With Pixar Canada Recently Shuttered, Why is Vancouver's Mayor in China Trying to Woo Chinese Producers of Animation?
In the wake of Pixar Canada closing up shop in Vancouver in early October 2013 (that's the Mayor of Vancouver on the right in happier times), a Nov. 4th, 2013 Wall Street Journal report discusses a trade mission to China undertaken by Vancouver's mayor, Gregor Robertson.
Was this just a face-saving move by the Mayor, after Pixar, an employer of 100 highly-skilled film workers, pulled up stakes after just three years in Vancouver to return to California?
What was Mayor Robertson telling the Chinese?
According to the Wall Street Journal, the Mayor was there "with an entourage of executives from Canadian digital media companies" to remind potential Chinese filmmaking partners that Vancouver "offers big tax credits [to filmmakers] and is likely a cheaper partner than its southern rival [Hollywood]."
Why go all the way to China - when Hollywood is a lot closer to Vancouver - to make the case that Vancouver was a great place for animators?
Perhaps because the future of the film business is in China - and China's appetite for animation is exploding.
"A total of 32 animated films made it to the big screen [in 2012 in China], with box office revenue reaching $220 million, according to the state-owned China Daily."
Even as Pixar was mothballing their Vancouver location, the growing demand for animation in China, as well as relatively inexpensive labor costs, has lead Hollywood animation studios like Dreamworks to pour "millions of dollars into China, building outposts in hopes of creating a long-lasting and lucrative hold in a market where leaders have been cheering the rise of the homegrown industry."
Specifically, "California-based DreamWorks Animation SKG announced in 2012 an investment of at least $330 million to build an animation studio in Shanghai as part of a joint venture with Chinese companies China Media Capital and Shanghai Media Group."
In addition, "The Walt Disney Co. also announced [in 2012] a partnership with Internet service provider Tencent Holdings Ltd. to create animated movies, TV shows and Internet video."
Besides low cost workers, the technology to create animation, and gains in discretionary income coupled with a boom in theaters and mobile devices (all of which are making it easier for consumers watch animated content), what else is driving the growth of animation in China?
The Chinese government is backing this sector as a way for China to improve its standing overseas.
Two years ago, CCTV reported on the May 2011 launch of China's National Animation Industry Park:
Established by the Ministry of Culture in May 2011, the US$695 million national facility had, in just a few months, attracted 200 companies to the northern city of Tianjin.
The next step? Creating animation that can compete on the international stage.