Wish Dragon (trailer) is a computer-animated film from the Sony Pictures Animation International Initiative, a fancy way of saying "international co-production", in this case between Sony and several studios in China. Concept art made the rounds in 2018, and they hoped to finish it in 2019. For whatever reason, it didn't get released until January 15, 2021 - in China - so this review is of the Chinese dub with English subtitles.
A little backstory. When Kung Fu Panda came out in 2008, it had so much artistic attention to cultural detail that China kicked their animation industry into high gear. In the twelve years since then, they've become a powerhouse of animation. Recently, there's been a slow-growing effort to make their films more exportable. Some efforts have fallen flat, like the sadly-overlooked Rock Dog; but with Mosley and Wish Dragon I'm optimistic that there'll be more co-productions to come!
We were looking for something else, and we came across this completely by accident! Hidden Dragon is a new animated feature film that’s due this year, according to the IMDB page. We don’t know much about it, but the production crew names are mostly Chinese while the voice actor names are mostly western, so it’s an international production. “In a magical undersea world where dragons rule and humans are feared, a naive young dragon forms an uneasy alliance with the sea’s greatest enemy – a human girl.” We don’t know if they’ll successfully get it out this year, but it should be coming soon.
Sorry, sorry… too obvious. Thanks to some friends on Facebook, we stumbled across an upcoming fantasy film called Hanson and the Beast — from China, no less. Drama Panda has a preview. The story goes like this: “Yuan Shuai (Feng Shaofeng) is a a man who is drowning in debt. In order to pay up, he goes on blind dates with daughters from wealthy families but ends up falling in love with Bai Xian Chu (Crystal Liu), a fox demon who’s come to the human realm to repay a debt. However, relationships between humans and demons are strictly forbidden. Bai Xian Chu is dragged back to the demon world and Yuan Shuai sets out to rescue her.” So who’s Hanson? We don’t know yet. Written and directed by Xiao Yang, Hanson comes to theaters in China right at the end of December, then everywhere else on January 5th. Check out the trailer on YouTube as well.
Furry Event China (referred to henceforth as FEC) is a number of firsts for me with regards to attending a furry convention:
- The convention itself was held inside of an event space of a public mall rather than the usual convention center
- It was my first furry convention experience not of a Western demographic
- It was the first convention I attended outside of North America.
- Actually, it was my first furry convention at an event that wasn't called VancouFur
Given this, and an assortment of other differences we will be going over, it was definitely an experience that I will never forget.
If you were around in 1961, you may have seen an obscure animated feature titled Alakazam the Great, about three friendly monsters – Son Goku (monkey), Sir Quigley Brokenbottom (Pigsy), and Sandy – escorting Prince Amat from China to India.
This was part of the first wave of Japanese animated films, known as anime, to enter the United States. The other two features in that wave were Panda and the Magic Serpent and Magic Boy. They were box-office failures at the time, and because of this the anime film genre is still fighting to enter the American theatrical market.
Alakazam the Great was also America’s first cinematic introduction to the ancient Chinese story Journey to the West or Monkey King, as it is better know in America. This legend is over a thousand years old in the oral form. It was written into a novel, probably by the scholar Wu Cheng’en in the 16th century. The first Oriental animated feature, the Chinese Princess Iron Fan (1940), is an adaptation of part of Journey to the West. Alakazam the Great, more specifically, is a movie adaptation of Osamu Tezuka’s 1952-59 My Son Goku manga version of Journey to the West.
The new Chinese 100-minute animated feature Big Fish & Begonia now has a music video as well as a trailer for promotion. Directed by Liang Xuan and Zhang Chun, and produced by their B&T Studio, the hand-drawn/CG hybrid feature will be released July 8 throughout China. No word on a U.S. release yet.
The Chinese aren’t finished with releasing animated anthropomorphic features almost on top of us – in China, anyway. Big Fish and Begonia (Da Hai), 100 minutes, directed by Liang Xuan and Zhang Chun, produced at Studio Mir (maker of The Legend of Korra) in Seoul, South Korea in traditional cartoon animation, and distributed by Enlight Media, is scheduled to be released in China on July 8.
The story is from a traditional Taoist legend, taken from Zhuangzi. The gods – or celestial beings, anyway – control time, tides, and the changing of the seasons of the Middle Kingdom (a.k.a. our Earth). When the young Chun is 16 years old, she is turned into a dolphin to experience our world at first hand. She is engulfed by a storm and gets caught in a fishing net, from which she is rescued by a human boy at the cost of his life. Chun is moved by his sacrifice and determines to restore him to life. To do this she must give his soul rebirth as a tiny fish, and protect him as he grows. Over time Chun grows to love the fish, but when he is grown, she must release him to become human once more.
The synopsis does not say where the story is set, but the boy is noticeably blond, implying that the feature is intended for international audiences.
Good news, everyone! Rock Dog is not dead! It even has a release date, again, at least for China; July 8. The movie still doesn't have a North American release date yet (though IMDB has some further international dates); however, the movie is a Chinese/American co-production, and features a cast of Americans with an American director (Ash Brannon), so the plan has always been to release the movie in America, apparently. Eventually. Probably.
