Hollywood comes to Hangzhou with animated saga Bonta

Updated: 2013-08-03 07:34

By Huang Ying (China Daily)

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A 3D Chinese animated film produced to Hollywood standards was released on Friday nationwide, aiming to grab more than 100 million yuan ($16.3 million) in box office revenue, a level that only one domestic animated feature reached last year.

"We spent three years to produce it, which is much longer than the average in China, because we were determined from the very beginning to create an original animated film brand of our own rather than simply making money fast from it," said Leo Li, director of the film and president of the production company behind the project - Zhejiang Versatile Media Co Ltd.

As the sole investor in the film, titled Bonta, the Hangzhou-based private media and technology company spent 50 million yuan in the production process, with similar resources devoted to a national marketing campaign.

Zhejiang Versatile aims to win a global audience for the film, with releases overseas.

"It has been confirmed that Bonta will be screened in Europe and South Korea, but at a later date than on the Chinese mainland," Li said.

The company plans to make three films in the Bonta series over five years, and the latter two are expected to involve more foreign resources, said Li, although the first one is almost a 100 percent effort of Zhejiang Versatile.

"We recruited one expert from Hollywood to provide advice on the character design and make the production better adapted to the global market.

"Also, the movie's original soundtrack was produced in Hollywood," Li said.

Prior to Bonta's release this summer, Seer 3: Universal Force, the third installment and 3D film in the Seer movie franchise, another domestic animated film series, raked in more than 70 million yuan in 17 days after being released on July 12.

That figure made the film, produced by Taomee Holdings Ltd, a New York Stock Exchange-listed Chinese children's entertainment and media company, the second highest-grossing domestic animated film brand in China so far.

This summer, about five animated films will be released, including the Hollywood blockbuster Monsters University, which is set for release on Aug 23.

According to industry statistics, 32 animated movies had theatrical releases in China in 2012, generating box office revenue of more than 1.35 billion yuan. Among these, 20 domestic animated films contributed 400 million yuan.

In 2012, the nation's ticket sales totaled 17.2 billion yuan, and animated movies accounted for about 8 percent.

Hollywood studios have achieved success with their animated films in the world's second-largest movie market, such as DreamWorks Animation's Kung Fu Panda series and Shrek series.

Li said that in terms of competition with Hollywood animated films, Zhejiang Versatile knows more about the local market and has superior promotion and marketing activities. "But they are much more industrially advanced and have a mature industry chain," he added.

Chen Shaofeng, deputy dean of Peking University's institute for cultural industries, said that in Hollywood, those who create and produce animated movies are top talents in the film industry while in China, most of the producers don't even know much about the movie sector.

The production of Kung Fu Panda 3 is to start this month. The movie is the brainchild of American and Chinese filmmakers, said Li Chuan, managing director of China Media Capital, a co-investor of Oriental DreamWorks, a joint venture established last year by CMC, DreamWorks Animation, Shanghai Media Group and Shanghai Alliance Investment.

"I think it will take less time for Chinese animated films to enter the global market than those with human casts, because animation has fewer uncontrollable factors, such as cast members," said Shao Gang, consulting director of EntGroup Consulting, a Beijing entertainment industry consultancy.

Li said that some animated film studios in Canada, Europe and the United States have approached him about possible co-productions, and most of them have their own intellectual property products.

"The real competition has yet to begin because our market has not been fully open to Hollywood studios," said Li. "But we have to prepare for that right now."