[ENTERTAINMENT]Cubix Robots a Force on U.S. TV

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[ENTERTAINMENT]Cubix Robots a Force on U.S. TV

When kids go to fast food restaurants these days, they expect to get not only a burger and fries but some flashy toys as well. Lately in the United States, it's not plastic Pokemon toys that are drawing tots in, but a robot made of interlocking cubes. Burger King restaurants in the United States launched a promotion last month to distribute the robot toys, whose characters come from Korea's three-dimensional animation program called "Cubix."

The Cubix program premiered in the United States on Aug. 11 on the Kids' Warner Brothers TV network. It airs every Saturday at 10:30 a.m., the golden hour for kids' programs. After only five episodes, the program, featuring characters with Asian features, is already the network's second most popular show, according to Kids' Warner Brothers. Distributed by 4Kids Entertainment, the same agency that handled the Japanese cartoon "Pokemon," Cubix is being touted by insiders as being potentially as popular as Pokemon.

Korea is well known for its huge animation industry, though the sector is mainly employed as subcontractors for Japanese or U.S. creations. The comic books or animated films that Korean youth are most enthusiastic about typically come from Japan.

Cubix, made by the Korean production company Cinepix, has been successful due to its distinctiveness. It is Korea's first full three-dimensional TV animation program. Also, instead of focusing on aggressive fight scenes as other cartoons do, Cubix portrays robots as innocent and playful, with feelings and emotions. The robots express emotions with emoticons, such as ^^ (happy) and TT (sad), on their eyes.

When Korean creations gain fame overseas, especially in the United States, it's usually big news. So it's no surprise that Cubix is being bandied about here as a huge success. But don't tell that to the chairman of Cinepix, Cho Shin-hee. "It's just a sign of potential, nothing more and nothing less," Mr. Cho told the JoongAng Ilbo English Edition. Calling projected company profits of 7 billion won ($5.4 million) this year "just potential," Mr. Cho says he is aiming for 15 billion won next year.

"Cubix may affect the animation industry like 'Swiri' did for movies," Mr. Cho said. "Swiri broke through barriers, and so did Cubix. But my ultimate goal is to build up the character industry, which has higher value-added production."

Mr. Cho first hit on the animation idea in 1989 when he went to the United States on a business trip while working for LG. During the trip he was exposed to modern computer graphics, and realized that no such market existed in Korea. He established Cinepix in 1998, and prepared production for Cubix with a staff of 140 mostly inexperienced workers. "Seasoned staff would not be as creative," Mr. Cho explained.

Now, he and Cinepix are working on another project, "Aqua Kids." "To create a Korean animation, film or whatever else that can sell in international markets is not a pipe dream," Mr. Cho insists. "If you have enough time and money, you can easily achieve it. But it does takes more than just effort."

by Chun Su-jin

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