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'Monkey King' not Fear Hollywood's Shrek

The Chinese cartoon, with distinguished advantages featuring Asian history and culture, should not fear competing with Hollywood, Wang Tung, chairman of the jury committee of Golden Horse award of Taiwan told Xinhua News Agency Monday.


He made the remarks before his first cartoon film based on the Chinese ancient story of the Monkey King was put on show in Beijing. The film, costing US$ 5,000,000, three years and more than 300 professional staffs, will be staged in theaters and cinemas nationwide in China from Aug. 5.


The story of the Monkey King, also known as Pilgrimage to the West, is a mythical novel by Wu Cheng'en (1500-1582), telling of Tang Dynasty monk Xuanzang's journey bringing Buddhist scriptures from the west. Under Wu's ingenious pen, monkey-headed superman Monkey King, together with three animal-shaped disciples, accompanied Xuanzang's whole journey. They came across various devils who wanted to eat Xuanzang to gain eternal life, thus undergoing long hardship before reaching their destiny.


"Such a story with exotic flavor of the East quite suits the appetite of the western audience, " Wang said, adding the martial arts films like "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon" and "Hero" are quite popular among western audiences and have achieved high box revenue overseas.


The show time of Wang's cartoon product will meet the Hollywood blockbuster Madagascar, a cartoon film already advertised in full swing. "In comparison with Madagascar which likewise cost five years and as high as US$ 100,000,000, the Chinese cartoon is really at a relatively low level in terms of production and sale," Wang admitted.


"However," he said, "low cost does not mean low quality. 300 professional staff participated in the sculpting design of his cartoon, and a lot of interesting plot elements about youngster's life styles were added.


"A good story and how to tell it is key to the success of a cartoon," Wang said. In the past, the Taiwan film circle seldom produced cartoon since it cost much yet earn little. "Our failure lies in the lack of market surveys before production," Wang said.


As to the Chinese mainland, he pointed out lack of marketing methods forges the bottleneck of the cartoon industry. Refuting some insiders comments that the Chinese mainland is short of cartoon makers, Wang stressed the market will attract and give rise to more talent.


Wang said the Chinese cartoon, based on ancient stories, should be innovated. In his "innovated" version, Xuanzang will quite often speak English, and the bull-headed devil will perform Spanish dance, all exploding people's laughter.


"However, I shall never let the Monkey King ride a motorcycle," Wang said. "The Chinese cartoon will always focus on loyalty, friendship, filial piety and environmental protection, yet avoid moral teaching in a rigid way."


As his compatriots observed, Wang, who has scored many Golden Horse awards, has turned his eyes to the cartoon film. Fever-like enthusiasm for cartoons has been passed on to adults from children, and the cartoon industry has become mainstream even to Hollywood makers. In 2003 and 2004, Finding Nemo and Shrek II were the best sellers in the United States, respectively. And the animation series by Hayao Miyazaki also is atop the Japanese film industry.


According to him, the sale of his cartoon's copyright in Southeast Asia has earned back one third of the total investment, and Star TV has purchased the right of showing the film for five years.


"China's animation industry is at an initial stage but has great potential. Therefore, the Chinese Monkey King should not fear Hollywood's Shrek," Wang said.


(Xinhua News Agency August 4, 2005)

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