The Chinese animation industry is booming but more risks must be taken: experts
Published: Jul 07, 2021 12:08 AM
<em>The New Big Head Son and Small Head Dad</em> Photo: Screenshot of Weibo video

The New Big Head Son and Small Head Dad Photo: Screenshot of Weibo video

The Chinese animation industry, including TV and film productions, has been growing after a string of successes like the 2019 animated film Ne Zha. More than 200 animated TV series and 10 animated movies will be released during the summer season. 

Despite the industry's achievements, experts have pointed out that it needs to branch out into new directions to overcome current challenges such as falling into simple themes. 

As kids start to enjoy summer vacation, 10 animated movies targeting a variety of age groups will be released, such as The New Big Head Son and Small Head Dad, a popular franchise among kids, as well as the premiere on July 23 of a more adult-oriented sequel to the 2019 movie White Snake, according to the Chinese news site, The Paper.

A total of 40 film studios and companies have taken part in the production and marketing of these 10 movies. 

The report said that in addition to animated films set for cinemas, the number of animated series airing on streaming platforms in 2021 has continued to increase, from 83 in 2018 and 113 in 2019.

Major Chinese streaming platforms, including Youku, iQiyi and Bilibili, have more than 60 animated series scheduled for the second half of 2021. The market size of the online animation industry is expected to reach 5.61 billion yuan ($868 million) in 2022, according to the website

"I can find my favorite Chinese cartoon on these platforms. This is a big progress," Fang, a high school student in Beijing who loves animation, told the Global Times on Tuesday. 

"We have our own high-quality animated works and we don't have to watch productions from other countries."

The rise of the Chinese animation industry is the product of an expanding market, a growing interest from investors and an increase in studios, Shi Chuan, Vice Chairman of the Shanghai Film Association, told the Global Times on Tuesday.

"The market of the animation industry is growing with the entire movie market. People's demand for film is increasing. The success of previous works, especially Ne Zha [the third highest-earning film in China at 5 billion yuan], have made investors recognize the potential of animation. And Chinese studios are making progress when it comes to technical know-how and creative ideas," Shi said, pointing to hits such as 2015's Monkey King: Hero is Back and 2016's Bigfish and Begonia.

"These are all reasons to make the animation industry prosperous," added Shi.

Monkey King, Ne Zha and White Snake are characters from classic Chinese literature and the setting for Bigfish and Begonia was heavily inspired by traditional Chinese culture. While this may be part of their success as a channel for promoting traditional Chinese culture, experts worry that their hit will create a trend to produce massive amounts of similar films, which in turn could lead to aesthetic fatigue.

For instance, Youku is set to release 31 animated works based on traditional Chinese culture in 2021.

Shi noted that the industry and government policy should encourage studios to take creative risks such as using animation as a means to discuss social issues and uncover more popular themes.