Oriental DreamWorks eyes 1st Chinese film in 2016

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A file photo of Jeffrey Katzenberg. [Photo: baidu] 

Oriental DreamWorks, a US-Chinese joint venture announced here, hopes to release its first film "with Chinese DNA" made in its Shanghai studio in 2016, the head of DreamWorks Animation said.

Jeffrey Katzenberg, whose studio has produced megahits like "Shrek" and the "Kung Fu Panda" movies, announced Friday the tie-up as Chinese Vice-President Xi Jinping visited Hollywood on the last day of a five-day US visit.

The deal makes DreamWorks Animation a heavyweight in a tightly restricted market, but which could grow exponentially.

"We've been working on the specifics of this partnership for about a year or so now," Katzenberg told AFP, hours after the DreamWorks tie-up was announced in Los Angeles.

"In my conversations with Chinese officials, as well as people in the media sector.... what they most want to achieve is to create their own family-branded entertainment company," he added.

"Something that's created by the Chinese for the Chinese .. to be made in high quality, that would not only be able to be competitive in their market, but actually could go out and be competitive in the rest of the world."

The new studio will be majority 55 percent owned by three Chinese public companies, China Media Capital (CMC), Shanghai Media Group (SMG) and Shanghai Alliance Investment (SAI), and 45 percent by DreamWorks Animation.

The huge commitment in local production marks a change in strategy for Hollywood, restricted by very strict quotas which limit the number of foreign movies allowed into China to just 20 per year.

"What we all have been pursuing for many many years was being able to get our products and our movies into China and to be able to get our television there and have western products given greater access," said Katzenberg.

"And by the way this is something we will continue to want to see happen. But that's not what the Chinese wanted. They wanted to have the capability and knowledge to be able to create their own.

"Which is, by the way true of many countries around the world. It's not unique. What is unique is that in 5 to 7 years they will be the number one market in the whole world.

He added: "They are going actually to have a marketplace that, if you could succeed at creating a great family brand, the value of that would be tremendous."

DreamWorks Animation will therefore send designers, technicians and animators to China to train their Chinese counterparts.

"This is going to actually create greater employment at DreamWorks here, more opportunities," said Katzenberg.

"I have literally, almost a hundred people at DreamWorks that have come forward to say that they would love to be a part of that studio and go to China for a couple of years, to educate, teach. From fine artists, animators, to technology people, there seems to be a lot of enthusiasm."

He added: "There are some good talents there, we've been scouting for the last nine months throughout the country and we have found some good talents, but they have not had the training, they have not had the technology not the financial resources to work at the level of what we are doing here today."

Oriental DreamWorks, unlike DreamWorks Animation, will also produce live action movies.

"In that regard there is a growing talent pool in China today in the live action. There are some very gifted filmmakers there. We will be working with them too," he said.

The first Oriental DreamWorks film "will be out in 2016 and we have a half a dozen projects hat we've been actively working on and developing since last summer," he added.

Could there be a "Kung Fu Panda 3," made in Shanghai?

"I don't think so. This is about creating new original films that will be made in China, but in the same way that 'Kung Fu Panda' was inspired by elements, culture, literature and history of China, so will the movies that we're developing now there.

"They will be Chinese in their DNA, that is part of our plan."

The Oriental DreamWorks joint venture was announced a few hours before US Vice President Joe Biden announced that China had agreed to "significantly" increase market access to US films.

The Motion Picture Association (MPAA) said the agreement will allow over 50 percent more US movies into China, although the White House did not mention figures.

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