2019-05-09 17:49:24 source: 《文化交流》; 张 磊
Business in Hangzhou Rides on the Back of The Wandering Earth
The Wandering Earth, a 2019 Chinese science fiction film directed by Frant Gwo, based on the novella of the same name by Locus Award and Hugo Award-winning author Liu Cixin, has received generally positive reviews from critics. The Hollywood Reporter describes it as "China's first full-scale interstellar spectacular."
A box office blockbuster, it has grossed over 4 billion yuan worldwide since its theatrical release on February 5, 2019 (Chinese New Year's Day), becoming China's second highest-grossing film of all time and 2019's highest-grossing film worldwide.
The sensational success of the film has also triggered an e-commerce boom based on a variety of derivative products, based on the rigorous setting and tear-jerking plot of the film crafted by the skillful copper-smiths at Xijiang Co. Ltd, a Hangzhou-based creative company specialized in making derivatives. Founded in 2013, the company has collaborated with a good many filmmakers in producing film derivatives for the Marvel series and Transformers, setting a wonderful example of extending the life of a film by passion, dedication and ingenuity.
“My first reaction to the invitation from a ‘Made in China’ Sci-fi production team was ‘No!’” recalls Yu Guang, founder and president of Xijiang Co Ltd. “Judging from the offer that came to me in May of last year, I figured I would have nothing to lose financially even if the products fail the market; so I picked up the phone to find out more about the scenario and other things. The result was quite shocking.”
Yu’s quick decision to proceed with the authorization met with disagreement from the other members of his team, who were skeptical about the appeal of the first “made in China” interstellar film and argued that all the effort would not be worthwhile. “We were quite busy with many tasks at that time, and everyone told me it was not a good idea to waste time and money on such a short-lived IP. However, I decided to just do it, not because I was sure that we would make it in the commercial sense. I tried to convince everyone in the company that the director of the film at least deserved something more than cash for his courage to rival the Hollywood–dominated Sci-fi world.”
The final products crafted by Yu’s team made their debut at the film’s premiere held in Beijing in January. “Qu Chuxiao, who played the leading role in the film, loved the bronze astronauts and armored carriers so much that he just couldn’t take his eyes off them. His excitement set me thinking.” Yu Guang reminisces.
“After watching the film, I realized how surprisingly good it was. I feel it is the first time that a well-made Sci-fi film, together with its production team, was done justice by Chinese viewers, which is much more important than the market performance of what we do.”
About one-third of the 600 employees of Yu’s company, known among its clients and fans as “Tongshifu” (meaning “the copper-smith”), fall into the craftsman category. Traditional Chinese bronze handicraft is the ultimate source of the company’s unfailing creativity.
“What we strive to achieve is to inject new blood into the craft so that it appeals to young generations,” shared Yu Guang, who started off as a painting artist.
“The essence of traditional Chinese culture will never lose its luster, as long as we find new, effective ways to present it.” Yu certainly has found his own way to achieve the goal. The bronze artifacts created under the “Tongshifu” label have brought in more than 400,000 fans.
Statistics predict the film derivative products market of China will top 10 billion yuan by 2020. However, insiders also warn such huge potentials are being reduced by a serious lack of creativity in product design and market promotion. For a long time, Chinese consumers have few options to consider when it comes to spending an extra amount of money after watching a film and taking a souvenir home, with low quality and poor practicality adding insult to injury. In this sense, expanding consumers’ choices beyond just buying mobile phone shells, key rings and mugs should be a top priority to be taken by “Tongshifu” and all its peers dreaming to break new grounds in China’s film derivative products market.
Essentially speaking, film derivative products draw life not only from film plots and characters, but also from the culture the film is rooted in and identifies with, the full understanding of which, is the key to market success.