China Animation bets on Sonic the Hedgehog in push to win over mainland animation enthusiasts

PUBLISHED : Monday, 20 February, 2017, 6:07pm
UPDATED : Monday, 20 February, 2017, 10:57pm

China Animation Characters Co, the mainland’s leading animation firm, plans to introduce a clutch of globally renowned cartoon characters including Sonic the Hedgehog by Japanese entertainment giant Sega to the Chinese market as it strives to strike a chord with youngsters.

The Shenzhen-based animation company will also quicken the expansion pace of its indoor amusement parks across the mainland.

“The market potential is huge and we want to let popular characters around the globe engage with the Chinese audience,” Zhuang Xiangsong, founder and chairman of China Animation, said. “This year, we will make a series of efforts to create a synergy between Sega’s Sonic the Hedgehog and our products. We’ll enhance the presence of international characters in China through the models including cooperation, agency and acquisition.”

China Animation has been selected by mainland cultural authorities as a state-level animation company to receive support and sponsorship from the government.

Zhuang said the Shenzhen-headquartered company could compete against global rivals such as Walt Disney by introducing quality virtual reality products to Chinese people.

“Sega has blockbuster products that already attract millions of fans in Japan, and we believe the fun-filled attractions based on the characters could also make a success at our amusement parks,” Zhuang said. “Banking on their reputation and popularity, we are not just a follower of the world’s leading entertainment companies. Instead, we are on an equal footing in the Chinese market.”

The mainland animation market is estimated to be worth 100 billion yuan (US$14.54 billion) in annual revenue, according to Qianzhan Industry Research Institute, a Beijing-based consultancy.

The debut of Shanghai Disneyland in June last year has also fuelled mainlanders’ demand for entertainment activities, said He Jianmin, a professor at Shanghai University of Finance and Economics.

“Creativity is a rare asset and it can create great companies like Walt Disney,” said the professor. “There is a lot for Chinese companies to learn and lot of potential for them to tap.”

Zhuang said China Animation hoped to enlist the help of the world’s leading firms including Sega and those from the United States to meet the latest virtual reality and augmented reality technologies into the animated products that could attract Chinese people.

“We need to have a global perspective in designing and developing products,” he said. “You must make sure that your video games and attractions are of interest to local consumers who are now expecting the world’s top entertainment activities.”

Late last year, China Animation bought an 85.1 per cent stake in Sega Live Creation, manager of the Joypolis parks in Japan, Dubai and China.

Zhuang said the company aimed to open up to another four Joypolis parks in the mainland over the next two years.

China Animation eyes Asian expansion after takeover of Japan’s Joypolis amusement park chain

China Animation agreed with Yuexing Group to build more than 70 indoor amusement parks for children, known as Wonderful Forest.

China Animation’s first animated film based on the character of Violet is set to premiere in 2018.

“We’ll introduce a globally renowned character to China every two months this year,” Zhuang said. “The market abounds with great opportunities. We have a bullish growth forecast though it’s difficult to disclose an exact targeted growth figure.”

The Hong Kong-listed shares of China Animation closed at HK$3.58 on Friday, reflecting a 6.9 per cent gain year to date.