Daily Drip

After Breaking Records at Home, “Ne Zha” Is Taking Aim at the Oscars


Having smashed a whole host of box office records, China’s biggest-ever animated movie, Ne Zha, now has Oscars glory in its sights. Enlight Pictures’ revamped tale of the titular havoc-causing god-child has reportedly been chosen as China’s entry into the International Feature Film category (previously called Best Foreign-Language Film) for the 2020 Academy Awards.

But there’s still some way to go before director Yu Yang (aka Jiaozi) can think about getting his hands on an Academy statuette. China is one of a record 93 countries to have submitted movies for the category and the final shortlist for the awards won’t be released until January 13, ahead of a glitzy ceremony to crown the winners on February 9.


How “Nezha”, a Revamped Tale from Chinese Mythology, Became the Country’s Biggest-Ever Animated Movie

Although China’s influence on the Oscars can be said to be growing thanks to an array of funding projects and co-productions, last February’s Academy Awards nominees didn’t feature any Chinese filmmakers. The country’s pick for Best Foreign Language Film, Jiang Wen’s Hidden Man, didn’t even make the 2019 shortlist; the last such Chinese film to do so was Zhang Yimou’s Hero back in 2002.

Does Ne Zha stand more of a chance? It’ll be tough. The film has demolished records in the domestic box office, becoming the country’s second-biggest film of all time (animated or otherwise) based on its ticket sales. But its performance overseas — including on a limited run in US cinemas — hasn’t been quite so explosive.

It’ll certainly be interesting to see whether the China entry will resonate with Academy judges, especially as it faces competition from the likes of Makoto Shinkai’s Weathering With You from traditional Asia animation powerhouse Japan.

Update: Ne Zha is now in the running for another Oscars 2020 category after it was announced as part of the initial 32-movie list put forward for the Animated Feature Film award. It joins another Chinese hopeful in White Snake, which was produced by Light Chaser Animation.

Jake Newby
Jake Newby is a Shanghai-based writer and editor with more than a decade's experience living and working in China. Previously managing editor of RADII and Time Out Shanghai, he's also written for the Associated Press, The Wire, the Financial Times and more.
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