|Little red fox becomes big business|
A story about a red fox who wears shorts and has cute facial expressions has won the hearts of tens of millions of people, from teenagers to office workers.
The red fox, named Ali, is probably the most popular fox in China. Sometimes it has a big bushy tail; sometimes the absent-minded fox has no tail.
"I just forgot to draw its tail. After the first picture book of Ali, I decided not to draw its tail any more. I'm lazy," laughs Xu Han, the creator of the popular cartoon image.
The cartoonist has published two picture books of the red fox: Ali's Dream Castle in 2009 and Ali's Eternal Stop in 2010. His books have sold more than 1.5 million copies, topping the list of China's major online bookstores like Amazon and Dangdang.
Wearing black-framed glasses, a cap and a white T-shirt, Xu looks much younger than his 33 years.
Xu says when his first book about the fox went on sale, the thought of selling 100,000 copies was beyond his wildest dreams.
Xu writes various short stories about Ali, some funny, some inspiring and some warm and sweet. His first picture book was dedicated to those who still believe in fairy tales. It is called a picture book that can cure people's minds.
"Chinese cartoonists used to be preachers, telling people what they should be like. But my story is sourced from daily life. It can strike a chord," Xu says.
Ali's story uses cute cartoon images to tell stories that everyone can relate to, he explains.
Ali's cup is always full when his mom is at home because Chinese mothers generally take good care of their children. The funny conversation between Ali and his mother about death was inspired by a conversation Xu had when he took a taxi once.
Xu started drawing Ali when he was a middle school student. Back then, cartooning was a way for him to kill time when his teachers bored him in class. Later he drew the cute fox to woo a girl sitting in front of him.
"Before I started my graduate study, Ali was only a cartoon image," Xu recalls. His study of brand visualization at Tsinghua University enabled him to understand the value of a brand, even a cartoon brand.
Xu began to write stories featuring Ali. Meanwhile, the Internet offered a perfect platform for his little red fox to move into the wider world.
Xu and his partners set up Beijing Dream Castle Culture Company in 2009. The cartoonist is in charge of drawing Ali stories and designing cute expressions to put online, while his team runs the company and promotes Ali and its products.
With Ali's rising popularity, the company has made short animated films. Now they are considering producing an Ali film.
Although the animated design has developed fast, Xu still insists on hand drawing. He says that each line and color under his brush shows his emotions. His readers can feel his feelings via the shades of colors, which also guarantee Ali pictures' quality.
"People ask me whether I will create other cartoon images, I think it's a lifelong career to make more stories to keep Ali alive. It's always my dream," the cartoonist says.
(Source: China Daily)