The Monkey King's Popularity in China Leads to Multiple New Projects

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Adaptations of the story have been among the top movies for the last two years.

The Monkey King, a mischievous character from Chinese legend, is so popular among audiences in the world's second-biggest film market that the Film Bureau and the Propaganda Department have just held a seminar on how best to make the most of his popularity.

Adaptations of the story have been among the top movies for the last two years or so and a cartoon version is currently doing really well.

Stephen Chow's Journey to the West: Conquering the Demons in 2013 took $215 million at the box office, while Pou Soi Cheang's The Monkey King took $182 million in 2014.

Monkey King: Hero is Back, a 3D animated take on the classic tale, is the fastest Chinese animation to make it past the $50-million threshold and has taken nearly $131 million so far in less than a month.

At Cannes this year, financier Lu Jianmin's Beijing-based Chunqiu Time Culture Company said it was collaborating with ANA Media’s Scott Einbinder to back The Monkey King's Daughter.

Tong Gang, deputy director of the State Administration of Radio, Film and TV, told the conference that Monkey King: Hero is Back reflected Chinese spirit and Chinese style. It is very creative with rational imagination and full of respect to the classic work, said Tong.

Zhong Chenxiang, a Chinese art critic, said the cartoon has demonstrated the correct path for domestic cartoons, while Jia Leilei, a researcher at the China Art Research Institute, said that the film had made a successful attempt to explore traditional cultural resources.

The Monkey King is the main character in Journey to the West, a ribald Chinese folk tale by Wu Cheng'en, written more than 500 years ago during the Ming Dynasty and hugely popular ever since.

Journey to the West is a fictional adaptation of monk San Zang's pilgrimage to India to retrieve Buddhist scriptures and bring them back to China in the seventh century, but the focus of the story is on Sun Wukong, the Monkey King, whose rebellious and mischievous nature seems to really strike a chord with Asian audiences.

A Japanese version of the legend, Monkey, shot in northeastern China with Japanese actors, and subsequently dubbed into English, was a hit in the late 1970s when it was broadcast in the U.K., and he also featured as a character in Forbidden Kingdom, played by Jet Li. Blur and Gorillaz star Damon Albarn made an opera in 2008 based on the legend.

So popular has Monkey King: Hero is Back proven that the state distributor Huaxia announced on Aug. 5 that the screening time for the film will be expanded for another month because of the growing demand from the market and good box office.

It is said that they are preparing for international release and plan to make a sequel.