There’s no lack of crowdfunding platforms in China, but they are distinctively different the U.S. platforms that made the funding model popular.
One of the most recognized disparities between the two is that Chinese backers prefer reward-based campaigns, because they promise a tangible product as a return on their investment. Often crowdfunding in China is just a way for enthusiasts to get their hands on the latest products. Xiaomi is one of many companies that sells limited release products under the guise of crowdfunding.
It’s for this reason that creative projects go largely unfunded on the main platforms. The documentaries, photo projects and art installations that feature on Kickstarter and Indiegogo are largely absent from Chinese platforms.
Thanks to fast growth in the country’s entertainment industry, the film industry has carved itself a small exception.
Data from research institute 01Caijing shows that the total turnover of film and TV crowdfunding campaigns in China hit around 500 million yuan in 2015.
Here are three of the top crowdfunded animation and computer-generated films in China:
Monkey King: Hero is Back
Monkey King: Hero is Back is an excellent advert for the power of crowdfunding. As the top-grossing project in China’s animation history, the film became a smash hit when it was released last summer, making a record-breaking $150 million USD at the box office.
Monkey King’s crowdfunding plan was initiated through WeChat in November 2014 by Lu Wei, the film producer. A total of 89 individuals invested 7.8 million yuan ($1.17 million USD). The final investment return for the backers reached a combined 30 million yuan with yield of nearly 250,000 yuan for each investor.
Directed by first-time director Tian Xiaoping, the animated film is the story about the Monkey King, a legendary figure from the Chinese epic novel Journey To The West.
Big Fish & Begonia
Big Fish & Begonia is the second highest grossing Chinese-produced animated feature.
Directed by Liang Xuan and Zhang Chun, Big Fish & Begonia is loosely adapted from a traditional Chinese folklore tale written by Zhuangzi, a famous Chinese philosopher who lived during the 4th century B.C.
The film reportedly took 12 years to produce. The breakthrough point for the project was in 2013, when the team launched a crowdfunding campaign on Demohour, China’s leading crowdfunding platform at the time. The project successfully pulled in both capital support and media attention.
It raised almost 1.6 million yuan (about $240,000 USD) from over 3500 backers, who contributed between 10-500,000 yuan. The record-breaking crowdfunding campaign subsequently attracted substantial funding from China’s leading entertainment company Enlight Media, which funded the film’s completion. The film recorded a box office revenue of 430 million yuan (about $64.7 million USD) as of July 19.
One Hundred Thousand Bad Jokes
Originally adapted from a comic series on U.17.com, the leading online original cartoon website in China, One Hundred Thousand Bad Jokes is a combination of classic and contemporary stories. It became popular among netizens thanks to its use of funny internet slang and Kuso style, a type of Japanese cartoon. The comic managed to attract more fans after it was aired on TV in July 2012.
In 2013, fans of the book rejoiced when the cartoon site created a crowdfunding campaign for the film version, again using crowdfunding platform Demohour.
The campaign raised almost 1.4 million yuan (around $200,000 USD) from 5300 backers. The blockbuster brought in more than 100 million yuan (about $15 million USD) in box office revenue within 10 days after its premier on December 29 2014.