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View Full Version : China moves to protect domestic cartoon production


Neil
08-14-2006, 07:12 PM
"Beginning Sept. 1, regulators have barred foreign cartoons from TV from 5 to 8 p.m. in an effort to protect China's struggling animation studios, news reports said Sunday"

"Broadcasters were told to limit use of foreign cartoons in 2000 at a time when Japanese animation dominated the market. In 2004, the government stepped up controls, saying Chinese cartoons had to account for at least 60 percent of the total shown in prime time."
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http://news.aol.com/entertainment/tv/articles/_a/china-bans-simpsons-from-prime-time-tv/20060814065809990001

Lunatique
08-14-2006, 08:46 PM
The following is my perspective as a Chinese American whoes Chinese is on the same level as my English, lived in China for close to 5 years recently, and have dealt with Chinese CG/animation/video game companies extensively, including investors, government officials, and production staff.


The upcoming restriction for airtime is not going to help in the long run--as soon as that limit is lifted, foreign animation will dominate again. The difference is that locally produced animation has no creativity or quality in comparison to foreign produced ones. The #1 locally made animation in China on the air is a show called "Blue Cat," and if anyone's seen it, it's just horrible. However, even at that low quality level, the producers of Blue Cat have already dominated as the #1 locally made animation in China--thus there's no motivation for them to make it any better. Why spend more money on better quality if crappy stuff is already making you lots of money? THAT, is the source of why China's been struggling to catch up to the rest of the world in their CG/animation industry--in China, money is God and everything else (personal pride, product quality, reputation, artistic achievement..etc) stands in the dark shadows of the money God.

Currently, the highest quality of work coming out of China are from foreign operated/funded companies with branches there (Ubisoft, Massive Black..etc), and it's because they demand top quality work comparable to what's produced back home from the locally hired talents, and the creative phase is entirely handled by the talents back home or supervisors stationed in China. So based on this, we know if the local talents are asked to produce top quality work, they can and want to, however, local companies are run by bosses that don't ask for that kind of quality, and don't think with the same mentality as the foreign companies.

Another problem with China having a hard time catching up is the cultural pride. Every single person that's approached me in China to ask me to collaborate with them or help them run a startup company have the exact same problem in common--they all demand that the IP we produce should have "Chinese cultural identity." That is a fatal and narrow-minded approach. You can only remake the Monkey King for so many times before you realize it's just not going to fly in an international market, and thus far, no one's figured out a way for the Monkey King to be presented in a manner that has global appeal. Why not just create for the sake of creativity and inspiration? Why must locally produced work wear cultural pride on its chest to be deemed worthwhile by the investors and the govenment? Take a look at how successful Japan is in animation and video games--they create whatever they want, not just ninja, samurai, shogun, sushi..etc. The Japanese can create equally successful titles like Resident Evil series or the Onimusha series, because they are open to IP's that aren't simply Japanese-centric. One takes place in a fictional American city with American characters, and one is very Japanese in the premise--but both contain global appeal to have been highly successful. American's are also not afraid to tell the stories of other cultures--Disney's Mulan, Memoires of A Geisha, The Last Samurai..etc, and they have perfected the perfect balance of being inspired by a foreign culture, but execute the ideas in a way that has global appeal.

When I was hanging out with Andrew Gordon (Pixar animator) in Singapore for CG Overdrive 2006, he mentioned that whenever he's approached by companies in China to do something, they are ALWAYS talking about the Monkey King or some other Chinese legend, and Andrew felt the exact same way I did about it--WHY must they hold on to that Monkey King thing? Why not open up their minds and just create anything that inspires them?

There's nothing wrong with IP's that are culture-centric, but you have to know how to execute them in such a way that it'll appeal to the global market, and very few people in China understand enough about the world outside their own doorsteps to do that. Ang Lee succeeded with Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, because he's lived in the States for many years (and he's from Taiwan, not China), and has a degree in filmmaking from an American film school--he's essentially as much a western thinker as he is an eastern thinker. If it wasn't for him opening the door with CTHD, other filmmakers making the epic martial arts films (Zang Yi Mo for example) after him wouldn't have had the same amount of attention. And the reality is, none after him reached the same level of exposure/recognition, because none of them understand the western thinking as much as Ang Lee does. This is a man who's made Senses and Sensibility--an English period drama based on Jane Austin's work, and won a best picture of the year Oscar. That is a testament to his ability as a storyteller to reach global audiences--he's not thinking just about the Monkey King or some other Chinese fairytale/legend--he's simply a good storyteller, period.

