Dreaming the Impossibles

A very inspiring story and interview by the founder of Baidu. Robin Li / Li Yanhong (Baidu, Inc., incorporated on January 18, 2000, is a Chinese web services company headquartered at the Baidu Campus in Beijing’s Haidian District. Baidu offers many services, including an amazing Chinese search engine for websites, audio files and images. In December 2007, Baidu became the first Chinese company to be included in the NASDAQ-100 index.)

Something Mr Robin said touches my heart deeply. In the early years of his journey, he went for a job interview to be the assistant of a US Professor. At the interview, he was asked a series of tech questions. He felt that he has performed badly. At the end of the session, the Professor asked him the last question. Till this very day, this question left him with a deep impression. The Professor said. “Do you have computers in China?”  That question has a deep meaning. He wasn’t exactly asking him if there are Computers in China.  At that time in China, no Chinese could afford to buy a computer. At that instant, he was almost speechless. Deep inside him, he has an impossible dream. He wish that he could tell the professor that one day, he wants to build the world’s greatest Chinese Search Engine. He wishes to buy many computers to make this happen. With the professor’s question. It makes everything sounded impossible. This incident cuts him real deep.

This reminded me a story of my own journey. This was in my early years too. I was given a chance to meet the president of a major MNC (Multi National Corporation) in the US. I was really touched and excited. How often do you get such an opportunity! Filled with hopes and dreams I arrived at the meeting. The first thing the President asked me was “If you have nothing fruitful to discuss, don’t waste my time.” (These words make me feel like a nobody coming from a small country. Trying to dream the impossibles) The night before, I was well prepared with the presentation. Feeling high with hopes and dreams. This one second, the message has melted me from top to the ground. At this point, I almost do not know how to go on.  However the show has to go on. I have to hold back my tears and emotion. Bringing myself together. And continue the meeting. It is really hard. Very hard.

The world is fair. What goes around comes around. Several years later. A bigger MNC bought over the MNC I told you. The president I met got replaced. I met him in Cannes. Outside a Korean restaurant. He walked over and said hello. “So what is my friend doing here in Cannes.” he said. I told him that I am here to present Dream Defenders. Eventually he came by our booth and has taken a look at Dream Defenders. He was impressed and offered to represent us in the global market. We didn’t take it up as I was already working with Dreamworks. But I remain in good spirit and let the past go. Now I am still in touch with him.

At times, things like this do happen. Looking back, it is not a bad thing. It makes you stronger. It makes you become who you are today.

 

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The Future of VR Goggles

The FUTURE of VR goggles?

At Tiny Island, we started working on Stereoscopic 3d in 2010 and eventually went into auto stereoscopic 3d.  Followed by augmented reality. And now Virtual Reality. What we have researched is not wasted.  As the above is all linked and integrated.

I think VR is only at its beginning. Soon it will be integrated with AR to form mix reality. My anticipation for the future goggles will not be like the current VR ones. So heavy.

I think the goggles will be able to pair up with the smart phone in wireless mode and probably with cool ear phones eventually. The ideal of such glasses pairing with the smart phones already existed. And more will come in years ahead.

Eventually it should look something like this in Blizzard Overwatch. So that when you use it with mixed reality, and when you look up. It will cover all angles. (With glasses, it will break the connection when you look up) And it can switch in between VR and AR.

Mr Keiichi Matsuda has created a shortfilm to give a glimpse of what the world will probably be like viewing through these goggles. Its an interesting perspective.

“Hyper-Reality presents a provocative and kaleidoscopic new vision of the future, where physical and virtual realities have merged, and the city is saturated in media”

He has also launched a kickstarter campaign to raise money to support this film. Interesting perspective indeed.

Various Potential Strategic Investors for Animation

Getting investor’s support for animation is never easy. Especially those who do not have a good understanding of the industry. They will compare your returns with investment in property, bonds and shares. This is especially true in Asia.

