"Our original intention was to try it."
By Zhang Yitong
The transcript came 250 days late. In the eighth month after the evacuated from the Spring Festival file due to the epidemic, Jiang Ziya finally met with the public.
Together with "Nezha", which created a box office miracle of 4.97 billion, was put under the "Myth Trilogy" of Caitiaowu. "Jiang Ziya" received a lot of attention before it was released. After only 4 days of release, the box office exceeded 1 billion.
In 2016, "Jiang Ziya" and "Ne Zha" were launched almost simultaneously. The four directors of "Jiang Ziya" are all from the academy, and three of them have overseas backgrounds. They know what Hollywood-style animation movies are like, and they are looking forward to making different animation movies exclusively for China. This makes this work more experimental.
The production team has made many attempts to improve the industrial process of 3D animation and shape the visual aesthetics, and also try to explore how to use animation to tell a heavier, less family-friendly story in the Chinese market. Although this attempt may not be completely successful. "Jiang Ziya" has shown obvious polarization in word of mouth. It is praised by many people for its excellent graphics and shocking special effects, but it has also been criticized by many for its flaws in story expression.
Starting from the emergence of "The Return of the Great Sage" in 2015, the exploration of Chinese animated films continued and gradually became systematic. Behind it, the growth and return of a group of animators with overseas vision and experience has driven the iteration of the entire industry in multiple dimensions such as story, vision, and industry. As the main promoter of this undertaking, after establishing control on various industrial nodes in the form of investment, in addition to creativity, Caitiaoya, which has entered a new stage, has the ability and ideas to promote more detailed experiments and production details. Update
These attempts are all for a common answer. What are the animated films that the Chinese market needs? How to achieve repeatable success?
Before we can get this answer, we need Nezha, and we also need Jiang Ziya.
01 | Reshape the power of ``heroes''
In 2016, Cheng Teng and Li Xia, who were still in the United States, received an invitation to remotely participate in the story creation of a domestic animation project.
The invitation was Gao Weihua, their common teacher during the Zhongzhuan period, and the other participant was Li Wei, who was also a teacher at the Zhongchuan Academy of Painting. Li Wei has a long-standing reputation in the domestic animation circle. He once participated in the production of "The Lotus Lantern" and served as the executive director of "Big Fish and Begonia".
The four have already cooperated. In 2010, Cheng Teng and Li Xia received widespread attention with their animated short film "Red Scarf Man". In the ending subtitles of "Red Scarf Man", the producer wrote Gao Weihua's name and Li Wei appeared in the acknowledgement column.
In 2014, the animated series "My Master Jiang Ziya" co-directed by Gao Weihua and Li Wei released a trailer, which caused a lot of discussion on the Internet, but the project finally failed to advance due to many reasons. It was not until 2 years later that Caitiaowu found Gao Weihua and Li Wei to discuss the possibility of restarting "Jiang Ziya" in the form of an animated film, and in April of that year invested in the company where they belonged to preach together.
Director Cheng Teng
After obtaining a master's degree from the University of Southern California, Cheng Teng successfully entered DreamWorks. In the first few months, he participated in the project remotely online.
What attracted Cheng Teng was an initial idea—Jiang Ziya’s philosophical change. After the original belief in gods and Kunlun collapsed, he re-established a new belief. "This summary of the sentence struck me."
Even in the more mature European and American markets, the age group of the main audience of animated films is still low, and the genres are mainly comedy and family fun, but he always hopes to make more "young people of his age like animation" , This overview allowed him to see the possibilities.
Like "Ne Zha", it is based on traditional mythology. Faced with a classic image of Jiang Ziya, the production team needs to find a novel interpretation angle and presentation method. The special thing about Jiang Ziya is that this is almost the most divine character in the story of the Conferred God.
像“ Ne Zha”一样，它基于传统神话。面对蒋子牙的经典形象，制作团队需要寻找新颖的解释角度和呈现方法。姜子牙的特别之处在于，这几乎是赋予上帝的故事中最神圣的角色。
"What we have been working hard to do is the deification of Jiang Ziya." Cheng Teng said, "In the opening scene of the whole film, he is the perfect and tall Jiang Ziya in all the film and television works in our traditional sense. He is a man of the world. A pure and righteous heart, with a super high IQ and force value, he was enshrined in the sky and reached the pinnacle of life. But we immediately made him commit a mistake."
"Making mistakes" is the first step to deification, but this is not a story about making mistakes. "The whole movie is discussing whether this is a real fault."
