Animated ascent
Internet sparks opportunity for Chinese animation
Published: Oct 07, 2014 06:38 PM Updated: Oct 07, 2014 08:28 PM

Promotional material for Boonie Bears: To the Rescue Photo: IC

In China nothing quite catches people's imagination quite like animation. However, while the industry has seen several big success stories such as Pleasant Goat and Big Big Wolf and Boonie Bears over the years, even more attempts on both small and big screens have met with failure. Despite this previous trend, experts and insiders believe that with the rise of online streaming platforms such as and, a new fast-growing wave of opportunities is on the horizon for Chinese animation.  

Online stimulus

According to a forum hosted by Chinese streaming site iQiyi on September 29 at the Fuzhou Animation Carnival in Fujian Province, an increasing number of animation producers have begun creating works tailored to the tastes of audiences based on data collected by streaming sites.

Geng Xiaohua, vice president of iQiyi, explained that the site covers 95 percent of animated shows and films listed on the Top 200 Animated Shows and Films List compiled by Chinese search engine Baidu.

"The data that we have collected includes not only the number of viewers but also the length of time that viewers watch a particular animated work. With this data, we can help producers improve their ideas and find what audiences are really interested in," said Geng.

To this end, QQ, iQiyi and Youku Tudou, three of China's leading streaming sites, have launched efforts focusing on animation. For instance, introducing "personalized recommendations" to viewers based on analyses of data they have collected.

Back when TV and cinemas were the only platforms for animation, it was nearly impossible to broadcast a large selection of original works. But now, with the rise of the Internet and streaming sites, numerous unknown but quality original animated works can be delivered right to audiences' homes. Some of these shows haven't just become popular online, but have also been made into feature-length animated films such as One Hundred Thousand Bad Jokes and The Legend of Qin.

Boonie Bears position at the top of the latest China Animation Index, which was released at the forum by the School of Animation and Digital Arts, Communication University of China (CUC) and iQiyi under the guidance of the Ministry of Culture, demonstrates how the show has continued to secure a popular place in the minds of Chinese audiences during the third quarter of 2014. Meanwhile, the index also shows how the Internet has helped classic animation work the Calabash Brothers, created by the Shanghai Animation Film Studio in 1986, recapture the attention of adults and children alike, allowing the show to grab a space in the top 40 animated works on the index. 

The Internet has also changed the way animation producers think. After Gao Weihua and her team released the trailer for her new project Master Jiang and the Six Kingdoms on various video sites, it gained millions of clicks from audiences in China, and even some from abroad through YouTube.

"By releasing part of an idea online to see whether it is attractive to audiences, the Internet can be a good way to test the water before betting everything on a single project," said Gao, who besides being the film's director is also a professor at the School of Animation and Digital Arts, CUC. 

Long road ahead

From January to September, a total of 35 animated films, 16 imported and 19 domestic, were screened in China, according to Wu Hehu, vice general manager of Time Antaeus Theaters. Although five of the top 10 box office earners for the period were domestic films, four of the top five were imported animated films.

"We still have a long way to go before we catch up with our foreign counterparts. Although we are growing as an industry and market, the reality is that imported movies are benefiting more and are much bigger," he warned.

 He also mentioned that theater managers don't give enough attention and respect to domestic animated films.

"Managers often arrive late at the trial screenings for domestic animation. However, this seldom happens with imported ones. The way theaters neglect Chinese animation also mirrors the disappointment and pessimism of audiences in this market," Wu said.

 Yang Wenyan, president of Shanghai Hippo Animation and the man once behind the success of Pleasant Goat and Big Big Wolf, warned that there is no middle path for the Chinese animation industry, companies have to either go big or stay small.

"It's too risky to follow the middle road of making medium-budget films. You have to make a decision: Make a big-budget work that challenges Hollywood face to face, or make a low-budget work for young kids like Pleasant Goat and Boonie Bears. Hollywood films have made the youngsters and even grown-ups that medium films target picky, this often leads to the failure of Chinese animated films, as it's a fact they are made with little capital, poor animation techniques and have weak scripts," she said.

Top 10 China Animation Index for 2014 Q3

Boonie Bears

Amor Hero

Boonie Bears: To the Rescue (Movie)

New Big Head Son and Small Head Father

Pleasant Goat and Big Big Wolf

Balala the Fairies

Zombie Brother


Boonie Bears: Homeward Journey (Movie)


Dark horse list

Calabash Brothers

Happy Heroes and Planet Guling