Category Archives: On the Road

Door-to-Door

30 minutes before touchdown at JFK. Very stoned.

I’m not a good flyer, mainly because I’m not a sleeper. Anything more than an hour’s proper shut-eye on a 13-hour flight is considered a minor miracle for me. Which is why Kidscreen in New York is always my most dreaded trip of the year. It’s 13 hours to Frankfurt, then a 2-hour transit before another 8-hour flight to New York.  That’s almost 24 hours door-to-door. NOT FUN.

I missed Kidscreen last year (due to reservist), so quite looking forward to the programme this year. One thing won’t change though – it’ll be freezing. Will soon find out if the Uniqlo Heat Tech synthetic thermals actually work.

More updates on Kidscreen next (and the thermals’ performance).


Dongguan 29 Dec – 1 Jan

In the end, I was barely at Guangzhou at all as the whole trip was based out of Dongguan, which is about an hour and a half away from Guangzhou’s Baiyun airport. It was also the site for the China International Animation Copyright Fair, which I attended (more on that later). Truth is, very little of the itinerary was made known to me. OTTO Animation, the organiser of the trip and our MOU partner, had full control over my time there, and rightly so since the whole trip was at their expense.

Turned out OTTO were impeccable hosts – and I use that term with some understatement. It’s literally VIP treatment all the way. From the two Bentleys at the airport pickup (one for me; one for my cabin-size luggage) to the personal mobile phone to the 5-star hotel and all the attention to details in between. Right up to my departure, the OTTO  directors and staff were nothing but generous and thoughtful. Plus they know how to party. My only worry is how to match their hospitality when they visit Singapore.

The fair itself was larger than I had expected. It was my first taste of a Chinese animation fair, and…let’s just say it definitely has its unique flavour. In some ways it’s like the rest of the world doesn’t exist. China is, in itself, THE market. What’s clear though is that this is, or at least has the potential to be, an immense industry – one that even the Chinese Prime Minister is rallying for (and when that happens, you know its for real).

Perhaps more than any other country, Chinese entertainment content, be it for television, film or print, has at its core a cultural capital that is held sacred and revered; an important part of the nation’s historical, social and anthropological fabric that needs to be advocated and crucially, protected. Animation, with young audiences the primary audience, is not surprisingly seen as a priority industry that is extremely well guarded from foreign influence.

Whether the same animation content can travel outside of China is a different matter. Chinese companies, producers and the like almost always have overseas markets in their ‘official’ sights, but it is clear the Chinese market is their foremost target. Also, many don’t seem to appreciate or adequately understand the intricate differences in audience and cultural tastes globally.

My feeling is that as long as the Chinese authorities continue to exert pressure on producers to align with so-called ‘national interests’ (every animation concept, treatment etc. has to be approved to secure broadcast permission), it’s hard to see Chinese animation seriously breaking out internationally. It’s not really a disastrous situation though. Chinese companies all want to be seen as ‘global’, but their own market is such a behemoth that above all else,  it’s about entrenching a dominant position first, including with the authorities.

That said, it’s great that companies like OTTO are at least looking to try, or least get some serious exploration going. The team is young, forward-looking and a lively bunch with good leaders, ambition and vision. I’m looking very much towards the next couple of months of talks. Hopefully, together we’d develop a framework, if not identify some projects to start with. The idea is to make another trip after the Chinese New Year to make concrete some plans.

Director Zhang (OTTO) and Leno from Planet Nemo

Vivian (OTTO) who coordinated the trip with pinpoint precision

Chinese Star Wars cosplay musical. Very wrong.

More pics and good stuff in next post!


Off Again

Unbelievable. Last week of the year and I’m off again, this time to Guangzhou on an invite for the opening of a brand new studio (sort of) and to attend the China International Animation Copyright Fair. Couldn’t get a flight back on the 31st – that means it’s going to be an unpredictable New Year’s Eve in Canton.

I’ve been told WordPress is banned in China, so this is apparently my last post of the year. Here’s hoping everyone gets royally smashed as we usher in 2010.

Ervin signing off from T3 @ Changi.


Taipei Summer

Coming from Singapore and arriving in another country, I’m seldom fazed by how hot the weather is. But Taipei did me in. 6 days of 35 °C slow cooking wasn’t the most fun, but the guys at Coolframes Digiworks, along with other fine folks, made it more than bearable.

Photo0047Coolframes’ Cats.

cgcgAlan and Lucy from CGCG. Awesome wall!

Photo0039Beryl and Molly from Gamania. Cool office!

Oh, and a swanky boutique hotel never hurts. Taipei’s got whole bunch of them so I’m definitely planning to check out a few more in the future.

Photo0027Remote toilet controls. Does everything except clean you up.

Singaporean Chinese and Taiwanese aren’t that different, be it in the way we talk, dress, or just lifestyle in general. Personally, I think the Taiwanese just edge it when it comes to having a real zest for life and just being awesome hosts, be it at a company or pub.

Photo0091Liwei and Brenda, heating it up at Shilin Night Market. Place was a furnace.

The Coolframes guys are working hard on the trailer for the new show, and it’s great being able to just sit down with the team to go through it shot-by-shot, addressing the performance markers as production starts to kick into high gear on both sides to meet the deadline for MIPCOM next month. As a first collaboration, I can’t ask for a more dedicated team who also are just a great bunch of people.

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Not that there wasn’t time for some R&R, despite some of the folks having to be back in the studio over the weekend. We kept it fairly low-key this time – dinner at China White, drinks at MOD Bar, couple of dart sessions and KTV. But I’m making it a point to come back with less work on my mind and get down with the partying. One suspects there aren’t many better places in Asia to get royally sloshed.

Photo0050Hanging at China White – a restaurant that turns into a salsa club after dinner.

Photo0063Drink darting. I’d have failed a breathalyzer test. Got creamed by Jason.

Photo0073The cornerstone of every nutritious KTV meal.

Photo0079Matea, Annie and some random guy who ruins pictures of gorgeous women.

pixar2And I managed to catch the fabled Pixar exhibit that I didn’t even know was on in Taipei!