An­i­mated In China

The mar­ket for an­i­mated movies is boom­ing By Yuan Yuan

Beijing Review - - Nation -

Show­ing vi­o­lence, gore, and light porno­graphic ma­te­rial, Chi­nese-made an­i­mated film Dah­ufa is the first movie in China to rate it­self PG-13, fol­low­ing the en­act­ment of the Film In­dus­try Pro­mo­tion Law on March 1.

It is a story about a war­rior named Dah­ufa sav­ing his prince from a dystopian vil­lage. The vil­lagers, which are peanut-shaped hu­manoids, are ruled by a fake god whom they must obey. To save the prince, Dah­ufa has to find ways to de­feat his en­e­mies and un­veil the con­spir­acy.

Un­like some other an­i­mated movies based on ex­ist­ing con­cepts from an­cient tales or clas­sics, this is an orig­i­nal story. Dah­ufa, a short, tri­an­gle- shaped mar­tial arts mas­ter in red, of­ten talks to him­self in a hu­mor­ous man­ner, and some­times even philo­soph­i­cally.

“This movie was ini­tially not planned to be shown in cin­e­mas,” pro­ducer Shang You told Bei­jing Re­view. They strug­gled to get in­vest­ment and ran two rounds of group fund­ing events to col­lect just enough money to fin­ish it. They even planned to re­lease it only on­line but failed.

But Yi Qiao, CEO of Color Room Pic­tures, told me­dia web­site that af­ter watch­ing the trailer, he was deeply im­pressed by the movie and de­cided to help get it into cin­e­mas.

Li Dashuan, who used to work as an an­i­ma­tor and made a doc­u­men­tary on this movie while it was still in pro­duc­tion in 2015, told Bei­jing Re­view that “it is a big sur­prise that it fi­nally was re­leased in cin­e­mas.”

Do what I want

The di­rec­tor of the movie, Yang Zhi­gang, be­lieved he was lucky to be able to in­dulge him­self in the cre­ation of the movie with­out car­ing about money at all, as Shang had promised to take care of that.

Yang started work on an­i­ma­tion in the 1990s out of in­ter­est. Af­ter draw­ing an­i­ma­tions for 10 years, he made his first an­i­mated video, Black Bird, with soft­ware in 2004. The work gar­nered a group of fans, but Yang stopped af­ter seven episodes. “I want the pic­tures to be made more el­e­gantly, which re­quires more ad­vanced tech­niques,” said Yang in a lec­ture on, a speech and on­line video plat­form in China. Liv­ing in Lin’an, a moun­tain­ous area in eastern Zhe­jiang Prov­ince, Yang said he couldn’t even get the movie prop­erly dubbed, as no­body he knew could speak good man­darin.

“You could hardly see a fu­ture for this in­dus­try [at the time],” said Yang. “I could only af­ford to pur­sue it as a hobby, not a ca­reer.” He nonethe­less fol­lowed his pas­sion and quit his job in the telecom­mu­ni­ca­tion sec­tor in 2008. He then moved to Hangzhou, cap­i­tal city of Zhe­jiang, which is known for host­ing tal­ented an­i­ma­tors.

He then went on to spend six years work­ing in the in­dus­try, learn­ing how to make more pro­fes­sional an­i­ma­tions along the way. He grad­u­ally gained some fame, but was still un­happy. “Work­ing for clients is not what I wanted,” Yang said.

Just as Yang quit his job in 2014, he met pro­ducer Shang, who en­cour­aged him to try any­thing he wanted.

“I want there to be more vi­o­lence in my an­i­ma­tion,” Yang said.

“Then go ahead and add more vi­o­lence,” Shang replied.

That is how they both started work­ing on Dah­ufa, with a team of only four peo­ple.

“It is hard to find a per­son like Yang who has such a pas­sion for an­i­ma­tion,” said Shang. “He is in his 40s now and his rich ex­pe­ri­ence and long-time de­vo­tion to this field is some­thing younger an­i­ma­tors lack. I am con­fi­dent in Yang’s work. It might not be­come a block­buster, but its strong and unique fea­tures will find a niche.”

The movie ended up tak­ing 87 million yuan ($13.2 million) at the box of­fice. “It is a good enough re­sult for us, as we didn’t pro­mote the movie that much,” Shang said. “We re­cov­ered our costs and made some profit.”

Mon­key King com­plex

Just af­ter Dah­ufa fin­ished its first round of group fund­ing in June 2015, another an­i­mated mov-

A poster for the movie

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