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Digital forum draws on animation

Imagi head predicts the future of pop culture

HONG KONG — “This will be the Chinese century,” Imagi VP of development Paul Wang predicted Wednesday, and the future will offer a pop-culture mix of Western and Asian influences.

Wang’s multimedia presentation was part of Wednesday’s daylong Digital Entertainment Leadership Forum at the Cyberport area of Hong Kong.

Wang offered slides and film clips to back up his belief that the key to success is to combine Asian characters with Western storytelling.

Even huge hits in Asia such as “Spirited Away” met with Western resistance, but he hopes Imagi works “will give a handrail for Western audiences to hang onto” by applying a superhero format to CGI (as opposed to the wisecracking animals that have dominated CGI recently).

The 19th century was about Britain (Dickens, Queen Victoria) and the 20th was about America (jazz, burgers, Disneyland). In the past few decades, Asian offerings like manga and anime have earned niche audiences but never mass audiences in the West.

But Wang showed clips from Imagi’s computer-generated “TMNT,” which preems here this week, as one example of the company’s reason for optimism.

The film was animated in Hong Kong, and he said it cost one-quarter of what it would in the States. Beyond that, Imagi was able to tap into talent “who grew up with a multicultural experience,” which hopefully will make the works more accessible.

There were other keynote addresses by AWOL Pictures chief exec Scott Ross, Rainmaker CEO Warren Franklin and the Light Exchange principal Edward Jones, as well as panels on the changing face of content and building businesses.

Lunch featured a presentation of Digital Pioneers Awards to six young people who have designed Web sites, mobile content, etc.

The Digital Entertainment events took place at the snazzy Broadway Easy Cinema multiplex. Each session was accompanied by a large-screen projection. Theme of the day was “The Heart-Art of FX: The Future of Digital Storytelling.”

Only irony was that, in a day devoted to high-tech optimism, several sessions faced technical glitches.

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