'The Legend of Hei' to open in China and Japan

By Zhang Rui
0 Comment(s)Print E-mail China.org.cn, September 6, 2019
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Director MTJJ and his dubbing team pose for photo at the premiere of "The Legend of Hei" in Beijing, Sept. 5, 2019. [Photo courtesy of Joy Pictures]

The Chinese animated feature "The Legend of Hei" will hit Chinese and Japanese theaters at the same time, as film industry observers expect it to be another cultural phenomenon.

"The Legend of Hei" derives from a Flash cartoon series developed from March 2011 that was mainly broadcast online, becoming hugely popular among internet users and animation lovers.

However, production of the cartoon series was notoriously "slow." Over some eight years, the creators only put out 28 episodes each lasting about five minutes.

The creators include the director MTJJ, known in the Chinese language as "Mutou" (literally meaning "Wood") -- an obvious alias. He remained as a mystery until now, with few knowing his real name and other career details, and most of his fans having no idea what he looked like.

But MTJJ eventually showed up at Thursday's Beijing premiere of the movie version of the cartoon series that he and his team have been working on for years, and he became tearfully emotional when fans cried out to him about their feelings and enthusiasm for him and his creation.

As a 2D original animation, every second of the film required 12 pictures drawn by him and his team. This means that the complete film lasting more than 100 minutes required more than 70,000 high-quality drawings, which is why it took more than five years to make, MTJJ explained.

"We have experimented with dozens of various art forms in creating the film. This is our art exploration in every possible direction until we could find the current tone," he added. 

A poster of "The Legend of Hei." [Image courtesy of Joy Pictures]

The heart-warming story takes place in a world where people, goblins, and gods coexist. Xiao Hei is a cat demon who transforms into an adult to live a free life in the mountains. However, with the development of human science and technology, the destruction and encroachment of nature has become more and more serious.

With the forests in which Xiao Hei lives being destroyed by human beings, the former demon embarks on an adventure to wander in human cities and try to find a new home.

"The animation not only can accompany you to go out of darkness, but also give you an inspiring power to move forward," said producer Li Chen, a well-known actor and director.

"The Legend of Hei" has had a few advanced screenings before its official release on Sept. 7 in China, all of which received very positive feedback among social media platforms, Chinese animation circles and movie review websites.

"I hope the entire Chinese animation industry will be able to put out more and more works like this one, which is a serious and beautiful animation with staying power," a fan said in a congratulatory video screened at the premiere.

The film is expected to continue the animation craze ignited by "Ne Zha," the recent and the highest-grossing animated feature of all time in China.

It also will be released in Japan, a leading animation producer in the world, with limited screenings at the Ikebukuro Humax Cinemas in Tokyo from Sept. 20 - 29, making it the first Chinese animation to enjoy the almost synchronous Japanese release.

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