SINGAPORE, Dec. 5 (UPI) -- Two-years in the making, "ArK," the 3-D science-fiction feature film based on photo-realistic digital characters is expected to be released next April.
This will be the first joint-production by Digital Rim Inc, the joint venture by South Korea 3-D animator Digital Dream Studios (DDS) with Rainbow Studios, director John Woo and Terence Chang.
Marianne Suh, vice-president, animation & film business at Digital Dream Studios, told UPI the total cost of the film, expected to be rated PG-13, will be about $7 million.
Suh said the studio had learned a lot from the release of "Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within," produced by Square USA Inc (a subsidiary of Tokyo-based Square Co.), which proved to be a triumph of technological innovation, but a flop at the box-office. "Final Fantasy" was the first computer generated, animated feature film with photo-real human characters.
"In term of marketing and distribution concept, we're learned a lot from "Final Fantasy," and we are trying to put more focus on some characters and drama, not just technology," Suh said.
"Drama is much more important than technology, and "ArK" is turned more toward drama, not just technology," Suh added.
DDS gave a very short preview of the film at the Asia Animation 2001, the first fully dedicated industry exhibition for the region.
"We will finish the main production by the end of January, and in April we will be done with the post-production stage," Suh said.
DDS is also working separately on its own on Lineage, based on the most popular on-line interactive game in the world, be coming out in 2003, Suh added.
Traditionally, Korean animation studios have drawn a wide range of 2-D animation films, from Bart Simpson to Tweety Bird. But studios are now moving more toward 3-D animation, Suh said, trying to create, produce and export more original contents. This reflects the lost of subcontracting contracts from American and European firms to China, the Philippines and Vietnam.
Suh said South Korea now accounts for about 22-24 percent of the worldwide subcontracting market (OEM), compared with a 50 percent share in 1997. The decline reflects the rise in local labor cost.
In 1998, original content accounted for about 5 percent of revenue in South Korea's animation industry. This year, it will account for nearly 40 percent of the industry revenues, she said.
There are currently more than 100 animation studios in Korea, most of them very small. But Suh expects more new independent studios to be created over the coming years. "I don't see a consolidation (of the Taiwan industry)," she added.
However, because of the fragmentation of the industry, funding of new projects can still be a problem, despite government-friendly policies. The government requires South Korean broadcasters to devote at least 50 percent of animation programming time to homegrown productions.
Suh acknowledged Korean animators still have a lot to learn on the front of pre-production, which she considers their main weakness.