China needs original thinkers that are not bound by the needless demand for Chinese-centric cultural pride to be stamped on every IP created locally. China needs to think beyond the Monkey King, or find ways to re-imagine their history/legends for the global audience, but do it with taste and not simply selling out. They also need to start putting artistic pride up higher on their list of priorities and no longer cower under the shadow of the money God.

S. Korea succeeded in transforming their entertainment industry because the local government did two things:

1) They had a restriction for foreign produced works shown in S. Korea--this is similar to what China is trying to do. But, they also did something else that REALLY made a difference, and that is...

2) They totally supported local talents by giving them lots of budgets to create, and to freely create whatever they wanted, with no restrictions. THIS is the the main reason why S. Korea started kicking ass left and right, because their government gave them FREEDOM to create and supported them financially to do it.

S. Korea would never have been able to make a film like Old Boy if their government didn't help transform their entire entertainment industry, and their video game industry (particularly their MMO's) would not be what it is today if their government didn't help foster an environment conductive to creativity.

danielh68
08-14-2006, 09:33 PM
I always enjoy reading your insights about Asia, particulary China. It really provides a good counter-balance to a lot of the news I gather. Whether it be, from watching "Managing Asia" or reading something out of Time or Newsweek. I suppose it's because you are coming from a personal level which is easier to relate to.

wanzai
08-14-2006, 11:15 PM
Great post Robert. I don't know much about the market etc., but your observation about the cultural pride - or more complex - is spot-on. I've been annoyed by several manifestations of this kind of creativity killing mindset, but you've put it perfectly into words.

I'm a Taiwanese myself (grew up and living in Germany) and must admit that I had that kind of problem too, trying to force superficial Chinese stuff on a game (even though it did have a Chinese-inspired setting).

Anyway, I sincerely hope that Chinese people will open their mind and jump over their shadows, but that's always a hard thing to really do. What worth is all the economical growth if the nation becomes synonym for uninspiredness.

Devenish
08-17-2006, 04:58 AM
Just in case! First off Iím not directly trying to cause anyone grief, but just pointing in relation else where in current events how this might be tied in.



Well I think itís more that just IP though supporting your own local business is a great idea if properly executed, but in this case I feel itís more of a political statement. Around this time of year a couple countries in Asia get upset and little butt hurt when Japan shows any tribute to those who died in WW2 as in the current new the Japanese Prime Minster Junichiro Koizumi visits the Tokyo war shrine and honor those who died in WW2. (Current news -> http://news.xinhuanet.com/english/2006-08/17/content_4971380.htm (http://news.xinhuanet.com/english/2006-08/17/content_4971380.htm) )



IMHO WW2 is dated history from a generation that is passing away and didnít involve those of us who represent our nations today. This is not the only part in the world that had issues from that time, remember Pearl Harbor, Hiroshima, Holocaust and the issues our brothers in Europe dealt with. I would like to think we moved on with stronger relationships and not be offended by others memorials etc. ďCanít we just get along?Ē :shrug:



I couldnít agree with Lunatique more, The Korean director Park Chan-wook did a great job, Oldboy turned out to be a great movie (though disturbing content). This was a movie brought from Japanese manga ( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Oldboy_(manga) (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Oldboy_(manga)) ) written by Minegishi Nobuaki and artwork by Tsuchiya Garon. This just goes to show that working on the international level can produce that extra something special.

opus13
08-17-2006, 06:00 AM
When I was hanging out with Andrew Gordon (Pixar animator) in Singapore for CG Overdrive 2006, he mentioned that whenever he's approached by companies in China to do something, they are ALWAYS talking about the Monkey King or some other Chinese legend, and Andrew felt the exact same way I did about it--WHY must they hold on to that Monkey King thing? Why not open up their minds and just create anything that inspires them?

HAHAHA.

