Tag Archives: Disney

Big Fish

On the heels of the “Oriental DreamWorks” announcement, The Walt Disney Company announced a joint venture with the China Animation Group and leading internet service provider Tencent, as widely reported in the press this week:

The Walt Disney Company in China, the Ministry of Culture’s China Animation Group, and Tencent, China’s largest internet service provider, have formed a partnership, “The National Animation Creative Research and Development Cooperation,” to advance the country’s animation industry.  The organization, announced at a signing ceremony in Beijing today (Tuesday), will serve as an incubator to train local talent and develop original content that will entertain audiences in China and worldwide.

“The National Animation Creative Research and Development initiative is focused on nurturing local talent and recognizes the importance of developing original local animation content,” said Andy Bird, Chairman of Walt Disney International.  “Disney’s involvement builds on our expertise and long term commitment to nurture the local original animation industry.  As founding partner we look forward to working with this new creative partnership in creating content for the Chinese and international marketplace,” he added.

Mr. Bird was joined at the ceremony by Liang Gang, Chairman of the Board for China Animation Group, Ren Yuxin, a senior executive of Tencent, and Gao Zheng, deputy director general, Cultural Industry Department for the Ministry of Culture.

As part of the initiative, Disney will provide its expertise in storytelling from concept creation and story development to market research.  Disney will work with the China Animation Group and Tencent to foster local content across mediums, including television, motion pictures and digital platforms, for distribution in China and internationally.  Tencent, one of China’s largest Internet service portals, will provide online marketing support.


Chinese Animators Chase A Character Of Their Own

As reported by Jonathan Landreth in The Wall Street Journal

The world’s second-largest economy has never produced its own version of Pokémon or Buzz Lightyear. Could the solution be a bean-curd-based riff on Pinocchio?

Cue “Tofu Boy,” a $5 million film slated for fall 2014 release, whose makers hope the character whets the world’s appetite for Chinese animation.

“We’re creating Chinese-themed content with international resonance,” says Kevin Geiger, a Walt Disney Animation veteran who now heads a Beijing-based start-up studio, Magic Dumpling Entertainment. “Tofu Boy” is “inspired by but not based on” the Pinocchio story, he says. “A good little boy who’s a bit mischievous is something every parent in the world can relate to.”

He and his partners, director Sun Lijun, scriptwriter Yan Yi and chief creative officer Feng Wen, began work on “Tofu Boy” in 2009 and now share digital sketches on their iPads with coffee-shop patrons, solicit plot feedback from neighborhood kids, and grill distributors who claim to know local moviegoers best.

“We’re trying to give Chinese audiences a sense of ownership,” Mr. Geiger says. “They’re so tired of period pieces, but people are reluctant to do something modern because it sometimes bumps up against the censors. It’s safer to do something set in the past. But Pixar tells movies about now. ‘Toy Story’ is set today.‘Wall-E’ is set in the future. Why can’t Chinese animation be the same? If we can create content that Chinese feel they own, but that also has an international-quality story and design, then it can do well overseas.”

First it must resonate with Chinese audiences. Mr. Sun, the head of the animation department at the Beijing Film Academy and director of the animated movie “Legend of a Rabbit,” helped play up Tofu Boy’s culturally Chinese aspects. “His notes always incorporate something traditional,” Mr. Yan says.

Tofu Boy comes to life in modern-day Shanghai, in a once-famous but now bedraggled shop where tofu maker Old Wang wonders aloud if having a son would change his life. As for his powers, the animators take advantage of his soy-based nature by giving him the ability to change shape and texture—Mr. Sun told the animators to make him “all consistencies,” Mr. Geiger says. He hardens to pound a nail and transforms into stinky tofu when upset.

There are also occasional nods to more Western sensibilities. One character, regarding Old Wang, says “There are born winners and born losers, and that’s an example of a born loser,” but is countered by another who says, “There’s not only fate and destiny, there’s hope.”

“Kung Fu Panda” was a hit in China because, Ms. Feng says, “in the end, it was about needing to find your own way—not a part of Chinese culture, but a philosophy young Chinese fantasize about.”

