China’s very own
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.