It is designed to be the creative hub that catapults local film-makers towards the heights achieved by Hollywood animation giants such as Pixar and DreamWorks. China has opened a .5bn yuan (£420m) facility in Tianjin, near Beijing, aimed at producing films that can compete with the best of the west.
Chinese authorities say more than 180 firms will be present at the new 190-acre facility, which is located about 30 minutes from the capital via high-speed rail.
The move follows the opening of Hollywood’s latest animated blockbuster, the Chinese-themed Kung Fu Panda II, in the US and China at the weekend. The first instalment broke box office records in China three years ago but was criticised in some quarters as western exploitation of Chinese culture. FHowever, many questioned why the DreamWorks film had not been made by a local company.
Chinese animated films have struggled internationally, but a forthcoming project, Legend of a Rabbit, appears to be a bid to redress the balance. Like the DreamWorks film, it features an anthropomorphic hero who learns kung fu, in this instance a lowly bunny who takes on a skilled panda to save a martial arts school. The m 3D project, which has been in development for three years with a team of more than 500 animators, is set for a June release in China.
It appears to be a reaction to a large degree of soul-searching in China following the success of Kung Fu Panda. After the film became the first animated movie to pass the 100m yuan mark at the box office, award-winning director Lu Chuan wrote an article in the state-run China Daily newspaper questioning why Chinese animated films were not able to compete.
“I cannot help wondering when China will be able to produce a movie of this calibre,” he said, adding that he had tried to make an animated film for the 2008 Olympics but was forced to give up as a result of government interference.
“I kept receiving directions and orders on how the movie should be like,” he wrote. “The fun and joy from doing something interesting left us, together with our imagination and creativity.”
At Friday’s opening ceremony for the new Tianjin facility, China’s minister of culture, Cai Wu, said that production of animation films was part of a plan to develop the country’s cultural industries before 2015.
Kung Fu Panda 2 opens in the UK on 10 June.
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