China has, of course, been a major player on the global economic scene for several years now, but it is a lesser-known fact that it is starting to emerge as a force to be reckoned with in the animation field as well. That will become evident at this year’s Animix International Animation Comics & Caricature Festival, which will take place at the Tel Aviv Cinematheque August 8-12.
The festival program includes a Focusin (China Focus) slot, at which Liuyi Wang will enlighten visitors about the goings on in the animation and comics field in China. Focusin is the festival’s contribution to marking two decades of Sino-Israeli diplomatic ties, while the local side of the section will be provided by Belgian-born Jerusalemite comics artist Michel Kichka, who will talk about how a trip to China 20 years ago spawned his highly successful Mister T series, and about the Chinese influence on the work of fellow Belgian comics author Georges Remi, who created the ever popular The Adventures of Tintin series of comics albums.
Wang is probably the foremost authority on the Chinese industry today. He serves as secretary general of the Asia-Pacific Animation and Comic Association (APACA) and founded the Asian Youth Animation & Comic Contest (AYACC), which is due to take place for the sixth time August 17-19 in Guiyang in southern China.
The latter is open to Chinese artists and Asian artists from elsewhere around the world.
According to Wang, China’s animation and comics endeavor resulted from its growing economic status.
“After the rapid development of the Chinese economy, for two decades the government realized it is not enough to develop the economy, it was time for China to create its culture and entertainment industry,” he explains.
As its title suggests, the AYACC places the emphasis on emerging artists. “The AYACC is the most international and professional animation event in China,” continues Wang. “We have invited more than 200 famous artists from more than 45 countries and regions to participate in our event so far. We accept submissions and exhibitions and animation and cartoon artworks from more than 70 countries. Of course, we pay much attention to Asian and Pacific animation and comics, and we have established cooperative relationship with many Asian countries and conducted exchange programs with Japan, Korea, Malaysia, Singapore, Indonesia, the Philippines and other places. The AYACC is a platform for us to share animation and comics resources and to strengthen understanding and friendship.”
Considering that China was closed to most of the Western world for many years, it is fascinating to see how the industry there feeds off a rich blend of foreign influences, as well as its own millennia-old cultural and artistic timeline. Wang will demonstrate elements of that domestic-international hybrid at Animix.
“Globalization is inevitable in China, especially as animation is an art language without territory,” he notes.
“Chinese animators draw inspiration not only from China but also from the world. For decades, American animation films and Japanese TV animation series have been prevalent in China, but now more and more Chinese animators and comics artists realize they should inherit the Chinese animation school tradition which had its golden time in 1960s; they realize they should have their own cultural identity.”
As for Wang’s own sources of inspiration, he expresses admiration for a number of Jewish animation creators, and places Russian animator Yuri Norstein ahead of the usual US artists.
“Norstein’s work is full of imagination and poetic dream,” he says, “and I greatly respect the animation artists of Pixar. The 3D animation they produced caused an animation revolution in the world.”
While animation is still an emerging sector in China, Wang says we can expect big things from there in the near future, and that size does count.
“Animation is one of the most important cultural sectors in China today and has been developing rapidly, with the support of the government.
Some of the animation shorts produced by animation schools of Chinese universities and studios are impressive, with good quality. Compared with America, Japan and Korea, there is long way to go for the Chinese animation industry. China has not yet produced internationally well-known animation films and TV animation series, but I believe the prospect of a Chinese animation industry is great because China has a huge market potential.”
In fact, Wang’s forthcoming visit will not be his first encounter with our animation and comics sector, and he has had some of our leading protagonists over to his part of the world.
“I know Israeli animation through new websites and international animation festivals. I met Israeli animation artist Uri Fink at the Phillip Festival. It was my first contact with an Israeli animation artist in person. Uri introduced me to his friend Nissim Hizkiyahu – Nusko – who is the director of Animix. I set up a relationship with the organization.”
Wang says he is keen to foster ties between Israeli and Chinese animators and comics creators.
“Personal exchanges between our two great countries are very important.
I was honored to invite Uri and Nusko to participate in our animation festival held in the coast city of Fuzhu last October. I think it was the first time that Israeli animation and comics artists attended an event in China. I am happy to say their visit was successful, and it opened a new chapter of animation exchange and cooperation between our two countries.”
Elsewhere on this year’s Animix program, there is a wide spread of animation material for all ages, a chance to get an eyeful of what animators around the world are getting up to – caricature exhibitions, comics stalls and panel discussions.The China Focus will take place on August 8 at 5:30 p.m and August 9 at 4:30 p.m. at the Tel Aviv Cinematheque.For tickets and more information about the Animix Festival: (03) 606-0800 and www.animixfest.co.il