Enlight Media, which is among China’s largest private film companies, has its sights set on becoming a global animation powerhouse, announcing an aggressive plan to produce 22 animated features through a new entity called Coloroom Pictures.

The company held a press conference on Monday to announce the first of these films, Big Fish and Begonia, which will open in China in both 2D and 3D versions on July 8, 2016. The teaser trailer can be viewed below:

The long-anticipated film has been in the works for over a decade, and was at one time being made through funds from a crowdfunding campaign. We included the film in our 2015 feature film preview when it was known as Big Fish & Chinese Flowering Crabapple.

Directed by Liang Xuan and Zhang Chun, the hand-drawn/CG hybrid Big Fish is rooted in Chinese mythology. For years, the directors have been posting clips online to drum up interest in the film, and those clips have gained tens of millions of views in China. That grassroots interest is what compelled Enlight to step in and provide the necessary funds to complete the film. It’s budgeted at 30 million yuan (US$4.6 million).

“The 12 years is nothing for us,” co-director Liang said at Monday’s press event about the film’s long gestation period. “We just love to do it. After all we decided to do it at the beginning, so we must do it well. We just felt so guilty that we kept so many people waiting for so long, and I have to apologize to them.”

What makes Enlight’s approach to the feature animation game worth watching is that they are not trying to develop a top-down house style like American feature animation producers. The 22 animated features that Enlight is investing in will be made by 13 independent producers, each of whom will likely experiment with different filmmaking approaches, styles, and storytelling techniques.

“Most Chinese animators have struggled for years,” said Enlight chairman Wang Chang-tian. “I believe the improvement in the quality of domestic flicks will give us a Chinese answer to Pixar.”

Enlight’s star director is Tian Xiao Peng, who set a record last year for China’s highest-grossing homegrown animated feature with Monkey King: Hero is Back. The success of that film is being credited with the burgeoning interest in Chinese feature animation, and Enlight has enlisted Tian to direct two new features: Monkey King: Havoc in Heaven and Deep Sea.

Other animated films that will be produced under Enlight’s Coloroom Pictures label are:

  • The Legend of the Jade Sword
  • Charlie IX & DoDoMo
  • Dragon Nest, based on a game
  • Fantasy of Journey to the West, based on a game

Teaser posters for Monkey King: Havoc in Heaven and Deep Sea, both of which are at least a couple years away from release, can be seen below:

"Deep Sea."
“Deep Sea.”
"The Monkey King: Havoc in Heaven."
“The Monkey King: Havoc in Heaven.”

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