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Seoul animation festival focuses on nurturing Asian marketplace

2005/06/16 | 96 views | Permalink | Source

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Despite the dizzying shift of trends in media and entertainment, one thing never changes: content is king. Animation is one such potentially lucrative content, a key idea that Korea's biggest animation festival will explore to the full.

The ninth Seoul International Cartoon and Animation Festival, or SICAF, will take place Aug. 11-16 at COEX and the Seoul Plaza in Seoul, featuring more entries and introducing more programs that aim to spur business deals, organizers said.

"We have been working hard to activate the cultural content industry and popularize cartoons and animation, and it helps that SICAF is now regarded as one of the premier cartoon and animation festivals in Asia", said Shim Sang-ki, chairman of the SICAF organizing committee.

Since its debut in 1995, the festival has been promoting the country's animation industry while forging partnerships with other animation events worldwide. Government officials, notably of Seoul Metropolitan City, are keen to help the industry grow at faster pace as Korea embraces more knowledge- and content-oriented businesses.

The ninth Seoul International Cartoon and Animation Festival scheduled for Aug. 11-16 in Seoul aims to beef up its role as a marketplace for the animation industry in Asia.

The festival will feature about 120 animations from 80 countries, and 120 foreign guests will join various programs and forums. More than half a million visitors and some 300 animation production houses are expected to participate in the events this year.

This year, SICAF has three major programs: the Exhibition Convention, the Animated Film Festival, and SICAF Promotion Plan, or SPP.

In the exhibition section, the festival will showcase major Korean animation and cartoons spanning the past 60 years. Other exhibition shows include a program that features noteworthy European alternative cartoon group provides in a bid to offer a fresh perspective for local visitors familiar with mostly Korean and American animation.

With special programs and the official competition for $50,000 of prize money, the Animated Film Festival SICAF is encouraging animation producers and filmmakers around the world to participate in the festival.

This year, a total of 846 animations from 77 countries applied for the competition section, and 88 animations passed the screening, organizers said. The animations which have made it to the final round include Korea's "Great Adventure of Ppo Ppo Ro", known for its popularity as a television series here, "Alosha" of Russia, "The District!" of Hungary, and two-dimensional feature "Heidi" of Britain.

Japanese animation "The Place Promised in Our Early Days", a work by Makoto Shinkai who has gained fame for his unique digital-oriented filmmaking style, is also likely to attract visitors.

SICAF, aspiring to become one of the key marketplaces for animation producers, directors, distributors and experts, said it pins hope on SPP, a pre-market where specialists in the animation industry can browse and work on new works, or projects in the pipeline.

"We are strengthening the role of SPP this year, shifting the focus from the festival itself to an industrial hub for animators in Asia and elsewhere", said Lee Chun-man, executive chief of the organizing committee.

To that end, the committee has set aside 50 percent of its total budget for SPP-related events and programs, and plans to increase the number of business-related meetings during the SPP which starts from Aug. 11 for a four-day run. Nine animations including "Giant's Friends" by SAMG Animation and "Cookie Land Story" by Crazy Bird Studio have been selected for the SPP competition. The nine animation studios for the SPP project competition will hold presentations for invited animation-industry buyers and investors Aug. 11.

Although SICAF has fast grown in both size and quality gaining attention from the domestic and the international key players, it still confronts a slew of challenges. Most daunting is the lack of support from both the private and public sectors.

While the Korean government earmarks a whopping 60 billion won in budget for the thriving film industry annually, the figure for the animation industry is a mere 3 billion won. Due to the dearth of investment and lackluster responses from mainstream viewers, the Korean animation industry is suffering from a chronic lack of major animation hits.

Meanwhile, organizers said the festival will offer a sense of festivity through its outdoor programs to be held at the Seoul Plaza, allowing citizens to participate in various activities related to cartoon and animation.

For further information, visit the official Web site at Open the link

By Yang Sung-jin

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