A breakthrough in Chinese animation

Updated: 2015-03-19 08:24

By Wang Kaihao(China Daily)

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A breakthrough in Chinese animation

Yu Zhou, producer of Door Guardians, is confident in the Chinese animation film, which will be released in January. [Photo by Wang Kaihao/China Daily]

A 90-second trailer of an upcoming animated film has given a sneak peek at what promises to be a landmark piece of Chinese cinema.

Door Guardians, a production by Beijing-based Light Chaser Animation, will hit the big screen early next year.

Director and screenwriter Gary Wang was unwilling to reveal too many details of his first feature-length animated film at a news conference last week, except to say the film is about courage and change, and the production will be finished before July.

Door Guardians is inspired by the Chinese tradition of menshen (door gods)-pictures or statues placed on or near doors to keep away evil spirits. The story follows the adventures of two door gods that travel to a small town in modern China. But the gods find themselves out of work because people do not worship them.

"When I traveled to Bangkok, I saw a pair of door god statues in front of a palace. I suddenly realized people don't hang pictures of door guardians that often in China," says Wang, who founded Light Chaser Animation studio in 2013.

"We need to get inspiration from our cultural roots, rather than mimicking others."

Wang founded Tudou.com, once China's most popular video-sharing website. When he left that company and looked to embark on a new career, he faced a tough choice.

"A sad part of the IT industry is that the first day you take a technology product to market is the first day it is out-of-date," he explains. "However, animation lives much longer."

Light Chaser Animation released its first three-minute animated short film, Little Yeyos, last year. Wang considers the film a small test.

With Door Guardians, Wang, along with his 160 Chinese employees, hopes not only for a successful film but also shake off the stereotype of Chinese animators simply being cogs in the industry chain of foreign entertainment juggernauts.

"What we are doing is connecting dots," Wang says. "Making animation is combining the most advanced technology with original ideas to realize something nobody has tried before."

According to Yu Zhou, producer of Door Guardians, the film has attracted an investment of 130 million yuan ($21 million), with 70 million of that used for animation production.

"Our production costs are about 10 percent of what Pixar spends to make an animated film, and our quality is close to their standard," Yu says.

The 90-second trailer promises that Door Guardians will be a refreshing change for a domestic animated film.

Yu says one flamboyant dance scene in the film will feature more than 200 lamps, a difficult technical feat for an animated film as they have to present subtle changes of lighting and shadow. Wang believes the scene is a breakthrough for Chinese animation.

Every detail is scrutinized by the film's creators. Each animator in the group has to complete one second of animation a day.

The film is slated to be screened nationwide in January, which means it may overlap with the premiere of Kung Fu Panda 3 in China. But its specific release date has not been announced yet.

Yu is confident and not concerned about competition.

"Our film will definitely be screened overseas," Yu says.

"First, we want to participate in several major film festivals in North America later this year.

"A friend of mine who works for the American animation industry texted me, saying: 'Door Guardians is a nail on the coffin of American animation' after viewing some of the early clips," Yu says, laughing. "Perhaps, that is a little bit of an exaggeration. But we will surely make a difference in the industry through the film."