"The Legend of Hei" "The Legend of Hei"

Beijing-based Joy Pictures, a producer-distributor with a fast-growing presence in animation, is at the Cannes market this year with ten Chinese titles to sell — including two of its own animated features.

Here are the details:

  • The first animated film is The King of Fighters: Awaken, a 3d adaptation of Japanese fighting-game franchise The King of Fighters. Joy is partnering with Jiangsu-based Original Force (whose first feature Duck Duck Goose is on Netflix) and Idragon Creative Studio.
  • The second film is Candy, a stop-motion family fantasy film about a girl who enjoys making sweets, and befriends a goblin sent to collect her soul after she falls gravely ill. The film is being made with Hangzhou’s Steamworks, an outfit specialized in stop motion. Both features are due for release in summer 2022.
  • Joy’s biggest animation hit to date is The Legend of Hei, which is featured in competition at Annecy Online. The company co-financed the film, a spin-off from a popular web series. It grossed $45 million in China last year. A sequel is in development.
  • Meanwhile, Joy is producing three animated features with Beijing’s Magic Hill Animation, as well as a title based on the mythological character Ne Zha, who inspired a hugely popular film last year. This Variety article from last year has more. These four titles were initially due for release between late 2020 and 2022, but the coronavirus has caused production delays.
  • Founded in 2014, Joy started life as a marketing firm before expanding into distribution. It made a name for itself by successfully releasing foreign titles like La La Land in China. It has also distributed overseas: for instance, it released The Legend of Hei in Japan.
  • In recent years, it has pivoted toward the financing and sale of animation — a fast-growing sector in China, and one with great potential for IP development. Last year, Joy CEO Jia Zhang told Variety, “Animated characters will never grow old or ask for a raise. They’re the real assets.”
  • While the Cannes festival isn’t happening in any physical form this year, its official business counterpart, the Marché du Film, is taking place online. It is running June 22–26, and has 12,500 participants, according to official data.


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