Monkey King Breakthrough Chinese Animation & Tencent Original Force Animation

Lion King’ Director Calls ‘Monkey King’ a Breakthrough in Chinese Animation


Rob Minkoff, director of animated film “The Lion King,” has described “Monkey King: Hero Is Back” as a breakthrough in Chinese animation in terms of technique and style.

The Oscar-winning director said, at a conference in Beijing, that, “I have noticed Chinese animation improving steadily in terms of techniques, technology, and the craft of animation over the past few years.”

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Regarding “Monkey King: Hero Is Back,” Minkoff said, “though I have not watched the whole film yet, I have seen several clips of it which look quite innovative.”

Minkoff also talked about the cultural aspect of the film industry.

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“Different cultures and countries in the world have their inherent interests. What makes America unique is that America is a nation made of all the nations in the world, so it’s natural for Americans to tell a story that is appealing to the world,” Minkoff said.

Minkoff added that Chinese culture must explore ways to better interpret their local culture for a global audience.


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“It’s a sign that there is serious money being spent by Chinese investors to make movies with artists and executives who are capable of delivering high-quality productions,” said Ron Diamond, publisher of the online magazine and resource Animation World Network.

Yet no Chinese animation studio has been able to crack the global marketplace. Original Force is hoping to be the first.

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That’s a tall order. Even established players like DreamWorks Animation have struggled in an increasingly crowded market dominated by Disney, Pixar and Universal’s Illumination Entertainment. Other Chinese rivals such as Dalian Wanda Group also want to launch animation studios.

There are plenty of hurdles. Training staff in China can be expensive. And Hollywood executives also must find a way to foster creative freedom — without offending government censors.

“The question is whether they will let Hollywood filmmakers make a Hollywood movie,” Diamond said. “It’s still a country where if you say something wrong, you can be arrested.”

Rabins and Finkelman Cox accept the risks. “We know it’s a challenge but animation has always been a challenge,” Rabins said. “We spent seven years on ‘Shrek.’ It took a long time to get it right.”

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Finkelman Cox doesn’t foresee a problem with censorship, noting that Original Force is not backed by the government and its films will be inherently apolitical. “We don’t need to push that boundary,” she said.

Original Force made its foray into Hollywood as the lead animation studio for DreamWorks Animation’s “Dragons: Riders of Berk,” a television spinoff of the 2010 feature film. It was while working on the Cartoon Network series that Zhao met Rabins, who was a supervising producer on the series.

“We were impressed with the company … and the their skill set and the ambition to do quality work, and Harley’s goal to be the highest-quality animation company in China,” Rabins said. “He loves animation.”

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