The latest theatrical release from Makoto Shinkai, the director who began his career with the independent anime film Voices of Distant Star, has topped the Chinese box office, becoming the highest grossing 2D animated film of all time in the country. This is after a record breaking release in his home country of Japan, where he rose to be the second highest earning anime film of all time, behind Miyazaki’s Spirited Away. The film was given a special release permission to play in China, which generally only allows 34 foreign films to screen each year in its local box office. There are a number of reasons why this special permission was granted.
While I do believe that we are seeing what will be an expanding trend, as the Chinese market continues to open up, it also, in the end, comes down to money. This is similar to Mel Gibson's Hacksaw Ridge, which was given a one month extension at the box office, (foreign films are typically allowed only one month total) because it was raking in the cash.
According to The Japan Times, "Chinese President Xi Jinping and other top officials have said the two nations should expand the positive aspects in their relationship…", but Shinkai's film was also helped by it's TIMING, and the potential to make a huge splash. These days, potential demand, among the target audience, can be gauged online before a film even comes out, and, in this case, online buzz was already at frenzied levels.
You have 200 million young people, who are the audience with the most disposable income, and they are driving the box office boom in China. They are increasingly interested in international material, and anime, manga and games are at the top of that list. Makoto Shinkai's film, which is a love story targeted exactly at the age demographic, couldn't have arrived at a more perfect time!
Artist Paul H. Paulino, with experience in look dev on films such as Independence Day: Resurgence and Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, writes about his journey into the world of visual art in this amazing, must read article!
"During my studies I realized the process was more important than the final result. I knew since the beginning I didn’t want to become a professional illustrator. My goal was to develop my creativity and critical eye in a way that could be helpful as a CG artist.
In order to draw believable subjects I had to spend a good amount of time collecting references and doing research for each theme. When I did that I began expanding my visual library and creativity skills without even noticing it. I studied a variety of patterns, forms, and colors that I had never noticed before.
In other words, I could say that I finally learned to see and leave preconceptions behind. Instead of imagining how a bird looks in real life, I was able to do research and understand it. And that doesn't mean having a perfectly rendered drawing. If you can capture the essence of the subject with a quick sketch, you already learned a lot. It's all about visual communication."
Check out the full article here!
I was reading an article about what killed the Saturday morning cartoon. Back in those days, to produce a half hour of television cost as much as $330,000 USD. That was the 80s. Today a show like Avatar: The Last Airbender can cost as much as $1 million per episode!
The cost of producing animation is just too high. At least, that's the case if you do it the traditional way, the studio way. There is another road. The indie road! You don't need millions of dollars or major studio backing. You can create the show you want to create. The tools are available to everyone today. And you have no idea what kind of interest you may attract if you do so!
The question of the day is do you have an audience? We will look into this question with some examples of anime that dared to be different, including Aku no Hana and Real Drive. The answer for you as an indie creator may be a very different story than it is for the big studios!
I have been doing a good bit of animation testing recently. My goal has been to find my style, something I can kinda call my own and then start really doing the projects I have always dreamed of. I started a Vimeo channel for these tests, and will likely use it for the future project as well. That remains to be seen, but check out this and the other animation tests I have going!