An Oscars-type ceremony is being held for Chinese animators this year, 80 years after the country's first cartoon film made its debut.
The Monkey King Awards, named after a popular cartoon in China, will form part of the second China International Cartoon & Animation Festival, due to take place from April 28 to May 3 in Hangzhou, capital of East China's Zhejiang Province.
Jointly initiated by the festival's organizer and the Chinese Cartoon and Animation Association, the award is aimed at boosting the country's cartoon industry, which experienced a golden era between the 1950s and 1970s, but has been in decline since the 1980s, said Sun Zhonghuan, mayor of Hangzhou, at a news briefing yesterday in Beijing.
Monkey King is the hero of "Havoc in Heaven" (Danao Tiangong), one of the few gems of the Chinese cartoon industry.
Based on part of the popular Chinese folk tale "Journey to the West," the two-part animation tells the story of a monkey who wears an outfit made of tiger fur and wields a magic club, leading a group of monkeys to rebel against the rule of the Jade Emperor in Heaven. The piece won several international film awards after its release in the 1960s.
Insiders say while the Monkey King's success is a source of pride for the Chinese cartoon industry, such past glories also highlight the rarity of quality works in the past two decades.
"In this sense, the Monkey King Awards will remind people of not only the pride but also the pitfalls of the present Chinese cartoon industry, though it has already shown some signs of a rebirth," said an editor of a website's cartoon and animation column, who gave his name as Shi.
Traditional Chinese animated cartoon works were manually produced, a method that has been made redundant because of its low efficiency compared with digital techniques, Shi said. Since the 1980s, a large number of animations from Japan, South Korea and the United States have poured into the mainland market, leaving domestic products struggling to stand up for themselves.
The situation finally appears to be changing for the better in recent few years, according to insiders.
The cartoon festival, where the ceremony will take place, was launched in 2005 and is the largest event of its kind in China. This year, the six-day carnival will treat animators and cartoon lovers to original cartoon and animation works, online games, cartoon parades and many other shows and plays, Sun said, adding that trade talks and professional seminars will also be held during the festival.
The Monkey King Awards will include several categories, such as the best cartoon film, the best cartoon series and the best foreign cartoon work.
Statistics from the State Administration of Radio, Film and Television indicate an explosive growth of China's cartoon industry over the past few years. The total length of domestic cartoon works was 33,900 minutes between 1993 and 2002. The figure for 2003 alone was 12,000 minutes. In 2004 the figure hit 21,800, and last year it reached 42,700 minutes.
However, insiders say the country's cartoon industry still has a long way to go, since domestic cartoon works are often criticized for being old-fashioned and lacklustre due to little originality in stories and characters, a dryness of content and a persistent educational flavour.
Source: China Daily