Cheng Teng believes that this is a topic that can generate universal empathy in society, especially among young Chinese. "Chinese young people are too afraid of making mistakes, but in fact, some mistakes are not necessarily wrong. This is what I want to convey to everyone." Cheng Teng said, "I hope Jiang Ziya can be like our colleagues, classmates, and friends in our daily lives. The same, it will be confused, retreat, entangled, and melancholy. But at the same time, it is a very powerful thing for such an ordinary person to take that step and become a hero."
This seems to be a classic Hollywood commercial movie logic that has been tried and tested-the heroes who have suffered setbacks experience hardships and rebuild themselves on the journey. But the director team did not want to turn Jiang Ziya into a typical Hollywood hero. Behind the logic of the superficial story, Jiang Ziya's philosophy and attitude are Chinese. "We don't want the audience to think that this is a Hollywood hero like Spider-Man, his personal growth is very Chinese."
It is not an easy task to express a deep and heavy topic clearly, and to make the business story well-speaking enough. The mastery of balance has become the most difficult task in the script creation stage, and the needs of different audiences will be affected. Consider, "At least let the audience get a basic satisfaction."
It has not even entered the formal script creation, and has undergone 17 major changes in the second stage of the story setting. Cheng Teng recalled that the official script was revised hundreds of times, and it was revised 6 to 7 times in the filming stage. "The final story is basically nothing similar to the first thing, except for the core that touched me at the beginning."
There have always been quarrels about what kind of role Jiang Ziya is, and how to deal with the relationship between Jiang Ziya and other core characters. In order to argue about how to deal with the emotional relationship of a character, Li Xia and Cheng Teng also moved their hands.
02 | The Returning God
Before officially returning to China, Cheng Teng and Li Xia went to Blizzard Animation’s headquarters in Irvine to visit Wang Xin, who was still serving as the character director of Blizzard Animation.
Co-director and artistic director Wang Xin
The West Coast has gathered a large number of animation and game companies. The University of Southern California has the world's top animation majors. Every year, it attracts a large number of young animators. In a self-report by Wang Xin, he wrote: In 2016, I met Song Shang (the author of "Metro Battle Royale") and Li Xia. Since that day, together with other young filmmakers and gamers who are very close to USC, we meet regularly to share and discuss.
Wang Xin is the core of this small circle and one of the leaders. In 2003, he entered the Blizzard Film Department at the time. For more than a decade, he was responsible for modeling, texture, art direction, and character development. In 2012, "Pandaman Mystery" produced by Wang Xin was officially launched. This film has made breakthroughs in animation expression and story presentation. A short film that is different from previous Blizzard works immediately sparked worldwide discussion.
王欣是这个小圈子的核心，也是领导人之一。 2003年，他进入暴雪电影部门。十多年来，他负责建模，纹理，艺术指导和角色开发。 2012年，王欣制作的《熊猫人之谜》正式上映。这部电影在动画表达和故事表现方面取得了突破。与暴雪以前的作品不同的一部短片立即引起了全世界的讨论。
"Pandaman Mystery" is an important turning point in Wang Xin's personal career and artistic philosophy. The Blizzard Animation he is in originated from Blizzard’s CG department. The game CG pursues the fineness of the picture infinitely. It requires that every frame is cut without "collapse", and every second of pause is a perfect picture. For a long time, Wang Xin and his colleagues have been working hard in this direction.
But from the beginning of "Pandaman Mystery", Wang Xin realized that technology is ultimately to serve creativity and story. He began to experiment with new visual styles, not only focusing on the exquisiteness of the picture itself, but on the impact of the story on the character, and focusing on the overall expressiveness of the character. "You know this is not enough. You want the characters to be more contagious, conflicted, and have enough time to arrange the story. My direction of efforts has also changed from pure visual to visual storytelling." In the next two years, he still In-depth study of facial motion capture and real-time rendering technology.
It was also from this time that Wang Xin began to have more intersections with domestic animation circles. In 2014, on the recommendation of a colleague, he saw two animated short films "My Master Jiang Ziya" and "Metro Battle Royale" on YouTube, and learned that they all came from the mid-stream. In the same year, Wang Xin went to Beijing, participated in the ANIWOW organized by China Transmission, and visited the light chasing animation.
This trip to Beijing gave him a better understanding of domestic animators and animation companies, but these understandings did not alleviate his concerns about an industry.
