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China's tech giants splash out in cartoon arms race [Copy link] 中文

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Post time 2018-6-25 13:43:41 |Display all floors
This post was edited by Grace222 at 2018-6-25 13:44

Growing up in the Chinese port city of Dalian in the 1990s, Zhang Hongchang used to spend hours in a day being immersed in Japanese cartoons like "Dragon Ball" and "Naruto".

China’s home-grown cartoons paled in comparison to the Japanese anime series on television and in comic books that captured the imaginations of Zhang and his generation.

Today, Zhang is one of China’s hottest cartoonists and at the forefront of a new wave of Chinese animation that is being driven by the country’s technology and Internet giants. His latest hit comic – which stars a high school student who is also a Taoist priest with secret super powers – has been viewed 160 million times online.

China’s tech firms are engaged in a cartoon arms race to develop or buy Chinese characters in an animation market expected to hit 216 billion yuan (33.22 billion US dollars) by 2020, according to the EntGroup consultancy, trying to emulate the success of Walt Disney Co’s ensemble, which ranges from Mickey Mouse to Iron Man.
A key to that effort, has been the development of artists like Zhang.

“When I started, I was copying Japanese cartoons, but slowly I got my own style,” Zhang said in the Hangzhou studio where he draws comics that are made available to readers on a platform operated by the local gaming firm NetEase Inc.

“I had to spend a lot time getting to understand the Chinese market and what Chinese comic readers wanted.”

Chinese tech giants like Tencent Holdings, Baidu Inc and NetEase are trying to figure out the same thing.

Part of the winning formula has been the use of traditional Chinese religious and cultural themes, and characters. That, and improved quality in terms of art and storytelling, helped China’s comic and animation market reach 150 billion yuan last year, according to EntGroup’s estimates.

China still lags behind the Japanese and American markets, but is catching up. Japan is the top producer of animation, while the United States dominates in terms of sales, taking a nearly 40 percent share of the global industry, estimated at 220 billion US dollars in 2016, according to a report from Research & Markets. China had around eight percent that year.

For Chinese companies, the development of compelling series and characters could also open up new business opportunities that companies like Disney have exploited, like branded theme parks, games, movies, TV shows, lunch boxes and clothes.

“To make it work there have to be good stories, good production, and content that can resonate with consumers,” said Xu Zhiwei, animation and comic copyright senior manager at Tencent in Beijing.

Tencent is already seeing some success that could help the firm maintain rapid growth and a high valuation.

The gaming-to-social media company bought up “Fox Spirit Matchmaker”, which depicts romances between humans and demons, when it was a little-known comic, created by an artist called Xiao Xin.

The comic has been developed into an animation series that’s been viewed more than three billion times, Tencent told Reuters, making it one of the hottest hits on its video platform, which has over 60 million paying subscribers.

Tushan Susu, the animation’s main character, has been featured in a commercial for the fast food chain KFC. Tencent is now looking to create a television series and a video game using Fox Spirit characters.


Local heros

China’s tech giants play an outsized role in Chinese entertainment. Tencent, the search company Baidu, and Alibaba, the e-commerce giant, control most of the top online platforms from movies to sport, and are dominant in social media and online gaming.

These firms are looking to latch on to a surging sub-culture being driven by a young generation with a taste for animation, called “dongman” in Chinese. This group is keen for more local-style heroes, according to industry executives.

They are also wealthier than their parents were, and have money to spend.

“Youngsters, especially the post-2000s, are very willing to spend money,” Geng Danhao, senior vice president at Baidu’s online streaming platform, iQiyi, said at an event in Beijing.

Zhang Tuo, a 21-year-old college student in Sichuan, said he had spent more than 7,000 yuan on comic-related merchandise, from plastic figurines to t-shirts. His favorites are local comics like Spiritpact and Monster List. Tao Jie, 20 a student in the southwestern city of Chengdu, said Chinese cartoons had improved in terms of story lines and animation technique. The use of local tales was also an attraction, he said.

“A lot of the Chinese comic and animation are developed from online novels that I have already read. I like them because I’m already a fan of the stories,” said Tao.

That shift has been helped by supportive government policies to ensure that peak-time television slots are kept for domestic animation.

The big tech firms are starting to spend, though not yet at the level of Disney, which bought Pixar Animation Studios for 7.6 billion US dollars, as well as Marvel Entertainment, and the Star Wars producer Lucasfilm Ltd for around four billion US dollars each.

Tencent has invested in more than a dozen comic and animation companies since last year, according to public records, while its film arm launched a “100 animations” project to support domestic productions.

Baidu’s iQiyi, is also splashing out on domestic comics, planning to spend 200 million yuan to sign Chinese artists and develop local characters, which comes on top of an earlier investment in 10 animation projects, the company said in May.

Alibaba and the news aggregator Toutiao have snapped up production companies and launched animation platforms on their own sites. NetEase signed a deal last year with Disney to create Marvel style superheroes, but with Chinese characteristics.

Luo Qiandan, marketing director of NetEase Comics, said the firm was using big data from its platform to analyze what comic consumers wanted and would feed this back to artists.

It was also adopting other elements such as Chinese brush painting techniques and religious themes.

“Everybody is trying to use Chinese elements and Chinese style,” she said.

Source(s): Reuters




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Post time 2018-6-25 20:49:09 |Display all floors
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Post time 2018-6-26 03:10:11 |Display all floors
This post was edited by Dialectical8 at 2018-6-26 03:11

It is nice to see a culture embracing technology. The West has entered a period of neurosis due to capitalism, and how it not only stifles thought, but hope, progress and creativity. You see it almost everywhere in our art - a kind of hatred for technology. This is because capitalism makes it so technological advance is accompanied by increased exploitation. Workers become more expendable with each step - human life cheapens. People are conditioned to never question capitalism no matter the circumstances (they will blame Human Nature, Big Government, 'Crony Capitalism' and Technology ANYTHING can be questioned but capitalism and the word socialism is considered anathema. )

So capitalist culture declines, by and large, in the popular mindset as the culture turns against progress and technology itself. Whereas cultures more super-structurally socialistic, continue to embrace the promise of technological advance and its ability to afford humans more freedom and increase our potential.

One side is slipping towards the winter of the Dark Ages, whereas another is feeling the initial spring-winds of a new Renaissance.

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Post time 2018-6-26 09:43:07 |Display all floors
This post was edited by Dialectical8 at 2018-6-26 09:47
seneca Post time: 2018-6-26 08:05
Hahaha!

Someone old in a new cloak and with a new username is taking swipes against the West. The  ...

“Liberty, equality, fraternity, or death; - the last, much the easiest to bestow, O Guillotine!”
Charles Dickens, A Tale of Two Cities

"She had seen the houses, as she came along, decorated with little pikes, and with little red caps stuck upon them; also, with tricoloured ribbons; also, with the standard inscription (tricoloured letters were the favourite), Republic One and Indivisible.  Liberty, Equality, Fraternity, or Death!"


Perhaps he was predicting the rise of fanatical servants, engaging in the defense of a vicious Republic with its own Tr-Colors, likewise offering the choice of Liberty or Death.

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Post time 2018-6-26 09:51:54 |Display all floors
I am just noting my fear of the West regressing to its former Republican colors:

"On all housetops flicker little tricolor Flags, their flagstaff a Pike and Liberty-Cap. On all housewalls, for no Patriot, not suspect, will be behind another, there stand printed these words: Republic one and indivisible, Liberty, Equality, Fraternity, or Death. (659)" - Charles Dickens, a Tale of Two Cities.


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