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Chinese animation superheroes in the making

China Daily | Updated: 2018-05-24 07:46

 

Song Chen/China Daily

Editor's note: Marvel is collaborating with NetEase, a Chinese internet company, to create Marvel's first two Chinese superheroes based on Marvel's concepts and Chinese mythology and culture. Two experts share their views on the Sino-US cooperation and the influence it could have on China's animation industry with China Daily's Yao Yuxin. Excerpts follow:

Innovation key to revive animation industry 

Sun Jiashan, an expert at the Chinese National Academy of Arts

The two comics, named Warriors of Three Sovereigns and Areo, were serialized on NetEase's official comics app on May 9, two days before Marvel's latest film Avengers: Infinity hit the screens in China.

The Monkey King, a two-part animation film made by Shanghai Animation Film Studio in the 1960s, still marks the peak of Chinese animation industry. With the animation filmmaking system undergoing a radical change since the launch of reform and opening-up, however, a rash of shoddy products have emerged. Many filmmakers and producers, who have little passion for creativity, have made animations to just pocket the government subsidy.

Therefore, unlike the United States and Japan, China doesn't have a mature animation industry. And thanks to the growing market demand, investors have taken over the industry in recent years.

So the collaboration of Marvel and NetEase could produce quality cultural products, as Marvel is known for its innovative characters and storylines.

But since the Chinese animation industry is at a disadvantage against foreign competition because of its technical and creative drawbacks, even the Marvel-NetEase joint venture will primarily create American-style Chinese superheroes. As for the Chinese elements, they will be mainly used to attract Chinese audiences and increase box office earnings, rather than to spread Chinese culture, a key part of the country's soft power.

To change the situation, the Chinese animation industry has to enhance its innovative capability. And the latest Avengers film is a good example of innovation, because viewers were glued to the seats even after the movie ended just to watch a two-minute bonus scene.

Filmmakers and animators could use real life situations, too, to be innovative. For example, Travel Frog, a mobile game with origins in Japan, went viral almost overnight in China earlier this year because it struck a chord with the youth who feel anxious about and disappointed with the rising housing prices. This shows general public feelings and emotions can be used as the storylines for animations.

Moreover, the entire animation industrial chain should be upgraded so as to provide a sound foundation for future development.

Sector needs time for improvement 

Dong Minna, an analyst at Analysis Corporate, a data analytics company for the entertainment industry

Marvel's market in China has dramatically expanded in recent years, especially after the release of a series of films based on its comics. Compared with the printed versions, digitalization can make comics more widely and easily available. Besides, given the growing importance of the Chinese market, Marvel also wants to have a stake in it. And its collaboration with NetEase will help Marvel to localize its superheroes and make animation movies palatable to Chinese tastes.

As for NetEase, which has been serializing Marvel's animations on its platform since July 2017, it will develop more devoted followers, especially when Tencent, another Chinese internet giant, is in collaboration with DC, one of the leading US comic companies, to introduce the Batman character to its Arena of Valor, the international version of Tencent's top-grossing game Honor of King.

China's animation industry is still in its early stage of development. And although a large number of cartoons have appeared thanks to policy and financial support, poor-quality works make up the vast majority. Still, several comics produced at home have become popular and some of them have been successfully made into movies or online games. As such, the industry needs more time to mature and become stronger.

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