3D animated Nezha breaks takings record

Xu Wei
The first Chinese 3D animated film in the IMAX format "Nezha" has set a record for Chinese cinema. 
Xu Wei
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3D animated Nezha breaks takings record

One of a fairy tale setting in the IMAX film "Nezha.”

The first Chinese 3D animated film in the IMAX format “Nezha” has set a record for Chinese cinema. 

In only two weeks, it has taken more than 3 billion yuan at the box office, making it the highest-grossing animated film in the history of Chinese cinema. 

It has also surpassed blockbusters including “The Fate of the Furious” and “Zootopia.” 

And the box office taking for “Nezha” is growing. Professionals anticipate it will soon exceed 4 billion yuan.

Before the success of “Nezha,” the best-performing homegrown animated film was “Monkey King: Hero Is Back,” which took 956 million yuan at the box office in 2015. 

Both films draw inspiration from ancient Chinese mythology, but the original characters have been altered to resonate with today’s audience. 

In “Monkey King: Hero Is Back,” the Monkey King is portrayed as more “ordinary,” living with fears, anxiety and pressure. He finally finds courage and power after a long journey of self-redemption.

The story of Nezha is loosely based on the ancient Chinese novel “The Investiture of the Gods.” 

Nezha has traditionally been depicted in film and TV as an anti-authority figure for his fight against the Dragon King. 

However, director Yang Yu gave his own definition to the characters and their relationships. It took him two years to write and polish the script and three years to produce the movie. 

In the new story, Nezha, the reincarnation of a devil, is portrayed as a rebellious child who overcomes people’s prejudices. After a series of experiences, he comes to a belief that his fate is not predetermined and he can always choose to be a demon or a god.

By contrast, the Dragon King’s third son Ao’bing makes the selfish move to destroy a town for the sake of his family although he is born a god.

“Goodness and evil are redefined in the film,” said Kevin Zhang, a movie buff in his 30s. 

“In a sense, the two are actually integrated. One can choose to be good or bad in a moment of thought. I think it is also a philosophical story for the adults.” 

Another big change in the story is the relationship between Nezha and his parents. 

In the former film and TV productions, Nezha’s father is quite strict with him and never understands him. But in the new film, his parents offer him love, support and understanding unreservedly in spite of people’s prejudices. 

It is the reason Nezha chooses to be a good man.

Yang, 39, said the film is inspired by his own experiences as well as the generous love and trust from his parents.

A native of Sichuan Province, Yang studied pharmacy at college. But he gave up the enviable and stable career and decided to become an animator. With very little income, he worked at home for years with his parents’ support.

Some 11 years ago, he presented a 16-minute short animated film “See Through.” The anti-war film received wide acclaim at home and abroad, winning more than 30 awards. It also impressed Yi Qiao, then a university student and later an official with Enlight Media, producer of “Nezha.” 

“I couldn’t have gone that far in animation work but for my parents’ understanding and trust,” said Yang. “They helped and encouraged me to go through a very hard time in the pursuit of my dream.” 

The film rated 8.6 out of 10 on China’s film and TV review website Douban as of Wednesday. Many Netizens were amazed at the stunning visuals of its 2,000 or so shots and the distinctive Chinese elements in its fantastic setting.

These include the Dragon King’s palace and spectacular landscapes inside a giant magic painting. 

Netizen “Dudu Bear’s Daddy” said that he was moved to tears by the film’s inspiring story line and Nezha’s efforts to break out of his “original sin.” 

He expects the film will inspire more homegrown animation.

Netizen “Offline” said that he was deeply impressed by the movie’s rich imagination and creativity in depicting Nezha as an ugly-looking but cute boy. 

It is a very different story to the Shanghai Animated Film Studio’s 1979 classic “Nezha Conquers the Dragon King” and offers audiences a new perspective on mythology.

The 1960s-80s was a golden period for the development of China’s animation when a number of classic films were made including “Uproar in Heaven” and “Baby Tadpoles Look for Their Mother.” 

In recent years, movie buffs have been excited to see a new wave of Chinese animated films with the popularity of “Big Fish and Begonia” (2016) and “White Snake” (2019). Both films draw inspiration from ancient Chinese legends and have stunning visuals and artistry.

Film experts and critics are not surprised to see the success of “Nezha.” 

According to Professor Gu Xiaoming, a film critic and scholar from Fudan University, China has nurtured enthusiasts for animation over the past decades. 

He also attributes the film’s popularity to its resonance with today’s young audiences since it also explores and tackles one’s destiny and dilemma.

Professor Gu is optimistic about the future development of Chinese animation.

“A creative production and storytelling way for Chinese animated films is taking shape,” he said. 

“Contemporary interpretation and expression of ancient Chinese legends and stories have turned out to be a successful method of creation. 

“However, a more professional mechanism from literature to spin-offs should also be established to develop complete animated franchises.” 

3D animated Nezha breaks takings record

Yang Yu’s Nezha is a rebellious child.

3D animated Nezha breaks takings record

Director Yang Yu

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