First original Chinese cartoon on Nickelodeon receives warm welcome abroad
Published: Feb 04, 2021 04:33 PM

Promotional material of Deer Squad Photo: Sina Weibo

Deer Squad
, the first original Chinese cartoon which was released on Nickelodeon in the US in January 2021, has achieved a great success and is now set to make the jump to countries of Europe and Africa come March.  

The cartoon, produced by major Chinese streaming platform iQIYI in cooperation with Nickelodeon for children between 3 to 7 years old, tells the story of four little brave deer taking risks and resolving crises.

After its premiere on iQIYI on July 15, 2020, Deer Squad began a world tour that saw it release on Nickelodeon in Asia, including Singapore, Malaysia, the Philippines and  Indonesia, in August 2020 and then on to TV stations in the UK, Australia and New Zealand in October 2020. 

According to Nickelodeon, Deer Squad has received a warm welcome from children overseas. In the Philippines and Australia, the show has ranked No.1 in the channel's viewership ratings, surpassing some hit cartoons like Peppa Pig. It also ranked No.1 on its debut day in the UK, while the average rating during the broadcast period in that market exceeded 148 percent of the broadcast standard over the same period.

Promotional material of Deer Squad Photo: Sina Weibo

Yang Xiaoxuan, vice president of iQIYI and Head of Original Animation and Investment, told the Global Times that Chinese animated kid shows very rarely find an audience in the international market as they do not fit the taste of young overseas viewers.

"Character design is the first step in the creative stage," Qie Yiming, the cartoon's producer, told the Global Times. She explained that after a lot of research they found that animal characters are the most popular among children around the world, and that in the end they landed on deer as the choice to lead the show as the variety seen in the animal's horns gave their artists plenty of room to come up with creative designs. 

According to Yang, Chinese children care more about whether a show is entertaining when watching cartoons, so studios focus more on funny action performances and interesting storylines, while markets overseas today pay more attention to the theme of "love" and also make sure to include educational content such as safety awareness. 

"During the process of creating this show, both sides are committed to reducing the gap between Chinese and Western culture," said Yang.

To meet the needs of both domestic and foreign markets, the key for the studio was tokeep balance between entertainment and education when it came to presenting a story, in other words, telling a wonderful story while also focusing on knowledge and emotional education. 

She added that the success of Deer Squad comes down to this innovative cooperation model, high production standards and the successful integration of Chinese culture and overseas standards.

Past Chinese animated works are usually produced by a Chinese studio first and then released overseas, which makes it difficult to make changes to a work to fit the market and therefore greatly restricts the expansion of distribution. 

Deer Squad adopts the cooperation model of "pre-sales plus creative supervision." We reached broadcast and distribution cooperation with overseas broadcast platforms in the early stages of creative supervision, and communicated with and received feedback from them in a timely manner during production, which helped us improve efficiency, Yang explained. 

Chinese animation has rapidly developed over the past few years. In 2018, more than 80 Chinese animated series were broadcast online. In 2021, more than 200 domestic animated works are set to be released on major video platforms in the country, China News reported.