Tudou Founder to Poach U.S. Talent for New Chinese Animated-Film Studio

Gary Wang - P 2013
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Gary Wang, who left his online video platform after its merger with rivals Youku in August, said he hopes to import foreign technical experts to staff his new enterprise, to be launched April 1.

HONG KONG – Having left the limelight more than six months ago when he sold his online-video brainchild, Tudou, to his erstwhile rivals Youku, Gary Wang is now gearing for a return with a bang – by unveiling a Beijing-based animated-film studio producing movies for domestic consumption.

But the enterprise may have an international twist on it: Wang is aiming to recruit animation-film experts from Hollywood so as to compete with imported U.S. blockbusters.

Speaking to the Wall Street Journal, Wang said he would build a team that includes U.S. members. He said he had met directors, storyboard artists and senior animators while on a two-week scouting trip in Los Angeles and San Francisco in January.

“I get the impression that everyone there is excited about the Chinese market,” said Wang, who was born in China but moved to New York in 1993 to study high school before graduating with a computer science degree at Baltimore’s John Hopkins University.

Wang said he has already secured hundreds of thousands of dollars from international investors for his latest project and that the output will be mainly aimed at domestic audiences.

Citing an improvement in his home country’s distribution, exhibition and copyright protection issues, and also the surge in opportunities and profit in what now stands as the second-biggest film market in the world, Wang said “the time is right” to launch an animation-film studio that could tap into this pool.

Wang’s studio will add a domestic competitor in a scene that has long been dominated by Hollywood blockbusters. While films like DreamWorks’ Kung Fu Panda franchise have proved to be massive hits in China, the local industry has failed to offer reputable alternatives beyond straightforward copies like Legend of a Rabbit, which flopped badly at home.

In fact, DreamWorks will be one of Wang’s major competitors on home turf as well, as the U.S. studio is now already proceeding with building a studio near Shanghai under the name Oriental DreamWorks, a joint venture owned alongside China Media Capital, Shanghai Media Group and Shanghai Alliance Investment. Upon the launch of the company last year, the company announced the making of Kung Fu Panda 3 as a co-production, with a release date in 2016.

Wang founded Tudou in 2005 and sold his company to Youku, his long-running rivals in the business of hosting online videos for Chinese audiences, in August in a stock deal worth about $1 billion. He said his investors, which he did not name, are with him in terms of looking at the new business from a “very long-term view."