Animation Industry 'Tooning' Up For The Global Market

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Animation Industry 'Tooning' Up For The Global Market

Hoping to become a member of the exclusive club of blockbuster animated movie-makers, the Korean animation industry is looking to reach out to the global audience.

Korea production companies and foreign partners have poured money into two feature-length animated movies, "Don Quixote" and "Ark." Production costs are up to three times higher than for ordinary movies. Worldwide distribution is set for August 2001.

Korean filmmakers and animators are exhibiting a greater degree of originality and creativity than in the past. Previously, animation projects were sub-contracted out to Korea by the United States and Japan, despite the fact that outstanding technology was available here.

Now with the loss contracts to China and other South-East Asian nations with cheaper labor, the only way to survive in the 21st century is with creativity. This reality has forced the local industry to reassess its role and foster a more dynamic and creative domestic animation climate.

"Don Quixote," is a joint production of Toonipark and U.S.-based High Praise Animation Company. Korean-American animator Richard Kim heads the U.S. company. Kim has been involved in various animation productions, such as the popular animated sit-com "The Simpsons."

"Don Quixote," with a budget of $10 million, is a mixture of 2D and 3D images.

"Ark," costing $7 million, is a movie for children and adults and is being produced by the Digital Dream Studio. The digital production company was joined by the William Morris Agency, Rainbow Studio and Hong Kong movie director John Woo in investing $5 million to set up Digital Rim, an affiliated company, that produced the project. To put that budget in its proper perspective, "The Legend of Ginkgo," a highly acclaimed non-animated domestic feature cost only 450 million won ($410,000) to make.

"Ark" promises to be a formidable animation achievement. It is the first 3D animated movie made in Korea. Unlike previous 3D animation movies like Disney's "Toy Story" and "A Bug's Life," human characters will star. Properly simulating their human expressions promises to be a great technological achievement. Namkung Yeon and MC Hammer will provide the soundtrack.

Japan and the United States continue to dominate 2D animation, but Korea, though looking at a tough start, will do well if it and formulates a long-term strategy and continues in the direction it's going. Getting in on the ground floor with 3D animation gives Korea a chance to become a player in international animation.

by Ahn Hai-ri

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