In the past, most finances come from traditional broadcasters. As the audience is moving away from TV, it is no longer that easy these days.  However OTT (Over The Top – like Amazon, Netflix) market is growing.  Original Series are currently financed by OTT companies. (https://studios.amazon.com/)(http://usa.chinadaily.com.cn/epaper/2015-11/12/content_22440272.htm)

The other traditional option is government support. Quite a number of countries (Malaysia, Korea, France, Singapore, UK, Australia, Canada, China etc) have some form of government support on this.

Distributors and Executive Producing / Animation Companies know how to gather funds from different countries to form a co production deal. They are potential people to work with too.

Besides the above option, we begin to see new strategic investors who take interest in investing in animation. These are the people who understands the business and they are the ones who know how to make the money back. They know what works and what do not work. However before you approach these players, do make sure you have a concept that has strong commercial values. E.g it could potentially spin-off to toys/merchandise and computer games.

(Some examples of Strategic Investors could be Telco Companies, Toys Companies/Manufacturers, Theme-park / Restaurants owners, Computer Games Companies.)

Nowadays, many series are invested by computer games and toys companies. Several major China toy companies are also buying IP from Korea. 

TOY COMPANY HASBRO – TRANSFORMER PRIME

TOY COMPANY YOUNG TOYS – TOBOT

TOY COMPANY PLAYMOBIL – SUPER 4

GAME COMPANY ACTIVISION – SKY LANDERS

Some theme-park owners are also building IP for their theme-parks. This is especially growing in China.

CHINA FANTAWILD – BOONIE BEARS (http://www.fantawild.com/)
(They have 20 themeparks in China)

For independent producer, this is what I strongly advise you to do. Build your fans. Don’t rush into pitching to investors.  It isn’t that easy. It is a very crowded market. Your concept needs to really stand out.  Not many strategic investors will give you a second chance. So make sure you are well prepared with a concept that has a strong commercial potential.

With all these new social media platform, you can use it to test your content and build your fans first. Crowd funding platform is also a very good way to build your fans and raise funds. Don’t under estimate it. When you have a lot of fans, investors will take interest. Spend time to work on a social media promotion strategy and also a good concept with strong commercial values (computer games / merchandise) With these, it will raise potential in getting support.

Talking Tom and Friends is a good case study. They have first roll out an app to build their fans. (Just like Angry Bird has their mobile game) Once they have built their fans, investors will take interest in them. You can see that the clip has 20 million views. With these fans support, they can continue to get more investment support.

Recently Chinese Companies have offered to buy them at 1 Billion dollars.

How character designs and story are affected according to intended targeted audience

Ben10

Different Ben 10 designs appeal to different audience over the years.

In general, for pre school kids (Below 6), try to keep the character simple. Big facial expression (Big Eyes, Big Smile etc) makes it easier for kids to read what is happening. Keep camera movement to minimum. Less fast actions. Younger kids has less attention span. So normally one episode is around 11 mins.

For older kids (6 to 12), characters and story can be more complex. You can have more actions and camera movements. You also have longer time to tell the story. Around 22 mins.

Additional reading materials:
Character Study – The Appeal of Overwatch’s Characters

https://geekerysg.wordpress.com/2016/06/04/character-study-the-appeal-of-overwatchs-characters/

Character Design plays a very important role in your business

Licensing Expo 2014 characters

I was reviewing some IP presented to me at a recent asian trade show and realise some of them have a common problem. The characters look like it is for preschool kids (below 6 years old) but the story is actually targeted at 6 to 12.

In the past, I have an experience with one of the company. The characters look like it is designed for preschool kids. But the story was written for older kids (6 to 12). Some channels are purely for preschool kids. When you present your series to these channels, they will turn it down as the story is too old for their channel.

On the other hand, when you present the series to channel for older kids, they might not look at it at all when they see the characters. At the trade show, there are tonnes of content presented to them.  Hence they might not have time to look through every single one of them in detail. (Especially if you are a new producer.) For this case, your series might just get stuck not going anywhere.  So do take note. Be very clear of your directions. Unless you are targeting purely for online audience. Which is a very different strategy altogether.