APG, the film-making and investment arm of Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba, is set as investor and principal distributor of the film. Release is set for January 1, 2016.
Light Chaser was founded by Gary Wang, founder and former CEO of Chinese video streaming site Tudou.com. It raised $20 million in a 2014 funding round that brought in investors including GGV Capital and Chengwei Capital.
The company decided to work with APG because of its ability to deliver online and offline distribution, as well as handle ticket and merchandize sales.
“Alibaba Pictures has successfully positioned itself in various areas of the movie industry over the past year, demonstrating the internet giant’s ambitions to upgrade and transform the Chinese culture and entertainment industry,” said producer Yu Zhou.
“’Little Door Gods’ is a modern-day story of two Door Gods facing unemployment in the spirit world, as ever fewer people in the human world believe in the spirits any more. One of the spirits ventures into the human world to make trouble in order to prove his value, leading to unexpected encounters and transformations,” said Light Chaser in a pitch earlier this year.
The film began production in January 2013 with post-production starting in July this year. The budget was not disclosed, though estimates have pegged it between $11 million and $25 million. Yu says it will be produced with a Dolby Atmos sound track and that it required 80 million rendering hours.
The picture is the first animation for APG to be involved with. The first feature greenlighted by APG under Alibaba ownership, is the now in-production “Ferryman,” which is produced by Wong Kar-wai and stars Tony Leung Chiu-wai. This week the company also confirmed that it is backing “Three Lives Three Worlds Ten Miles of Peach,” for Zhang Yibai to direct and Liu Yifei to star in.
“’Little Door Gods’ is a top-quality film, and we are delighted to have the opportunity to work with Light Chaser on this project and leverage our strengths in promotion and distribution,” an unnamed Alibaba Pictures spokesman said. “This project is very much in line with our strategic goal of servicing the cultural industry and upgrading its overall competitiveness.”
Chinese animation is growing in quality and commercial success. “Monkey King: Hero Is Back,” which is currently on release after 52 days, has grossed $153 million. It has overtaken all previous Hollywood, foreign or local animated pictures at the Chinese box office. Similarly, “Monster Hunt,” which mixes live action and animation, has grossed a staggering $384 million.