Animation


The Nerima-ku municipal government have launched a cable TV channel featuring animation made by studios and production companies residing in the Tokyo city.

Mainichi Daily News tells that the program, “Neritan Anime Works” will be aired on J-COM starting this month and lasting until spring next year.

Despite neighbouring Suginami-ku being better known as a location for animation studios in recent years, Nerima is [aiming to be] regarded as the ‘birthplace’ of anime, given that the first animated feature production company Toei Animation (then Toei Doga), and first animated television series producer Osamu Tezuka’s Mushi Pro are both in Nerima.

With a former Mayor who had little interest in anime and in promoting it, the current municipal assembly has adopted the campaign “Nerima, the Birthplace of Anime” (anime no furusato Nerima) for its 60th anniversary this year. This move, which reportedly has been pushed by local businesses, is visible by the flags and posters of anime when alighting at train stations throughout the city.

With the Tokyo Games Show over, the Japan Animation Contents Meeting (JAM2007) concluding on Sunday 7th and ASIAGRAPH 2007 starting on the 11th, the content-related trade shows and festivals continue to roll as part of CoFesta in Tokyo, supported by the Ministry for Economy Trade and Investment (METI) and various industry bodies.

CoFesta continues with:

among others.

According to CoFesta site,

The Japan International Contents Festival (CoFesta) is one of the world’s largest contents festivals. Various events related to the contents industry, such as games, anime, manga (comics)/characters, broadcasting, music and films, are all held in Japan in autumn. CoFesta brings all these events together. CoFesta is for all kinds of contents emerging from Japan to influence each other and to be linked, to create new possibilities while also maintaining connections with the media technology industry for the distribution of contents, and to make a broad appeal to overseas.

CEO of Synergy Media Eugene Kang has issued a press release detailing some of the challenges and opportunities in the Korean animation market. (see Newswire Today)

While the Korean animation market is facing rising cost for OEM production meaning production has become cheaper in other countries, Kang believes Korea is becoming a place for producers to turn to for original content.

Another challenge Kang mentions is new distribution channels such as IPTV, which make the distribution environment ‘obscure’. This is a valid point, given that while IPTV and other internet channels are often looked to as proliferating the number of channels thereby increasing distribution options, the audiences of each of these channels is likely to be small. Therefore unless they have a well established niche viewership that is attractive to potential advertisers, these channels are likely to be filled with low-cost content that has already recouped it production costs rather than new and original content that has yet to earn revenue. Because the channels are not yet established, the operators would be unlikely to pay pre-sales for a new production unless they have very deep pockets.

Further, despite the shrinking of the domestic market, due to its talent in producing high-quality animation and supportive government programs, it is an ideal country to engage with for co-productions.

This certainly seems consistent with my impression of this industry in Korea. While there seemed to be a lack of talented scriptwriters, the sophistication of many animation studios combined with the entrepreneurship of producers suggests that a co-pro that employed foreign writing talent with Korean design and technical skills may produce properties that are successful internationally.

Korean content producers, supported by government, are looking to extend their reach further into international markets, beyond Asia.

An article in Variety

  • Korea’s content industries are likely to produce ‘more nuanced’ properties rather than relying heavily on the local star system, . Big names appear not to be getting the pre-sales that they were overseas.
  • Film commissions in Seoul and Busan are becoming more aggressive at establishing Korea as a viable shooting location.
  • The film industry is looking to the US and Hollywood both for distribution and co-production opportunities
  • The technological savvy of local firms is helping to give Korea a leg up in certain sectors like special effects and new media.
  • Korean animators, who have gained technical expertise through years of outsourced U.S. work, are becoming strong contributors. KOCCA and other government organisations provide significant funding for training in the industry.

My question though, is how developed their storytelling ability has become, and to what extent government policies are aiming to develop these non-technical creative skills.

An article in the Bangkok Post has quoted industry figures in Thailand saying that the animation and graphics ‘industry’ needs government support.

”Policymakers should realise that animation and the CG industry could generate lucrative income to the country,”
”It is a value-creation industry, which needs only ideas and creativity. It is not harmful to anybody and does not cause global warming,”

….Santi Laohaburanakit, the vice-chairman of the Thailand Animation and Computer Graphics Association told investors and fund managers at the Thailand Focus 2007 investor conference yesterday.

