Oriental DreamWorks (ODW), a joint venture of DreamWorks Animation SKG, China Media Capital, Shanghai Media Group, and Shanghai Alliance Investment Ltd., has appointed Peilin Chou as head of creative for feature animation.

Peilin Chou.
Peilin Chou.

Chou’s task is to oversee and build upon the foundation of East-West animation collaboration laid down by Shanghai-based ODW and California-based DreamWorks Animation’s Kung Fu Panda 3, which arrives January 2016 in English and Mandarin, hopefully after the smoke from the newest Star Wars film clears. According to ODW’s press release, the franchise’s third feature is the first Sino-U.S. co-produced animation film from the joint venture, and according to Chou, it will most likely not be the last.

“We currently have many projects in development,” Chou told Cartoon Brew via email about ODW’s goal to produce more films following in Kung Fu Panda’s international footsteps. Chou is less clear on whether or not ODW’s present or future projects will be developed by homegrown Chinese talent, unlike Kung Fu Panda 3, which was creatively conceived in America.

“I strongly believe a great idea can come from anywhere,” said Chou. “We have a strong team here in Shanghai, where I have the privilege of working with fantastic storytellers, artists, and animators, and we are also excited to be working with storytellers in the U.S. creative community, and around the world. We are eager to collaborate with anyone who has a passion for telling great stories.”

A UCLA graduate, Chou’s personal history and two decades of previous experience in animation and television has positioned her to capitalize upon China’s millennia-deep storytelling traditions. Prior to ODW, Chou worked as a development executive at Walt Disney Feature Animation, where she contributed to films like Mulan, Hercules, and Toy Story 2. Other experience includes serving as director of TV movies/alternative development at Nickelodeon, and as vice-president of original series at Spike TV, where she helped launch their 2003 animation block that consisted of Stripperella, Gary the Rat, and Ren & Stimpy: Adult Party Cartoon.

“I have had the good fortune of working with literally some of the best companies and talent in the history of animation,” Chou told Cartoon Brew. “I hope my past experiences in the United States, coupled with my Chinese cultural background and knowledge, will allow me to help realize ODW’s vision of providing world-class family entertainment for audiences around the world.”

“Peilin’s prolific background and distinguished achievements bring an invaluable level of expertise to Oriental DreamWorks,” CEO James Fong said in a press release. “I am elated that she will be building our entire feature animation film slate and leading our development team.”

Given the cross-cultural nature of ODW and DWA’s artistic and financial relationship —Kung Fu Panda 3′s unique co-production status reportedly circumvented China’s restrictive import quota, thereby allowing DreamWorks greater access to box-office revenue than other studios — the venture’s future feature animation slate will be intriguing to watch. For example, will ODW be able to complete a production entirely on its own, including character animation, to compete with local talents like director Tian Xiaopeng, whose mythic Monkey King: Hero is Back supplanted Kung Fu Panda 2 this year as China’s highest-grossing animated film of all time?

“While we have an amazing resource in our partners at DWA, we also already have the capability to independently produce projects on our own,” explained Chou. “Of course, we are not yet a proven studio, but the experience and expertise we have gained on Kung Fu Panda 3 is a great representation of the level of world-class storytelling that we aspire to achieve on all future ODW projects.”

Whatever the challenges, Chou admits to being excited to take them on. Especially in China proper, which is quickly giving America a run for its money when it comes to creating and consuming international animation that is as accessible as it is reflective of cultural diversity.

“Telling Chinese stories and working with amazing filmmakers are two of my greatest passions,” Chou said. “It’s my top goal and priority to make ODW a welcoming creative home for both established filmmakers and emerging artists in China, and around the world.”

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Scott Thill

Scott Thill

Scott Thill is a freelance writer, his work has appeared in Wired, Salon, The Nation, and Rolling Stone. Visit his site Morphizm.com.

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