When Cheng Teng and Li Xia talked to him about their plans to return to China, Wang Xin could not hide his worries. A very objective factor is that both Cheng Teng and Li Xia were born in two-dimensional animation, and their works have always been two-dimensional. The experience of Gao Weihua and Li Wei is also two-dimensional, but "Jiang Ziya" was clear at the beginning of the project. To do 3D.
At that time, Wang Xin did not consider the possibility of returning to China. Although "The Return of the Great Sage" created the miracle of a domestic animated film with a box office of 956 million in 2015, the success of a single case cannot change the problems of the entire industry.
In 2015, Caitiaowu began to invest in staking and enclosure style, investing in a number of animation companies including Bi'antian, Cocoa, and China Transmission Hedao. Most of these new companies with directors at the core originated from the first batch of Internet "Flashers". At that time, the head of Caitiao House, Yi Qiao, hopes to find the possible direction of Chinese animation films in these "most creative" people. But this is also a helpless move to a certain extent. In the Chinese animation industry, which is dominated by young and young children and foundry, there were few companies that were able to balance production capacity and originality.
2015年，Caitiaowu开始投资于放样和围栏风格，投资了多家动画公司，包括Bi'antian，Cocoa和China Transmission Hedao。这些以董事为核心的新公司中，大多数来自第一批互联网“ Flasher”。当时，跳跳楼的负责人易巧希望在这些“最具创造力”的人中找到中国动画电影的可能方向。但这在一定程度上也是无奈之举。在以幼儿和铸造业为主导的中国动漫产业中，很少有公司能够平衡生产能力和独创性。
Caitiaowu has also gone through a long process of combing its internal system. After intervening in projects such as "Big Fish and Begonia" and "Great Protector" with the production announcement, "Nezha", which was launched almost simultaneously with "Jiang Ziya" It is the first project of Caijoya to participate in the production process in a true sense.
In the past five years, Caitiaowu has invested in more than 20 animation industry-related companies, but it was not until 2018 that production companies such as Daqian Sunshine and Red Carp Culture appeared in this list. More than 1,600 people from more than 100 companies participated in the production of more than 1,400 special effects shots in "Nezha". When Yi Qiao accepted the interview, he said that he did not think it was something to be proud of, but felt very sad. "This shows that your industry is very imperfect. You can only use crowded tactics and unprofessional cooperation. Do it."
在过去的五年中，菜鸟屋已经投资了20多家与动漫产业相关的公司，但是直到2018年，诸如大千阳光和红鲤文化等制作公司才出现在该名单中。来自100多家公司的1600多人参加了“ Nezha”的1400多幅特效镜头的制作。易乔接受采访时说，他不认为这是值得骄傲的事，但感到非常难过。 “这表明您的行业非常不完善。您只能使用拥挤的战术和不专业的合作。做到这一点。”
This makes Wang Xin worry about the future of the two young people, but there is a vague thought in his heart that throbs. The experience they lack in 3D animation is what he is best at. If so, Wang Xin Use "evil" to describe this sudden thought.
In the spring of the following year, Wang Xin once again invited Li Xia and Cheng Teng to his home for a long talk, and a week later went to Zhongchuan Hedao's studio in Beijing for a field trip.
On May 10, 2017, he left his home in California in the early morning and boarded the plane returning home.
03 | Continuous experiment
In a self-report by Wang Xin, he wrote: I want to change the excessive dependence of Chinese animators on the individual, I want to change the contempt of Chinese animation for the process, and I want to change the bad problem of Chinese animation using muscle thinking.
Before returning to China, Wang Xin worked for Blizzard Animation for 14 years, Cheng Teng worked as a co-director at DreamWorks USA, and Li Xia also interned at Pixar during graduate school at USC. They are all familiar with the industrial process of American animation, and also try to apply this set of methods to domestic projects.
In the past few years, optimization and experiments around the industrial system have continued to be carried out within the Chinese animation industry. The emergence of a series of co-productions and joint ventures such as Oriental DreamWorks accelerated the introduction of the model. The new generation of animation practitioners grow up in a more systematic and open industry, and they also have a stronger willingness to learn new methods. It also includes the return of a group of senior animators like Wang Xin who have worked in top American companies for many years. In 2017, Zhou Jingqi, the founder of "Youyou Qi", and Tang Boqing, an animation director in the United States, co-founded Xianshan Yinghua, the core of which is a set of work processes that work together at home and abroad.
