Pororo the Little Penguin, with its customary yellow aviator goggles, is a hero for all Korean children. It is an animation series created by Iconix Entertainment, Ocon, SK Broadband and EBS.
The blue penguin is sometimes called “potongryeong,” combining Pororo and daetongryeng (president in Korean). The character can be found not only in its animation series, but also in games, applications, and many other cultural items. Even adults living in Korea may recognize the blue penguin character.
The famous blue penguin is also a money spinner. According to research conducted by the Seoul Business Agency in February, Pororo has a brand value of 389.3 billion won (US$341.4 million).
▲ Choi Jong Il, with character Pororo. Photo courtesy Iconix Entertainment
The CEO of Iconix Entertainment Choi Jong Il visited Jeju on Nov. 16 to give some advice on the development of cultural content — in related to his product, Pororo — to group of Jeju female CEOs. Choi, who is a producer and writer, told The Jeju Weekly about Pororo and his adventures with the penguin.
Choi said he specifically targeted the animation market for preschoolers to avoid competition with Japanese animations. Reaching out to a global market was considered, even from the planning stage. The characters were chosen to be animals to maximize universality, he added.
“Yet we wanted to find something unique, that’s when we found the penguin,” Choi said.
Yet there are hundreds of animations out there targeting preschoolers. What made Pororo so popular? According to Choi, the production team took a different approach to child animation. Most animations for toddlers and preschoolers focus on education, what he called “edutainment contents.” However his team decided to focus on entertaining children.
He believes that “children can learn many different things without structured education,” meaning they will play with their friends and learn how to adapt to the society and how to act properly. Choi added that, while many other animations chose super heroes and prince and princesses, Pororo depicts the life of regular children in animal form.
For example, there’s the main character Pororo, a 5 year old penguin who wishes to fly everyday when he can’t. And his roommate, Crong the dinosaur, the youngest of the group who cannot speak a word other than his name but who always causes trouble. And Poby the polar bear who is a little timid, but nice.
“Previously existing animations were more like ethics textbook, giving only the right answers but Pororo shows [the] process of diverse characters, sometimes a little dumb, cooperat[ing] to solve a problem which naturally occurs,” Choi said. “I believe that kids sympathize more with Pororo because the characters and events are not perfect just like the viewer themselves.”
Even found in a scene of the movie Madagascar, the character has spread to about 120 countries, such as Indonesia, Japan, China, France, Germany, Spain and more. Choi emphasized that the animation is culture-neutral.
“The team decided to not include anything specific to Korea or Asia, also to exclude taboos in other countries,” the producer said and explained an example was not to use a pig as a character because of a taboo in the Middle East.
Recently, Ocon, character design company, has filed a lawsuit against Iconix regarding moral rights of the author.
“It is very sensitive issue because all four companies had cooperated to create one animation. Since Ocon designed the character, they are arguing they should have moral rights of the author,” Choi said. “But I believe that character is not only the picture itself but also voice, personality and names, which Iconix took part in.”
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