Producer turns his dream into a potential blockbuster

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Producer turns his dream into a potential blockbuster


At some point, every boy or girl has held up an action figure and wished it would come to life. Shin Cheol, the head of the movie production company ShinCine Communications, has done just that. He has produced a new version of “Robot Taekwon V,” the animated film that has inspired boys all over Korea since its release in 1976. The film, which will use live actors instead of animated characters, is slated for release in 2011.

The original animated film, directed by Kim Chong-gi and produced by Yu Hyun-mok, tells the story of Kim Hoon, a taekwondo world champion. His father, Dr. Kim, is a famous scientist who makes robots and gives his super-sized robot creation, Taekwon V, to his son. The new film is expected to take this plotline and add some twists of its own.

“Taekwon V is the only robot in the world that can do martial arts,” says Shin. “There are over one hundred million people all over the world who learn taekwondo. By combining martial arts with film, we double the impact on both.”

Although Shin was a little late in getting to know the warrior robot, his passion is no less strong. After he fell in love with the character about 10 years ago, he created the Robot Taekwon V Co. in 2006 with the hope of turning this homegrown hero into an international one.

Shin is no stranger to success. He produced the 2001 blockbuster “My Sassy Girl,” and has had similar success with a number of other Korean films, but he felt the need to make a bigger statement.

“I have had some big hits in Korean theaters but I’ve realized that the market is too small and the popularity doesn’t last long enough,” says Shin. “Especially with the home movie market staggering, it’s hard to make a living, even if you have over 10 million viewers.”

His aim is to make Taekwon V into a cultural icon that translates across borders.

“You need the three p’s to make something into a cultural icon: programs, products and places,” he said. “Take Disney for example. The animated films they produce result in programs, products and action figures all in one, and Disney Land is the place. All of these things are integrated to make bigger gains.”

Shin secured a place for Taekwon V at Incheon Robot Land, where the robot will be the main character representing the theme park beginning in 2012. The park will host various exhibitions related to the character and the film, as well as educational facilities organized around the robot theme.

However, it seems strange that this beloved character is only now starting to become a cultural icon. But Shin says that’s because Koreans used to have a negative view of animated film.

“In the 80s, people used to burn comic books on Children’s Day because they thought the comics were bad for children,” Shin said. “It’s only natural that none of Korea’s beloved animated characters has survived.”

That is part of the reason why Shin decided not to make an animated feature.

“In 2007, we restored the 1976 version of the film and showed it in theaters,” Shin explained. “Although we had over 750,000 viewers, most of them were men in their 30s and 40s who were taking their kids to see it. We needed a broader range of viewers, especially people in their 20s.”

He continued, “We were worried for awhile after ‘Transformers’ premiered, but investors started to line up to support our film after they saw the success of Transformers.”

The film has generated a total of 15 billion won in investments thus far. For more information about Taekwon V, visit www.rtkv.co.kr.

By Lee Ji-young [estyle@joongang.co.kr]
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