Industry on the rise
Cheng Weifang, who co-founded SteamArts in 2015 with her husband, mainly covers preliminary planning, market analysis and business development for the studio, which has 60 employees. She believes that to achieve a sustainable development of the industry, it requires a clear business plan.
For instance, before the studio decided to produce Mini Town, an animated series that tells the stories of bear families that live in a utopian town, Cheng and her colleagues had already thought about the prospects of derivative products.
"The target audience of the series are children aged from 2 to 6. In China, the cartoon market for that age group is far from saturated," she says.
What is actually being manipulated in the animated work are plush puppets, which makes it easier to manufacture such derivative products as plush dolls, Cheng says, adding that high-quality plush toys can help the studio capture a largely uncontested market space in China.
"We hope to expand its range of application-the animation could be used in commercial advertising, art exhibitions and other fields," she adds.
The studio has also collaborated with primary schools to encourage students to create stories using objects around them.
Guided by the animators, children can bring their favorite fruits or toys to school, then make up a story based on the objects and create short stop-motion videos. This kind of training not only improves their photography and storytelling skills, but also helps to fire their imagination, says Cheng.
To reach out to global viewers, Cheng also took their animation work to international audiences at the Busan International Film Festival in South Korea and the Annecy International Animation Film Festival in France.
"The content of child-targeted animation knows no boundaries. I hope our original work fits in with universal values and gains popularity among foreign kids," she says.
For that goal, the animators are on their way to upgrading photographic equipment, as well as improving puppet-building techniques, precision parts processing and 3D printing. They are also honing the ability to combine stop-motion with both 2D and 3D animation as well as live-action film.
The animators are trying to evolve one of the earliest forms of 20th century animation by implementing 21st century technology into its production process, according to Cheng.