SOUTH KOREA - Buses covered in animated characters are growing so popular in Seoul City that policymakers are considering introducing additional character-covered public transportation.
Marking the city's public transportation day last month, Seoul Metropolitan Government released four buses covered in characters that appear in Korean animated series "Tayo, the Little Bus." The programme is a favourite among children, winning the best preschool education programme award at the Asian Television Awards in 2012.
Four Tayo buses were initially planned to operate for only a month in four colors ― blue, green, red and yellow. The tenuous start of the Tayo bus ride ignited a Tayo bus fever nationwide, leading many children and parents from other regions to visit Seoul just to try the bus routes.
The growing demand with the "unexpected" popularity prompted Seoul City to expand the Tayo bus project to 100 buses in the capital and extend the operation term until Children's Day on May 5.
"The city will equally distribute the buses in Seoul districts so that many children can enjoy them," a Seoul official said.
The city also vowed to have the bus announcement recorded in the animated characters' voices in extra Tayo buses.
Initiated by a bus company owner's idea, the Tayo bus project was jointly launched by the Seoul Bus Association and the animation company Iconix Entertainment in an aim to boost the use of public transportation.
The tracking information and running time of Tayo buses are available on the Tayo bus Facebook page or on Daum map.
Despite the city's expansion of the project, public demand for special buses rose even higher. Seoul citizens started to propose various bus project ideas on Seoul Mayor Park Won-soon's Facebook.
In response to the high demand, Park recently answered on his page that the city would consider making "Pororo buses," a character from Korean computer-generated animated cartoon series "Pororo the Little Penguin." Pororo is often called the children's president as many preschool kids are huge fans.
"The Pororo bus is being pushed but nothing has been finalized for now," an SBA official said.
The animated character project may not only be limited to buses but expand to other public transportation, Seoul City officials said Monday.
The mayor wrote on his Facebook that the city had requested the capital's subway operator Seoul Metro operate trains designed as Larva, another famous animated series. "Larva," a Korean slapstick animated comedy, has attracted a large number of elementary school student fans with its two characters, Red and Yellow. Receiving the top award from the Korean Contents Award, Larva has been exported to more than 90 countries.
The final decision for the Larva subway will be made soon, a Seoul Metro official said.