February 7th, 2011
12:48 PM ET

The man behind Taiwan's hit animators

From the US-China currency war presented as a rap battle... to "Cablegate" portrayed as a throw-down between Uncle Sam and Julian Assange, Taiwan's Next Media Animation team doesn't throw any punches.

Their videos have become a new form of political cartoon for the digital age - provocative, punchy and usually with a hard-hitting point. And even though this animated Assange doesn't look exactly like the real deal, that's OK. The animators are usually fogiven. Since their retelling of Tiger Woods' car crash went viral in late 2009, they've churned out a never-ending stream of video hits.

AFP/Getty Images

It's the brainchild of Next Media, the Hong Kong-based company with wildly popular tabloid papers in Hong Kong and Taiwan. Next Animation works out of the same building as the Apple Daily in Taiwan. A staff of some 300 programmers, animators and actors mixing current events with rather creative dramatizations.

At the helm is billionaire entrepreneur Jimmy Lai. He has built a reputation for a paparazzi publishing style... and for being willing to provoke Beijing. I recently spoke to the maverick media tycoon in Hong Kong. He insists Next Media Animation is not just the future of funny news, but conventional news as well since you need "the image to make a news story."

It's an ethos we've fully embraced on News Stream. We consider it a daily mission to not just tell you the news, but show you the news through arresting photographs, satellite imagery, 3-D models and creative visuals. Lai concedes that he's never watched the show, and remains dismissive of mainstream television news in general. At a global media forum last year, Lai said: "What TV is, is telling a story through the mouth of the people on TV and using an image ot match it. That's why it's so boring."

So what can news broadcasters learn from Taiwan's animators? "If I show you a photo, you'll understand the story in five seconds. But if I write the story... it will take you five to 10 minutes to read it." Perhaps that's why his team chose to use animation as the medium to profile the 2010 Nobel Peace Prize winner. In "Liu Xiaobo – a story of hope and struggle," the Chinese dissident and the Tiananmen Square crackdown in 1989 are played out as a documentary in CGI.

There's no sex and absolutely no punchline. It's a sombre dramatization of a history-shaping event that took place long before YouTube. "If you want to tell the story, you have to from the beginning," says Lai. "And that whole story began on June 4th. That's what it is."

soundoff (3 Responses)
  1. francis nyah

    Do they have animated character for polititians in nigeria

    February 7, 2011 at 2:21 pm | Reply
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