Brand image, aesthetic concepts promoted
Television viewers in South Korea will soon be able to watch the animation series Boonie Bears, one of China’s most popular hits.
In January, leading Chinese studio Fantawild Animation, creator of the series, sealed a deal with South Korean company Media to Media to air two seasons of the popular show on telecommunications company SK Broadband’s SKBTV in the coming months. SKBTV is one of South Korea’s top three internet protocol TV players.
This is the first time Fantawild’s signature brand has entered the South Korean TV market. Boonie Bears, with more than 200 billion online hits, is among the highest-grossing series in the history of Chinese television.
Fantawild is just one of many Chinese animation companies eyeing the global market.
Haoliners Animation League in Shanghai has exported two of its popular series, Fox Spirit Matchmaker and Spiritpact, to Japan. Haoliners and a Japanese animation company also jointly created the animated movie Flavors of Youth, which was released simultaneously in the countries in August. The film has also reached an international audience on Netflix.
In what was considered a milestone for the Chinese anime, comics, games and novels, or ACGN, sector, the animated video platform Bilibili listed on the Nasdaq in the United States in March last year, with a market capitalization of $483 million.
Song Lei, director of the consulting and planning department at the National Animation Creative Research and Development Center, said Chinese animation companies have done well in Southeast Asian and African countries, which are also their main destinations for exports. The center is an incubator platform responsible to the State-owned China ACG Group to support exports by the country’s animation industry.
Chinese animation companies are looking overseas because the market is an important source of revenue for many of them, Song said.
Daisy Shang, executive president of Fantawild Group and general manager of Fantawild Animation, said, “In this increasingly globalized era, every enterprise needs to explore the international market.”
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She said the company has targeted both domestic and international markets since being founded, with all of its output distributed overseas. Bilingual production was a basic concept from the start.
Animated Boonie Bears films have been launched in China annually since 2014. During the Spring Festival film season this year, Boonie Bears: Blast into the Past became the highest-grossing animated movie, with a 9.1 rating on box-office tracker Maoyan－second only to the scifi hit The Wandering Earth.
The Boonie Bears series is now available in more than 80 countries and has aired on platforms such as Disney, Sony, Netflix and Discovery Kids, making it Fantawild’s best-performing brand globally.
In addition, Shang said its Kung Fu Masters of the Zodiac and Chicken Stew series have been distributed in more than 70 countries and have become hit shows on entertainment platforms Nick Asia, Nick India and Star Times.
“The global market is paying more and more attention to Chinese culture and content, and is also interested in what Chinese intellectual property has to offer. This market holds great potential for Chinese IP.”
In 2017, the market value of China’s animation and cartoon industry reached 153.6 billion yuan ($22.2 billion at today’s rates), and is expected to exceed 200 billion yuan by next year, according to consultancy iResearch.
According to a report by the Research and Markets institute, the value of the global animation industry last year was $259 billion, and is projected to reach $270 billion by next year.
Huge user demand is one of the sector’s growth drivers in China. According to iResearch, there were nearly 350 million ACGN users in the country last year, with more than 200 million viewing online animation and cartoon productions.
Herman Van Eyken, president of the Asia-Pacific Animation Association, said, “The size of it (China’s animation industry) is mind-blowing for someone who is not acquainted to China, and so is the quality.”
He said that based on his experience with some Chinese companies and universities he was impressed with the high quality of the Chinese industry and its techniques in animation production.
“There have been some very good and successful animation stories produced in China in the past, but they might not have gone beyond China,” said Van Eyken, who is also head of Griffith University’s Film School in Brisbane, Australia. “Now China is looking outside and trying to respond to that.”