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Several years ago, Hollywood studios such as Pixar and DreamWorks had found it diffcult to break into the China market, for their productions: 'Finding Nemo', 'Cars' and 'Shrek', after sweeping the cinemas in all the other regions in the world, received disappointing box offce results. Five years ago, a market analyst even told the press that the Chinese audience does not have a habit to see animated flms in the cinemas.
Years later, it is an entire different story. Animated flms, local or foreign, have won the attention of the country's audience. Compared to less than fve local animated released annually in the past, there are more than 24 local animated flms released theatrically in 2011.
The growing multiplexes in the country encouraged teenagers and family movie-goers to watch animations in cinemas. Animation is now one of their favored genres.
The attention reached a climax in the summer of 2011 with fve locally-produced animated flms released in a period of two months and two major animations competing against each other in the same week. Teenager fans even lined up in front of the theater's promotion booth, trying to get autographs, not of the movie stars, but of the animators.
The flm that attracted this frenzy is called 'Kuiba', produced by Beijing-based animation studio Vasoon Animations.
The story of 'Kuiba' tells about the fantasyland called Vast, a world that is similar to the Middle Earth in 'The Lord of the Rings'.
Two grass root fghters, despite unqualifed to be the so-called 'Spirit Warriors', are determined to fght against the demon creature called 'Kuiba' with their hot-boiled spirits. Eventually they break the rigid rank system of 'Spirit Warriors' and win the respect of their fellow warriors. Kuiba's character look more like those in Japanese Manga works: fowing hairs, giant eyes and sharp chins. The settings are Chinese styled architectures plus steam punk favors with fying vessels and ships, driven by multiple species of animals. Similar to the works of Hayao Miyazaki's Studio Ghibli, Kuiba maintains 2D in its characters while using 3D to draw parts of its settings.
Although the flm's box offce takings are less than satisfactory, it received feverish support from its fans. During the screening, they hailed or even screamed when each character of the flm appearing in the story, creating quite a sensation in Beijing's normally calm cinemas.
The other competing flm 'Legend of A Rabbit', produced by Tianjin Film Studio presents a different style but the same effort to raise the bar of local animation quality. The audience might feel reminiscent of 'Kung Fu Panda' in this 3D animation especially in its rounded-shaped protagonist the Rabbit. But the purely local production has indeed impressed the audience with its technical efforts such as the smoothness of motion capture works and the attentions to hair and skin details. The flm has also set a new record of international pre-sale, closing deals in France, Russia and South East Asia even before the completion of the flm.
Later in August and September, three local productions 'Seer', 'Roco Kingdom' and 'Legend of the Moles: The Frozen Horror' were also released. All adapted from young children's (aged 5 – 10) adventure online games, theses works own more fan base than the above two flms, and gained even better theatrical revenues. 'Seer' took in more than RMB 40 million and was seen as a major success.
|1. Seeking Mr. Right|
2. Princess and Seven Kung Fu Masters
3. Ip Man: Final Fight
4. Journey to the West
5. An End to Killing