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UPDATED: 21:09, August 20, 2004
China opens cartoon industry to private investors
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China says that private investors will be encouraged to develop and create cartoon films and TV programs in the country in the hopes of increasing growth in the industry.

In line with the "Opinions Regarding Development of Animation and Comic Industry for Film and TV Programs in China," the State Broadcasting and Radio Administration promised that trustworthy, privately-financed cartoon making agencies would be treated equally with state-backed animation and comic production organizations.

Being predominately state-funded, China's cartoon industry has experienced slow growth because of problems caused by outdated administrative systems such as shortages of professionals, animation and comic prototype works, and limited investment. It has been working hard to keep up with foreign productions.

Zhang Songlin, deputy head of China Animation and Comic Society and a well-known producer of animation, said the country's demand for animation and comic professionals for the creation of films, TV programs, computer games is 250,000 professional people.

However, there are only 10,000 college-trained animation and comic specialists across China, and each year animation programs train just 300 graduates.

Though still in the fledgling stages, China's animation and comic industry is witnessing a growing market. In the first half of this year, three fairs were held in Beijing, Nanjing, capital of east China's Jiangsu province, and Guangzhou, capital of south China's Guangdong province each, and six in Shanghai, all packed with visitors.

Surveys conducted in Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou show that foreign cartoons occupy 90 percent of the Chinese market.

At present, only two places in China produce animation -- the Shanghai Fine Arts and Film Factory and the Animation Works Department with the China Central Television Station in Beijing. Both are state financed.

China turned out 29,000 minutes of animation and comic prototype works last year, but processed or reworked another 30,000 minutes of animation and comic works such as "Finding the Nemo" and "The Lion King" for Chinese audiences.

A total of 2,000 provincial and city-level television stations in China have been asked to devote a show time of 60,000 minutes to domestically produced animation and comic works, but the domestic animation and comic creators can only provide works for 20,000 minutes, leaving a gap of 40,000 minutes which are filled by foreign animated programs.

Sean Zhang, a junior middle school student from Beijing and a great fan of Japanese animation and comic works, said that Chinese cartoons are unpopular with him and his friends because they do not have a dynamic sense of humor and exaggeration.

Yang Hongwen, secretary general of the China Children's Culture and Art Foundation, blamed concentration on education and disrespect of the market, which demands entertainment, were the root causes for unpopularity of Chinese animation among kids and youngsters.

Industry insiders suggest that Chinese animation and comic creators should base their works more on real life matters in order to draw a broader audience.

Positive changes have taken place in aspects of creation, publishing, marketing of China's animation and comic prototype works since 1995 when the country launched the "5155 program" to rejuvenate the animation and comic business in China, noted Yang.

Following the "Opinions Regarding Development of Animation and Comic Industry for Films and TV Programs in China," issued in April this year, acknowledged Yang, more animation and comic prototype works will be created by way of reforming outmoded administrative system for the cartoon industry in the country.

And Yang predicted that "greater progress will come."

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