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Puppet Kaos - where Kelvin Kao plays with puppets and tell random stories

New Taiwanese Puppet Series: Legend of the Dragon Blade

The new Pili series, Legend of the Dragon Blade (刀龍傳說) was just released last week. I looked at the opening theme (video below) and my thoughts were: Hm, very shiny. Yup, sparkle, sparkle. It was a good-looking video, though it didn’t feel as amazing as the previous two. That doesn’t mean that they’ve stopped re-inventing themselves, but just mean that this is sort of the beginning of a new stage.

What was really different about this series is the distribution. Decades ago, these puppetry series were half-hour episodes shown on network TV. About 20 years ago, the government decided to limit the hours of Taiwanese language programs in favor of Mandarin programs and the producers of these shows decided to go off air and go into the VHS rental market. Back in the days, there were only three networks, all owned and tightly controlled by the government. Cable television neither was allowed nor had the infrastructure to make it possible. So the VHS rental market was an important one, as it offered a variety of programs like music/sketch variety shows, American movies and Japanese drama. The puppet series went there too and was popular. This established the one-hour format that we still use to this day. When VHS was phased out, they switched to VCDs, and eventually DVDs.

Now, the company, Pili, had decided to make a really big change. They decided to stop using the DVD rental chains (like Blockbuster) for distribution and sign with FamilyMart instead. FamilyMart is a convenient store chain from Japan, and they also have franchises in Thailand, South Korea, Taiwan, mainland China (Shanghai, Guangzhou, and Suzhou), and the United States. (The North American version is branded Famima!! and all locations are in the Greater Los Angeles area.) The official reason was to make it more convenient for viewers because there are way more convenient stores than DVD rental stores, but of course, it was probably related to a fallout between the series producers and the distributors. It was more of a business decision to cut out the middle man. Whichever reason it was, it was a major experiment to change up the model that was in place for 20 years.

The other implication was also interesting. To rent these episodes, you put down a NT$10 deposit, and then pay the NT$120 rental fee. You can keep the DVDs for as long as you want. But how is this different from just paying NT$130 to purchase it? The difference is, if it were a purchase, you are now the owner of the disk and you can freely distribute it. You can sell it and you can rent it out. If it’s a rental, you do not actually own it. The company still owns them. You can watch them, but you can not, say, get the disks and open your own rental store.

And the decision seems to have been finalized very close to the actual release date. If you look at the end credit video, you can see that most text has transparent background, except for the distributor text. As someone that edits videos, it was obvious to me that the black background was used to cover up text that was originally there. That means this switch was finalized quite last minute.

How would this new distribution model work? Not much can be said yet, since it’s only been two weeks. We’ll see how it goes.


  1. September 20th, 2009 | 1:05 pm

    You weren’t kidding when you said sparkle! I didn’t know you meant it quite so literally!

  2. September 20th, 2009 | 11:24 pm

    Hehe, yep, literally. It’s no secret that I love taking things literally. :-)

  3. February 4th, 2010 | 5:12 am

    […] and a seamless combination of animation and puppetry. Unlike the previous opening themes (see here, here and here), this one does not have as much of a story. Instead it’s a showcase of all […]

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