I am doing both a moneky king and a 108 Heros of the Marsh themed games RIGHT NOW.





kill me.

mech7
08-17-2006, 09:36 AM
lol banning homer simpsons.. i a just lucky i don't live in china with all the censorship and control they try to put on their civillians.

DrFx
08-17-2006, 12:13 PM
... and thus far, no one's figured out a way for the Monkey King to be presented in a manner that has global appeal.

One Japanese guy named Akira Toriyama did, it's called DragonBall! :) j/k

Great post, Luna, I really think you have an accurate and global perspective on this, having lived on both countries. It's also interesting that what you said about China also applies to some degree to other countries, like my own, that also live in the shadow of their past.

danimat0r
08-17-2006, 12:57 PM
Thanks for the lengthy insights Lunatique; excellent as always.

I guess we can expect a lot more Blue Cat now, huh? The way to improve your product is NOT to artificially remove the stresses of competition. Now with more government-mandated airtime and less need to compete, the need to innovate or improve goes right out the window again.

DoubleSupercool
08-17-2006, 02:40 PM
Glad we have a Shanghai office :)

insanepoly
08-18-2006, 02:26 AM
IMHO WW2 is dated history from a generation that is passing away and didnít involve those of us who represent our nations today. This is not the only part in the world that had issues from that time, remember Pearl Harbor, Hiroshima, Holocaust and the issues our brothers in Europe dealt with. I would like to think we moved on with stronger relationships and not be offended by others memorials etc. ďCanít we just get along?Ē :shrug:


Ok, this is going to be touchy, I hope no one gets offended, but I do think its necessary for people to understand the underlying issues. Personally I am not offended since it happened before I was even born but I do understand why countries around my region gets into such an uproar everytime this happens.

What we have to understand is, people are not angry over the honoring of the soldiers killed during the WW2 but over the fact that 14 Class A war criminals are enshrined together with the soldiers within Yasukuni. So everytime the PM of Japan pays a visit to the shrine, to many people of Asia, its as good as paying his respects to the war criminals. Some people may not know, but Hideki Tojo is one of those Class A war criminals enshrined within Yasukuni.

Although there is some controversy over this, but one of the war crimes that Tojo was convicted for is for approval of government sanctioned biological experiments carried out on POWs and chinese civilians- the infamous Black Sun 731 unit.

Think for a moment, how would you feel if one day someone decided to built a war memorial honoring Josef Mengele, Herman Goring and Heinrich Himmler for example.

megatronskeletor
08-18-2006, 02:43 AM
Funny that!

Not that the approach in China is sound all-around, but...

Wouldnt it be nice if the U.S. Gov't made some effort to protect domestic work in our industry?
Wouldnt that be the day...

No it's all about cheaper, cheaper, cheaper and screw the middle class domestic jobs - in every industry.
If people wanted cheap labor, why did we make our country so expensive to live in?
Why are all the entertainment companies in the highest cost of living cities?
Hmm.

noisewar
08-18-2006, 03:14 AM
From my experiences, I've got to say Lunatique is pretty much on the dot about the industry. Their inability to create new, unique franchises and universes and their habit of hanging onto their age-old stable of myths and stories is at once impressive for a country of such history, and detrimental for its artists today. The blame lies in the culture, education, and the politics, so there's plenty to go around.

From what I know (and solely that), the business culture is also responsible for the lack of creativity. Businesses can't even chose creative names, as corporations have strict guidelines on what words make-up their title based on their region and classification. My fairly traditional Chinese family has surnames mapped out for all future generations, so I'll only be responsible for a third of my future kid's name. Bribery and who-you-know gets you farther than merit, and cheating sub-sub-subcontractors of their just royalties is par for the course.

Until major changes happen in their business culture, the problems in their cultural, educational, and politcal paradigms will only be magnified, since that is really the part with which foreigners interact. Besides manufacturing and other mindless tasks, outsourcing to China is a test in management patience as their deliverables come verbatim, with no license or foresight at all. How do you even respond to questions like "how many pixels should this model be?" How do you deal with a texture map that was 64x64 then scaled in Photoshop to 1024x1024 because you told them it had to be higher res?

It's funny Lunatique mentioned Massive Black. I can't do it justice; read this (http://www.1up.com/do/newsStory?cId=3152235), and realize it happens ALL the time.

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