Worldwide box office numbers can no longer be an afterthought for Hollywood’s success. One of the major contributors to whether or not a film is deemed a hit is how well a film does in the overseas markets, China most specifically, given their sheer size and reach. We’ve already seen with Warcraft that dismal US numbers can be bolstered by big numbers elsewhere.
So far, it looks like adaptations are how these trans-global partnerships are testing the waters, and children’s literature is the next test market. Warriors, (so far) 30-part series of books based on cats will be the next major collaboration to come to screens worldwide. The announcements marks yet another in a string of big Chinese driven film productions bringing in behind-the-scenes talent from elsewhere in the film world.
Whether because of the success of Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, or his track record with adapting children’s books for film audiences, Harry Potter producer David Heyman has been tapped by Alibaba Pictures to bring bestseller Warriors series to the big screen. “The interesting thing about the books,” Heyman says at an event in Beijing (via THR), “is there are such a lot of narratives. And the books are still being written, so there will be as many films as long as we can keep telling interesting stories and the audience is receptive of it.” He goes on to gush about the partnership between the UK and China, adding:
“The thing I love about this is that it will be an authentic collaboration between China and England. And there were too many inauthentic collaboration between the U.S.and China, which feel contrived. They are arranged or false marriages. And this feels so organic, where we can use talent from both countries.”
His comments seem to take a jab at several of the Hollywood/Chinese collaborations that are coming up. Recently, the Russo Brothers and David S. Goyer have announced major Chinese deals, and even China’s Tencent Pictures partnership with Legendary or Alibaba’s investment in Paramount come to mind.
The Warriors novels are based on various factions of warring feral cats. Yes, cats; which on the surface can easily seemed contrived, but the series does address some important themes. Of the main character, Rusty, Heyman describes him as, “stigmatized, he’s an outsider. [Warriors] is about him getting acclimatized into this place [in the wild forest], earning his place in spite of great prejudice against him and ultimately rising up.”
Parent company Alibaba Group secured the film rights to Warriors earlier this fall, and so far have not made any other major decisions like screenwriters or budget concerns. Neither CGI nor motion capture for the film (that likely doesn’t include humans) has been confirmed, but Heyman did make reference to using actors as a reference like in Paddington. His excitement about this new partnership was evidenced in the way he describes how inspired he felt after meeting with Alibaba execs. He said:
“It’s very surprising, when you meet with people who might finance films, all they care about is money. I understand, it’s called the film business. But there is no business unless there is heart. And I think what interest me in this collaboration is that we share a desire to tell a human story, made with cats, but to tell a human story that is emotion, frightening, funny, generous.”
Warriors has no release date planned yet.