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Panda Po in "Kung Fu Panda". The third film about Po is among the seven projects being made by Oriental DreamWorks, a collaboration of DreamWorks Animation and Chinese companies. [Photo: douban.com]
If you are a fan of Chinese kung fu and fond of animations, then you probably watched the "Kung Fu Panda" movies. "Kung Fu Panda" and "Kung Fu Panda 2", produced by US-based DreamWorks Animation, attracted many viewers when screened in China in 2008 and 2011 respectively.
Now, Oriental DreamWorks, a collaboration of DreamWorks Animation and Chinese companies is set to bring hero panda Po back to China to produce a third film with "Chinese DNA".
Our reporter Xiyuan has more.
"The Lion King", "Shrek" and "Kung Fu Panda" movies, these are mega-hits that swept the Chinese market over the past dozen years. Now their creator, DreamWorks Animation from the U.S., has made plans to work with Chinese partners to create Oriental dreams.
The movie studio behind "Kung Fu Panda" has entered a partnership with three Chinese companies to create a joint venture entertainment company. The new company is called Oriental DreamWorks based in Shanghai.
With an initial investment of $330 million, the Shanghai studio will develop original Chinese animated and live-action movies, TV shows and other entertainment catering to the Chinese market. The deal was among several business ventures announced in downtown Los Angeles during an economic forum attended by visiting Chinese Vice President Xi Jinping in February.
DreamWorks CEO Jeffrey Katzenberg believes the new joint venture is a historic breakthrough, "I think it's a whole new period here. I think it's a new world in terms of what technology is available today. And China, as a land of opportunity for great animation, is unlimited. The sky is literally the limit here. I know the reception of our work in China has made me now very ambitious to figure out how to come to China, how to find the right Chinese partners to be a part of what I think can be a great industry and a great success story in China. So that's kind of my next big mission."
As Katzenberg stated, his ambition stems from the overwhelming reception of their animated works in China. "Kung Fu Panda 2", a recent box office hit produced by DreamWorks, generated US$664 million in ticket sales worldwide with Chinese cinemas contributing nearly US$100 million.
But what China has been pursuing is to create something by the Chinese for the Chinese. Shanghai, as the chosen city for Oriental DreamWorks, already has a thriving animation industry. According to an official report, GDP output by Shanghai's animation sector last year ranked second in the country, trailing behind Guangdong Province.
Aside from Oriental DreamWorks, there are other things with "Hollywood DNA" in Shanghai. The first Disneyland theme park on the Chinese mainland is currently under construction in Shanghai's Pudong New Area with its first phase due to open for business in 2015.
China's animation production shot up fifty times between 2003 and 2010 and it has become the largest producer of animation in the world. But compared with the U.S. and Japan, the country still falls behind in the production quality. A lack of good stories, low investments and bleak box office returns are long-standing problems facing China's animation industry.
Cultural entrepreneur Li Yang used to be the Chinese voice of Donald Duck in the popular Disney cartoons of Mickey Mouse and Donald Duck.
Li Yang said, "Presently there isn't a rounded original animation production team in China."
The establishment of DreamWorks' new overseas counterpart Oriental DreamWorks is considered as a win-win move for both sides. On one hand, it can give Western products greater access in China; on the other hand, it brings China international branding, experience and operating mechanisms.
Currently Oriental DreamWorks has attracted the attention of a number of talented animators in China as well as at DreamWorks in the U.S. According to Katzenberg, DreamWorks will send designers, technicians and animators to China to train their Chinese counterparts and help China's animation production keep pace with what they are doing back in Hollywood.
Chinese cultural entrepreneur Li Yang sees a bright future in this, "It's widely acknowledged what DreamWorks has achieved. If their production team could adopt age-old Chinese culture to their creative process and produce great animations released around the world, it's a win-win scenario."
The new studio, as an independent company, plans to begin operations later this year. And DreamWorks CEO Katzenberg said it could eventually surpass the size of DreamWorks' headquarters, which employs more than 2,000 people.
It will be majority 55 percent owned by three Chinese public companies, China Media Capital (CMC), Shanghai Media Group (SMG) and Shanghai Alliance Investment (SAI), and 45 percent by DreamWorks Animation.
Currently Katzenberg's production team has started creating stories with Chinese characteristics. There are already seven stories in hand, with respect to Chinese folklores, customs, and landscapes. "Kung Fu Panda 3" is also among them.
The studio eventually hopes to produce one or two animated feature film a year, with its first release set for 2016.
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