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Bill Dennis from Gwangju ACE Fair in South Korea

Bill Dennis reports on South Korea's Gwangju ACE Fair and the wave of animated projects flowing into China.

International Animation Consulting Group

Hi from Gwangju, South Korea.  I’m here by invitation from the Asia Content Entertainment Fair to attend their event and initiate new business relationships with Korean studios.

The ACE event is held annually and is sponsored by the Gwangju Metropolitan City. It consists of an International Forum, Licensing Plaza and a showcase for cultural content.  It’s an exhibition for all types of cultural content providers from all over the world. There’s Biz Matching, Screenings, and Conferences.

That’s the official line! 

Here’s the unofficial line………………Gwangju ACE Fair was developed to tap into the vast amount of animation business that’s flowing into China and, to a lesser extent, flowing into Seoul, South Korea. They want a piece of the Asian animation pie. The ACE Fair is expected to generate agreements between foreign studios and Korean studios, MOU’s (memos of understanding), and actual contracts. 

Characters from the ACE Fair exhibit hall.

On the down side, there’s a certain amount of ‘nudging’ that takes place to get signed agreements before the event is over.  I’m certain this is for publicity purposes. After all, the event organizers have to justify their efforts and expenses. Over the course of a couple of days I met with a dozen or so studios to see if there was any common ground.  And, after each meeting, my ‘handler’, (who served as my interpreter/guide/assistant), went over a set of questions regarding the meeting outcome:  ‘What were my impressions of the studio?’ ‘What’s the likelihood I’ll be doing business with that studio’?  ‘How much money would the contract be worth?’  ‘Could I sign a contract TODAY?’ ‘If not today, WHEN?’

On the upside, and there definitely was an upside, I was introduced to some interesting studios who were doing some very creative things that had the potential of reaching global audiences.  All told, there were 40 countries represented and over 350 different studios, most of which were Korean.

To single out a handful of studios/projects, I was impressed by a project from NEON PUMPKIN.  They have studios in Seoul and Gwangju.  The project is called  2 Eyes Monster.  It’s a 3D series for television. Very inventive characters, unlike what you often see coming from Asia. I know this studio because their head, Sara Han, also occasionally serves as an advisor to my company, IACG.

Hong Suk Hwa and Michael Yin of ‘H’ Culture Studios

I also met with Hong Suk Hwa, CEO of Seoul based H Culture Studios.  They’re doing some exciting things in Claymation and have formed an alliance with an old friend, Wil Vinton, to produce some animation projects.  One project, entitled World Heritage Animation, is a 52 episode HD TV series designed to focus on one’s own culture through animation. Most of their projects have an emphasis in education and the environment.

Another project that caught my eye came from GIOCA Music. SARL.  They are a French based studio headed by famed music producer, Gioacchino Maurici.  Their project is Toumi.  Toumi is an animated D.J. who travels the world discovering new countries, culture and music while introducing new artists to the television audiences.   

It’s difficult to talk about only a handful of new animation projects, but let me add to the mix a couple of other studios.  One is a project from Seoul based studio, Sanmei Animation.  They have an ambitious project called The Wonderful Journey to the Empyrean.  It’s a 260 episode action adventure series focusing on martial arts.  Another studio to watch is Wang Gen-fa Director Studio based in Shanghai.  In addition to their animated products including comic books, films, television episodes, and teaching materials, they are supported by their own animation school.

Sara Han from NEON Pumpkin Studios

Would I return to this event next year?  YES! All in all, the Gwangju ACE Fair was a great event. These folks are serious about forging alliances and bringing international animation projects to the city of Gwangju.  If you or your company are looking for coproduction partners, investments or collaborations, you should check out ACE Fair.  It’s an annual event and I think you’ll be impressed.

In my next blog, I’ll be returning to the US and writing about a small animation festival in Glendale, CA called AniMaz Spot.  It’s one of the few festivals in the world that has a focus on animated short films.  Till then……………….