Monkey King animated film a surprising success

By Zhang Rui
0 Comment(s)Print E-mail, July 13, 2015
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A poster of animated film "Monkey King: Hero is Back."
"This is the best Chinese animation of the last two decades," one fan wrote on his blog. The quality, the sentiment, nostalgia, and wide fan base for the Monkey King have combined to make history.

Another factor in the movie’s success is its ability to stand out in the midst of a Chinese animation market that is saturated with crass and low-quality animation targeted to children. Chinese audiences have grown tired of these products. The Chinese animation industry has tried to find a way out of its slump, but efforts by many animation filmmakers have failed. For example, the "Kuiba" animated feature franchise, a Japanese anime-style series with more mature plots, was hailed as a new landmark for the Chinese animation industry, but it failed miserably at the box office, and its producers have cut short future plans for big screen releases.

The Chinese animation industry is also plagued by copycatting. Just as "Monkey King" was being released, another newly-released Chinese animation, "The Autobots," came under fire from critics, who dismissed the film as a copycat of the Hollywood hit "Cars."

Foreign animated films, especially those from Japan and America, have packed the world's second largest film market thanks to their more advanced production experience and clearly better quality. Japan's "Stand by Me Doraemon" made 527 million yuan (US$84.89 million) in China, while Hollywood's "Big Hero 6" made 526 million (US$84.73 million), indicating that the market potential for animated features is still huge in China.

In addition to "Monkey King," there are several other long-anticipated high-quality Chinese animated features on the way, such as "Big Fish & Chinese Flowering Crabapple" and "Little Door Gods," both of which are set for 2016 releases.

Despite a low promotional budget and a lack of big star voice talent, "Monkey King: Hero is Back" achieved the success that many cartoon fans have been longing for with its sincerity, high-quality story and fabulous visual and 3D effects. The film already became a success in the international market when its overseas distribution rights were sold at this year’s Cannes Film Festival for US$2.1 million, the highest ever for a Chinese animated feature film.

Director Tian said in an interview with that he and his team have started working on two sequels. The director said he hopes to produce and release the second film within two years, a turnaround time made shorter thanks to the eight years of experience he gained working on the first “Monkey King” film.

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