Co-pros are no-go

This week, instead of virtual reality, some cold hard reality: there’s no pot of gold waiting for you at the end of the Chinese co-production rainbow.

Zhang Yimou’s The Great Wall, starring Matt Damon and co-produced by Universal, Legendary, LeVision and China Film Group, succeeded in eliciting a universal “Meh” from audiences around the world, earning roughly $172 million USD in China (a figure which once would have been astonishing but now is unimpressive) and around $35 million USD in North America. With combined production and marketing expenses in the neighborhood of $250 million USD, and global revenues expected to peter out at $320 million USD (prior to exhibitors taking their share), it’s safe to say that investors in “the biggest-ever U.S.-China co-production” are less than thrilled.

On the bright side, we’ll hopefully be spared a glut of formulaic Great White Hope films set against the backdrop of other historical Middle Kingdom marvels, pimped by puffy Chinese real estate companies with their eager Hollywood studio mascots in tow. Folks actually have to think now, and that’s a good thing. So, let’s elevate that thinking with some straight talk.

First, the unfortunate fact is that…(full post on AWN)

Co-pros are no-go

Monkey business, part two

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China Animation & Game Network has a nice piece by Chris Colman on the animation of last year’s Chinese hit feature, MONKEY KING: HERO RETURNS.

The article features an interview with the film’s talented and industrious animation supervisor, Aaron Zhou of Beijing-based Big Big Sun, who I’ve had the pleasure of working with.

The commitment of director Tian Xiao Peng and the contributions of Aaron and Big Big Sun are characteristic of the exciting new wave of Chinese animated feature films, breaking new ground and coming soon to a theater near you.

Monkey business, part two

Monkey business

Monkey King

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.

Monkey business