China / Across America

Zootopia fox, sloths break China record

By Amy He in New York (China Daily USA) Updated: 2016-03-17 10:56

Disney's new animated film Zootopia is dominating China's box offices, earning more than $112 million in just 10 days and becoming the third highest-grossing animated film in China.

The movie was released on March 4 and may exceed the total box office results for Kung Fu Panda 3, which made $152 million, and domestic film Monkey King: Hero is Back, which grossed $147 million.

Zootopia is about a fictional mammalian city where a rabbit becomes a policeman, the first for a rabbit in the city. She goes on to solve a crime with a fox partner.

Despite securing a release date on the same day as martial arts film Ip Man 3 - a follow-up to two enormously successful movies about the famous martial artist Ip Man - the film was able to do well at the box office with its day-and-date release, meaning it came out at the same time in China as it did in North America.

"Zootopia's success in China has been a giant stroke of luck for Disney," wrote Rob Cain, American film producer and consultant, in a column for Forbes.

"The studio did little marketing for the movie, and faced formidable competition as it opened against Ip Man 3, the sequel to a hugely popular action franchise. The early March opening also didn't bode well, as this is usually a soft month for movie-going," he said.

Jonathan Papish, a writer for China Film Insider, said that the box office results are surprising, given that Zootopia, unlike Kung Fu Panda 3, is an original animation and has no brand familiarity for audiences.

"The story has universal themes - inclusion, tolerance, friendship - that have been able to capture the attention of family audiences, both parents and children," he said. "I also think that they're very impressed with the visuals, the world building."

Beyond its record-breaking box office performance, Zootopia has already influenced Chinese customer behavior. According to the South China Morning Post, merchants are trying to cash in on the film's popularity by selling foxes as pets, both the red fox and the Fennec fox, a native of North Africa. One of the main characters in the film is a red fox, a smooth-talking character that ends up a reluctant hero along with the rabbit protagonist.

Sloths are another animal featured heavily in the movie's plot line, playing staff members in the city's department of motor vehicles. Animated stickers of the characters are making rounds on WeChat, and social media has been abuzz with chatter about the animals, which are native to Central and South America.

"There's also some level of cuteness factor," said Papish.

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