|Performers dress as characters from The Smurfs in a parade on the Southern Song Imperial Street in Hangzhou, capital of Zhejiang province, during the 13th China International Cartoon and Animation Festival in 2017. The city will host this year's festival from April 26 to May 1. [xinhua]|
Hangzhou will soon host this year's China International Cartoon and Animation Festival, an annual event that has become the largest of its kind in the country.
With rapeseed flowers blooming in vast fields and mountains covered by lush trees, the village of Xiajiang in East China's Zhejiang province looks like an exquisite scroll eulogizing the beauty of spring in the eyes of cartoonist Murong Yindao.
But the artist, who shot to fame with his iconic comic puppet Daodao (knife), met with a pleasant surprise during his visit there on March 24.
A young girl from a local elementary school cautiously presented him with a cup of green tea, a traditional ceremony in China to establish a master-apprentice relationship.
Two other top Chinese cartoonists joined the ceremony to accept two other apprentices, which acted as a warm-up event to promote the upcoming 14th China International Cartoon and Animation Festival.
The ceremony also marked the launch of a government-backed project to promote cartoon and animation culture in the province's rural areas.
As a frequent participant in the festival, the leading one of its kind in China, Murong says he has seen it change quite substantially over the past decade.
"The festival is becoming more relevant to local people. I always believe the best comic works come from life and should return to life," he says.
"The festival is also a precious opportunity for local fans to see prestigious animators from around the world," adds Murong.
As one of the largest festivals for fans of animation, the event will be held from April 26 to May 1 in Hangzhou, the capital of Zhejiang.
And the event has attracted a large number of participants from 85 countries and regions, including the United States, Japan, South Korea, France, the United Kingdom and the Czech Republic.
"The annual festival is now the largest and most popular exposition about cartoon and animation in China," says Zhuo Chao, secretary general of the festival committee.
Last year, the festival attracted more than 15 million visitors, around 1.5 times the residential population of Hangzhou. Besides, the contracts and intentions for cooperation signed during the festival had an estimated total value of 128.5 billion yuan ($20.4 billion).
"The 14th event will be at a higher-level, more international and more fun," says Zhuo.
Lee Unkrich, the US director of this year's Oscar-winning best animated feature award, Coco, will take part in the festival, and will be joined by other creators behind Loving Vincent and Blade Runner 2049.
Inspired by the Mexican Day of the Dead festival, Coco crushed Pixar Animation's previous box-office records to become the studio's top-grossing movie in China.
The animated biography examining Vincent van Gogh's complex life and his unusual death, Loving Vincent, was nominated for best animated feature both at the Golden Globe Awards and the Academy Awards this year.
Blade Runner 2049, an acclaimed sequel to Ridley Scott's 1982 sci-fi masterpiece, won the best cinematography award at the year's Oscars. The movie's visual effects creator Mike Stillwell will also be attending the festival, according to Zhu Xiaoting, an international liaison officer with the festival's exhibition office.
She says the filmmakers will share their experience in master classes on April 27 and 28, and the two animators behind Loving Vincent will create a painting of 4 meters long by 2 meters wide for local people.
Hiroyuki Ito, the creator of Japan's digital pop idol Hatsune Miku and chief executive officer of Crypton Future Media will also join the festival.
A barometer of the festival's popularity, the Golden Monkey King Award－the festival's top honor－has so far received more than 600 submissions, including the Irish animated hit The Breadwinner, which was nominated for best animated feature at this year's Oscars, and the Chinese blockbuster Boonie Bears: The Big Shrink, which grossed more than 600 million yuan earlier this year.
For domestic animation producers, the Hangzhou festival is also a good platform to meet with overseas industry players.
More than 80 broadcasters and distributors, as well as around 1,500 companies with nearly 170 franchises of animated productions or games, have submitted to join the festival's trade market.
Such franchises include French video game publisher Ubisoft's Assassin's Creed, which fictionalizes the rivalry between two ancient secret societies, and The King's Avatar, a popular Chinese online comic series about a group of genius game players.
A summit will also be held to discuss how to build the brand of an influential animation event, gathering together the heads of more than 10 top animation festivals, such as the Annecy International Animated Film Festival in France, and the Ottawa International Animation Festival.
Coinciding with the Xiajiang village event on March 24, the China Comic and Animation Museum in Hangzhou has unveiled its collection of historical animation and cartoon pieces gathered from all around the world toward the end of the festival.
So far, the 30,000-square-meter museum nestled in Baima Lake Animation Square, the main venue for the festival, has received more than 1,600 display submissions, including a monkey-themed painting by the pioneering animator Wan Laiming, the set drafts of 1937 Disney movie Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs and some celluloid sheets of the iconic Mickey Mouse and Donald Duck animated series produced in the 1950s.
|Poster of Loving Vincent, whose major creators will participate in this year's festival. [China Daily]|
|Poster of Coco, whose major creators will participate in this year's festival. [China Daily]|
|Lee Unkrich, US director of Oscar-winning animation film Coco. [ China Daily]|
(Source: China Daily)