China’s pumping toon biz

CCTV takes back kiddies with original fare

Pubcaster China Central Television is launching an animated series blending traditional storytelling methods with state-of-the-art computer graphics as China continues to boost its local toon biz.

A huge number of China’s 250 million rugrats tune into “SpongeBob SquarePants” and Japanese manga rather than China’s worthy but dull cartoons. Now CCTV is fighting back with a skein of 12 10-minute episodes based on classic material by comic dialogue master Hou Baolin and skit actors such

as Zhao Benshan and Chen Peisi.

Skein will combine digital Flash media with the 1,000- year-old storytelling devices of paper folding (an intricate way of making figures, animals and landscapes) and shadow puppets, two-dimensional painted

leather figures used to cast shadows on a white cloth.

Both are popular among Chinese youngsters. Skein started Monday and will run until Oct. 28 on CCTV

3, the channel’s toon chief Zhang Liang told local media. China first started producing animation in 1926 and biz boomed in the 1950s and 1960s.

But locals toons started to suffer in the late 1970s with the arrival of foreign imports. The government banned foreign toons in primetime last month to protect the local biz, and has announced plans to generate 70,000 minutes of home-produced fare this year.

The government has also announced tax breaks and grants for toon makers. Since 2004, the overnment

has had a quota system requiring that Chinese cartoons account for at least 60% of the total shown in primetime.

In 2005, China’s cartoon industry was worth $7.5 billion. The State Administration of Film and Television has approved three cartoon channels since 2004, and the Guangzhoubased Southern TV Station will launch a toon net in September.

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