This mix of local and potentially global appeal is crucial to the success of “Tofu Boy” and other animation projects in development in China. The country is eager to promote its culture abroad. According to the State Administration of Radio, Film and Television, China’s 2011 box-office revenue was up 29% from a year earlier, to 13.1 billion yuan ($2.1 billion) though U.S. Hollywood productions still draw the most moviegoers. Other animated series, such as “Pleasant Goat and Big Big Wolf,” are popular within China and other Asian markets but haven’t yet crossed over.

Magic Dumpling is hopeful but realistic. “Can we really draw more than 10 versions of a character and choose the best one?” Ms. Feng says. “Chinese artists are not used to even this simple process. We’re trying to build a good Chinese film step by step. We’re trying to take Chinese culture overseas. In reality, it will be a very slow process.”

Revolution Radio

Magic Dumpling Entertainment’s President Kevin Geiger and Head of Development Wen Feng discussed development & production of the 3D animated feature film, “Dr. Sun” as part of Beijing Radio774’s Xinhai Revolution anniversary week programming.

The interview aired October 6th on Beijing Radio AM 774’s “Talk Box” segment, and is available online in the 2011-10-06 Talk Box archive post at www.am774.com

“Dr. Sun” tells the story of Sun Yat-sen and his revolutionary colleagues’ successful struggles to overthrow the Qing Dynasty in 1911 and usher in a modern era for the Chinese people, highlighting the personal dramas within the epic events.

For more on “Dr. Sun” in Chinese, check out the article in the September 20th issue of Want Daily.

Kung Food (功夫菜)

Director Sun Lijun and Tofu Boy

As reported in Variety, Magic Dumpling Entertainment has attached “Legend of a Rabbit” helmer Sun Lijun to direct the animated 3D film “Tofu Boy”, a Chinese-themed spin on the Pinocchio tale set in modern-day Shanghai.

Magic Dumpling is developing the project from a screenplay by writers Yi Yan & Wen Feng with producer Kevin Geiger, formerly of the Walt Disney Company.

“Tofu Boy” is planned for a holiday 2013 release.




Journey To The East

From Magic Dumpling Entertainment’s main development office in Beijing’s Central Business District, Magic Dumpling President & CEO Kevin Geiger chats candidly with Beijing Radio Corporation’s Radio 774 about his transition from CGI special effects to animation producing, his move from Hollywood to China, his team’s work at Magic Dumpling Entertainment, his high hopes for Chinese animation and his love of Beijing noodles.

Distribution Considerations (发行考量)


Release Windows

The typical method of releasing animated feature films begins with domestic theatrical exhibition, which gives value to the various film “windows” (the period following a domestic release before a film can be released in other markets). Historically in the United States and Europe, the sequencing pattern for feature films has been to license international theatrical exhibition, home video & DVD, cable television distribution, broadcast television rights and other ancillary rights. As the rates of return shift among these different sources, changes are made to the sequencing strategy. Not only are release windows currently shrinking, but there is speculation that they may compress completely in favor of a distribution model in which content is delivered simultaneously on the “big screen” (theaters), the “mid screen” (TV displays) and the “small screen” (mobile phones). Regardless, it is important to note that the release windows for gaming and publishing ancillaries usually precede the initial theatrical release of a film or broadcast release of a show by one to three months, and this aspect is unlikely to change.

Distributors around the world plan their release windows with certain target audiences in mind. Low-budget films will often receive platform release windows in selected major cities that feature substantial populations of cosmopolitan filmgoers. In this way, the film is given a build-up to a wider release that may occur several weeks later. With the high costs of film prints, even a relatively modest theatrical distribution of 1,000 screens can exceed $2 million USD in initial expenses, although digital delivery may eventually drive distribution costs down to almost nothing.


Ideally, the best possible initial release for an animated feature film is release in theaters. In addition to its own potential revenue, theatrical release can generate demand for other media release platforms such as broadcast television and DVD, as well as consumer interest in ancillary products. For a film in initial release, the exhibitor will pay a percentage of the revenues from ticket purchases to the distributor (referred to as the “film rentals”, and not to be confused with home video rentals). Film rentals customarily diminish over the length of a film’s theatrical run. Depending on the distribution agreement, the producers and investors are entitled to a percentage of film rentals, after the distributor recovers its distribution fee, marketing expenses and distribution expenses.

