Animation put into overdrive

Fresh from banning foreign toons in primetime to help bolster the flagging home industry, China is planning to crank up domestic output to generate 70,000 minutes of home-produced fare this year.

So far this year, China has produced more than 50,000 minutes of animation vs. 47,200 last year, and the country’s main media watchdog, the State Administration of Radio, Film and Television, puts a positive spin on the biz outlook.

“The rapid development of China’s cartoon industry is attracting more and more international attention,” Sarft official Jin Delong told the Xinhua news agency.

Since 2004, the government has required that Chinese cartoons account for at least 60% of the total shown in primetime.

Chinese cartoons tend to be preachy, with the moral message laid on good and thick, and China’s 250 million children throng to the likes of “SpongeBob SquarePants” and Japanese manga maestros for their strong storylines and offbeat ways.

As domestic toon firms struggle, co-production is providing one way forward. Earlier this year, the Changsha-based Sunchime Cartoon Group signed a contract with U.K.-based Eaglemoss Publications, selling its publishing copyright on Blue Cat, which they hope can work as a Chinese rival to Mickey Mouse.

Popular syndicated skein “Little Magic Dragon Club” began purchasing domestically made animations this year after previously offering a diet of purely foreign-made cartoons.

Sarft has approved three cartoon channels since 2004, and the Guangzhou-based Southern TV Station will launch a new toon net in September.

Domestic animation has not had an easy run. “Thru the Moebius Strip,” the most expensive feature toon ever made in China, did little domestic B.O. The 3D movie took five years and $16 million to make, with more than 400 artists from eight countries drafted to draw the tale of a resourceful boy.

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