A silly question perhaps, but a serious one. If you’re reading this in the United States, then congratulations! You’ve already achieved something that a lot of people in other countries would give their right arm for. Another question: how often do you think about those countries outside American borders? In other words: are you thinking globally?
Why Does This Even Matter?
The reason I pose this question is that animation, as an industry is global. Unlike, say, teaching Polish, there is an animation presence in almost every country. It may be very large or it may be very small, but I guarantee you that someone somewhere in every country, they are practicing animation in some form.
Why should you, as someone in the US care about this? Well, we’re just about at the stage where US films and TV shows are taking in a significant proportion (more than half in some cases) of their revenue from outside the country. That in itself is an important fact. (Ever wonder why a show like Heroes went on as long as it did? It was partly because its popularity abroad was bringing in profits for NBC.)
What Does It Have To Do With Animation
Large-scale animation (read: Disney, DreamWorks, etc.) have to make their content suitable for foreign audiences. They have no choice in the matter any more. American audiences have shrunk to the point where they cannot sustain most blockbuster-sized films on their own. So, naturally, studios look abroad for the necessary box office and home media monies to make up the rest of the profits.
The same goes for TV shows, although with smaller budgets, selling them abroad simply increases revenues for the studio. The difference also plays through in that there is also a significant amount of animated TV shows that are imported into the US. The one shown at top is a prime example.
So Why Should I Start Thinking Globally?
Ah, a good question indeed. Just why should you think and know about all this? Well, it’s because whether or not you are involved in the creation or selling of animated products, the fact of the matter is that the internet makes international barriers non-existent.
How many hurdles do you think you’d have to go through using the traditional channels to get your content shown in another country? Besides finding a distributor, negotiating with them and then finding someone to broadcast it, that takes a heck of a lot of time and money.
With the internet, you can throw the content up yourself and immediately have an audience from around the world. It would be like me trying to get a newsletter published in multiple countries around the world for my readers. It simply isn’t feasible, but, with a blog (and the internet), I can do it for next to nothing and have a platform that encourages interactivity.
The Other REALLY Important Thing
Yes, there is one other thing: the content itself. America is really a very insulated country in the cultural sense. Yes, it is great at exporting it’s culture abroad, but when it comes to letting others in, it’s,well, a bit selfish. That’s hardly a conscious act though; the country is huge, and there are a lot of people here.
The problem is that what may work well content-wise in America may not work so well abroad. Think of The Office, the classic BBC comedy that had (absolutely had) to be remade for US audiences despite sharing a common language. Why? Well when shown to network executives, they thought it was a real documentary, not a spoof.
Pixar is acutely aware of some of these cultural issues and they make a point of ensuring that text within a film (newspapers, etc.) are shown in the local language rather than English.
Why should this concern you? Again it comes back to the internet. Could you grow a substantial audience abroad if you only create something with American audiences in mind?
It’s not likely at this early stage in the game, but expect it to become just as much of an issue for new media creators as traditional ones. At a time when YouTube series’ budgets are hitting hundreds of thousands, earning that revenue back is going to be rough going if you depend on audiences in only one country.
Do you pay attention to foreign content? Do you create with foreign audiences in mind? Let us know in the comments!