As 'Kung Fu Panda 2' dominates, China looks to animation of its own

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The Independent Culture

The Hollywood-produced animated film Kung Fu Panda 2 has been grabbing all the headlines in China this week, dominating the box office while stirring up a little bit on controversy at the same time.

And almost lost in all the hype has been an announcement - most likely a direct result of the figures that Panda 2 and its ilk have been recording - that China itself is about to get serious about its own cartoons.

Paramount-DreamWorks Animation's latest animated blockbuster scooped more than 120 million yuan (12.8 million euros) over its opening, two-day weekend in China - a mark the studio claims is a record for an international release there.

Paramount says that figure beat off Disney's Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides, which made 123 million yuan (13 million euros) over the three days of the weekend before. The first installment of the Panda series was the first animated film to break the 100 million yuan (10.6 million euros) barrier in China.

Panda 2 has been far more "China friendly" - with the filmmakers touring the country and meeting both with panda conservationists and martial arts leaders while in production - and has been screening on more than 4,000 3D screens across the nation - a figure that accounts for 75 percent of total screens, according to reports in the Chinese media.

But there has still been some trouble with the film, with one noted artist - Zhao Bandi - taking out a series of newspaper ads calling for a boycott of the film as he believes it twists Chinese culture. One university professor also derided the film as a "cultural invasion."

But in simple economic terms, the film's success can not be denied and that's a sure bet as to why China is opening its own - and its first - mega-animation studio in the port city of Tianjin, about an hour away from Beijing.

The opening was announced this week and the facility is said to have cost around 4.5 billion yuan (480 million euros), with more than 180 animation companies already signed on.