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'Mashimaro,' an Off and On Line Hit


A
white rabbit is gaining sweeping popularity not only online but also offline. Its name is Mashimaro also known as Yeopgi Ttokki (translated as grotesque rabbit) and made its debut online through flash animation but now dolls and accessories are best sellers everywhere. Kim Jae-in and Jang Mi-yeong gave birth to Mashimaro back in 1999. At the time, it was originally designed to be used on an education website for kids, however, as the original client rejected the design, Kim and Jang decided to use it in a flash animation, which is a form of mini cartoon.

In the end, the two presented their completed work to www.n4.co.kr, which began running the animation since August. In the first three months, they thought of giving up as no hope of success seemed to be in sight. But what they did not know was that Mashimaro was gaining popularity among netizens and even online fan clubs were set up.

Jang said that the target audience of flash animation was teenagers and those in the early 20's who are the most frequent users of the Internet and most sensitive to fads. As Mashimaro became famous, many companies proposed to make character products. So Kim and Jang signed a contract with Seunghyeon International last October, granting the company the right to use the copyright of Mashimaro.

The first 3,000 Mashimaro dolls hit the shelves in February and were sold out within a week, and to date 500,000 dolls had been sold, recording W2 billion in sales. But success can bring problems and now many imitation dolls are circulating in the market.

Kim is in charge of the basic drawings and the production of flash animation whereas Jang co-ordinates ideas and completes cartoon by making finishing touches. They spend hour after hour in front of their computers to come up with ideas and make drawings.

Jang studied visual design at Kookmin University and Kim is currently studying animation at Gonju Culture and Arts College. They hope to export not only the character items but also flash animation works to other countries and run them on foreign websites, receiving feedbacks from foreigners.



(Weekly Chosun, Heo Su-yong, milkyway@chosun.com)







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