BEIJING, Sept. 16 (Xinhuanet) -- China's movie market has been expanding at a rapid speed, but the performance of the country's animation industry leaves much to be desired. In 2012, 33 animated feature films were produced, but none of them has done well at the box office or received critical acclaim. We find out why.
At the recent 17th Beijing Screenings, an event that promotes Chinese films to overseas buyers, only one out of some 50 recommended films was animated.
"Very few animated productions qualify, so we don’t have too much of a choice," said Zhou Tiedong, CEO of China Film Promotion International. "Buyers like big productions, while our works are small budget, and usually target small kids."
A Hollywood animation can spend more than half its budget on screenplay and technique. But in China, that number is usually only about 10 percent.
This past summer has seen 5.8 billion yuan in box office revenue on the Chinese mainland. Although there were a dozen animated feature films, none of them made more than a hundred million yuan. Insiders say that poor storytelling is the main reason for that lackluster performance.
"We are in desperate need of screenwriters. The overall level is low, because of the low pay. So many talents do not want to enter the field. It’s very hard to find a good one," animation director Sun Lijun said.
A need for high skill, but no way to pay for it, a problem that has continued to torment Sun Lijun ever since he made two sequels to "Legend of a Rabbit." Even for the best selling "Happy Sheep" series, the lack of qualified writers has been a pressing issue.
"Animation writers are very few. Many of these people learn to do the job through practice, and we have to train our own people," said Liu Manyi, CEO of Creative Power Entertaining.
But few Chinese companies have the patience. Dreamwork's "Kungfu panda" reportedly had 15 years of preparation, and the crew spent a long time studying Chinese culture, architecture and natural scenery. Compare that to a Chinese animation production, which normally takes 3 to 4 years at most. Some are even done in a year.
"Many projects come in a hurry and without any solid understanding of the market, so everything has to be rushed. A good product cannot be made in this way," Sun said.
China's film industry continues to improve by leaps and bounds, but only time will tell if its animation industry will be able to catch up.