In China, should I launch the Animated TV Series or Feature Film first?

These are some of my recent analysis of the China Market. They are just my early findings. (So I am not saying that one should do this or that.) But I hope these findings are useful to you. Something you can think about.

The topic for today’s discussion is …..
” In China, should I launch the Animated TV Series or Feature Film first?”

Based on what I have observed so far, the approach in the North America seems to be launching the animated feature film first. If the animated film does well at the box office, it creates a lot of publicity for the IP. In order to prolong the life span of the IP, an animated TV series will be made to prolong the popularity. In this way, more merchandise can be sold for a longer period. (A typical screening period for an animated feature film is around 4 weeks. Normally merchandise are only sold during this period. Which could be up to around 12 weeks. Including the period before and after the film is screening. Where as for an animated TV series, it could be 6 to 12 months or beyond. Depending on the number of seasons made)

Examples: Kung Fu Panda (franchise) and How to train your dragon (franchise)

Example 01: Kung Fu Panda (franchise)

Example 02: How to train your dragon (franchise)

In China, the approach seems to be working the other way round. That is to launch an animated TV series first followed by the animated film later. The animated series serves as a pre launch marketing and promotion for the animated film.

For a while at the markets, I heard from many Korean and Chinese executives that Chinese Government has strong interest to finance animated feature films now. Many people are jumping straight to the animated film productions without having an animated series being launch first.

A US animation executive highlighted to me recently that some China made animated films have difficulty finding distributors. The China distributors do not seems to have confident with the China made animated films. Some completed animated films either cannot locate good distributors. Or distributor is reluctant to put in too much marketing effort for the film.

One of my case study is 神笔马良 – The Magical Brush. Even though the animated film is backed by Disney China, (And Jacky Cheung sang the theme song to create publicity) the box office for the animated film still went below 10M. In today’s China box office (Potential Box Office beyond USD$300M), I was told that it is considered below average. And not many people know about the animated film. There was no animated TV series to promote the animated film before it is launched. This could be the reason.

Pleasant Goat and Big Big Wolf – 喜洋洋与灰太狼

Boonie Bears – 熊出没

<Pleasant Goat and Big Big Wolf – 喜洋洋与灰太狼> and <Boonie Bears – 熊出没> on the other hand did very well at the China box office. Its success factor seems to be launching the animated series first. Both IP did really well on TV first. This helps a lot on the marketing part and also gives confident to the distributors. Which helps a lot before the animated film is launched.

In China, the mindset of the parents in general also seems different from the North America. Due to the one child policy, parents are more willing to please their kids. And the kids seems to be the deciding factor on which movie to watch by the family. (I supposed this might change over time) As compared to the North America, the parents are the ones who decide which film to watch. Hence it is very important for the film to be for family entertainment. (Not just for the kids or adults. And it also cannot be too childish or too violent.) If the animated series is already on TV, chances are parents would just let their kids watch it on TV. This is especially true for preschool content that becomes an animated film eventually. It seems that those content that started from an animated TV series and later becomes an animated film, most of them do badly or average at the box office only. (I am not referring to animated TV series that has become a live action movie)


So if we were to apply the North America principle to <Pleasant Goat and Big Big Wolf – 喜洋洋与灰太狼> and <Boonie Bears – 熊出没> . Where the IP did very well on TV first. I doubt it will do well at the North America box office (Parents will just let their kids watch on TV) unless the quality and script were to be changed significantly.


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