A limo for 2 warm fuzziesThe United States has Mickey Mouse and Bugs Bunny; Japan has Hello Kitty and Pikachu. And here comes Korea, with Dooly, the baby dinosaur, and Mashimaro, the bizarre rabbit. The dinosaur was born in the early 1980s as a cartoon character, while the rabbit became a star last year after debuting in cyberspace on flash animation art. Dooly was Korea's very first star cartoon character; in his TV show he has adventures with people and cute aliens. Mashimaro, whose name is Konglish for "marshmallow," has boomed in popularity because of his eccentric characteristics and behavior. The plump little rascal scares a bear away, then snatches a hotdog from a baby lamb.
Mashimaro will star at a convention for cartoon characters, the Korea Character Fair, which will run from Saturday to Tuesday at the COEX center in Samseong-dong, southern Seoul. The fair will be attended by scores of character industry companies, and co-hosted by the Ministry of Culture and Tourism and the Ministry of Commerce, Industry and Energy. For the dinosaur and rabbit and Korea's other characters, this fair is the reward for the industry's many years of work. Visitors to the show will be able to meet the characters, and talk to people in the industry about the direction Korean animation is going.
Mashimaro: Hey, there, big bro.
Dooly: Hey, my dear rabbit. It has been a long, long time since we last met. What have you been up to?
Mashimaro: Well, I hoped to take it easy during the World Cup, but unfortunately I had to do go overseas for some promotional trips. Maybe you remember -- Last year I became the first Korean cartoon character to make it big in the Japanese market. I signed a contract with a pretty big toy company there, Dakara, and got my goods on the shelves of the KiddyLand toy-store chain. We're talking a billion won ($830,000) in profits from sales of phone accessories and stuffed animals. I was there in July setting up a Mashimaro made in Japan line.
Dooly: Wow, you've really made it. I heard that you were going to break into the Southeast Asian market, too. Is that right?
Mashimaro: That's right. Mashimaro products will soon come out in Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia, Taiwan and Hong Kong. Anyway, what about you? I heard that you've got your eyes on China.
Dooly: Yes, I signed a contract with a university there last Thursday to publish a series of comic books. They guaranteed me 10 million won plus 7 percent of the profits. I'm gonna be the first one to make it big in China. Of course, there's the illegal copying problem there. But my Chinese partner promised to deal with that.
Mashimaro: Good. It's really a pain in the neck, the illegal copying. I thought about going into the Chinese market, but there are already so many copies of me there. They even give them different names, like the 'Lazybones Rabbit.' You know, I still don't have any comic books or animated films, like you do. But in China, there are already a bunch of pirate comic books of me. Hey, did you know I just starred in eight new flash animations?
Dooly: Did you? Great. You're right about the pirating. I still remember some illegal copier in '98 said he didn't understand why he had to pay for using me. His idea was that the beloved character belongs to all Koreans, all 45 million of them. Over in China there are so many subcontractors doing work for Korean character companies, and Korean pop culture is getting really big there, so the illegal copying just gets out of control. They say they're going to crack down on it, but they still have a long way to go. Your father (Kim Jae-in, a 25-year-old college student at Kongju University) must still be concerned.
Mashimaro: Sure he is. He just registered the Mashimaro trademark, and I think he's going to shoot for the Chinese market after the crackdown. These days, he's keeping busy with a new flash animation episode, which will be on my official Web site soon. It's www.mashimaro.co.kr, if you forgot. How is your father, Kim Su-jeong (cartoonist, www.doolynara.co.kr) doing?
Dooly: He's good, but a bit too busy. He's working on a 26-series set of new cartoons for high-definition television, which will come out next winter. I turn 20 next year, you know. Time flies. It seems like just the other day that I made my debut in the comic book Treasure Island. Oh, and next summer a musical telling my story will come out, for my 20th birthday.
Mashimaro: Wow, Dooly, that's something. You're the best, as far as cartoon characters are concerned; you started from scratch and went on to star in musicals, your own television show and tons of other stuff. And I heard an industry guy say you have more than 1,500 products selling in stores. My goodness! They even said that LG is making a new television, with a 43-inch screen, shaped like you. Wow!
Dooly: Well, thanks, Mashimaro, I'm flattered. But you know what? You're the star -- you made such a meteoric rise, and through the Internet. And you want to talk sales? I've heard that 100 million of your stuffed animals have been sold. And you have more products selling than me -- 1,800, I heard. And you're just 2 years old. Don't you think you're going too fast?
Mashimaro: Hey, big bro, go easy on the praise. Anyway, I hope everything goes well for all of us in the business at this COEX show.
Dooly: Me, too. What's going on this year? It's a shame, but I can't make it. I have to be in China.
Mashimaro: Too bad. You know, the Ministry of Culture and Ministry of Commerce had run separate events for us character goods until last year, which was a waste. This year they've put the shows together, so I think it'll be a huge success. I heard that a number of venture capital firms are showing a lot of interest.
Dooly: I heard the fair is free for everyone, so let's hope a lot of spectators come and show us plenty of love.
AND NOW A FEW WORDS ABOUT OTHER FRIENDS
Born in 1997, Booby is a smiley puppy who has a sunflower as his special friend. Early this year, four childrens books starring Booby were published , and a Chinese medicine clinic specializing in pediatrics even started using Booby as its logo. Booby has plenty of other friends. He likes to play with Yamm, a cat, and Dionoops, a strange dinosaur. Booby belongs to the production company Wiz Entertainment, which was spun off from the Barunson Character Division, established in 1985.
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The idea for this character was derived from Chinese classical opera. The image is of a strong-willed woman who dominates a strong man. Pucca was born in February 2000, and was first introduced in mobile character services and Internet card services. Seventeen companies now use Pucca as merchandise in 500 different products. The production company, Vooz, expects more than 40 billion won ($33 million) in revenue from Pucca this year.
This character loves ramen so much that he wears a ramen package wrapped around his face as a mask. His enemies are the Redmuzi, a radish, and the Blackmyun, a black noodle. Ramyun Boy is ranked as the best character on Lycos Flash theater. In November, he will become a PC game character. Sigongsa, the producer, has begun providing contents service to Japan and plans to do so for Taiwan, Hong Kong, Singapore and other Southeast Asian countries.
This unusual boy wears a yellow rainsuit year round, which is highly recognizable and helps endear him to Internet users. His partners are Baetsal Gongju ("Fat-bellied princess") and Otagun, who does not permit the smallest mistake. The show is being produced as an HDTV animation series. The producer, RoyVisual, is a creative animation company.
by Jung Hyung-mo