WEST­ERN HITS WITH LO­CAL FLA­VOR

With The Se­cret Life of Pets, He Jiong and Chen Peisi join a grow­ing list of Chi­nese celebri­ties on the voice-over band­wagon. Xu Fan re­ports.

China Daily (USA) - - LIFE - Con­tact the writer at xu­fan@chi­nadaily.com.cn

Fol­low­ing The Lit­tle Prince and Kung Fu Panda 3, The Se­cret

Life ofPets is the lat­est for­eign an­i­ma­tion fea­ture to use Chi­nese star power to gain at­ten­tion in the world’s sec­ond­movie mar­ket.

Il­lu­mi­na­tion En­ter­tain­ment, known for the De­spi­ca­ble Me fran­chise, has used He Jiong, a TV an­chor, and Chen Peisi, a vet­eran ac­tor, to do voice-overs for two char­ac­ters in theMan­darin ver­sion of The Se­cret Life of Pets.

The 90-minute movie, which dom­i­nated North Amer­ica’s box-of­fice charts in its de­but week­end in July, opened in Chi­nese main­land the­aters on Tues­day.

For view­ers, who have pets, the film tries to an­swer a key ques­tion: What­dopets­dowhen their own­ers aren’thome?

Set in New York, the fam­i­lyfriendly film is about a ter­rier namedMax, who finds his life turned up­side­down­due to the ar­rival of a sloppy mongrel called Duke.

But­therivals­for­manal­liance as they are hunted by an evil rab­bit called Snow­ball and its un­der­groundarmy of lost pets.

Ad­mit­ting that Chi­nese star power played a role in the de­ci­sion to pick him to do the dub­bing, He, 42, who is fol­lowed by nearly 80 mil­lion peo­ple on the Twit­ter-like Sina Weibo, says: “I know I might not be the best op­tion as Max (the ter­rier). But the pro­duc­ers need celebri­ties or fa­mil­iar faces to pub­li­cize the movie.”

But he finds joy in his work. And, as a pet lover in real life, he feels an emo­tional con­nec­tion with the char­ac­ter.

“Max is not al­ways pas­sion­ate, nice and pos­i­tive. I can sense his tran­si­tion — from be­ing child­ish and a bit de­vi­ous to be­ing brave and re­spon­si­ble,” He said be­fore the film’s pre­view in Bei­jing on July 29.

The TV an­chor, a vet­eran who has done voice-overs for Hol­ly­wood hits Rata­touille (2007) andMon­ster­sUniver­sity (2013), says China has in re­cent years re­laxed its rules with re­gard to voice-overs.

Ear­lier, ev­ery word had to be trans­lated into Chi­nese, but nowyou­can­keep a fewEnglish words if they can be eas­ily un­der­stood by the au­di­ence.

“For ex­am­ple, you can use ‘bye bye’ in­stead of zai jian, or Mike in­stead of Mai Ke,” says He.

Chen, who is the voice of the rab­bit Snow­ball, agrees.

The Man­darin ver­sions are keep­ing up with the times, says Chen, who spoke to re­porters on July 31, adding that Chi­nese stars now have more free­dom when do­ing the Man­darin ver­sions.

Re­call­ing his ex­pe­ri­ence with Dis­ney’s Mu­lan (1998), he says that when he was do­ing the voice-over for the small dragon Mushu, he was told to closely fol­low the trans­la­tion. He says he had to strug­gle to con­vince the Amer­i­can film­mak­ers to let him make a fewre­vi­sions.

“I wanted to add some sounds like ‘dong’. But they re­fused. They said: ‘If Ed­die Mur­phy didn’t do it in the English ver­sion, why should you add it’,” Chen told Mtime.com, a lead­ing Chi­nese movie web­site.

But in The Se­cret Life of Pets, the ac­tor had more free­dom.

Though the Amer­i­can pro­duc­ers ini­tially wanted him to be the voice of Duke, he in­sisted on Snow­ball, a more chal­leng­ing and com­plex char­ac­ter.

China’s bur­geon­ing film mar­ket has seen a grow­ing num­ber of celebri­ties be­ing used as “voices” in an­i­ma­tion films.

Also, in the past three years, five, orone-fourthofthe19o­ver­seas an­i­ma­tion hits that have crossed the box-of­fice thresh­old of 100 mil­lion yuan ($15 mil­lion), have usedChi­nese stars to do voice-overs in the films.

The Sino-French an­i­ma­tion film, The Lit­tle Prince, had up to 11Chi­nese stars do­ing voiceovers and the Sino-US pro­duc­tion Kung Fu Panda 3 had 10 Chi­nese stars in its Man­darin ver­sion.

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PRO­VIDED TO CHINA DAILY

The new an­i­ma­tion movie TheSe­cretLife­ofPets opens in Chi­nese main­land the­aters on Tues­day.

JIANG DONG / CHINA DAILY

TV an­chor He Jiong, who gave the voice-over for a ter­rier, Max, in the Man­darin ver­sion of TheSe­cretLife­ofPets, at a pro­mo­tional event for the film in Bei­jing.

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