Korean animation waddles into China
BEIJING - The first Korean animated film to play at Chinese theaters opened at 3,000 screens yesterday and is about the adventures of a hen who escapes a chicken farm to realize her dream of hatching her own egg.
“Leafie, A Hen into the Wild” (Madang Eul Naon Amtak) is based on the hit teenage novel of the same name and has a running time of 93 minutes.
The 3-billion-won ($2.5-million) film is currently showing nationwide in China with dubbing in mandarin. It earlier became the first Korean animation to draw 1 million viewers at home, experts said, where it posted box-office receipts in excess of 2.2 million after it was released in July on 350 screens.
Wu Xinxin, a senior official at China’s Dadi Media Group, which has partnered with Korea’s Myung Films to release the children’s feature, said she decided to import the film because it managed to move her even without the need for dubbing or subtitles. Dadi Media Group is one of China’s three major film distributors.
When the film was shown to Chinese media in Beijing on Thursday, Director Oh Seong-yoon said he was thrilled at the way it was being so well-received.
Oh, a graduate of Seoul National University’s fine arts department, entered the animation business by directing his first film in 2005 at the age of 42 - the culmination of a seven-year project.
“There are 8,700 screens in Chinese cinemas and the film will be shown at over one-third of these,” said a clearly elated Oh.
He said he expects box office receipts to easily hit 20 million in China, with Myung Film forecasting revenue of 50 million yuan ($7.8 million).
Oh said he hopes this farm-animal-themed movie breaks new ground as investors traditionally judge projects based on their appeal to viewers in English-speaking countries.
“It’s time to change the standard,” he said. “We’re living in an era where Korean animations can break into the global market if they do well in China.”
He said the next project in the pipeline takes a dog as its protagonist.
Although “Leafie” was not originally meant to target Chinese viewers, it has opened Oh up to the possibility of seeking out Chinese investors for a joint production for his next movie as he wants viewers from both countries to enjoy it.
“In the future, I’ll focus more on the cultural values of the animation rather than giving too much emphasis to the business aspect,” he said.
By Chang Se-jeong [email@example.com]