After 8 years of development and production, October Animation Studio’s animated feature MONKEY KING: HERO RETURNS (did he ever leave?) is playing in mainland China (English trailer available on YouTube, complete with drowsy narrator). Though commanding fewer than 9% of Chinese screens, director TIAN Xiao Peng’s fresh take on Sun Wu Kong grossed 95.4 million RMB on its opening weekend. Less than the 100+ million RMB that live-action young adult phenomenon TINY TIMES 4 grossed on opening day, but enough to put MONKEY KING: HERO RETURNS on track to become one of China’s highest-grossing animated feature films.
With an estimated budget in the neighborhood of just $5 million USD, the production quality of the film has been receiving rave reviews by those who understand the context of the endeavor. Although the story loses steam in Act 2 in a manner typical of most Chinese animated features, MONKEY KING: HERO RETURNS is yet another step forward for China’s resurgent animation industry.