Ne Zha: Rise of Chinese Anime

Authors: Go Chengdu

2019-10-22

This summer's movie season in China has been reinvigorated by one particular "Chengdu-made" blockbuster.
Ne Zha: I am the Destiny, released on July 26, 2019, earned one billion yuan at the global box office within just one hour and 29 minutes, making itself the fastest in China to break this record among animated movies. Additionally, since its public release, its points on Douban, a Chinese movie rating platform, have been over 8.5 out of 10, ranking only second to Prince Ne Zha's Triumph against Dragon King, Legend of Sealed Book, and other classic works in China's animated movie history, yet higher than other emerging ones such as Monkey King: Hero is Back and White Snake.
 Ne Zha,Chengdu-made" blockbuster
Recreating the original characters
The background story of Ne Zha: I am the Destiny originates from Chinese mythology, where Ne Zha is one of the most well-received orthodox deities. In the Journey to the West, he was a foster son and disciple of the Buddha, and as the Three Altars Deity of the Multitudes of the Jade Emperor, he held the military leadership of Heaven. In the Investiture of the Gods, Ne Zha was born in the Shang Dynasty (1600 BC-1046 BC) and later fought in King Wu's conquest over Western Zhou (1046 BC-771 BC). With magic weapons and sophisticated skills, he made remarkable contributions and eventually became a god in this legend.
The two fictions have been dramatized and made into movies and cartoons so successfully that the Monkey King and Ne Zha are known to nearly all Chinese people since their childhood. Ne Zha: I am the Destiny brings nearly all the characters back to the screen, but with re-created interpersonal relationships and character settings.
 Ne Zha,Chengdu-made" blockbuster
Chengdu Coco Cartoon Co., Ltd., which has been developing in Chengdu for over ten years, is the major producer of this animated movie. As an emerging force in China's original animation field, it is striving to create high-quality 3D animated movies. In the team, Jiao Zi, a post-80s anime director, took over ten years to grind the sword. Early in 2009, See Through, his independently-created animation short film after three years of painstaking efforts, won more than 30 awards in 27 professional competitions both at home and abroad.
In 2015, the success of the Monkey King: Hero is Back brought floods of capital into this field, which urged Jiao Zi to re-create Ne Zha and to bring him new life based on the theme and characteristics of our time, that is "breaking down prejudices and fighting to change one's fate". In the past two years, Jiao Zi created 66 versions of the script before the final draft.
Compared with the original story, the biggest change in the Ne Zha: I Am the Destiny is that he becomes a bad child and is fated to be a devil with surprisingly smoky eyes and sharp teeth, which are designed to highlight his rebellious character. The theme was also shifted from his triumph against the Dragon King to the persevering struggle against the destined fate. Moreover, Ao Bing, the prince of the Western Sea, who should have been killed when he was skinned and had his tendon pulled out, became a noble childe keeping himself aloof from people. It is one of the selling points of this new movie.
 Ne Zha,Chengdu-made" blockbuster
Fighting in and with Chengdu
With meticulous designs, cultural elements of Chengdu can be found throughout this movie, and some details even reproduce the life of ancient Chinese people. For example, the styling and design of the two bronze enchantment creatures are inspired by the golden mask from the Chengdu Jinsha Site Museum and bronze statue from the Guanghan Sanxingdui Museum. Jiao Zi hopes that all of these will make Chengdu and Sichuan more impressive to the audiences.
More than those introduced above, Chengdu elements can also be reflected in the credit titles. Over 60 domestic animation companies and more than 1,600 people were involved in the creation, and particularly, many of them are based in Chengdu and worked on the design, production and dubbing of the movie. Jiao Zi said, "Chengdu is balanced between fast-growing economic growth and slow-paced way of life. It also embraces talented people in cartoons and games. We can spare all the efforts in creation with peace of mind. That's why we've been here, and it has proved that our choice is right."
 Ne Zha,Chengdu-made" blockbuster
Drawing the world's attention
According to Jiao Zi, there is no shortcut to create an ideal work that can become a global sensation. To ensure quality, he wore many different hats throughout the production process, from script creation to special effects, and acted as both a creator and a director. What's more, limited by budget, they couldn't afford an action director, so Jiao Zi had to personally guide both designers and action directors. He expressed, "We've done a lot of work, for there are 1,318 shots with special effects in the whole movie, representing 80% of the entire film. Thus we needed to adjust each of them one by one, and sometimes review dozens of shots at the same time. Some of our staff even forgot to eat and sleep while working, and I really hope China's animation industry can get booming soon, then more and more young people will become involved."
After the Monkey King: Hero is Back made a hit, the "rise of Chinese animation" has become a heated topic across the country, and people have been pleasantly surprised by the production of many excellent films. However, considering the overall market volume, Chinese animated movies take a very small part. Jiao Zi said straightforwardly, "Only when we don't mention the 'rise' over and over again, will it rise to a certain position. Then, excellent artwork will be like sunshine, air, water and other common things critical to our lives."
In addition to the above-mentioned movies, The Legend of Qin, The King's Avatar, Fox Spirit Matchmaker, and other well-known IPs of Chinese animation have got wildly popular in foreign markets. The last few years have witnessed the narrowing of the gap in modeling, rendering, special effects, and other skills between Chinese companies and their foreign counterparts like Walt Disney Studios and other top players. We're looking forward to seeing more blockbusters like Ne Zha: I am the Destiny to draw global attention in the future.

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