Chinese moviegoers are developing quite an appetite for homegrown animation. As the all-conquering Ne Zha continues to rake it in, another animated feature has debuted at #1 at the country’s box office. The Legend of Hei took the top spot over the weekend, despite opening on a Saturday and having only a two-day weekend. The film grossed $12.3 million over its two days, according to Entgroup.
The film didn’t come out of nowhere. It’s based on The Legend of Luoxiaohei, a Flash web series about a young girl and her supernatural cat that has amassed a large fanbase in China. The series’s creator Zhang Ping, who goes by the name MTJJ, directed the feature. Animation was produced by Beijing Han Mu Chun Hua Animation and MTJJ Animation.
Having launched the series in 2011, MTJJ initially worked on his own, distributing the episodes for free online. As its popularity grew, he started earning revenue from merchandising, enabling him to build a small team. Even so, production remained slow: in eight years, they released fewer than 30 episodes.