Other media releases for the film are calculated in a similar fashion. For instance, in the U.S., a home video company pays an amount to the distributor for the right to stock its DVD stores with the title. From these fees, the distributor will deduct its distribution fee, advertising costs and other distribution expenses in order to recover costs. The producers and investors then receive their agreed-upon revenues as set out in the distribution agreement. The same goes for television and ancillary rights. The total of the money received by the distributor from the exercise of all rights that it is entitled to is called the “distributor’s gross”. Every distribution agreement is different; however, there are similarities common to all. The distributor receives a distribution fee, which is the percentage of the profits that the distributor will receive from the gross. The distributor is then entitled to recover its marketing costs and distribution expenses. The remaining sum is payable to the producers and investors, and is generally called the “producer’s gross” or the net sum.

Independent animation producers have several ways of distributing feature films:

  • For the widest distribution, independent producers must partner with a major studio, although this means giving up significant rights. Typically, when major studios get involved early in the production, they finance most or all of the animated film’s development and production budget and also handle distribution. In return, they receive all rights (including the copyright) and control all creative, marketing and distribution decisions. While filmmakers can benefit financially from the guaranteed exhibition and broad audience reach provided by such deals, final compensation may be far less than expected once significant studio fees and expenses are deducted.
  • Major studios and independent distributors (such as Lionsgate and The Weinstein Company) can also simply distribute an animated film, controlling marketing and distribution but not production. The distributor usually gets involved only after it sees the completed film, and production funding comes from elsewhere. In this scenario, the distributor takes 20%-35% of gross distribution revenues returned from the theaters, and then deducts expenses before remitting the remainder to the producer. While the relatively lower distribution take and the retention of creative control and copyright are attractive incentives to the producer, there is the very real risk of creating an animated film that is considered “unmarketable”. Distributors routinely reject films that they suspect will be under-performers at the box office due to lack of audience appeal or a clear market position.
  • A “middle way” is to negotiate with a major international distributor to distribute the film upon delivery of a master negative (or digital equivalent) – a deal known as “negative pickup”. The distributor’s early involvement brings valuable market insight to the development and production process, may include an advance against revenues, and provides the benefit of helping the producer to gain financing. Signed distribution agreements can be used as collateral for bank loans, and as incentives for other investors to join the enterprise. The distributor receives distribution rights, usually in all media, for a specified length of time (often “in perpetuity”). When possible, it is in the producer’s best interest to negotiate options based upon performance milestones, which allow the distribution rights to return to the producer if the distributor fails to actively market the film.
  • Some studios and distributors may also choose to come on board as co-producers, which creates a level of involvement somewhere between owning all rights and simply distributing the film. The studio provides a degree of production financing, has creative input, oversees marketing and distribution, and shares back-end revenues, but does not take full control. The financial details of such arrangements vary greatly.

As these examples demonstrate, studios and distributors can license animated films at various points during the production process: while the film is being financed, during production, or after completion. The more that existing elements seem to point to box office success, the more likely a distributor is to pick up the film early in the process. However, distributors are generally reluctant to get involved early in the production process of independent animated films. The independent producer usually must finance and produce the film without any distribution presale money, and then try to find distribution through success on the international film festival circuit in venues such as Sundance and Cannes, or at markets where films are sold such as the American Film Market and MIPCOM. The hard reality is that only a small percentage of companies pitching their films at festivals succeed in securing distribution deals.


The home video & DVD market is currently undergoing dramatic transformation. DVD sales are dropping as much as 25% at some studios, and low-cost DVD rental kiosks are challenging traditional DVD distribution & release strategies. But a bright spot in the midst of this downturn is animation, which continues to perform better than ever in theaters, and to hold its own on DVD and in ancillary media. In fact, animated movies on DVD appear to perform in a unique, toy-like manner: purchased as both collectibles and as “electronic babysitters” (children love to watch animation over and over again).

