A couple of weeks ago, I was in Jilin, China for the International Animation, Comics and Cinema Forum to present a paper on producing indigenous animation. The audience, estimated at 1,500, was comprised of students from the Jilin Animation Institute (JAI), animation professionals from around the world and members of the ASIFA International Board of Directors.
The Jilin Animation Institute is an incredible undertaking. It’s now celebrating over ten years of operation. The student base is over 10,500. That’s NOT a typo. 10,500 students….the largest animation student enrollment in the world! To support these students is a staff of 1,400 instructors, teachers, technicians and artists including a smattering of foreign nationals. The institute is in the process of expanding its campus to accommodate up to 20,000 students within the next few years.
Perhaps JAI’s most significant accomplishment is the establishment and operation of its own animation studio/company, Jilin VIXO Animation, Comics and Games Technology Co., Ltd. The facility serves as a laboratory for the students, but it’s much more than that. They are actively involved in producing commercial animation television series, feature length 3D animation films and a lineup of animation games. These projects are staffed primarily by student artists, instructors and mentors.
Their first feature film, Kingdom of Frog, will be released in a few months in China. The plan is to take the film worldwide. I had an opportunity to preview parts of the film. While it might lack in ‘heart’ it certainly doesn’t lack in special effects and technology. It’ll be interesting to see what changes are made before it searches for audiences in the West. They have two additional films in development and pre production including a science fiction film entitled ‘The Seed’ and a 180 degree circular film entitled ‘Folks’.
Their television series include a 226 episode series in 2D called ‘No 1 Happy Street’ and a 104 episode series…’Changbai Mountain Spirit’. Their Games division has branches in Shanghai and Beijing. They’re currently working on a couple of games, GUAN GONG and BIG LITTLE WORLD.
This was my second trip to the Institute and I expect to be returning as a ‘visiting professor’ some time next year. I’m absolutely blown away by the scope of what they’re doing. There’s no question that the films they’re producing are, and will continue to be, big hits with the vast Chinese audiences. Their biggest challenge will be in developing/creating animation that resonates with the rest of the world. Like so many Asian studios and schools, their projects sometimes lack originality and global appeal. JAI will need to continue to seek the input of Western animation experts to influence the final product. This influence needs to start right from the beginning as they are selecting the story and writing the script. And, it needs to continue right through post production
My next blog will be from the ACE Fair (Animation and Broadcasting) in Gwangju, South Korea. Until then…