Fatal earthquake fuels Taiwanese media’s obsession with news animation

Society & Culture

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The New York Times reports that on Tuesday, February 6, a 6.4-magnitude earthquake hit the coast of Taiwan, leaving at least seven people dead and dozens missing.

When covering natural disasters such as this, responsible news reporters usually avoid portrayals of accident that seem amusing or be offensive to victims and their families.

However, this is not the case for some Taiwanese media outlets, which, with the tool of animation, have been honing their skills in blurring the delicate line between reality and imagination for many years. And the latest coverage of the fatal earthquake is just another abhorrent example.

Some of the unsettling graphics include:

A giant gorilla on a skyscraper, shaking the building to make the ground vibrate. It then falls to the ground.

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Four oxen in human outfits jumping up and down in front of the image of seismic waves captured by a seismometer.

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Two kids on oxen striking the ground due to the strong vibration caused by the earthquake.

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Another human-like ox panicking in what appears to be a theater as the ceiling is falling down.

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Cartoonifying news is not a novel idea, and Taiwanese media, led by Apple Daily, is no doubt the culprit that has exploited animation technology to its fullest. Next Media Animation, a Taipei-based video production company that created the animated reenactment of Tiger Woods’ 2009 car crash — a viral clip that so far has attracted more than 2.7 million views on YouTube — is one example that has been noted by a group of Western media, such as NPR, CNN, and the Guardian.

While these computer-generated animated videos often serve as a perfect medium for sensational or salacious news regarding crimes or celebrity gossip, as it’s extremely hard for journalists to obtain real footage of such stories, the usage of animation to illustrate the recent earthquake in Taiwan has been roundly criticized by internet users in mainland China. “They just can’t stop themselves from making every piece of news to be entertainment news,” one commenter wrote.