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CGI 'Turandot' in Production

China's first computer-generated imagery (CGI) animation feature, Turandot, has started production, it was announced at a press conference on December 3 at the Blue Apple Club in Beijing.

This is China's third attempt at the Puccini opera, based on a play by Carlo Gozzi. Zhang Yimou, who directed the movie Hero that starred Jet Li and Maggie Cheung, had previously made a Chinese-musical version. Another famed director, Lin Zhaohua, told the story of Turandot through Peking Opera.

For this animated production, Zhang Yuan, who directed East Palace West Palace and Green Tea, will lead the team. Chinese actor Li Yapeng will play the leading role. But who will play "Princess Turandot" has yet to be decided. Zhang said that the lead actress would be selected by the end of the year. Other stars lending their talents to the production include Ma Yili, Wu Yujuan, and pianist Kong Xiangdong.

The twist in this Turandot tale is that this CGI version will feature a new character, one that doesn't exist in the original story. It is a little princess played by E-Xinxin, a digital 'thespian' created in the likeness of real-life star, Li Xinyu. E-Xinxin is a 'seasoned' celebrity, having made numerous appearances on stage, TV, movies, comics, cartoons, Internet games, and mobile phone games.

China's largest professional CGI design company Crystal Digital Technology Co. Ltd. will provide the visual effects support for the production. Crystal, one of China's more established CGI companies, collaborated with Zhang Yimou to develop the video for Beijing Olympics 2008 bid. It was also responsible for the visual effects for the CCTV documentary Forbidden City.

For Turandot, Crystal's 100 animators have spent half a year recreating capital city of the Yuan Dynasty (1206–1368).

Crystal will be using the motion capture technology to shoot the actors' parts. The technology involves filming every movement of the live actor's performance with computerized cameras, and using that as a blueprint for the animation.

According to director Zhang Yuan, this production will feature action, martial arts and revenge, in addition to originality, although the main plot will be maintained.

A star-studded cast of musicians was invited to record the soundtrack, which will have the actors singing their own songs, including famous Chinese musician and producer Wang Feng, world famous violinist Xue Wei, and pianist Kong Xiangdong.

Zhang revealed that this CGI production would cost 100 million yuan.

The production team expects the feature to hit screens in 2007, and it is also hoping to screen at the Tokyo, Berlin, Cannes and Venice international film festivals.

(China.org.cn by Zhang Rui December 13, 2005)

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