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Animation Industry in Japan, US, South Korea (And 2021 Trends) - B2W

Jul 20, 2021 8:37:47 AM

The global 3D animation market size in 2020 was valued at $16.64 billion. This is just the 3D animation market. There are many such markets or segments within the animation industry.

In 2019, the total value of the global animation, video games, and VFX industry was $264 billion.

These numbers are a tell-tale of how big the animation industry is. And given the current trends where the corporate world and government organizations are investing big in animation, one can assume where this industry is heading towards.

However, within its extraordinary size, there are many layers. A few countries have a greater influence on the at-large animation industry.

USA, South Korea, and Japan, more specifically, have made a significant impact on the global animation industry. Animations from these countries have their own distinct appeal and identity; they have their own USPs that set them apart.

Animation in USA

When it comes to animation in the US, Disney takes the biggest spotlight. The Walt Disney Company redefined animation with incredible movies and shows that were built on the back of the then-cutting-edge technologies. The company, in many ways, led the country in the ‘renaissance age of American animation' in the late 1980s.

Of course, now, some of the world’s leading animation studios are based out of the US, right from Cartoon Network and Warner Brothers to Pixar, DreamWorks Animation, and Sony Pictures Animation.


The animation industry in the US has always been defined by its adoption of advanced technologies. And this has paved the way for many other countries to go big on animation with the right set of tools and solutions.

Further, the inclination of the corporate world in the country towards animation has been another driving force, pushing this industry to newer heights. Some of the leading American brands now use animated videos extensively in their sales and marketing efforts.

American animation has had a major influence on the global landscape, and it continues to be that way. From animated movies like Frozen and The Lion King to animated television series like Ben 10 and Alvin and the Chipmunks – these works have inspired not just the audiences but also the video animation services providers and studios around the world.

Animation in South Korea

Animation in South Korea has a distinct presence with an exclusive touch to it. It stands out in the crowd with its unique appeal that has garnered recognition in recent times owing to huge successes like ‘Beauty Water’ and ‘Baby Shark Dance’. K-animation is already built to be the next chapter in the K-wave.


But animation in South Korea was not always this big and distinguished. Decades back, South Korea was primarily a hub of outsourcing subcontractors for American animation studios.

However, in the subsequent years, South Korean animation outgrew itself, with the earliest breakthrough coming from the cartoon serial ‘Dooly the Little Dinosaur’. Thereon, the market grew so fast and animation had such a cultural impact in the country, animation franchises soon began exporting their characters to other countries.

Further, animation is now also a key part of educational media in the country, employed extensively by schools and institutes.

Today, there are over 500 animation studios in South Korea. The country sees hundreds of original animated movies, shows, and videos being produced every year.

The South Korean animation industry now not only has unique characters that have inspired studios across the world but also advanced technologies that enable makers to add newer dimensions of colors and class to their visuals, making their animation more distinct and appealing.

Animation in Japan

Anime, a word used to define the style of Japanese animation, is globally recognized and almost revered by a section. Anime has made the biggest impact in the global animation market, penetrating even through the cultures.

This impact has only compounded in recent times thanks to the digital channels, with audiences worldwide fanning over their favorite anime characters, right from Naruto Uzumaki and Goku to Kakashi Hatake and Asuna.


Animation in Japan crosses generational boundaries, consumed by people of all ages. And this isn't just for the visual amusement that anime delivers.

The storylines of the entire animation are also captivating, with backstories of each character building psychological depth with the audience. They are emotionally stimulating with the right flavor of comedy, horror, and drama.

The animation also underlines the creative genius of the makers who ensure the content has a great story-telling capability that effectively hooks the target audience.

There are many aspects that separate anime from the animation of western countries, even when the latter has a larger market size and the animators are paid better.

The animation style is one of the key factors that make anime unique. The makers use classical animation production techniques for character designing, storyboarding, and voice acting.

The artworks are stylized and often exaggerated, which gives characters a striking appearance. Mix to this the complex (and universal) stories, great action scenes, life lessons, and outstanding music – it's no surprise that anime is so popular across segments and age groups.

The genre has redefined the styles and techniques employed in motion picture animation around the world.

Where is the Animation Industry Heading?

The US, South Korea, and Japan have collectively impacted the global animation industry in their own ways, bringing newer styles, techniques, and approaches. These countries will continue to play a pivotal role in where the at-large industry will head. But where is the industry really heading towards?

There are many new (and continuing) animation trends in 2021 that have grabbed attention.

Minimal Animation

Minimal, aka simple animation, has seen a significant surge of late. The demand is primarily from the corporate world with businesses requiring engaging and unique content that's also cost-effective. Simple animation (like stick animation) is relatively affordable to make. Plus, they are also quick to make, which is important to run topical campaigns.

Computer-Generated Graphics

Computer-generated graphics and 3D remain highly popular, with more studios and brands jumping on the bandwagon owing to the flexible and affordable tools readily available. 3D visuals are highly appealing, especially for long-form storytelling.

Focus on Characters

This perception that animation is all about overwhelming visuals is finally dissipating. And this is a result of a higher focus on character-building, which is a rather strategic move for branding and merchandising purposes. Animated characters are now more defined with emotional connotations, which helps them connect with the audience better.

Rise of Live Action Animation

There was a time when live-action animation looked awkward and incompatible. However, with fresh layers of creativity to it, it is now one of the most popular animation styles. In fact, the Super Bowl ads now, which cost $5+ million for a 30-second spot, are leveraging live-action animation for creative storytelling and brand building. This trend will continue to deepen with more mixed-media projects happening in ads and movies/shows.

Reaching Out to Grown-Ups

Animation, once, was perceived to be just for the kids. That's not the case now though. Grown-ups like animation just as much; which style they like is a whole different conversation. Studios and brands have recognized this well. The animation content produced today is more mature with its character development and story-telling, which adults find profound, relevant, and captivating. As more studios and brands explore the world of animation with different creative ideas, their focus on adults is expected to remain consistent.

Real-Time Rendering

This is hailed as one of the biggest game-changers in the animation industry. Rendering has always been very time-consuming. However, with the new-age real-time technologies, one can render media in seconds now. This unlocks plenty of newer opportunities for the makers in the pre and post-production of animation, arming them with higher flexibility in execution.

These are only a few broad animation trends of 2021. There are plenty more, like the higher prevalence of virtual reality, integration of artificial intelligence, camera-tracking compositing, loud colors, scene loops, 2D/3D merger, seamless transitions, liquid motion, and digital surrealism. So, a lot of exciting things are happening in the animation world, assuring newer breakthroughs in the coming years.

Vast Horizon, Limitless Opportunities

While the animation was on a growth trajectory already, the pandemic has accelerated its pace.

The consumption (and cultural relevance) of anime has grown tremendously. Many big-ticket animated movies are lined up for a release. Brands are now widely using animated videos in their marketing campaigns. Even government organizations are tapping on the appeal of animation to communicate with the public.

So, the industry has a vast horizon and video animation services providers have limitless opportunities. There’s a significant influence of the American, Korean, and Japanese genres on the global animation landscape.

Every top animation video production company is already pacing up to adopt these trends. Understanding the roots of animation in the US, South Korea, and Japan, alongside their efforts to keep in sync with the latest trends, will certainly position them for greater business growth in the next decade.

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