Gary Wang, the founder of China’s largest online video site Tudou.com, now plans to launch a Beijing-based animated film studio that the Wall Street Journal calls “China’s answer to Pixar” on April 1. Wang says he has already secured “tens of millions of dollars” in funding from an undisclosed international group of investors–and he’s looking to staff his studio with experts from the U.S. so his movies can compete with Hollywood imports. Wang said he has already gone on a two-week scouting trip to San Francisco and Los Angeles for senior animators, directors, and storyboard artists.
The studio will produce films mostly for the local market, but as Tech In Asia notes, only a few movies from abroad are permitted access to Chinese cinemas each year. China’s movie industry, which was worth $2.74 billion, is still relatively small, but growing rapidly, so Wang has a good chance of creating blockbusters.
After founding Tudou in 2005, Wang served as CEO, steering the company to a merger with rival Youku in a $1 billion stock deal that was dubbed China’s biggest-ever tech deal. Last year, Wang announced his retirement from Tudou and said he’d be chasing his “next interesting dream” (and now we see what Wang was dreaming about).
Wang believes it’s the right time to open a film studio in China because of an improving environment for film distribution, promotion and copyright in that country, as well as an uptick in movie theater screens and rising income levels in urban areas. Wang cautions, however, that it will take investors several years before they see a return because of the film production cycle. U.S. studios he’ll be competing with include DreamWorks, which is currently building a studio near Shanghai under the name Oriental DreamWorks, a joint venture with China Media Capital, Shanghai Media Group, and Shanghai Alliance Investment. DreamWorks enjoyed success in China when its Kung Fu Panda franchise became a massive hit, and hope its winning streak will continue when “Kung Fu Panda 3″ is completed by Oriental DreamWorks in 2016.