Seeking stars from hollywood

Updated: 2016-04-08 08:21

By Xu Fan(China Daily Europe)

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Seeking stars from hollywood
Huayi Brothers' new big releases boast veteran directors and filmmakers, such as Tsui Hark (third left in front row), Feng Xiaogang (fourth left in back row) and Wink Animation's head Joe Aguilar (second right in front). Jiang Dong / China Daily

Ever since Monkey King: Hero Is Back became the highest-grossing domestic animated film, China's leading studios have stepped up their overseas search for talent to ride the moviemaking wave

Huayi Brothers Media Corp, one of China's most successful studios last year, has joined the rush to recruit Hollywood talent.

At a recent event, the studio said that its newly launched animation subsidiary had hired veteran animators from the United States.

Its wholly owned unit, Huayi Brothers Wink Animation, has appointed Joe Aguilar, a former head of production at Oriental DreamWorks, as its chief executive officer.

In addition, Markus Manninen, a visual effects veteran who was behind the Oscar-nominated Kung Fu Panda, has been hired as the firm's art director.

Wang Zhonglei, the president of Huayi Brothers, says globalization of the movie industry has pushed the studio to seek world-class talent and companies.

Wink Animation plans to make four animated movies every year, and the first one will be released across China in 2017.

Aguilar says the movies will have a global appeal.

Though details are yet to be released, Aguilar says Wink Animation's first title would be an animated sci-fi action feature, supervised by Kung Fu Panda 3's Chinese director, Teng Huatao.

Wang says the North American market shows that animated films attract audiences more easily regardless of culture or age, and there is a greater possibility of the movies developing into long-running franchises.

Meanwhile, ever since Monkey King: Hero Is Back became the highest-grossing domestic animated film of all time last summer, there has been a revival of interest in the genre among leading studios.

In October, Enlight Media set up Coloroom Pictures, which has invested in 13 independent animation studios to produce 22 movies.

Separately, Huayi Brothers is also working on hiring Hollywood screenwriters to develop stories for Chinese comedy films.

Feng Xiaogang, the man behind a series of hit comedies, also says he is seeking writers from the United States for two comedy dramas, Cell Phone 2 and Marriage Lab.

Feng set up a film studio, Dongyang Meila, in September, and Huayi Brothers acquired a 70 percent stake two months later.

Feng says Cell Phone 2, a sequel to his 2003 box-office hit Cell Phone, will dwell on a frequently asked question -whether machines and technology can dominate humankind.

"I believe it (the film) will be a comedy and a horror show.

After speaking to Hollywood screenwriters, I believe they can create an appealing story."

China grossed record box-office revenue of 44 billion yuan ($6.8 billion; 6 billion euros) last year, up 48 percent year-on-year, but only 2.7 billion yuan of this came from overseas markets. The country and its filmmakers want to address this anomaly by expanding into the global market.

Although Feng has yet to explain why he wants Hollywood writers for his films, his move is widely regarded as a signal by Chinese filmmakers that they want to compete for a share of audiences worldwide.

Huayi started to make forays into overseas markets as early as three years ago.

It all started with an agreement with leading South Korean studio Showbox to coproduce six movies in 2013.

After this, the listed company last year signed a three-year deal with American studio STX Entertainment to jointly finance, produce and distribute at least 18 films by 2017.

The latest among the 18 movies is the supernatural thriller The Boy, released in the Chinese mainland on April 1. Set in a remote English village, the tale narrates a young nanny's horrific realization that a life-sized doll is actually alive in her employers' home.

Besides its international forays, Huayi Brothers also has other plans.

It intends to release eight big movies in the remaining three quarters of this year, following up on its January hit Mr Six and February's romance Run For Love.

Among the movies we can expect from it are the Stanley Kwan-produced New York, New York; the romance epic The Wasted Times, co-starring A-listers Ge You and Zhang Ziyi; and Feng Xiaogang's avant-garde comedy I Am Not Madame Bovary.

Seeking stars from hollywood
Leading stars Ge You and Zhang Ziyi at a Beijing event to promote The Wasted Times. Provided to China Daily