," said Xu Ling, general manager of the Institute of Digital Media Technology (Shenzhen) (IDMT), yesterday.


"But with Hong Kong investors on board, they can plan better for the overseas market since the territory has played the role of linking the East with the West for quite a long time."


The Shenzhen-based company, a wholly owned subsidiary of Hong Kong-listed Global Digital Creation Holdings, wrapped up production on the country's first full-length three-dimensional (3D) animated feature film, Thru the Moebius Strip, last year.


The film was five years in the making, with a total investment of about 130 million yuan (US$16.1 million). According to Xu, this amount would shock Chinese mainland investors, but for some professional investment teams in Hong Kong, the costs are reasonable.


"The cooperation between Hong Kong and the Chinese mainland is vital (to the development of the animation industry)," she said.


New IDMT chairman of the board and chairman of the China Animation Association, Jin Guoping, reinforced this comment, saying there was great potential for a collaborative relationship between Hong Kong and the Chinese mainland.


"The cooperation could take the form of idea creation, production or capital," he said.


The new film has brightened prospects for the country's stagnant animation industry, which has experienced a downturn in its creative capacity since the 1980s, while it grew as a manufacturing base for foreign animated films and TV series.


Thru the Moebius Strip will be screened in major domestic cinemas this summer. Jin will travel to Beijing today to sign the distribution agreement with an agent; details will be announced in May.


Overseas distribution will be handled by the parent company in Hong Kong. According to Jin, many agents in Europe, North America and Asia have shown interest in the film.


"Ideally we hope to get one-third of the return from box office revenue, one-third from overseas distribution and one-third from merchandise such as DVDs, T-shirts and toys," Jin said.


Yesterday the film generated 3.8 million yuan (US$469,000) by granting the rights of mobile Internet services to a sole agent, Shenzhen Caishow Technology, a dotcom company that has served more than 30 million mobile phone users since its establishment in 2003.


Under the agreement, the mobile Internet service provider can provide to its users clips, pictures, ring tones and interactive games related to the film. It can also sell and auction film merchandise at a later stage through mobile phones, said General Manager Bai Wentao.


Chinese animation fans are eagerly anticipating the film's release.


Liu Jie, a 24-year-old animation fan, said he hopes the film is more creative than other domestic animation products.


"I have to use the word 'pale' to describe domestic animation, no matter the plots or the lines. For me, humorous content is more important than the technologies used," Liu told China Daily.


The producer of the 90-minute film assures viewers it will surprise. Based on an original story by French artist Jean Giraud, Moebius, the film tells the story of a brave, resourceful 14-year-old boy who rescues his father from a kingdom of giant aliens on a planet 27.2 million light years away.


(China Daily April 5, 2006)

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