De­spi­ca­bleMe3 opens in the­aters across the Chi­nese main­land on Fri­day

China Daily (Hong Kong) - - FRONT PAGE - By XU FAN xu­fan@chi­nadaily.com.cn Con­tact the writer at chen­nan@chi­nadaily.com.cn

Singer and TV host Zhang Wei, dressed in a pur­ple jump­suit, tack­les the evil Gru and a Minion — played by two per­form­ers — in a down­town Bei­jing the­ater.

In his col­or­ful garb, Zhang, who does the voice-over in the Man­darin version of De­spi­ca­ble Me 3, is re­liv­ing a scene from the fran­chise’s new­est film.

Zhang plays Balt­hazar Bratt, who was once a pop­u­lar child star but grows up to be a su­per vil­lain.

Bratt’s cos­tume in the movie is what Zhang wore at the Bei­jing event on June 30, as Hol­ly­wood uses Chi­nese star power again to boost a movie’s pop­u­lar­ity in the coun­try.

One of the world’s most com­mer­cially suc­cess­ful an­i­mated movie fran­chises, De­spi­ca­ble Me is charm­ing with its Min­ions, a group of cute yel­low crea­tures wear­ing blue over­alls and gog­gles.

De­spi­ca­ble Me 3, the fourth movie of the fran­chise, which in­cludes a spin-off movie Min­ions, topped North Amer­ica’s box-of­fice charts over the week­end with $75 mil­lion in three days.

It will open across the Chi­nese main­land on Fri­day.

In the movie, Gru re­unites with his twin Dru and they team up to fight Bratt, who steals a gi­ant di­a­mond to ter­ror­ize Hol­ly­wood.

“Bratt is not a typ­i­cal vil­lain,” says Zhang, speak­ing about his role at the event.

Zhang shot to promi­nence, thanks to a teenage rock band called The Flow­ers in the late 1990s, and was known for i mi­tat­ing pop idols on Hu­nan Satel­lite TV’s hit va­ri­ety show Your Face Sounds Fa­mil­iar.

Zhang says the voice-over job was challenging and adds: “A vet­eran coached me. He de­manded I speak the words in a way that matched the move­ments of the crea­ture’s mouth.”

“I speak a bit fast and un­clearly (in daily life). So I was con­cerned about not qual­i­fy­ing for the job.”

But that was clearly not a prob­lem, as Zhang is fol­lowed by 7.4 mil­lion fans on Sina Weibo — the Chi­nese equiv­a­lent of Twit­ter.

A trailer fea­tur­ing his voice has drawn more than 10 mil­lion views on sev­eral main­stream Chi­nese stream­ing sites, such as qq.com.

Us­ing lo­cal stars to do voiceovers for an­i­mated movies is an old mar­ket­ing strat­egy for Hol­ly­wood.

Jiang Yong, a Bei­jing-based in­dus­try an­a­lyst, says the first such at­tempt was with Dis­ney’s 1998 epic Mu­lan, and fea­tured ac­tress Xu Qing in the lead role, Jackie Chan as Cap­i­tal Li Shang and co­me­dian Chen Peisi as the dragon Mushu.

When Mu­lan was re­leased in the Chi­nese main­land in 1999, Chen’s unique voice cre­ated a sen­sa­tion.

In the early years, the an­i­mated movies used vet­eran ac­tors to do the voice-overs, says Jiang, but he says that the pic­ture has changed since the mid-2000s, as China’s en­ter­tain­ment in­dus­try be­gan to take off.

Jiang says that now pop idols or non-ac­tor celebri­ties are do­ing voice-overs for Hol­ly­wood an­i­mated movies.

For in­stance, Sony Pic­tures’ 2006 com­edy Open Sea­son had di­rec­tor Feng Xiao­gang pro­vide his voice for the griz­zly bear Boog, and singer Li Yuchun was Tip in DreamWorks’ 2015 sci-fi an­i­mated movie Home.

“The celebri­ties may not be as qual­i­fied as pro­fes­sional ac­tors, but their voices are very ap­peal­ing to lo­cals,” says Jiang.

PHOTOS PRO­VIDED TO CHINA DAILY

Singer Zhang Wei, who did the voice-over in the Man­darin version of De­spi­ca­bleMe3, pro­motes the movie at a Bei­jing event.

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