Calls for government assistance come despite the fact that the industry has grown by 40 percent in the last year.

It may seem strange for a high growth industry to be asking for government support, but it not all that uncommon. Industries – particularly newer industries – lobbying for assistance generally first need to show politicians how ‘valuable’ their industry is in terms of how much it contributes to the economy (income and jobs), and what its growth potential is. The second prong is then to identify that growth could be much higher if certain policy provisions were implemented. Here, it is also important to mention the potential for increased exports. A common strategy is to point out a similar industry that is receiving favourable conditions and argue that one’s own industry is facing discrimination. Finally, lobbyists will invariably point to other nations in the region indicating to their own government that foreign states are providing more favourable environments and may well gain a competitive advantage over the home country.

”Unfortunately, many Thai policymakers have not seen this opportunity, unlike [those in] South Korea or Singapore,”

”Without a national policy, Thailand can lag behind Singapore and Malaysia.”

”I would say that the value could multiply by 10 times over the next five years if we receive a strong commitment from the government,” Mr Santi said.

…which is a monstrous target. Digital Content industry players in Australia were aiming to double industry size in 10 years (7% growth per year) but then that all is relative to the respective starting size and maturity of the industries.

Finally the author of the article has added some supporting statistics:

Based on a Kenan Institute report, South Korea’s online game industry is now worth more than $4 billion. The global market is estimated at $101 billion, more than 80% of which is controlled by American and Japanese companies.

According to the association, animation and computer graphics in Thailand can be categorised into three segments: animation for TV and cinemas, valued at $41 million last year; digital gaming worth $41 million; and visual effects and computer graphics worth $33 million.

Things are looking up for the character business in Korea, according to an article in the English Chosun.

Industry size. The sales volume of the character industry in Korea totaled W4.288 trillion in 2005, with Korean characters claiming a 41 percent share of the market, up 6 percentage points from three years before.

Trade Surplus. According to data on character-related products, the export volume of W163.6 billion surpassed the import volume of W123.4 billion in 2005. This is a turnaround from the previous year. 2004 figures suggest exports were W134.2 billion and imports W148 billion.

International collaboration.

The successful overseas debut of Pucca was the fruit of a multinational collaboration. Korea’s Vooz Character Systems developed and marketed Pucca, the U.K.’s Jetix put up the funds, Canada’s Studio B produced the animation, and an American writer took care of the story. Korea’s advanced information technology did its part in the development of the character.

Taiwan Government has approved a set of plans to promote the development of Taiwan’s digital content industry, according to an article in Digitimes.

Focusing on computer animation and games software, the plans aim to increase the industry’s annual production value from NT$341.2 billion (US$10.34 billion) in 2006 to NT$600 billion in 2011.

The National Development Fund under the Executive Yuan will appropriate NT$20 billion for a five-year budget to encourage R&D in computer animation and games software by investing in private projects, especially joint ventures (JV) with international partners, the Executive Yuan indicated. Once such R&D projects pass examination by the government, the fund will commit investment before the projects kick off, an important measure to facilitate R&D on a long-term basis, the Executive Yuan pointed out.

Growing the industry 1.75 times its original size in five years is an ambitious numerical goal to achieve. Encouraging R&D is a positive step, but notably the government intends to invest in projects rather than offering tax offsets (which has both merits and demerits). What the government panel defines as “R&D” is also unclear; is it the development of a game or animated work, or does it refer to development of tools, middleware, and engines for games developers and artists to use?

In addition, there will be a five-year subsidy budget of NT$4.12 billion, including: NT$1.36 billion to subsidize Taiwan-based production of about 60 animation films as well as games software in an attempt to cultivate Taiwan’s R&D capabilities; NT$330 million to subsidize the broadcast of Taiwan produced animated video by terrestrial and cable TV companies, bringing the proportion of animation broadcast in Taiwan that was produced locally from 0.33% in 2006 to 10% in 2011; and finally, the promotion of more than 10 animated films and games characterized by vivid Taiwan imagery in the international market.

These animation subsidies appears to clearly emphasise the production of local content, taking on almost an import-substitution-like policy goal. Whether subsidised productions that presumably display imagery easily identifiable as Taiwanese can be successfully sold in the international market is also questionable.

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