This winter vacation, when the kids get out of school, they can indulge in a feast of cartoons at local cinemas.
The famous and well-merchandised little goat of the Pleasant Goat and Big Big Wolf series makes a comeback with The Mythical Ark: Adventures in Love and Happiness. The series has put out a new sequel every year to coincide with winter vacation time, and has been winning big.
Out of the new cartoon movies, some started as hit TV series, such as Pleasant Goat and Big Big Wolf, others are based on popular Internet games, such as Roco Kingdom 2, and then a few others are original animation productions, such as Jungle Master.
In recent years, there has been an uptick in original Chinese cartoons. However, filmmakers and industry insiders say that the domestic cartoon industry is only at the beginning stage of development.
Xu Ke, CEO of Hippo Animation and director of Jungle Master, the company's third film, said the leading idea of the film was to produce a cartoon that satisfied kids as well as adults, which many Chinese original cartoons have yet to achieve.
"The cartoons from foreign countries usually say something that's true, whether it's about family relationships or personal values," he said. "But in China, the prevailing values are taught in a lecturing style. That's why many of our cartoons are made for younger audiences."
Another difference lies in the quality of production, Xu said.
"Because the adults' eyes are fully developed, they prefer details when they watch," he said. "When a cartoon [with no detail] is shown on a large screen, then it's like a flash animation and can't satisfy the adults. They'll fall asleep."
Yuan Zheng, an animation master's student at the Communication University of China, said he doesn't think an influx of original Chinese cartoons during winter break indicates the rise of the entire industry, but he does think the environment has changed for Chinese animation.
"In recent years, many companies have released cartoons that are of a higher quality," he said. "There's an increase in original cartoon series compared to previous years."
But he said originality doesn't equal high quality. In general, the quality of Chinese animation has been criticized, mainly because of the story line, character styling and production quality.
"It's commonly acknowledged that the Chinese cartoons are lacking in story line and structure. If the audience thinks the plot is stupid, then there's little you can do in other areas to make up for it," he said.
Xu thinks Chinese-created cartoons are relatively successful, but when compared with international animated movies, there's a huge disparity.
"Look at Ice Age, Kung Fu Panda or Madagascar; those have hundreds of millions of dollars in box office, and their audience is much older than the one for Pleasant Goat," he said.
At this early stage of Chinese-produced cartoons, no matter how much advertisement the animation companies do, if they target a younger audience, then the movie's box office potential will be limited, Xu said.
"There's an older audience that has given grown-up movies billions of yuan. We are hoping to win their respect," he said.
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