Is Animation As Effective For Audiences Abroad?
Think of some of the great animation studios out there: Walt Disney, Studio Ghibli, Aardman Animations. For the countries that they represent, they show off a long history and solid culture of producing and consuming animation.
On the other hand, there are many more countries that don’t have a history of exporting animation, with some yet to even fully embrace it at all.
Thinking of producing animation for a foreign country? Don’t sweat: read on to find out why making animation for audiences abroad might be the best move you make this year.
Mickey Mouse is one of the most recognisable images worldwide for a reason; animation has been entertaining people from all over the place for decades and it’s a huge part of our lives from childhood onwards. Most of us were watching animated children’s tv before we could even go to the loo.
Is your target audience in ‘The West’, a developed Asian country or the Middle East? Chances are, you don’t need to worry about how well your animation is going to be received.
For America during the golden age of animation, Japan with anime and a handful of studios here in Europe, animation for film and TV was big business. This created generations of people who grew up with animation in their lives and respond well to it now, making an animation for audiences in all of the developed world a safe bet.
Still, what about when you want to launch an animated project elsewhere? There are places that aren’t as into animation as the rest of us. Why certain audiences abroad aren’t traditionally big consumers of animation boils down to a few reasons.
Namely, there wasn’t a Walt Disney or a Hayao Miyazaki for most countries, meaning that the appetite for animation was lower. As a result of this lower demand in developing countries, the technology and education surrounding animation simply wasn’t available or necessary, leading to a short history of animation production in comparison to America and Japan, for example.
Don’t cancel the project based on this, though! Countries that haven’t traditionally had the luxury of being able to produce their own animated entertainment have still been enjoying these movies and television shows for decades thanks to the thriving importation of animated entertainment from other countries.
Major animated motion pictures and children’s cartoons were translated, redubbed and shown worldwide. Thanks to this model, animated videos produced here have been popular and successful all over the world and your project can easily be suitable for an international audience with a few minor tweaks as long as it doesn’t rely too heavily on cultural references that foreign audiences wouldn’t get.
What does this mean for animated marketing?
For marketing purposes, we already know how versatile and effective animation is. If you need a quick refresher, check out our Why animation is the secret ingredient or Reasons why animation is the best strategy for audience engagement posts.
It’s fair to say how hungry Western and developed Asian countries’ audiences are when it comes to animation. For these places, animation is a frequent presence, and many studios produce quality animated advertising for them which can then be repurposed and sent all over the world. Think about the animated Coca-Cola adverts, for example.
Animation here primes the viewer for engagement because it has the association of being fun and interesting thanks to all the films and cartoons we were exposed to growing up. The bigger challenge for animated marketing is tackling those countries that don’t such a strong culture of animation production and consumption.
For audiences abroad, the choice for animation often boils down to: how will my viewers respond to animation instead of the live action that they’re used to? Yep, that old chestnut: animation vs live action.
Live action is just way too much of a headache for us. You can’t alter it down the line, you can’t present abstract ideas, they’re not as good at showing complicated stuff in a simple way and they’re harder to make stand out. Think of what can go wrong with live action adverts:
Those ‘infomercial’ style live-action ads are a minefield of cringe and a good example for us here. An opening shot in grayscale of a person struggling with a domestic task. Then comes an exasperated look at the camera once they’ve failed in their task (you can accompany this with a shrug, dealer’s choice). Finally, a nice, big, flashy transition showing how happy, easy (and in colour!) the task and their life becomes thanks to the product. It’s so corny and cliche that it makes me feel queasy.
Some video production companies will try to persuade you that live action adverts like this show how a product or service works in practice, but the risk of coming off like the above is just too great. Factor in the costs of reshooting if required and it becomes a far less viable option.
But what if live action is what my target audience abroad are used to? Don’t let this put you off for sending animation to the audiences that aren’t traditionally exposed to it! Animation is already a fresh, attention-grabbing messaging tool, imagine how much more impact you could have when your advert might be the only animation that your audience sees all day?
It demands attention because it’s different and interesting. Animation is all the things it is here and more for these audiences because it’s something of a novelty. Make sure you take advantage of this special status animation is enjoying and get your work in front of these audiences now.
Why choose animation abroad?
Regardless of how acclimatised to animation your target country is, it can always be more easily applied to an international audience than live action. Here’s a few of the reasons why animation is a great choice for audiences abroad:
- Dubbing – For localising an animation all you have to do is change the language of voice over. That’s it. Sometimes you can lip sync the new voice over to your characters but this is far easier than refilming the entire thing with new actors for a different language.
You don’t have this option with live action – bad dubs of kung fu movies are notoriously cheesy and hilarious, you don’t want to be channelling this for your video with a bad dub job, do you?
- Expense – So you have to make some tweaks? Maybe an actor’s hair was out of place for a shot, the content has been updated slightly or there was a weird shadow somewhere in shot. With animation, you can make these changes immediately.
With Live action? This means reshooting, rehiring actors or complicated vfx work, all of which can get painfully expensive.
- Diversity – Think about one of the more successful animated export items: children’s television. Universal messages and lessons can be better communicated with animated characters, making them a more relatable option for a broader range of people and better suited for audiences abroad.
- Cultural references – I mentioned earlier that heavy use of cultural references can make an animation less palatable worldwide. Take Studio Ghibli’s My Neighbours the Yamadas (1999). Whilst it’s a charming and beautiful watercolour-style movie, it doesn’t really hit home because some of the intricacies of Japanese family life are lost on us. Sure, you get an endearing peek into another culture, but some of the references just come off like that personal joke between two friends that you aren’t in on.
In the animated Pokémon series, 4Kids who handled the English localisation for American audiences, made a number of changes to make their audience feel more ‘in the loop’. Japanese lettering is scrubbed from the episodes and, in some cases, replaced with fictional runes or English. Brock’s “Jelly filled doughnuts” were originally rice balls, later on a rice ball is replaced by a sandwich and Professor Oak even takes pizza over his ramen noodles. The kinds of small changes that would be a nightmare to make if the show was live action become a matter of a tweaked script and occasionally some visual edits when dealing with animation abroad.
The world is shrinking all the time so even the audiences that have been starved of good animation are starting to get some of the good stuff now. China and India are exporting more of their animation than ever before and achieving jaw-dropping quality, too.
All this means that animation is becoming more commonplace and better respected by audiences all over the world thanks to the ease of localisation and increased cultural awareness. Get in on animated adverts for these audiences now and you’ll really make an impact with your originality.
Thinking of creating an animated video for an audience abroad? Drop us a message on facebook.com/fudgeanimation or @fudgeanimation on Twitter, we’ve exported our work abroad as well, so might be able to lend a hand!