Two new animated films opened in China last week: "Kwai Boo: Crazy Space Adventure" (left) and "Mr. Black: Green Star." Two new animated films opened in China last week: "Kwai Boo: Crazy Space Adventure" (left) and "Mr. Black: Green Star."
Feature Film

‘Kwai Boo’ and ‘Mr. Black’ Add Fuel to China’s On-Fire Animated Feature Market

They may not have the clout of the animated hit Monkey King: Hero is Back, but Kwai Boo: Crazy Space Adventure and Mr. Black: Green Star’s modest box-office bows are still opening international animation’s eyes to the might of the Chinese film market, the second-largest (soon to be largest) film market in the world.

Perhaps Kwai Boo and Mr. Black’s ambition doesn’t rate as highly as this summer’s Monkey King or Monster Hunt — respectively crowned the Chinese market’s all-time homegrown animated film and live-action film (though the latter has plenty of CGI character animation in it too). But taken together, alongside the recent box office performance of Seer Movie 5: Rise of Thunder and the promise of the forthcoming Rock Dog and Little Door Gods, Mr. Black and Kwai Boo’s market popularity are (yet) another reminder that China is becoming increasingly self-reliant when it comes to creating and consuming cartoon features.

Directed by Wang Yunfei, Kwai Boo: Crazy Space Adventure, supported by an undisclosed investment from by 20th Century Fox International, has pulled in nearly $6 million since opening last week. The feature came with built-in fandom, weaned on Gui Huazheng’s popular comic strip and Internet series Crazy Kwai Boo from which it is adapted.

For what it’s worth, the comic Crazy Kwai Boo has reportedly sold more than eight million copies in China, while its Chinese video shorts have logged hundreds of millions of views. Gui and Wang co-authored the film adaptation’s script, whose various sci-fi escapades for the franchise’s heroic teenage inventor seem squarely aimed at accessibility. Produced by the animation studio ITS Cartoon, the film was funded by a coalition of 11 investors, including Fox International, Xiron Entertainment, and Jiangsu Broadcasting Corporation.

Based on China’s more violent 1980s cartoon series Black Cat Detective and directed by Sheng-jun Yu, Mr. Black: Green Star is the infamous motorcycle-riding feline Hei Mao Jing Zhang’s first animated feature. While it is reportedly more galactic in nature than its comparatively hard-boiled television show, produced by Shanghai Animation Film Studio, Mr. Black’s fan base has nevertheless still waited 30 years for Hei Mao Jing Zhang’s (mostly) hand-drawn leap to the big screen.

The protagonists of the two animated features could not be more different. Think of Mr. Black as Dirty Harry, and Kwai Boo as Jimmy Neutron, and you’re there — but in China. Like Kwai Boo, Mr. Black pulled in around $4.5 to $6 million (depending on which source you look at), and came in eighth during a weekend overlorded, like most recently, by Monkey King, Monster Hunt, and the superhero parody Pancake Man.

In the final analysis, it is not hard to calculate that Chinese animation, created at home or with international investment, is reclaiming its native box office from overseas studios in accelerated fashion. How long until the rest of the Earth must wait before it can watch and judge these films, and the others China is increasingly creating, is not yet calculated.

The smart money might be on sooner than we think.

(Top, left: “Kwai Boo: Crazy Space Adventure,” right: “Mr. Black: Green Star”)

  • Paul M

    I foresee a change in title before ‘Mr. Black’ makes it to the west.
    I don’t think either of these look quite slick enough to make much of a splash in a theatrical release here, that said, I would like to check out Black Cat Detective. Never was much of a fan of Jimmy Neutron though, and Kwai Boo seems almost identical. Either way, keep the ‘toons coming, China!

    • There’s plenty of episodes of “Black Cat Detective” to check out on YouTube for the meanwhile. At least to give you an idea of this character and the usual action seen in this series, I do wonder though if the film is going to be toned down or not.

  • guest

    The first one really does remind me of a Chinese Jimmy Neutron: Boy Genius. Even some of the character designs and mannerisms bring that film to mind. Of the two of them, out of curiosity, I think I’d be more interested in seeing Mr. Black.