Thanks to Asa Butcher, Senior Editor at gbtimes, for his article on the inception and development of BAN JIN BA LIANG, Disney’s first Chinese TV co-production.
(A seven-year odyssey comes to fruition as Disney’s first original Chinese TV co-production.)
This week, I’m taking a break from virtual reality, augmented reality and mixed reality to talk about actual reality: Chinese stone lions are alive!
A “seven-year itch” was finally scratched as I watched the premiere of Ban Jin Ba Liang (半斤八兩 in Mandarin, which loosely translates to “tweedledum and tweedledee”) January 16th, 2016 on China’s Dragon TV channel. In 2009, Wen Feng, Yi Yan and I had the crazy idea to make a buddy comedy about Chinese stone lions. Initial development was bootstrapped by our Beijing-based content company Magic Dumpling Entertainment under the working title Stone Cold Lion, featuring our hearty heroes Chip and Nick.
For the past couple decades, Western content professionals have generally displayed a patronizing attitude towards the Chinese entertainment industry and market, determined to “show the Chinese how it’s done.” I relocated to Beijing in 2008 with much the same mindset. However, the onset of the VR Era has resulted in a sea change, with foreign professionals astonished by the pace and penetration of China’s advances in virtual reality. China has truly become “The Wild Wild East” with respect to VR, the hottest battleground among global VR markets. Folks from the West who approach China with any pretensions soon find themselves… (full post on AWN)
To the surprise of almost no one, DisneyLife, the online content venture between Disney and Alibaba, has been shut down by Chinese regulators less than five months after being launched, with Alibaba citing “maintenance issues” and promising refunds.
As I’ve maintained for years (and as underscored with this move against Disney’s foreign fare), original local content is the only viable long game in mainland China.
Raman Hui’s long-awaited live-action / animation fantasy film MONSTER HUNT opens tomorrow in China, capping an endeavor that has proven nearly as challenging as a man giving birth.
MONSTER HUNT was one of many Chinese films clobbered by the ban on disgraced actors – issued last fall by China’s State Administration of Press, Publication, Radio, Film & Television (SAPPRFT) in response to celebrities caught enjoying certain recreational substances and/or frolicking with paid female companions. Originally scheduled for release this past February, MONSTER HUNT suffered a delay of months and a cost of millions in order to reshoot scenes featuring banned Taiwanese lead actor Kai Ko (charged with drug use alongside Jackie Chan’s son Jaycee Chan) with replacement actor Jing Boran.
With principal photography in the can and 80% of visual effects work complete, the reshoot was a near-fatal blow to the film. Director Raman Hui and producer Bill Kong showed incredible resolve in seeing MONSTER HUNT through to release. Here’s hoping their efforts are rewarded with sufficient box office to at least break even.