"Jiang Ziya" adopts the "spiral iteration" method that is relatively seldom used in China. Instead of proceeding to the next after one step is completed, multiple production links are advanced simultaneously, and the project is jointly promoted in a systematic manner.
The entire production plan is led by Wang Xin. The pre-development period lasted for one and a half years, and a lot of time was spent on communicating with the mid-term team and setting standards. Zhongchuan Hedao has produced two pieces of different lengths for testing.
Unlike European and American studios, which mainly focus on internal production capacity, in China, a large amount of work needs to be transferred to outsourcing teams, which places extremely high requirements on the control of the early team. The mid-term production of "Jiang Ziya" was mainly completed by the two Caitiaowu companies invested by Daqian Sunshine and Red Carp Culture. This was not a deliberate choice, but the result of multiple comparisons between the early teams. However, this relationship does provide for the cooperation between the two parties. It's more convenient.
In order to communicate better, Wang Xin has led the preliminary team to the production company that he cooperates with for training, lectures, and various presentations. Some people have been on the scene for a long time and have provided hands-on help. Wang Xin even joked with the company’s auntie, that he runs all over the country and may be the director with the most mileage on the plane.
Caitiaowu also expressed concern about the long pre-development time of "Jiang Ziya", but Wang Xin chose to persist. "If there is no such precise connection and in-depth communication with the mid-term team, they will not be able to achieve our intentions. The explosion of production capacity in the later period of "Jiang Ziya" also proves that our method is effective."
Caitiaowu也对“ Jiang Ziya”的预开发时间长表示担忧，但Wang Xin选择了坚持。 “如果没有与中期团队如此精确的联系和深入沟通，他们将无法实现我们的意图。“江自雅”后期生产能力的爆炸也证明了我们的方法是有效。”
In the official 3D production special, Wang Xin said that the total number of shots in "Jiang Ziya" is 1851, and the number of special effects shots in the film exceeds 1,300. On average, each shot has been modified more than 20 times. Each tail of Nine Tails has been modified. An independent dynamic system is required, which doubles the difficulty and workload.
Behind the surface layer such as the number of shots, the biggest visual attempt of "Jiang Ziya" is also the biggest difficulty, which is to "use a very rigid three-dimensional animation system to make abstract visual images with oriental charm and artistic conception."
In 2014, Cheng Teng's "Sky Beyond the Sky" won the 41st American Student Oscar Silver Award, and was the first Chinese to receive this honor. This animated short film about Chinese martial arts is very different from the "Red Scarf Man", with a strong national style. Before making the short film, Cheng Teng did a lot of work, researching the style of the works at the peak of the beauty studio, researching "Landscape" and "Three Monks", and comprehending the large and small freehand brushwork in the fine brushwork.
Cheng Teng hopes to produce animation works that cross cultural barriers. He once hoped to achieve results in the cooperation of American animation directors, but eventually found that the huge gap in thinking between the two parties did not seem to be able to make up. When "Pandaman Mystery" was launched, Wang Xin was actually a little surprised by the good acceptance of domestic audiences, because it was really a too "beautiful" film.
They want to use three-dimensional animation technology, which was created entirely by the Americans, to make a story that is Chinese enough and Oriental enough, which coincides with Caitiaoya's idea.
From "The Great Guardian" to "Jiang Ziya", for animated films with the most unrestricted styles, Caitiaowu is willing to give more niche styles room for trial and error, but the main line of aesthetics is that these contents must be Chinese. It's not just the refinement of a certain element, but the fact that "you know it at first glance, this is not made by Hollywood."
Artistic conception is the key word Wang Xin grasped. Domestically produced 3D animation learns a lot from American animation companies such as Pixar and Disney, focusing on character performance and specific materials, and then composition and mirroring. "All our scenes are designed for the purpose of artistic conception and experience. Just like why Jiang Ziya sits alone on the edge of a snowy river and fishes, how to use the light here, when he is standing in the sunset, How can it feel like water and sky."
It was the last few days of 2016. At the invitation of Wang Xin, Cheng Teng and Li Xia drove from LA to Irvine. They visited the Blizzard headquarters and chatted with Wang Xin about the idea of Jiang Ziya. Wang Xin was full of worries. But the two young men were unusually firm. Five months later, Wang Xin also left California, where he had lived for more than ten years, and came to Beijing to join them.
They look forward to making some new things and bringing some changes to Chinese animation. Not making mistakes is of course important, but breakthroughs are more valuable. ""Jiang Ziya" wants to try a lot of things, our original intention was to try it."
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