[ENTERTAINMENT]This Dinosaur Is Far From Being ExtinctDinosaurs have been favorite characters in the entertainment industry worldwide ever since 1914, when "Gertie the Dinosaur" made her cartoon appearance. Through Godzilla and bodice-ripper movies like Raquel Welch in "One Million Years B.C., and more recently in Steven Spielberg's blockbuster thriller movie "Jurassic Park" in 1993, based on Michael Crichton's novel, dinosaurs have not lost their appeal.
For Koreans as well, the idea of having a dinosaur taking center stage is nothing new. In 1983, a Korean cartoonist, Kim Soo-jung, had already taken a dinosaur as the main character of his smash hit cartoon strip, "The Little Dino Dooly." The cartoon became extremely popular among both the young and adults, and some years later "The Little Dino Dooly" was adapted as a TV animation series. In 1999, Dooly made his debut in Germany under the title "The Great Adventure of Dooly on the Iced Planet."
Unlike most of its short-lived fads, Korea's fascination with this dinosaur is still going strong into the 21st century. In May, a collector's edition of the classic cartoon will be released to commemorate Children's Day on May 5. A musical of the cartoon will be staged in August under the title, "Musical Dooly," produced by Yun Ho-jin, director of the musical "The Last Empress." And the TV animation, formerly broadcast in 26 episodes, is currently going into production again. This time, 52 episodes will be made, with a budget of 350 million won ($269,000) per episode.
So what is the winning formula behind this long-running phenomenon?
The cartoon is the story of a baby dinosaur, Dooly, who floated down the Han River from Antarctica frozen in ice. (Well, it's a cartoon, after all!) After reviving, Dooly goes on adventures with his friends, who include Douner, an extraterrestrial, and Ddochi, an ostrich who escaped from a zoo.
An obvious question, with a not-so-obvious answer, was what inspired Dooly. "I came up with the idea after I suffered from harsh censorship," Mr. Kim replied. "Prior to that, I had never considered an animal, or a dinosaur, as a main character. But in the 1980s, even a brief scene of a brother and a sister sleeping in the same room was forbidden. So, the idea occurred to me that the only way to avoid censorship was to adapt animal characters."
Mr. Kim established Dooly-nara Inc. in 1995, creating 1,000 character products with a yearly profit of 1.5 billion won.
But Mr. Kim is still not satisfied with his success. "Is it really impossible to make Dooly a popular character in the international market? I don't think so. I am determined to make Dooly the Korean precedent of internationally successful cartoon characters." Dooly alone is not enough; Mr. Kim has created more characters, but the recent ones may not be attractive enough to charm those fascinated by a Japanese animation, Pokemon, with many more alluring characters.
Considering the huge success of Pokemon, Mr. Kim's ambition does sound feasible, but only if backed by appealing plots and captivating characters.
by Ki Sun-min