China Animation's Shanghai theme park rides Chinese cultural wave

Shenzhen-based animation firm joins the fray against giants Disney and DreamWorks as it launches indoor amusement park in Shanghai

PUBLISHED : Monday, 12 January, 2015, 4:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 12 January, 2015, 4:00am

China Animation Group, a Shenzhen-based animation firm due to list on Hong Kong's stock market soon, has joined the fray against giants Disney and DreamWorks by tapping Shanghai residents' increasing spending on entertainment activities as it launched an indoor amusement park in the city.

The Shanghai Joypolis, located at the city shopping centre Shanghai Global Harbour with a total investment of 176 million yuan (HK$220 million), will take on Disney's 30 billion yuan amusement park expected to open near the Pudong airport later this year and DreamWorks' theme park Dream Centre that cost 20 billion yuan on the eastern bank of Huangpu River.

Zhuang Shengsong, the chairman of China Animation, said the mainland's stepped-up efforts to boost native cultural products would be a main driving force for the company to enhance competitiveness.

"Young people in China's top cities are willing to spend more on entertainment and cultural products," Zhuang told the South China Morning Post. "As the government fine-tunes laws and regulations to protect copyright, domestic firms like us will be inspired to create our own cartoon characters and derivative products to woo customers."

Beijing is determined to increase the country's "soft power" as it aims to wield influence in the culture and ideological fields around the globe.

The central government either doles out funds to support domestic animation firms or rolls out incentives such as granting them time slots on state-owned television channels to broadcast or promote the country's television dramas or films at a time when US movies such as Kung Fu Panda attracted millions of Chinese fans.

China Animation is one of the domestic companies picked by mainland cultural authorities as state-level animation firms receive support and sponsorship from the government.

Its cartoon characters Violet and Han Ba Gui are increasingly gaining popularity across the country. Zhuang said the company would organise concerts, produce movies and dramas, and make products based on the characters to further explore the market.

"China's animation industry is 20 years behind the foreign established markets, but we see great potential in the market with young people's rising interest in high-quality cultural products," he said. "At present, the domestic animation firms have the chance to quicken development pace with a global perspective."

China's animation market hit 87 billion yuan in 2013, according to the Ministry of Culture, and it was estimated to have topped 100 billion yuan last year.

Zhuang said the animation market was only "a small portion" of the national economy so there was room for growth.