Once a “graveyard” for movies which could not obtain theatrical distribution, the direct-to-DVD pipeline is becoming increasingly important to mainstream film franchises. While many direct-to-DVD (D2DVD) releases are sequels to popular theatrical films, others start out as direct-to-DVD franchises and have built their success without a box-office track record. Disney, Lionsgate and Marvel are among the distributors who have made millions on so-called “DVD Premieres” (DVDP) over the past decade. Disney started making sequels to most of its animated films for video/DVD release beginning with “The Return of Jafar” (the sequel to “Aladdin”) in 1994. Universal began its long line of “Land Before Time” sequels that same year. The number of direct-to-DVD films worldwide grew almost 40 percent between 2005 and 2008. In 2008, Disney’s “Tinker Bell” direct-to-DVD movie grossed over $50 million USD. In 2009, the direct-to-DVD title “Barbie and the Three Musketeers” grossed an estimated $14 million USD in North America alone (not counting HD-DVD and Blu-Ray sales).

DVD Premieres are now a substantial source of revenue for movie studios, collectively grossing over $3 billion USD in the last few years. DVDP movies can be shot on budgets much smaller than those of films intended primarily for theaters, allowing studios to profit easier with the combined revenues of home video sales & rentals, broadcast licensing, and theatrical release in international territories. High-profile producers, such as Joel Silver of the “Matrix” trilogy, are signing major deals to produce direct-to-DVD titles, bringing with them top directing, acting and production talent.

DVD Premieres are not only reserved for larger Hollywood studios. Many independents distribute DVDP’s almost exclusively. In fact, DVD Premieres have become a lifeline for independent filmmakers and smaller companies who may not have the resources for a competitive international theatrical release. In Japan, the so-called “V-Cinema” movement has a broad consumer base, and is valued by film directors for the greater creative freedoms allowed. For anime, this is called Original Video Animation (OVA) – often used to tell stories too long for a theatrical feature film and too short for a full TV season.


In the area of broadcast animation, the United States remains the largest and potentially most lucrative television market in the world. The traditional method of selling animation content to U.S. broadcast and cable networks is to license 13 to 26 episodes (a half-year’s or a year’s worth of shows) for a flat fee per episode, which gives the network the right to air each show at least twice, and often indefinitely. Around the world, license fees paid to content creators have shrunk dramatically over the last decade, with networks usually demanding that producers cut their budgets as a precondition of acquisition. These fees, ranging from $0 USD to $100,000 USD per half-hour episode, vary dramatically by budget, country, population, economic conditions and many other factors.

The important point is that a considerable amount of most broadcast animation production budgets remains in deficit, and must be covered through international presales, co-production partnerships, ancillary sales or other means. Partly because of this, networks in the U.S. and around the world commonly become co-producers and co-financers in the productions they air, purchasing part or full ownership of the property, rather than simply licensing the rights to broadcast the show. As stake holders, they also receive revenues from international broadcast sales, home video & DVD, merchandising and other ancillaries. The total number of broadcast networks around the world is on the rise, and the growth in channels provides more points of entry for animated programming. Increasingly in the digital era, television rights are often “bundled”, without separate splits for each media type.


Interactive gaming software is an increasingly important revenue stream for animation properties. This category can easily amount to 50% or more of all ancillary activity, and can rival the revenue of the core theatrical or broadcast distribution for animated films and television shows. Gaming software is also a good way to increase awareness for an animated property, especially when released prior to the screening or airing of the production. On 3D CGI productions, digital assets can be shared between the producers of the animation and the producers of the games. This is often done simultaneously, and can enhance the development of story and characters for both. Games often introduce new story lines and sometimes new characters that expand the world established in the original entertainment property. Platforms include PC, console, mobile and Internet formats.

While book and comic book publishing is usually not the top ancillary category in the United States, books and comics are still an important revenue stream in the West, and an extremely popular and profitable one in the East. Book and comic ancillaries generate awareness with the target audience, provide a means to extend story lines, backstory and character development beyond the original animation property, and enhance the brand image. Typical formats, depending on the age of the consumer and the nature of the content, include board books, story books, magazines, comic books and graphic novels, film novelizations (adaptations of the animation script) and derivative novels (“prequel” and “sequel” stories).

Many animation producers and executives take soundtrack sales into account when they plan the music for a film. By including musical acts that are popular with children and pre-teens (the primary purchasers of animation sound tracks), the producer can enhance sales of the album even among those consumers who have not seen the film. This marketing synergy can also work in the other direction: having a popular singer or band play an important role in the soundtrack can bring people into the theaters who might not otherwise see the film. Music videos are naturally an important part of this equation, and are often planned in conjunction with animation production to create tie-ins between the live action performers and the animated characters.

