Many artists asked me about the question of creating Animated Feature Films with more mature materials. Besides Japan, the acceptance level for mature material (violence, sexual etc) in animated film is much lower in most countries. Japan used to have a very strong domestic market in the past to sustain their localise animated content for adults. They do not need the global market. It’s a Otaku (Geek) market. For DVD, Toys etc. Unfortunately that is history now. Their economy is badly affected and sustaining the production cost with their own market is a challenge. That is why some producers have decided to go global and started to look at creating content for the world but not only for their own market. The question you need to ask yourself is whether your content is strong enough to enter and compete in the Japanese market. You need to be sure that you have a strong domestic market that can support and sustain your animated film. So you need to find out what is the potential box office in your country. In cinema business, 50% goes to cinema rental. 25% to 30% goes to distributor. The remaining goes to advertising and publicity. Hence you are left with little money coming to you if your box office is not good. If you look at the global market for animated films. The top 50 animated films that have the highest box office is mainly animated films for children.
Another example: Space Pirate Captain Harlock (With Mature Material) (Japan)
Nutz Job (For Kids) (Korea)
The result is as follows:
Space Pirate Captain Harlock Global Box Office is USD$17,137,302 (17 Million)
Nutz Job Global Box Office is USD$113,307,962 (113 Million)
Unless you are creating an animated film for Arts Festival and prepare not to make money. Then it is ok. Else the bottle line boils down to whether you can convince distributors and investors to take a risk to invest or distribute such adult animated content. As most of their interest is to ensure it makes money at the box office. Even convincing the cinema to exhibit your film is a challenge at times. If your film ended up exhibited at limited cinemas or at bad time slot, it is going to be a challenge to cover your cost.
Another case study: War of the Worlds Goliath 2012 (Made in Malaysia)
Base on Wikipedia, the box office is about RM $280,000 (About USD$78,607)
Base on Box Office Mojo, US Box office is about USD$13,385. About 18 cinemas showing it. In the US, you probably need about 3000 or more cinemas to exhibit your films to stand a better chance to hit the box office. But convincing a good distributor or cinemas to exhibit your film is a challenge.
Especially for independent films.
Other things to consider is this. Say a family of 4. What is the probability that the parents will take the children to watch the animated film with mature content. As compared to an animated film for kids. Lets say if you are targeted at teenagers. The question is what are the probability for the teenager to watch your animated film as compared to a live action film. What is the probability that the teenager will go to the cinema to watch your film and not download from somewhere. 🙂 Compare 1 teenager watching your film as compared to a family of 4 watching your film. DVD market is also affected as Video on Demand market is slowly taking over. Hence you can no longer depend on DVD market too. Other questions are whether your film has an merchandising opportunity. Will the teenagers buy your expensive collectibles? What is the probability? As compared to parents buying merchandise for their kids. These are the questions running through the head of money people. The global perspective is that animated films are for children. It is not going to be easy to change this mindset. Adults may or may not watch an animated film with mature materials as they have other choices in live action movies. Parents might not feel comfortable to bring their kids to watch it. Thanks to new free digital distribution platform, there is some good news. Nowadays online channel like Youtube can allow you to self distribute your animated film with less obstacles as compared to cinema distribution. For such a strategy, you need to have a strong social media and viral marketing campaign. But the objective is still the merchandising opportunity because money from online platform might not be strong enough to cover your cost. Make sure your designs is merchandise friendly. Your fans are your greatest assets. If you have a few millions fans for your online animated film, you have the power to negotiate with investors and they will be very interested. So that is your ultimate goal. In conclusion, I am not saying that animated film with matured content will definitely fail and children animated film will definitely succeed. A lot still depends on your story, marketing budget and campaign, your strategy, your release date, your fans support and other factors.