China Focus: Domestic animated films win hearts of Chinese filmgoers
BEIJING, Aug. 6 (Xinhua) -- "Ne Zha," which has topped the Chinese mainland box office for 11 straight days since its release, has made it onto the top 10 list of the highest-grossing films of all time on the Chinese mainland Monday.
Overtaking Disney's "Zootopia" as the highest-grossing animated film on the mainland, "Ne Zha" boasted an astounding box office of 2.52 billion yuan (about 361 million U.S. dollars) at the end of Monday.
"The film moved me to tears, and it really shows there is new hope for China's animation industry," said a popular comment on China's leading film rating site Douban.
Indeed, "Ne Zha" is not the first successful domestic animation production in recent years, with widely acclaimed films like "Monkey King: Hero is Back" and "White Snake" having achieved commercial success before it. Nevertheless, this film is expected to give another boost to the further development of the industry.
BETTER STORY, HIGHER QUALITY
While domestic animations were often criticized by Chinese audiences as "shoddy" works intended for kids, animation producers have been seeking to create characters and stories enjoyable to wider audiences, which is also one reason behind the success of "Ne Zha."
When it comes to visualizing the renowned figure of Nezha, many would recall the exquisite animated film "Prince Nezha's Triumph Against Dragon King (Nezha Nao Hai)" in 1979, which portrayed a selfless, good-looking young warrior and a paragon of virtue.
However, in the 2019 film, black-eyed Nezha is a stout kid who is mischievous and, to some extent, wily. Rather than being born as a pure and lovable baby boy, Nezha is the human incarnation of an evil being, which caused him to be discriminated against by his fellow villagers.
Such traits were once considered unfit for a hero, but this complexity of character better appeals to mature audiences.
The film's story of Nezha's transition from succumbing to his "fate" of being evil to taking control of his own destiny is well received by not only audiences but also professionals, including Liang Xuan, director of the 2016 domestic animation "Big Fish & Begonia".
"The adaption has totally surpassed our expectations and deserves all the praise it has won," Liang said.
Yang Yu, director of "Ne Zha," said his team worked for two years before they finally finished the script.
"The audience may think Nezha is ugly at first sight, but at the end of the film they will love him for his soul and spirit," Yang said.
"Every young person pursuing their dreams can see themselves in Nezha in the film."
Apart from the story, "Ne Zha" is also praised by audiences for its visual effects. "We drafted over 100 possible versions of Nezha," Yang said.
The film is made up of nearly 2,000 shots, 80 percent of which are special effects shots. "It is a combination of extraordinary imagination and first-class production," a user commented on Douban.
REVIVING TRADITIONAL CULTURE
With its well polished story and sophisticated technology, "Ne Zha" has successfully interpreted a classic myth in a way acceptable to young viewers, which has become a new path for Chinese animations.
"Monkey King: Hero is Back," the former top-grossing domestic animated film released in 2015, is an adaption of the famous literary work "Journey to The West." "White Snake," a recent domestic animated hit, draws its inspiration from the Chinese folktale "Legend of the White Snake," while "Big Fish & Begonia" is inspired by the work of ancient Chinese philosopher Zhuangzi.
Such success stories show that there remains a vast well of untapped material in China's rich traditional culture just waiting to be told or reimagined.
In 2020, Chinese audiences can expect more domestic animated works inspired by classic Chinese culture and mythical stories.
"The stories that we have heard so many times are now no longer just stories but a visual and auditory feast that can be seen, listened to and enjoyed," another Douban user said.