China Animation brings VR to Joypolis theme park

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Animation is big in China and it’s finding a natural home in virtual reality. China Animation, founded by Zhuang Xiangsong in 2007, is a leading multimedia animation enterprise in China. It is the company behind the “Violet” sensation – an anime-inspired virtual pop star with long purple hair that performed in 3D holographic form, alongside Chinese boy band M.I.C. and other pop stars in Shenzhen in February earlier this year.

China Animation has now officially entered the virtual reality (VR) field with its own VR headset and gaming centre. Unveiled at a Shenzhen cultural industry fair in May, the headset is manufactured in collaboration with Shenzhen company, Virtual Reality. The VR headset is planned as an extended platform for Animation Group’s bunch of cartoon characters.

Animation films are already popular in China. The medium has seen a continual growth in ticket sales since 2015. Zootopia, the latest animation film from Disney has taken in excess of $235.6 million at the box office so far this year. According to official State figures, 51 animated films were created and produced in China in 2015.

Offering immersive experiences to consumers who already love animation, seems like a natural step. The company has developed more than 10 apps for the headset, some digital and others real-life experiences like traveling to Tibet. The headset is due to be launched for sale at the opening of a VR gaming centre in September in Shanghai. The facility is part of Joypolis, a huge indoor amusement park that China Animation operates under franchise to Sega Corporation of Japan. The company plans to open many Joypolis parks across China and to deploy their VR headsets in the theme parks. China Animation will let outside developers create content for their VR headset.

The Joypolis parks run by China Animation will offer a different experience than other Joypolis parks. Mixed, augmented and virtual reality will all be part of the experience. The plan is to have mixed reality shows with Violet performing alongside real people. Visitors with headsets and smartphones will be able to venture into a forest and see beasts jumping out at them.

Initially the China Animation headsets will be available for use at the VR gaming centre in Shanghai and if they are accepted favourably by consumers, they will be offered for sale online. There are also big plans for Violet who is expected to generate revenue through spin-offs like concerts, movies and video games.

China is currently experiencing a theme park boom. Last year, the central government approved the building of a Universal Studios theme park in suburban Beijing and property giant Wanda Group, which also owns the world's largest cinema chain is planning to develop 200 children's theme parks by 2020.