Screen Talk: Beijing calls the toon

Stuart Kemp
Friday 24 June 2011 00:00

China is eyeing an attempt to challenge the success of Japanese animation. All eyes are on the $7 million Chinese animated debut feature film, Kuiba, from veteran Beijing-based television studio Vasoon Animation to see if it has the chops to attract audiences awash with Japanese anime; think Hayao Miyazaki (Howl's Moving Castle, Princess Mononoke) or Isao Takahata (My Neighbours the Yamadas).

Kuiba's monkey-boy hero Manji will have his work cut out for him as he struggles through a world that is part Japanese anime, part Chinese back-to-the-future. The villain Kuiba, a laser-shooting phenomenon reminiscent of a Transformer, travels through a landscape of ancient architecture peopled by talking animals in traditional costumes. The film-makers sold their house and got minority help from a venture capital fund at Tsinghua University to raise financing. And there is hope it might travel to cinemas outside China after the makers met movie distributors during the Festival de Cannes.

Lasse's novel idea

Swedish film-maker Lasse Hallström is to make another film based on the stories of prolific US author Nicholas Sparks. Hallström has signed on the dotted line to direct Sparks's latest novel, Safe Haven, for the big screen from a screenplay by Dana Stevens. Hallström previously directed Dear John, based on the Sparks novel of the same name. His adaptation of Safe Haven is scheduled to begin production later this year. The novel tells the story of a young woman who escapes her past by moving to North Carolina. She falls for a widowed father, who helps her heal her heart and escape the danger that threatens her.

Back in love with Mel

Mel Gibson may have a tarnished image after outbursts during his bitter custody battle with his former girlfriend, anti-Semitic drunken rants and run-ins with the police. And he hasn't had an agent since WME dropped him last summer. But word is several agencies are courting the actor. A representation deal may not be imminent but Gibson is talking up a proposed film version of Randall Wallace's novel Love and Honor, a swashbuckler set in the court of Catherine the Great, which Wallace, who wrote Gibson's Braveheart, is looking to direct.

Reitman for an A-list rewrite

Montreal-born writer, director and producer Jason Reitman is a man in demand. Enjoying success on Hollywood's mainstream radar, the four-times-Oscar-nominated film-maker is rewriting Burt Wonderstone, a magician comedy written with Steve Carell attached to star. And he's doing that while casting his own latest movie, an adaptation of Joyce Maynard's novel Labor Day with Kate Winslet (above right) and Josh Brolin in talks to star. The Hollywood talk is that

Reitman got the rewrite gig after making films with fresh and unique voices. And that Reitman just fancied turning his hand to an A-list comedy project. It is unclear whether the job will be a polish, a full rewrite, or something in between.

Box-office bonanza

While box office is down in 2011 so far and the studios are trimming costs by making people redundant in their home-entertainment divisions, the clouds have silver linings. A fresh study on the global entertainment and media industry by PricewaterhouseCoopers predicts worldwide spending in the sector will hit an eye-watering $1.9 trillion in 2015. That's up from $1.4 trillion in 2010. Much growth will come from box-office spending rises bolstered by the expansion of 3D theatres around the world. And guess what? Ticket-price rises will be no more obvious than in China, a massively expanding market described by industryites as "3D-obsessed ".

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