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Feature FilmInternet Television

Weinstein Co. Releases ‘The Guardian Brothers’ On Netflix

Without any advance publicity or notice, The Weinstein Company quietly slipped the Chinese animated feature The Guardian Brothers onto Netflix last Friday.

It was originally released on January 1, 2016, in China as Little Door Gods, marking the debut production of Beijing’s Light Chaser Animation. The ambitious production aimed to lift the quality of Chinese cg animation and push it closer to Western standards. Light Chaser owner Gary Wang, the Chinese web entrepreneur who made his fortune by creating the video sharing site Tudou, wrote and directed the film.

Weinstein’s English version added a cast that includes Nicole Kidman, Meryl Streep, Edward Norton, Mel Brooks, Dan Fogler, Mike Birbiglia, Bella Thorne, and Randall Park. The English dub is also heavily edited, running 86 minutes compared to over 100 minutes for the original (conflicting online sources put the original running time at either 103 or 107 minutes). Having seen a subbed-version of the original, I can confirm that it had a lot of pacing issues and needed editing, though it’s hard to say whether the Weinstein version fixes the issues with the original.

Rooted in the traditions of Chinese folklore, Guardian Brothers follows two guardian spirits – Yu Lei (Norton) and Shen Tu (Fogler) – who venture out of spirit-world retirement to help a mother and daughter whose restaurant is being sabotaged by a competitor.

The Weinstein Company released Guardian Brothers through its new kids’ label Mizchief. It also has another animated film, Leap!, currently in U.S. theaters through the label.

The Guardian Brothers was animated by a predominantly Chinese crew, but a few of the lead artists had U.S. experience, including Colin Brady (Pixar, Pixomondo) and Han Lei (DreamWorks). Light Chaser is currently working on its second feature, Tea Pets.

Netflix has made the film available in a total of 20 countries, including Australia, Canada, Mexico, U.K., New Zealand, India, Philippines, and Russia.

The poster for the original Chinese version "Little Door Gods."
The poster for the original Chinese version “Little Door Gods.”
  • Cameron Ward

    I would love to know why they just slipped it under the radar….was it because Leap flopped?

  • animation is “pretty” but is the story good ( not another journey to the west )

    • JMTHEFOX

      Story is quite different from Journey to the West, its about two brothers in a fantasy world who are door gods but never guarded almost anything but one door.

    • mashed potato

      I don’t know what the western edit looks like but to fully grasp the premise, you need a cursory knowledge chinese mythology and tradition. Not a whole lot is explained beyond core story trivia.

      Otherwise, the overall story is about 2 deities, who have to modernize or be made redundant, and 1 of the brother setting off to make their jobs relevant again by sparking the troubles they protect against.

      The 2016 original has a dance party ending, if that sorta thing irks you.

  • Elijah Samuel Abrams

    Ugh! This dub of “Little Door Gods” is TERRIBLE! They changed the music, the English voice acting doesn’t sync with the characters’ lip movements, and they added fart jokes in the movie, some that are unnecessary! It’s Doogal all over again!

    • Mesterius

      Only some of the fart jokes are unnecessary?

      • Elijah Samuel Abrams

        I gotta see the original version first, but most likely some fart jokes were unnecessary.

        • Cameron Ward

          the original has some, but the overall film is ultimately very harmless if overly long…holy cow is it long and a bore to sit through

  • RCooke

    I actually watched this from beginning to end last night. The production is fine enough, with imaginative bits here and there. But the story is a complete mess. it’s also characterless, and dull. It made itself up as it goes along, with no limitations to anything the characters can or can’t do. I can’t imagine the original version was much better–it feels that random. But the annoying English dub is has no spirit, and the actors are either screaming or sleepwalking through their roles.

    The biggest problem with this film is that it never makes me care about a character or what’s going on. Sadly a consistent theme with most Chinese produced films that are released here.

    The good thing is that it was actually released. I bet some cartoons this bad don’t get that far.

  • Jackie

    I’m just wondering why they choose those voice actors.

  • Bobby Jo

    In the english version I can’t find the soundtracks or songs that were played through out the movie. Does anyone know where I can listen to them?

  • Cameron Ward

    I have seen both. the original version is pretty mediocre, but harmless. it has a good idea about needing to adapt and change to the times, but it doesn’t really explore that like Pixar or even DreamWorks would explore it.

    the Weinstein version is just terrible. it chops out actual parts of the story, reworks the dialogue to be even worse, adds fart jokes, pop songs, and big name actors for no real reason. They cut out a dance sequence that is literally mentioned again at a later part of the film, but they cut it out and left the scene where they mention the dance in. It’s just a chore to sit through.

    I have no trust that The Weinsteins truly and actually care about animation and this really shows it. Why put it on Netflix with no one knowing? They just wasted money and time editing the DOA film and the celebrities attached to it look bad since they have easily their worst performances in this film.