China’s very own

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ac­tors, in­clud­ing ac­tion su­per­star Jackie Chan who also stars in the English edi­tion.

“We are cre­at­ing movies with a Chi­nese fla­vor for world­wide dis­tri­bu­tion” said Xavier Ber­nasconi, a dig­i­tal su­per­vi­sor at ODW. “The ob­jec­tive here is to tell Chi­nese sto­ries to a world­wide au­di­ence.”

The first two in­stall­ments of the Kung Fu Panda fran­chise, which boasted a lav­ish pro­duc­tion bud­get of $280 mil­lion, was wildly suc­cess­ful at the box of­fices world­wide, gross­ing a to­tal of $1.3 bil­lion, and ODW is hop­ing the third will do “as well as the first two episodes,” said Yang Bon­ing, a se­nior com­mu­ni­ca­tions con­sul­tant with ODW.

De­spite the sim­i­lar names, ODW is not a sub­sidiary of the United States-based DreamWorks An­i­ma­tion, but an in­de­pen­dent en­ter­prise born from a joint ven­ture be­tween the Amer­i­can com­pany and sev­eral Chi­nese part­ners, in­clud­ing China Media Cap­i­tal, Shang­hai Media Group and Shang­hai Al­liance In­vest­ment Lim­ited.

Work­ing on the film are more than 200 staff mem­bers in Shang­hai, and another 300 from DreamWorks An­i­ma­tion in the US. “We have col­lab­o­rated seam­lessly on this pro­ject,” said Frank Zhu, vice pres­i­dent of ODW.

ODW also owns the copy­right in the Chi­nese mar­ket for many of its Amer­i­can coun­ter­part’s an­i­ma­tions such as How to Train Your Dragon. DreamWorks An­i­ma­tion — which pro­duced the first two films in the Kung Fu Panda fran­chise — owns a 45 per­cent stake in ODW while the Chi­nese in­vestors own the ma­jor­ity.

“We and DreamWorks An­i­ma­tion jointly own the in­tel­lec­tual prop­erty of the Kung Fu Panda se­ries,” con­firmed Yang, who was speak­ing at the China In­ter­na­tional Car­toon & Game Expo on July 9.

In the North Amer­i­can mar­ket, the box of­fice in­come of a suc­cess­ful an­i­mated film takes up no more than half of the to­tal prof­its, and the rest comes from de­riv­a­tive mer­chan­dise. In the Chi­nese mar­ket, how­ever, the box of­fices have al­ways been the main profit source, with de­riv­a­tive prod­ucts ac­count­ing for just 20 per­cent of the film’s to­tal profit.

“Kung Fu Panda is an an­i­ma­tion that has re­ceived in­ter­na­tional recog­ni­tion for its Chi­nese char­ac­ter­is­tics. You can hardly find a sec­ond of its kind,” said Zhu, who added that this huge dif­fer­ence be­tween the two mar­kets has high­lighted ODW’s po­ten­tial in the de­riv­a­tive prod­ucts seg­ment.

To tap onto the pop­u­lar­ity of the fran­chise, ODW’s cre­ative team will be work­ing with food, toy and sta­tionery man­u­fac­tur­ers to cre­ate Kung Fu Panda mer­chan­dise specif­i­cally for the Chi­nese re­tail mar­ket. These prod­ucts are ex­pected to hit stores in con­junc­tion with re­lease, Zhu added.

ODW is cur­rently also work­ing on a se­ries of fea­ture films at its new home on the west bank of the Huangpu River, but the stu­dio is tight-lipped about its projects. Yang, how­ever, did re­veal that the stu­dio will be en­gag­ing more Chi­nese artists in its cre­ative and pro­duc­tion pro­cesses, and that ODW’s port­fo­lio will not just fea­ture an­i­ma­tions, but also fic­tional films, in­ter­net con­tent and tele­vi­sion shows.

China had in the past decade started a se­ries of ini­tia­tives to sup­port the an­i­ma­tion in­dus­try and has as a re­sult nur­tured hun­dreds of grass­roots stu­dios. Many of the Chi­nese artists work­ing at ODW are from these stu­dios. ODW em­ployee Chen Xiang, who has been an an­i­ma­tor since 2000, said: “Kung Fu Panda 3 is a chance for first­timers like my­self to go through the whole process of mak­ing a big-bud­get fea­ture film that in­volves mas­sive in­vest­ment and hun­dreds of peo­ple.”




The third in­stall­ment of Kung Fu Panda will be re­leased on Jan 29, 2016.

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