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A poster of "Yugo & Lala" [China.org.cn]
A home-made Chinese CGI animated film last week became a surprise hit and will soon join other original Chinese animated works as a member of the 10 million yuan club, the animation's director revealed in an exclusive interview with China.org.cn.
"Yugo & Lala," directed by Wang Yunfei for the ITS CARTOON Animation Studio, hit Chinese cinema on August 10. Its release coincided with the release of animations "The Adventures of Jinbao," "Save the 365th Day (3D)," and live action/animation "I Love Wolffy" a cinematic sequel to China's hottest cartoon series "Pleasant Goat and Big Big Wolf". Meanwhile, imported animated blockbuster "Ice Age: Continental Drift" and "The Lorax" are still showing.
China's summer holiday film season has been dominated by animated films, and the industry is now bracing itself for the late August heavyweight clash between Hollywood giants Batman and Spider-Man, which has triggered a wave of rescheduling among film production companies.
Explaining the scheduling of the film, Wang said: "We first set the release date on August 10, but they later all decided to release their films on the same day. As all of our releases are original Chinese cartoons, so we are all competitors. We need, and welcome, fair competition. Many friends have asked us to retreat, but we chose to stand firm."
He continued:"The summer film season is definitely boom time for animations, and this is true in any country with a healthy animation industry, it's a good sign. But there also must be a cruel sacrifice. I'm looking forward to it, and will participate in it. In any battle, there are two outcomes: Win or lose. But before 'Yugo & Lala' hit screens I told my colleague that we must be ready for any outcome, and we must be clear about whether and why we win or lose.
So far, it appears that the outcome has been positive for Wang and his team. According to his statistics, his film made 9.7 million yuan (US$1.52 million) at box offices in only 3 days and purely through 2D screenings. Cinemas were packed with parents and kids alike, which caused cinema managers to rapidly add extra screening times due to the film's unexpected popularity.
"The industry has been abuzz with talk that if we cross the 10 million yuan (US$1.57 million) mark, we win, " said Wang. "I feel real good because this animation had no opportunity to build a fan base in advance due to cartoon episodes on TV. Also, it is not an adaptation of a hot online video game and has no big movie stars contributing their voices. 'Yugo & Lala' can become one of the Top 15 Chinese original animations to make more than 10 million yuan at the box office."
"But the most important thing is that the film brought joy to many people," Wang added.
"Yugo & Lala," whose Chinese title could be literally translated as "An Adventure in Mystery World," was formerly named "Peculiar Kin". It tells the story of a naughty girl named Yugo and a little liger (a hybrid animal of lion and tiger) Lala, and details their adventures in an alternate animal-ruled world without humans.
Despite lacking the top technologies and sophistication of foreign animations, "Yugo & Lala," still manages to create stunningly beautiful scenes and tells a touching story which focus on friendship and environmental protection. It is also clearly influenced and inspired by Japanese master Miyazaki Hayao's "Spirited Away," DreamWorks Animation's "Kung Fu Panda" and Pixar Animation Studios' "Monsters, Inc."
Wang, who made his name creating Internet Flash Animations, originally began working on the project in 2005, before discarding it and later reviving it several times. In 2010, he finally came up with a solid storyline and decided to bring it to life in 3D CGI.
Yuan Mei, one of his long time partners and the boss of Cheerland Entertainment Organization, once asked him to put up his car and house as security to avoid any further backing out of the project. This is only part of the story, however, as Yuan was one of Wang's main sources of encouragement and financial aid, and became one of his most trusted allies.
Wang expressed his surprise at how enthusiastically children had taken the characters of Yugo and Lala to their hearts, characters that he had worked tirelessly to create, develop and promote. The characters have become so popular that Wang and his team have already received invitations to produce merchandize and memorabilia. A sequel and TV series are also in the pipeline. Clearly, the animation seems set to reap handsome rewards for Wang and his team.
"I hope 'Yugo & Lala' can secure a bright future for all my staff and colleagues and make them proud," he said. "If the film makes money, we'll be wealthy enough to live carefree lives, which will also inspire us to keep creating."
Wang also dispensed a few words of advice for fellow Chinese animators. "What I want to share is, don't always keep on walking, you should [sometimes] stop, have a rest and watch. The most important thing is to choose the right direction. Once you have made this choice, you must then persist, and you will finally be rewarded."
"But if your reward fails to materialize, it will usually be because you didn't pick yourself up after a failure. In a time of chaos, heroes will appear. And it is these kinds of heroes who are really hard to defeat."
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