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'Lion King' director talks Chinese animation

By Li Wenrui | chinadaily.com.cn | Updated: 2019-04-16 10:53

"I'd like to see more films made in China reaching out to the world," said American director Rob Minkoff, jury president at the main competition of the 2019 Beijing International Film Festival.

Best known for the celebrated Disney classic The Lion King, Minkoff has also directed a number of animated films including Stuart Little, The Haunted Mansion and Mr. Peabody & Sherman.

In a press conference held last Thursday, Minkoff said Beijing is the heart of the Chinese film industry. The BIFF attracts film productions from around the world, boosting development of filmmaking. With a global jury panel, the festival has become an international affair.

The Lion King, an American animated musical film, was directed by Roger Allers and Rob Minkoff. [Photo/Mtime]

In light of the remarkable progress made by online subscription services like Netflix and Amazon, Minkoff thinks these platforms offer a promising alternative to big-budget Hollywood blockbusters.

Having closely worked with Netflix on an original animated series based on Anna Dewdney's picture book franchise Llama Llama, he thinks its business model guarantees more liberty for the creator, thereby leading to more eclectic content.

"For example, Netflix is investing in really diverse content. They don't have to make one thing that appeals to everybody. Their productions can be quite unique and artist-driven," Minkoff said.

Monkey King: Hero Is Back, a 2015 Chinese animated film based on the novel Journey to the West, grossed 905.6 million yuan (about $134.9 million) in China's box office. [Photo/Mtime]

He also underlined the significance of a strong audience base in the future. "It's about developing the audience for Chinese animated films – to create projects that are more popular with broader appeal," he said. "The most important thing is to tell a good story with interesting characters, in a way that is fresh and new, different and exciting for the audience."

Minkoff said the Chinese animation industry has grown vigorously over the past decade. "I've seen improvements made in the quality of the animation, the production and the filmmaking."

With the coming of the 5G era and virtual reality, he thinks it opens up new space for creativity and accessibility. "The changes in technology are going to continue to improve and make it possible to make really interesting, different kinds of films, and put the tools of filmmaking and animation into more people's hands, which I think would be very good," the director said.

Besides the animated adaptation of Wolf Totem, Minkoff revealed to China Daily he is working on a "secret" project inspired by Chinese culture. "The movie is based on a Chinese story and Chinese characters. But the idea is to do it as a musical, very much in the vein of Beauty and the Beast and The Little Mermaid."

Contact the writer at liwenrui@chinadaily.com.cn

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