Chinese-Australian animation co-ventures unveiled

20 November, 2013 by Don Groves

Two Australian production companies have formed co-ventures with China which will see seven animated feature films produced over the next three years.

In a related move, the major Chinese partner in the co-productions, Shanghai Hippo Animation Design, intends to launch a fund in Australia which will co-finance animated films.


The projects were announced at the Screen Forever conference on Wednesday during a panel session entitled Working with China: Where Are We At?

The Australian producers are the Zac Media Group and Alan Lindsay’s Vue Group. Xu Kerr, Shanghai Hippo Animation Design CEO, said the Chinese partners will fund 80% of the seven projects with the balance from Australia, presumably using the 40% producer offset.

He told IF the film fund will aim to raise $10 million initially, with an eventual target of $50 million, and it would invest in projects from development through production.

Zac Media Group founder/CEO/producer Troy Zafer said his three films covered by the co-venture are The Awesomes, Deep Sea and Jungle Master 2. He said the animation will be shared between Australia and China and he would reveal the creative personnel involved later.

Kerr named three Vue Group titles as The Adventures of Marco Polo, The Rabbit 2, and Farm House 81. According to Chinese media reports the other Vue Group project is Perfect Friends.

Farm House 81, The Rabbit 2 and Jungle Master 2 will be completed in time to release theatrically in 2014, Kerr said.

Kerr said he raised $US25 million from a group of Chinese coalmining millionaires to fund animation projects.

Animation is a much more accessible and adaptable genre for co-ventures with China than live action, the session was told.

Sinophile Greg Coote, executive producer at Larrikin Entertainment and chairman of US-based China Lion Film Distribution, said he has tried in vain to find live action projects that crossover from Chinese to Western audiences.

He listed such as obstacles as the need to have scripts approved by Chinese regulator SARFT, the inability to depict Chinese characters as villains or holding a gun or to access helicopters for aerial shots because the Chinese Army owns all the choppers.

Those negatives “take all the creativity” out of co-producing with China, he said.

Eastern Darclight, the Far East offshoot of Gary Hamilton’s Arclight Films, is confident it will overcome the Chinese co-production hoodoo with Outcast, an action film shot in China starring Nicolas Cage, Hayden Christensen and Yifei Liu.

Arclight senior VP sales and acquisitions Clay Epstein showed a clip of the film, a co-production between China, the UK, France and Canada, which will be released in 2014.

He said the film had been pre-sold to nearly every international territory.

Michael Tear, managing director and co/founder of Canberra-based factual producer Bearcage, has found it hard to find subjects that will work in both China and Australia. So he is now focussed on finding material specifically for China following The Story of Australia, a six-part series commissioned by China Central TV’s Documentary Channel. He has just signed a co-prod deal for two-part docu series The Tale of Two Cities with Beijing Television.