Small Chinese town goes big with magic of animation

Updated: November 3, 2023 Source: Xinhua News Agency
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People watch Chinese animation "I Am What I Am" during the movie's screening in London, Britain, on Feb. 26, 2022. (Xinhua/Li Ying)

NANJING, Nov. 2 (Xinhua) -- For Liang Kui, who has produced seven original animations and exported them to more than 50 countries and regions, it was an easy call to drive several hours to a small township, where he could learn more about how Chinese animations go global.

Liang was fascinated by a top Chinese animation gala, the 5th Topu International Animation Week, held in Dongbuzhou, a township close to the country's Yangtze River in Haimen District of Nantong City, east China's Jiangsu Province.

The Animation Week has gathered many animators and their works from home and abroad, including the creators of the domestic animated film "The Longest Day in Chang'an," Japanese animators Masao Maruyama and Masaaki Yuasa, and many renowned animations from Europe and the United States.

The event was formerly known as the China Independent Animation Film Forum, founded in 2011, the first non-governmental, non-profit animation exchange art project on the Chinese mainland. Dongbuzhou became the permanent home of the animation week in 2019.

"During the event, we can learn about the current mainstream trend of animation," Liang said, noting that he absorbed a lot in overseas market expansion through exchanges with animators, as more high-quality Chinese animations stand out globally.

China's animation industry has snowballed in recent years as the government rolled out more policies like tax incentives and copyright regulations, and the number of internet users saw explosive growth.

Statistics show that the total output value of China's animation industry exceeded 220 billion yuan (about 30.6 billion U.S. dollars) in 2020 and is expected to surpass 300 billion yuan in 2023.

For many industry insiders like Liang, the Topu International Animation Week has become a barometer of the sector, and it features animated film exhibitions, themed forums, and competitions of animated works. This year's competition unit received over 700 works from Europe, the United States, Japan, and other countries and regions.

"Thanks to the event, the animation industry here is poised for rapid growth now," said animation director Pi San, who is also one of the sponsors of the animation week.

"Dongbuzhou is very beautiful, and it has a strong artistic atmosphere, much like Annecy in France," Pi added.

Annecy is a small French city famous for holding a grand animation festival, the Annecy International Animated Film Festival. In 2019, Pi and his friends settled in Dongbuzhou, hoping to build it into the "Annecy of the East." The township has accumulated over 30 animation firms and incubated many works shortlisted for international animation festivals.

China's cultural industry development plan for the 14th Five-Year Plan period (2021-2025) shows that the country aims to continue to improve the quality of the animation industry, build brands, and promote the development of the whole industrial chain.

Pi hopes to contribute to the development of Chinese animation through the success of the animation week.

"Most animators are indoorsy, and we hope to use the event as a bridge for them to promote the development of the animation market," Pi said. This year's edition included a market unit, where animators and investors can exchange ideas on talent training and operations and even directly ink deals.

"Animation should not be self-centered," said Chen Liaoyu, director of Yao-Chinese Folktales and associate professor of the Beijing Film Academy. Chen is also one of the curators of the animation week.

"This year's event theme is 'animation for people.' It encourages animators to establish connections with the public," Chen said, adding that he focuses on the educational significance of animation, hoping more animation lovers and creators would be inspired by the event.

Ding Shi, a young animation director who first came to the animation week as a volunteer, has set up his animation projects based in Dongbuzhou. And this time, he was invited as a representative to share his experience at the event.

"My biggest feeling of staying here is that it not only provides you support like training and market resources but respects you as a creator, letting you fully show your talent," Ding said.

Editor: Yang Linlin