If it does get that American release date, it will be the fourth confirmed fully anthropomorphic animal world movie released here in 2016, counting (fellow Chinese/American co-production) Kung Fu Panda 3, Zootopia and Sing (with Spark and Sly Cooper bringing the possible total up to six, if they, like Rock Dog, could be bothered to get a release date out there).
Here is another anthro-animal animated movie that America probably won’t get. The Hollywood Reporter reported on March 14 that:
Malaysia's Animasia Studio has inked a deal with China's Zero One Animation to produce the CGI-animated feature film Chuck Chicken — The Movie.
The $8 million movie is being adapted from the successful television series Chuck Chicken a.k.a. Kungfu Chicken. Production will take place in China, but animators from both countries will work on the project. The film will premiere first in China, as the original TV series was particularly popular there, having gained 300 million views within six months of its launch on the country's VOD platform iQIYI.
The Malay Mail Online says that the movie will be finished in 2018. There are several furry fans in Malaysia including prominent new author MikasiWolf and artist Silverfox5213. Can any of them tell us anything about Animasia Studios?
I originally intended to add this review as a comment to the story that I remembered, but when I looked for the story, I couldn’t find it anyplace! It must have been on one of the animation websites. Monster Hunt, a 2015 Chinese animated feature, does not have any anthropomorphic animals, but it is full of anthropomorphic monsters.
Since this apparently hasn’t been on Flayrah before, here’s the background: Monster Hunt (Zhuo Yao Ji in Mandarin Chinese), is 111 minutes and directed by Raman Hui, the Hong Kong-born co-director of Shrek the Third and several animated shorts or TV series for DreamWorks Animation. It was released throughout China on July 16, 2015, a Thursday. It grossed 172 million yuan ($27,700,000) on its first day of release, and $72,000,000 by Saturday. That’s not only very, very good, it’s a world record. American theatrical distributors who had been ignoring it scrambled to license the American rights, dub it (the Chinese producer had already subtitled it), and get it into American theaters.
The American release in 3D was yesterday. My sister took me in my wheelchair to see the dubbed version at a theater in Burbank, California.
Chinese animation is still getting erratic publicity in America. Despite the recent news about the forthcoming release of the Little Door Gods CGI movie on January 1, 2016, America has just learned of the theatrical release in Beijing on this October 14 of the family (children’s) CGI-animated feature Where’s the Dragon?, with a nationwide (in China) release on October 23.
The only news so far is from Animation World Network; it’s not even on IMDb yet. AWN’s announcement on October 12 says that Where’s the Dragon? is directed by Sing Choong Foo, co-produced by the DeTao Group and Treasure Tree Studios, Inc., plus Hong Kong's Where's the Dragon? Co., Ltd. and Colour Engineering Ltd., and distributed by a Hong Kong company, SMI Movie Distribution Company, Ltd.
Here is another anthropomorphic animated movie trailer! Little Door Gods may not seem anthro at first glance, but look at the frogs in the background. Then take a closer look at the main characters, especially Shen Tu (the fat guy).
These aren’t humans, they’re Chinese door gods (ménschén); the little anti-evil charms that the Chinese have traditionally posted at their front doors. Modern Chinese no longer believe in them and have stopped using them. Light Chaser Animation in Beijing has used this as its plot for this movie: what happens to the door gods in the spirit world when humans no longer believe in them? Brother door gods Yu Lei and Shen Tu are worried about being thrown out of work. The comic-relief Shen Tu is fatalistic about it, but Yu Lei determines to journey into the human world and cause enough commotion to prove to mortals that they still need the door gods.
So, Disney goes out of there way to advertise the very anthropomorphic nature of next animated movie (you couldn't resist the awful fur pun, could you, Disney? It's okay, we know how it is.), and it turns out everyone and their Rock Dog has chosen to come out with similar movies within months of each other. Rock Dog, though a Chinese production with no American release date (it does have an October 1 Chinese release date), is meant to be the movie that breaks Chinese animation into America.
And it's every bit as anthropomorphic an animal world as Zootopia or Kung Fu Panda 3, and, at the very least, it looks much more promising than Legend of a Rabbit.
A recent article in Variety notes that Beast of Burden is now set to shoot as the first China / New Zealand co-production animated feature film. “Written and directed by Kirby Atkins (Nickelodeon’s The Adventures of Jimmy Neutron), the story sees a species of now-extinct creatures called Thoriphants rebel against their life of servitude to mankind and embark on a treacherous journey.” You may recall that we previously discussed the film on this very web site. As a reminder, we’ll give you the link to Mr. Atkins’ original proof-of-concept short film, which helped him to secure the production deal for his first solo feature.
Amid Amidi reports on the Cartoon Brew website that China’s first CGI feature, the 70-minute Boonie Bears: Homeward Journey, is coming to the U.S. on January 6.
Didn’t China already produce a CGI feature, 2011’s Kung Fu Panda ripoff Legend of a Rabbit? Apparently nobody wants to talk about that. (Totalitarian nations are very good at rewriting their history.)
If three days sounds like very short notice, it’s because Boonie Bears: Homeward Journey will not be a theatrical release. It’s coming direct-to-DVD. What’s more, this was not even a theatrical release in China. It was a Chinese TV special last Spring.