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China Voice: Copycat, Chinese film industry's growing pains

By Cui Yuanlei (Xinhua)    15:40, July 10, 2015
Photo from web

BEIJING, July 10  - Newly-released Chinese animation"The Autobots" has come under fire as critics dismiss the film as a copycat of Hollywood-hit "Cars".

The film is believed to be "identical" to the hit film franchise from Pixar, with similar cartoon character designs, movie title (in Chinese), and promotion posters.

A movie-goer might think "Cars" has been re-released if they do not check the posters carefully, several comments observed on microblog Sina Weibo.

The movie received an average score of 2.2 points out of 10 from around 2,500 reviews on movie portal Mtime.com, China's version of IMDB.com. By comparison, "Cars 2" scored 7.9 points when it was released in 2011.

Judging from its 30-second trailer, the animation falls far below the average domestic quality, steering clear of the production value seen in Pixar's "Cars."

The Walt Disney Company, which owns Pixar, has expressed concern over the potential copyright, saying "we share the same concerns as many web users and movie fans in China, but have no further comment at this stage."

However, Zhuo Jianrong, director of the movie, denied all accusations and insisted he had never watched the movie "Cars". He said his movie was independently produced and the whole story was totally different, ironically saying his goal was to "teach children about thinking and innovation".

"If somebody else looks like you, does that person violate the laws?," Zhuo said in his defense.

The director's denial has left people in more doubts: Can he explain why a Chinese character of the film title is blocked in the poster with the image of a tire? Is this an intentional design to confuse the audience with the five-character Chinese title of the"Cars"?

The title of the Chinese movie is qi-che-ren-zong-dong-yuan, one character more than the Chinese title of the "Cars" which is qi-che-zong-dong-yuan. In the poster, the extra character "ren" is blocked, making it appear more or less look like the "Cars."

While the director has reason to contend that it is possible for two directors and scriptwriters have similar ideas, isn't it strange that the poster designers for the two films also share similar or even identical views?

Some Chinese movie producers tend to believe that no matter how poor their production, movie-goers will still go see it, and thus they can make easy profits.

They do not treat movies as a piece of work, but as a printing machine for quick money. Their "confidence" partly stems from China's booming market.

As of the end of May, China had 28,000 cinema screens. The United States has 40,000 and the number has remained almost unchanged for years.

Experts believe that it's only a matter of time before China surpasses the United States to become the world's largest movie market.

But those who want to profit from the booming market must remember - with the help of the Internet and other technologies, Chinese people, especially the young, who are a major target of the film industry, have far more choices and channels to watch world-class movies.

Chinese audience can tolerate the fact that there is still a long way to go for Chinese movie producers to catch up with their foreign counterparts and some Chinese films are not as good as western ones on an artistic level, but what they will never accept is the unprofessional attitude of some Chinese producers and their poorly-made movies. No movie-goer wants to feel fooled.

"The Autobots" is being screened as Chinese students are on summer holiday, a period when few foreign movies are being shown in cinemas. As an unwritten rule, such measures for domestic film protection are necessary for China's growing but still fledgling film industry.

But the measures cannot protect poorly-made productions from criticism. After all, the Chinese movie industry has to grow up. Imitation might be the first step, but blatant copycats only provide embarrassment. Enditem

(For the latest China news, Please follow People's Daily on Twitter and Facebook)(Editor:Zhang Yuan,Yao Chun)

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