Toys are the main ancillary product category for most children’s animation projects, with dolls, action figures and board games among the most popular items. There is also an expanding market for collectible “urban vinyl” toys and cast resin figurines among teenaged and adult animation fans. Toys are often one of the first licenses granted for an animation property due to the long lead times required for product development and manufacturing. Some animation-based toy lines are narrowly focused. A licensor of a new, relatively unknown animation property might choose to self-distribute toys, or to license the sale of a small range of toys over the Internet. This approach allows the producer to test the market and gauge demand. For example, Cartoon Network chose to test a dozen products based on its “Samurai Jack” series, with sales initially limited to their website.

While interactive games, publishing and toys are the primary ancillary categories for animation properties, the number of possible products is unlimited, depending on the nature of the content and its audience.  Clothing, stationery, food and beverages are among the available revenue streams. Tactical considerations for maximum profits include the timing of product introduction in each country where the property is released, the product categories chosen, whether to grant exclusive or non-exclusive rights, and the choice of retail outlets. While under-stocking can reduce revenues, over-stocking can shorten the life of the product licensing program, and even have an adverse impact on the animation property itself by creating a negative consumer reaction.

Product placement within a film, common to American live-action properties, is generally not encouraged within animation properties, as it tends to reduce the “classic” status of the animated film. Threshold Animation Studios’ animated feature “Food Fight” launched a direct assault on this principle by setting a story in an American supermarket filled from top to bottom with name-brand household products, and using the fees charged to fund production. The ultimate results of this approach remain to be seen, but the negative online buzz from animation fans prior to release is noteworthy, as is the film’s ongoing difficulty in finding theatrical distribution. A more acceptable phenomenon common in mainland China is the inclusion of corporate logos in the end credits of feature films in exchange for production financing.

The Internet

The Internet is a global market that can be accessed from almost anywhere in the world. Independent animation filmmakers can now obtain a bigger audience through a website than through traditional TV or film distribution. For animation producers motivated to tell stories to the widest possible audience, the Internet offers over a billion potential viewers through more than 300 million broadband households.

Much can be said about the revolutionary potential of online delivery.  In short, the opportunity and the challenge that all producers & distributors now face is how to manage the continuation of traditional revenue streams, while also embracing the uncertain (but unquestionable) potential of digital distribution through online media.


The global animation industry is highly competitive, with much of a project’s success being directly related to the skills of the distributor’s marketing strategy. Magic Dumpling actively solicits early feedback from potential distribution partners within the U.S. and China, including independent companies, major studios and government entities. Magic Dumpling is committed to the creation of appealing animation content for mass markets, and values the guidance of experienced distributors. This open strategy directly benefits the market position and profit potential of our properties. Our goal is to make quality animated films and programs that people will enjoy and that distributors will be interested in acquiring prior to completion, thereby increasing the chances of financial success.

~ Kevin Geiger








  • 为了实现最广泛的发行,独立制片人必须同大制片厂合作,即使这意味着必须放弃一些重要的权益。大制片厂参与的模式如下:负担前期制作预算并负责发行:通常,如果大制片厂介入电影制作的时间早,大制片厂将负担大部分或全部的动画电影前期创意策划预算和制作预算,并且负责发行。作为回报,他们会得到所有的权限(包括版权),并且掌握所有创作、市场和发行的决定权。虽然这些可以使电影制作方从有保证的放映覆盖率和广泛的观众群体中获得经济利益,但是一旦可观的制片费和其他花销被扣除,制片方的最终收益往往不如预计。
  • 仅负责市场营销与发行:大制片厂和独立电影发行商(比如狮门影业和韦恩斯坦公司)也可只是单纯的负责一部动画电影的发行,但不参与制作,也就是发行商只控制市场营销和发行部分。一般而言,大多数发行商通常要等看到完整的电影之后才开始介入,而制作资金则来自其他的渠道。按照这种方案,发行商会从院线获得发行收益总额的20%-35%,再扣除其他费用,之后余下的部分归制片方。虽然相对较低的发行成本、创作决定权和版权的保留,无疑对制片方来说都是具有诱惑性的,但创作一部被认为是“没有市场”的动画电影的确有很大风险。发行商一般会拒绝发行他们认为难以吸引观众的、没有明确市场定位的,以及票房预期较差的电影。
  • 底片提取:比较“中庸”的做法是,制片商与发行商商议在发行商拿到底片(或数字版)后再介入影片的发行,这一协议被称作“底片提取”。发行商的早期介入,除可为电影的前期概念和制作过程带来具有价值的市场洞察,获得一部份的预付款外,同时也会帮助制片方获得额外融资。签署的发行协议可以被用作向银行贷款的担保,也可以刺激其他投资者的加入。也就是在这种方式下,发行商从制片方获得发行权,一般情况下可获得规定时间范围内所有媒介的发行权。对制片方最有利的方法,是按照发行商的发行业绩进行谈判,即如果发行商在积极拓展影片市场方面做得不好,发行权就会又回到制片方的手中。
  • 成为联合制片商:许多制片厂和发行商也会选择成为联合制片商,也就是形成了拥有所有权限和单纯发行影片二者之间的方式。制片厂提供一定程度的拍摄资金、创作意见,同时监督市场运作和发行,而且分享后端收益,但并不得到全部控制权。以这种方式签署的协议在财务细节方面差别会很大。

