Fantawild Animation Inc. is one of the most influential animation companies in China specializing in the whole industrial chain, from creation and production to the global marketing with renowned animation brands including “Boonie Bears” and “Boonie Cubs.” To describe the business strategy of the company and the present of the Chinese animation industry, Señal News spoke with Daisy Shang, Executive President of Fantawild Holdings Inc.
▸ Why do you think the “Boonie Bears” franchise has resonated so deeply with audiences in China – especially this last chapter – and what is its secret to success?
“Fantawild's success has been carefully crafted over time. For the last 15 years, Fantawild has devoted great effort to its long-term strategy within the animation industry, both in China and overseas. With 12 TV series and nine feature films, ‘Boonie Bears’ has been setting records in China’s animation industry since 2012, totaling around US$876 million at the box office to date. The brand has also ventured into merchandising and licensing cooperation across over 30 industries with a wide range of product categories, as well as building branded theme parks and even hotels. Globally, we have distributed cartoons to over 130 countries with world renowned partners such as Netflix, Disney, Hulu, Discovery Kids, and Nickelodeon. Meanwhile, the movies have enjoyed theatrical releases in 56 countries and counting.
Furthermore, Fantawild inexhaustibly seeks innovations in storytelling and production and upgrades content quality every year. As audience and market demands are ever-changing, it motivates us to create better content with each passing production. As the world around us evolves, our team follow the latest trends closely. This, combined with market research, ensures that Fantawild always delivers movies which children and their families are invested in, with their concerned topics and themes integrated in the animation on screen. For example, the most recent chapter, ‘Boonie Bears: Guardian Code,’ is the highest-grossing film of the franchise so far, taking more than US$216 million. The movie ranks within the top ten highest grossing releases this year.
In ‘Guardian Code’ you will find popular sci-fi elements including AI, robots, and so much more. The movie unravels the secrets of Barbara, who is Briar and Bramble’s mother. We explore her true identity, the world of artificial intelligence and find out if robots are in fact capable of emotion. World-class scientists, top-secret research, dark secrets and unconditional love make this an unforgettable family reunion. What is even more impressive is that the story does not just focus on the mother’s love for her kids, but also on the love between parent and child, which ultimately triggers a touching series of events.
Most importantly, we make films for families, not just for children. Our movies are for parents and their youngsters, and this enables us to continually expand our market. However, finding the balance in meeting the tastes and demands of different age groups is a very tough task for our team. It can take us a long time to nail down our stories, but each time our team succeed and each time they come up with even better plots.
It goes without saying that producing a standalone film every year can be a challenging task. However, Fantawild has created a highly efficient system with its team of first-class artists and is capable of developing multiple projects simultaneously with different lines. We actually spend around 2.5-3 years in total to develop each film. Of course, success is never 100% guaranteed, but as long as we produce engaging stories to the best of our abilities, we feel confident that our audiences will continue to join our adventures.”
▸ What trends have you identified in terms of subject matter and style currently emerging across the Chinese animation industry?
“First of all, we can feel that the Chinese animation industry is getting richer and becoming more diversified. Films of varying genres each have their own audiences. In addition, the Chinese market continually raises the bar. Simple visual SFX are no longer enough to meet the expectations and desires of audiences. They need visually spectacular stories that truly touch their hearts. We can happily offer an insight into the trends that work well within the ‘Boonie Bears’ universe. As we mentioned earlier, we are always telling good stories with universal themes and modern trends. This is a good fit for the Chinese market, but can also be enjoyed by global audiences.”
▸ What sort of interest are you seeing for your work from international buyers – and of how much importance is the global audience to the work that you do?
“From conception, our work is created with global audiences in mind. This is always the end goal. That is why we choose to tell universal stories which make sense anywhere in the world. The success of this franchise internationally is shown through its continued expansion and the brand’s longevity. The bears are very well travelled, and are constantly adding more stamps to their passports.
Each year, Fantawild attends many major industry events and key international markets. We place a high value on our international audience and market. That is why we have our own in-house English dubbing studio and team, while we cooperate closely with distributors to ensure that our content is available in their local language whether it be Spanish, Portuguese, French, Korean or any other language our audience wants.
Furthermore, we really enjoy working closely with our partners on the promotion of theatrical releases and interactive social media campaigns. In fact, we operate social media accounts across multiple platforms to ensure that our brand is globally marketable and recognizable. We are also very happy to support clients with our promotional channels and wide range of merchandise.”
▸ What story does Fantawild want to tell the world at Cannes?
“We are here and ready for business! Armed with tried, tested and incredibly successful IPs, Fantawild animation is not to be dismissed or overlooked. Though we may be viewed as a bit of an underdog when compared with other major players, Fantawild’s ever-growing presence around the world proves we do not simply rest on our laurels.”
▸ What excites you about the next 12 months for Fantawild?
“Fantawild is always working towards launching new original IPs. This allows great scope for expansion into new markets, has the potential to attract an even wider audience, and naturally brings opportunities for further exciting ventures. As always, we will continue to innovate and do our best to make a positive impact on the world through the enriching stories we tell.
Unsurprisingly, new ‘Boonie Bears’ feature films are already under production. We cannot wait to soon share more information about ‘Adventurer Carly: Ancient Kingdom,’ a brand new 52-episode TV series made specifically for kids aged 6-14 years old.
Fantawild also has an ever-growing catalogue of collaborative titles targeting global audiences. We are looking forward to growing our catalogues of amazing new IPs with our global partners. Be it co-production opportunities or fully established IPs ready to go, we are always open to discovering new collaborative opportunities with international partners and investors.
We are just getting started with our fresh attitude towards the market. We are eager to meet you this Cannes film festival, so stop by booth Riviera D4 to say ‘hello’. Let’s go on an adventure together!”