Directed by Liang Xuan and Zhang Chun, Big Fish & Begonia was a labor of love project that took twelve years to complete. The film, which takes its inspiration from Chinese mythology (Zhuangzi, Classic of Mountains and Seas, In Search of the Supernatural), has built up a significant grassroots following in China over the years. In 2013, the filmmakers conducted what was at the time the most successful crowdfunding effort for a single project in China, raising $260,000.
Chinese filmgoers powered Big Fish & Begonia, an indie hand-drawn/CG-hybrid animated feature, to an unbelievable US$34.2 million opening weekend.
中国影迷将《大鱼海棠》（Big Fish & Begonia）这部手绘加CG动画、独立制作的动漫电影的票房在上映首周便推向了3420万美元这一惊人的高度。
Their success inspired Enlight Media, a major private film company in China, to step in and provide funding to complete the film. Korean animation shop Studio Mir (Voltron: Legendary Defender, The Legend of Korra) also joined the production in 2014 to help finish animation. It is the first release of Enlight’s new animation arm Coloroom Pictures, which recently announced an ambitious plan to release 22 animated features.
Big Fish, which was produced by China’s B&T Studio, was budgeted at 30 million yuan (approx. US$4.5 million). To give some perspective on its $34m opening weekend, Pixar’s Finding Dory has grossed only $37.8m after four weeks of release in China. The opening also tops the $23.6m launch of Zootopia, which has gone on to become the highest-grossing animation release in Chinese history (it should be noted that Zootopia grossed $59.4m in its second weekend in China).
No American distribution plans have been announced for Big Fish & Begonia at this time. Here is the film’s official music video released a few months ago:
On the other end of the spectrum, Rock Dog also opened this weekend in China with US$3.9m. The high-profile Chinese-American co-production, directed by Ash Brannon (Toy Story 2, Surf’s Up) and produced by Reel FX (Free Birds, The Book of Life), is positioning itself as one of the first Chinese animated features designed to compete in the international marketplace.
而另一部电影，《摇滚藏獒》，也于同一时间在国内上映，票房为390万美元。这部备受瞩目的中美合拍电影，由艾什·布兰农（Ash Brannon）担任导演（其代表作有《玩具总动员》和《冲浪季节》），由Reel FX动画工作室制作完成。《摇滚藏獒》将自己定位为了第一部能够在国际电影市场上参与竞争的中国动漫电影。
As we reported a few days ago, an alleged business rivalry between Rock Dog’s production company and a competitior may have negatively impacted the film’s performance in Chinese theaters. While it’s difficult to quantify what effect that had on the film, we do know that Rock Dog had less than one-quarter the showtimes of Big Fish.
The opposite launches of Big Fish & Begonia and Rock Dog are both fascinating and difficult to understand. Big Fish wasn’t a critical darling, and many Chinese reviewers called its story unfocused and its cast of 100+ characters confusing. Working in its favor, the film aimed for Miyazaki-style fantasy, a rarity in China’s domestic animation market, and the filmmakers had years of built-in awareness for the project.
Rock Dog, on the other hand, could end up being a costly misstep for China’s burgeoning animation industry. The film cost $60 million to produce, making it the most expensive Chinese animated feature on record. Planned as a mix of Chinese story values and American graphic slickness that would play equally well in China and abroad, the film shows that there’s no easy formula for creating successful animated films. Rock Dog does have a star English-language voice cast, including J.K. Simmons, Luke Wilson, Eddie Izzard, and Lewis Black, and the film will attempt to win over U.S. audiences later this year.
另一方面，我们可以把成本高昂但票房惨淡的《摇滚藏獒》当做中国动漫电影产业发展中遇到的一个教训。《摇滚藏獒》的制作成本高达6000万美元，堪称中国动漫电影制作成本之最。制片方原本希望，这部既包含着中国传统价值观又融合了美国完美图像设计的电影，可以在国内和国际上双双收获良好口碑，但这部电影面对的惨淡票房向人们昭示了想要制作出成功的动漫电影，并没有捷径可走。不过，《摇滚藏獒》拥有着全明星英语配音阵容，包括J·K·西蒙斯（J.K. Simmons）、卢克·威尔逊（Luke Wilson）、艾迪·伊扎德（Eddie Izzard）、以及刘易斯·布莱克（Lewis Black）。而且用不了多久，《摇滚藏獒》就要去征服美国观众了。