如上所述,制片厂和发行商可以在影片制作中任何一个阶段对动画电影授权许可,即电影融资阶段、影片制作过程中或完成之后。指向票房成功的现有因素越多,发行商越可能尽早的介入到电影制作中来。但是,发行商通常不愿意过早介入独立动画电影的制作之中,因此独立制片人不得不在缺少发行预售资金的情况下,为影片融资和制作电影,然后试图在国际电影节获得好的放映口碑,藉此来找到发行渠道,如美国圣丹斯国际电影节、法国戛纳国际电影节等上;或是通过电影交易市场,如美国电影市场(American Film Market)、法国戛纳秋季电视节(MIPCOM)等寻找发行商。但残酷的现实是,只有很少的公司能藉由电影节上的大放异彩,而成功签署发行协议。













授权系列玩具:动画电影项目中,玩具也是主要的周边衍生产品,包括电影中最热门人物的玩偶、模型和棋盘游戏等。收集“都市搪胶公仔”(Urban Vinyl)和树脂人形塑像在年轻人和爱好动画的成年人中也形成了一个逐步扩展的市场。由于产品开发和制作的周期很长,因此玩具往往是动画片首先得到授权许可的产品之一。一些根源于动画片的玩具开发范围较狭窄。形象授权人可能对尚不具知名度的动画形象选择自行发行玩具,或通过网络授权小范围的玩具销售。这种做法让制片方得以测试市场和对质量的需求。例如2001年美国卡通网(Cartoon Network)通过在网站上出售限量商品的做法,对一系列《武士杰克》的产品进行市场测试。








~ 凯文·盖格

Welcome to Magic Dumpling Entertainment!

Magic Dumpling Entertainment is an animation development company incorporated in Beijing, Taipei and Los Angeles. Magic Dumpling creates entertaining stories and appealing characters for family audiences around the world. Our company is staffed and managed by a seasoned team of Chinese and American animation professionals, led by Disney Animation veteran Kevin Geiger. Magic Dumpling’s in-house team is complemented by an advisory board comprised of distinguished figures in the U.S. and Chinese animation and media industries.

Magic Dumpling Entertainment provides world-class animation development in two areas: animation content development and animation business development.

In the area of content development, Magic Dumpling develops high-quality original animation franchises for international family audiences – combining the development, production & distribution experience of Hollywood with the artistic talent, production capacity and market potential of mainland China and Taiwan. Magic Dumpling creates its own animation content for traditional & new media distribution, and is a qualified co-production partner for Western studios, with the access & insight required to navigate the Chinese animation markets. In addition to developing its own properties, Magic Dumpling also provides content creation services to third-party clients.

In the area of business development, Magic Dumpling provides animation business seminars & services through The Jade Bridge Group, helping Chinese studios to capitalize on evolving trends, produce world-class work and market that work profitably on the global stage. For Western studios, Magic Dumpling ensures quality production sourcing in mainland China and Taiwan through professional animation training, studio efficiency assessments, qualified referrals, onsite supervision and “boots on the ground” producing services.

Magic Dumpling Entertainment… creating stories for the global family.

Contact: info@magicdumpling.com