Animated future

opinion August 20, 2018 01:00

By Suwatchai Songwanich
CEO of Bangkok Bank (China)

China can now add animation to the range of creative disciplines where its influence is growing on a global level.

I have written about its increasing strength in the global film industry and Hollywood a number of times. Not only are more Chinese actors appearing in blockbuster films, there is much higher activity in terms of Chinese brand sponsorship and product placement and the number of Chinese-owned companies involved in the production and distribution of movies made in the West.

The debut of the China Pavilion at the Annecy International Animated Film Festival in France, in June, marked a milestone for the country’s animators. They received creative recognition for their work, face-time with the industry’s movers and shakers, and were also provided an opportunity for English-language screenings of some of their more recent films, such as “Panda and Krash”, “Legend of Silk Road”, and “Deer Run”.

Last April also saw the international release of “Big Fish & Begonia”, a 2016 Chinese animated feature which grossed 565 million yuan (Bt2.75 billion) in China. Not only was the production commercially successful, it was favourably reviewed too.

While there has been much talk of an eastern shift in the film industry, with China’s box office outpacing the US this year, along with the anticipated rise of Bollywood in India, it would be premature to expect radical changes in the global animation scene just yet. Japan still wields the greatest creative influence from Asia. China will take some time before it will be able to stand toe-to-toe in terms of its productions.

To really capture the world by storm, Beijing’s policymakers will probably need to allow its artists a little more creative freedom, so they can explore ideas that are more marketable globally. A case in point is Liu Jian’s “Have a Nice Day”, which is also known as the “Pulp Fiction” of Chinese animated films. It was barred from being shown at the 2017 Annecy festival, where China was the guest country. However, it was screened at this year’s event in France. While the subject matter of crime in China may be sensitive for the government, the film was well received at Annecy. Perhaps the increased exposure to other markets will provide opportunities for the domestic industry to become bolder.

Finally, Thailand’s animation industry should be enthusiastic about China’s growing influence, as it will provide more opportunities for local studios and talent. While the local industry isn’t massive, it is growing from strength to strength. We have had strong connections with New Zealand’s industry since the first Lord of the Rings film. More recently Thai animators were involved in major productions, such as “The Avengers: Infinity War”.

This year “The Legend of Muay Thai: 9 Satra” was dubbed into Mandarin for the Chinese market.

China’s animated future will certainly help grow the entire industry and create more opportunities for companies in Thailand and around the world.