The contrasted globalization of the Animation market
Today, we can find more and more co-productions and international productions in the animation market. We can wonder if it is a new phenomenon caused by economic globalization or if this has been the case for a long time. As a lover of animated movies and series since my childhood, I leapt at the chance to talk with professionals at the 2016 GKMC.
Eric Shaw, Emmy award winning screenwriter and writer of Sponge Bob, explains that this phenomenon is actually not really new: the same things make children laugh all around the world and have done so forever. For him, the only new thing is the distribution channel which has become international. This is something that we were also able to notice through the work of Maya Goetz, from the International Central Institute for Youth and Educational TV, who showed us videos of kids, divided into gender and/or by age, watching animated videos. We noticed in fact that for example, kids from 5 to 6, whatever their nationality or even their gender, don’t laugh when small cartoon characters are hurt or crashed because they identify with them. To the contrary, kids from 7 to 10 laugh every time there is a gag, regardless who is the “victim”. However, watching a big pig dancing in a very funny way, makes every kids, regardless their gender, age or nationality, laughing.
Even though kids laugh for the same things as we mentioned, Eric Shaw insists on one thing: to go global, it is essential that storytelling has something culturally understandable. Indeed, the cultural specificities are not to be forgotten. That is why the animation industry has taken advantage of those universal sensitivities and those differences to reduce costs by working in collaboration with studios and producers form other countries: one series for several markets.
One good example is the new animation series, Miraculous Ladybug. This series is a co-production between Korea, France and Japan. It is broadcast worldwide and receives a very good reception, especially in France (TF1), Korea, USA (Disney) and Canada. It is a good example because the references are completely multicultural: the background is “traditional” Paris and the characters are French, the animation takes codes from Japanese animes (especially for the characters interactions and reactions) and from American superhero Comic books (for example: Ladybug is swinging from roof to roof reminding us of Spiderman) but the origin of their powers come from Chinese traditions. According to Stella Noh, manager of the content planning team of the Korean network SK Broadband, leader of the Korean market and co-producer of Miraculous, as long as the show is funny and educational, it can be broadcasted all around the world. She explains that the strategy of SK Broadband is to focus on the quality of the contents and not on the volume.
However, even though markets are more or less standardized, some national audiences are still averse to international productions. According Avril Blondelot, from Eurodata TV, the two main “resisting” countries are Japan and the UK.
Indeed, even though Korea follows closer and closer, Japan remains one of the biggest animation producers in the world and the leader in the Asian market. Japan produced big global successes such as Pokemon, Dragon Ball, Sailor Moon, Naruto or One Piece. The reason: they produce a huge number of series with enormously different styles and subjects. Moreover, Japanese producers offer every year as much of evergreen franchises as new series (46% evergreen and 54% new for 2016)1: the market is in perpetual renewal. The side effect is that Japanese people consume almost only local animated content restraining the growth of the American Cartoon Network and Disney presents in Asia. Personally, I love Japanese animation but when we notice that Japanese kids spend an average of 2h30 a day watching TV (the longest time in Asia), I can easily understand why Disney or Cartoon Network glance at this market.
The UK market is also consuming a majority of local productions such as Wallace and Gromit, Bob the builder or Peppa Pig which are also global successes.
Another special case is India. A lot of French animation studios explain that they like working with Indian studios for the quality and the speed of their productions. However, the Indian market is not really open to international production and doesn’t seem to appeal to research companies to study the audience. Perhaps it would be clever to do it because India presents the highest birth rate, meaning an enormous potential audience.
To conclude, USA and Japan, current leaders of the animation industry, are slowly decreasing and Korea seems to take the helm with clever strategies, strong co-productions and animations of good quality. During the GKMC we were led to talk about China a lot. Indeed, China begins to co-produce high potential animated content and seems to have enough financial means to become one of the next animation market leaders. However, according to Avril Blondelot, the Chinese market is still busy with its very high internal demand and won’t be leading the market before a good ten years. Today, some opportunities still remain for European content in the Asian Market.
I would like to address specific thanks to Stella Noh from SK Broadband (Korea), Maya Goetz from the International Central Institute for Youth and Educational TV, Avril Blondelot from Eurodata TV and Eric Shaw for their kindness and their answers to my questions.
Article rédigé par Aurélie LECLERC, étudiante en Master 1 « Marketing Plurimédia et Consommation»