China Escalates Hollywood Partnerships, Aiming to Compete One DayPosted: April 5, 2015 Filed under: Art & Culture, Asia, Entertainment | Tags: Animation, China Film Group Corporation, China Media Capital, DreamWorks, DVD, Film industry, Filmmaking, Freedom of speech, Hollywood, Kung Fu Panda (franchise), Movies, North Korea, Ren Zhonglun, Shanghai Film Group, South Korea, Warner Bros Leave a comment
With China adding an average of 15 cinema screens every day, the country’s box office brought in $4.8 billion last year, tripling in size since 2010
SHANGHAI — David Barboza writes: Tucked away in a quiet design studio in this fast-growing city, a team of young animators, illustrators and computer programmers is bringing an ancient Chinese village to digital life.
Using three-dimensional texture painting software, the team — mostly graduates of China’s leading arts schools — is adding intricate details to temples, palaces and pagodas. Team members are also helping animate the movements of the digital characters, including two pandas named Po and Mei Mei.
“Because of the importance of the Chinese market to Hollywood, no one wants to make movies that offend China. Some may see that as self-censorship.”
— T.J. Green, a former Warner Bros. executive who now runs Apex Entertainment, which builds cinemas in China
“This is what I really love to do,” says Fang Zheng, a 32-year-old animator who studied environmental arts in college. “I’ve always been interested in characters and cartoons and things like that.”
[Read the full text here, at New York Times]
The project, part of the next installment of the blockbuster Hollywood film franchise “Kung Fu Panda,” represents a shift in China’s moviemaking ambitions.
“We want to learn how to make movies that appeal to a global audience. Eventually, we need to go global.”
— Ren Zhonglun, president of the state-run Shanghai Film Group, which is also negotiating to form alliances in Hollywood
No longer content simply to build movie sets and provide extras in Hollywood films, Chinese studios are moving up the value chain, helping to develop, design and produce world-class films and animated features. They want a bigger role in the creative process, one that will allow them to reap more rewards, financially and artistically.
“Kung Fu Panda 3” is the first collaboration between Hollywood’s DreamWorks Animation and its Chinese partner, Oriental DreamWorks, which is partly owned by a government investment fund and a private equity firm, China Media Capital. DreamWorks Animation has taken the lead in the creative and design work for the animated feature, which is scheduled for release in early 2016. Oriental DreamWorks contributes by adding Chinese elements, creating storyboards and building parts of the 3-D digital sets.
“We’re trying to develop Chinese creative talents,” says James Fong, the chief executive of Oriental DreamWorks.
It is part of a broader push by China Media Capital into the entertainment business. Over the last few years, the investment firm has made deals with Warner Bros. and the IMAX Corporation of Canada. It also helped develop a Chinese version of the hit TV show “The Voice.”
For American companies, such collaborations offer access to new talent and the chance to understand better a culture that will increasingly be portrayed in its films. And coproduction deals provide greater access to China’s tightly regulated market, which in a few years is expected to surpass the United States as the world’s biggest film market.
“We want to leverage the best of the Hollywood creativity with the best Chinese characteristics. We make it faster, do it cheaper, and in the end do something really innovative.”
— James Fong, the chief executive of Oriental DreamWorks
With China adding an average of 15 cinema screens every day, the country’s box office brought in $4.8 billion last year, tripling in size since 2010, according to the Motion Picture Association of America. And Chinese piracy is no longer such a significant threat to American studios; for example, “Transformers: The Age of Extinction” made more money in China than in the United States.
The rapidly growing market is reshaping the way Hollywood deals with China, from the scripts it accepts to the marketing strategies it adopts. Some of America’s biggest television and movie production houses, including HBO and Warner Bros., are already pushing into China with a raft of joint ventures, partnerships and cofinancing projects.
Lionsgate, the American studio that produced “The Hunger Games,” has licensing and financing deals with Alibaba, the Chinese e-commerce giant, and Hunan TV, a Chinese state-owned broadcaster. A unit of the Hollywood studio Legendary Pictures is co-producing an action film here with the award-winning Chinese director Zhang Yimou. And last year, when the former Warner Bros. executive Jeff Robinov set up a new Hollywood studio, he received a $200 million investment from the Fosun Group of China.
The Chinese government is supporting the deals, seeing them as part of a broader “soft power” push aimed at enhancing the country’s image and the way its people and culture are depicted on the big screen, at home and abroad. As global filmmakers look to gain entry to the market, they must now consider the tastes and preferences of a Chinese audience, not to mention the wishes of the ruling Communist Party….(read more)
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