The post of "Pleasant Goat and Big Big Wolf"
The domestically produced cartoon "Pleasant Goat and Big Big Wolf" – both the TV series and the feature films – has become a paragon of success for China’s animation industry.
The low-cost TV series from Creative Power Entertaining was broadcasted by nearly 50 stations in China and reached a 17.3 rating at the height of its popularity in 2007. Its first feature film had a production cost of 2 million yuan (US$313,725) and receipted 80 million yuan at the box office. For years, industry peers have been trying to replicate its accomplishment with little success.
However, the rise of "Pleasant Goat" had more to do with its own merits. In fact, even after the cartoon became a commercial hit in China, the series failed to receive any scores from foreign experts at the 2009 Hangzhou International Animation Festival.
"Pleasant Goat" was first aired in July 2005. At that time, no one had anticipated that the State Administration of Radio Film and Television (SARFT) would issue a directive that TV stations must broadcast domestic cartoons instead of the more popular imported ones during the 5-8 p.m. timeslot starting on Sept. 1, 2006.
"Pleasant Goat" took the low cost road. The Flash-based cartoon only cost between 1,000 to 2,000 yuan each minute to make. At the time, Creative Power Entertaining was the only private domestic studio that took on the risk of producing a long, original cartoon series.
Its only competitor, "Rainbow Cat, Blue Rabbit and the Seven Legendary Swordsmen," with a CCTV contract, received complaints from parents that it was too bloody for children and was soon banned by SARFT. This paved the road for “Pleasant Goat” to become winner by default in domestic animation in 2007.
By 2009, the cartoon had turned into a goldmine. The brand spawned 40 theme parks across the country and became the theme in fast food restaurants and kindergartens. Attempting to increase the number of original animation, the industry began to hype the success of "Pleasant Goat" and inspire others to follow suit.
As a result, Flash became a standard tool for studios intending to save costs. According to industry insiders, most of last year's 220,000 minutes of cartoon by domestic studios were made by Flash.
"Pleasant Goat" tries to make up for its rough production with good storytelling. Still, more than 500 episodes over the years make the subpar animation and effects difficult to hide.
Yet factors such as rampant piracy force the domestic studios to continue using low-cost means of production, and profit only comes from theatrical releases. But the 80 million yuan mark set by "Pleasant Goat" has become something of a mythical figure. "Rainbow Cat, Blue Rabbit and Fire Phoenix," a recent highly-rated TV series, could only make a few million yuan at the box office.
The core team behind "Pleasant Goat" broke up in 2010 with the departure of screenwriter Huang Weijian and the director Huang Weiming from Creative Power Entertaining. Rumors said conflicting interests between creative staff and studio management led to the disintegration of the team.
An internal memo at the studio, reported by China News Weekly, raised further concerns. The memo claimed that that "Pleasant Goat" was first conceptualized by a Japanese company that brought the project to Guangdong, where Creative Power Entertaining later introduced it as an original domestic title. The reports said this had led to disputes over profit distribution between the Chinese and Japanese partners.