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UPDATED: October 27, 2009
Milu Deer Leads Chinese Animation Industry
The 3-D animated movie Milu King thrilled audiences during the National Day holidays

A scene of the Milu King (VINVO ANIMATION STUDIOS)

Is China capable of making a 3-D animation film? The answer is now "yes."

Following the great success of the home-grown 2-D animated film Xiyangyang and Huitailang in domestic cinemas, the 3-D animated movie entitled Milu King thrilled audiences during the National Day holidays with its dedicate scenes and advanced production technology.

The film was China's first attempt at 3-D animation, which requires advanced and highly technical animation techniques. The film was not produced by any of the state-owned enterprises that dominate China's animation industry, but rather a private company that raised 35 million yuan ($5.1 million) to independently make and produce the 3-D film.

Milu King beat its rivals, including Xiyangyang and Huitailang, at this year's Huabiao Awards for domestic animated films.

"It's a fresh try for us," said Eisen Yang, the CEO of the CITV New Media Group, which produced Milu King. "We believe that the 3-D film will be profitable in China because currently China's high-end animation market is almost empty except for a few films produced by western companies. In other words, the market is calling for domestic producers.

"The success of Xiyangyang and Huitailang and the boom in the animation-related toy market are signs of development in China's animation market, so we are quite confident in the future of the animation industry."

Six months before Milu King was shown on China's big screens, the film had won acclaim at the Cannes Film Festival and sold out its screening rights in foreign markets thanks to the popularity of its universal theme on the relationship between humans and nature, which is expressed a way that is understandable for both Asian and western audiences.

Milu deer is a deity animal in Chinese folk legends. The saintly animal has not been the subject of a film since it appeared in an animated short film in the 1980s.

Other animated films, including Kung Fu Panda and Mulan, have shown that traditional Chinese culture appeals to audiences worldwide.

"But no one knows better about this culture than the Chinese people themselves," Yang said. "Therefore, I believe that Chinese companies can take advantage of this subject when making future films. But the challenge is how to make these ancient stories attractive to modern people."

Unlike other film producers, CITV New Media Group solicits ideas for movies from freelance groups and studios instead of professional institutes. The company even asked an eight-year-old to help polish the script for Milu King.

"Animation culture is everywhere among Chinese youngsters," Yang said. "A generation had animation accompany them as they grew up, and they won't treat animation as a cheap and childish thing. Some of them are quite enthusiastic in creating their own stories and characters. I think this is the real power of Chinese animation."

Although Milu King has breathed fresh air into China's animation industry, the film has not reached the level that the company expected it would.

"Milu King is actually a test work for us," Yang said. "We want to prove through the film that we are capable of making a high quality, 3-D animated film. Also, the film tested our technologies and management system for making this kind of complicated film. The production of Milu King only lasted a year and a half - too short for such a work."

Milu King II is expected to hit cinemas in China within the next few years.

Yang said CITV New Media Group, as a new powerhouse in China's animation industry, must focus on long-term prospect. He believes private movie production companies like his are not only more sensitive to the market, but also more flexible with their strategies compared with well-established, state-owned film production companies.

(CRIENGLISH.com October 26, 2009)

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