An­i­mated film on ‘tea pets’ set to hit main­land screens

China Daily (Hong Kong) - - LIFE - By XU FAN

Dur­ing a visit to Paris a few years ago, Gary Wang saw some “tea pets” — porce­lain fig­ures usu­ally placed on tea trays — dis­played in an an­tique shop there. It re­minded Wang of his early years in Fuzhou, East China’s Fu­jian province, where one of lo­cal pas­times was to drink tea and “raise” such pets.

The fig­urines, a part of China’s tea cul­ture — usu­ally in the form of an­i­mals or an­cient Chi­nese — need to have tea poured over them. And the longer this process con­tin­ues, the more valu­able they be­come.

“I could not stop think­ing about what would hap­pen if those lit­tle stat­ues came alive,” he says dur­ing an event in Bei­jing .

Wang has turned his thoughts into a 3-D an­i­mated movie, Tea Pets, his sec­ond di­rec­to­rial fea­ture pro­duced by the Bei­jing-based stu­dio Light Chaser An­i­ma­tion.

The movie will open in Chi­nese main­land the­aters on Fri­day.

The film, which was screened at the 2017 An­necy In­ter­na­tional An­i­mated Film Fes­ti­val in France ear­lier this year, is now seek­ing in­ter­na­tional dis­trib­u­tors for an over­seas ver­sion. But pro­ducer Yu Zhou did not re­veal the de­tails.

Mean­while, the stu­dio’s first an­i­mated fea­ture, Lit­tle Door Gods, also rooted in Chi­nese cul­ture and myths, has an English ver­sion done by Hol­ly­wood stars such as Meryl Streep and Ni­cole Kid­man.

As for Tea Pets, the film set in a pic­turesque city in China is about a group of tiny stat­ues in a tea shop that come to life when left alone.

There, A Tang, the pro­tag­o­nist fig­ure, teams up with a ro­bot to em­bark on an ad­ven­ture with the hope of chang­ing their destiny.

More than 160 an­i­ma­tors worked for around five years on the Tea Pets project.

Some of them even vis­ited De­hua county in Fu­jian province and Yix­ing city in Jiangsu province — two places known for pot­tery — to learn about “tea pets”.

Speak­ing about the chal­lenges they faced, Yu says: “The most dif­fi­cult part was to make the ‘pets’ look like ce­ram­ics and then bring them to life. We worked for nine months to de­velop a new soft­ware to cre- ate this spe­cial ef­fect.”

De­spite the buzz cre­ated by Tea Pets, most do­mes­tic an­i­mated ti­tles have been over­shad­owed by Hol­ly­wood or Ja­panese hits since the late 1990s.

Speak­ing about this phe­nom­e­non, Yu says that most do­mes­tic ti­tles are aimed at young au­di­ences.

He be­lieves Tea Pets is a good way to draw adults to watch such films.

Wang says Chi­nese an­i­mated works were once loved by lo­cals, spe­cially in the 1960s and 1970s.

“They were typ­i­cal Chi­nese tales,” says Wang, ad­ding that Chi­nese an­i­ma­tors should fo­cus more on pro­duc­ing qual­ity works with Chi­nese roots.

He says that Tea Pets cost 85 mil­lion yuan ($6.76 mil­lion), merely one-tenth of what a Dis­ney ti­tle with sim­i­lar com­puter-gen­er­ated im­agery would need.

Also, to bet­ter pol­ish the sto­ry­telling, Tea Pets held test screen­ings and ad­justed the con­tent based on au­di­ence feed­back.

Wang, who is the founder of China’s first video-shar­ing site Tu­dou, says an­i­ma­tion gives him more free­dom to build a dream world.

His next fea­ture-length movie is called Mao Yu Tao­huayuan (Cats and Par­adise).

It’s about a cat and his son liv­ing in a city.

PHO­TOS PRO­VIDED TO CHINA DAILY

Gary Wang’s (right) sec­ond di­rec­to­rial fea­ture, Tea Pets,

is a 3-D an­i­mated movie about a group of tiny stat­ues that come to life.

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