China's answer to 'Kung Fu Panda 2': Kung Fu rabbit

China's answer to 'Kung Fu Panda 2': Kung Fu rabbit

"Legend of a Rabbit" reckons it's China's first world-class animation film, but Chinese netizens think it looks almost a bit too familiar
Legend of a Rabbit -- main
Is it about kung fu? Check. Is it about a fluffy animal? Check. Is it set in ancient China? Check. But this time, it's "Legend of a Rabbit."

China's first 3D animation film -- "Legend of a Rabbit" -- hit Shanghai cinemas yesterday.

The 90-minute, RMB 12 million flick was produced and directed by Sun Lijun (孙立军), dean of the animation college at the Beijing Film Academy, and has been in production for the past three years.

Sun Lijun expects "Legend of a Rabbit" to cash in RMB 15 million, breaking China's animation film box office record set by "Pleasant Goat and Big Bad Wolf."

Click here to watch the trailer of "Legend of a Rabbit" on Youku.com.

The controversy

Set in ancient China, the plot follows Tu'er the rabbit, a pancake cook in Beijing, who is trained by a dying kung fu master, a monkey named Laoguanzhu, and later sent on a journey of revenge to battle with his master shifu's enemy -- Xiongtianba the panda.

Sound familiar?

Legend of a Rabbit -- inline 1Xiongtianba (熊天霸): The panda villain in "Legend of a Rabbit."Since "Legend of a Rabbit" released its first trailer on Youku.com six months ago, Chinese netizens have been quick to list similarities with "Kung Fu Panda." Some even called it a straight rip-off.

One Youku user named “slingbb” said: “If this came out before ‘Kung Fu Panda,’ I would praise, but now [I won't].”

Another netizen “Shenlanxiaohao” said he would support the film, but wouldn’t watch it because it looks too shanzhai (fake).

In an interview with Xiaoxiang Morning Herald, Sun denied that "Legend of a Rabbit" is shanzhai and said he was very puzzled by netizens' feedback.

"If 'Legend of a Rabbit' were really a shanzhai version of 'Kung Fu Panda,' why didn't Dreamworks come to us for copyright [fee]?" Sun asked.

Essence of Chinese animation

Sun explained that 62 countries have already purchased "Legend of a Rabbit."

"Overseas buyers are not idiots -- they've watched 'Kung Fu Panda', haven't they?"

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State-run People.com.cn posted an article on July 10, praising "Legend of a Rabbit" as a succesful example of the essence of the "Oriental animation genre" and capturing "authentic Chinese kung fu flavor."

After its launch in China, "Legend of a Rabbit" will be shown in the United States, Russia, Australia, Thailand, Singapore.

It is the first Chinese animation to be screened worldwide.

Going international

The Mandarin version of "Legend of a Rabbit" is voiced by Chinese celebrities like Fan Wei, Yan Ni and Zhang Fengyi. The Cantonese version is garnered with stars like Tse On Kei and Cheng Yee-Kin.

One anonymous insider revealed to Sohu that the film is currently planning its English-language version and is targeting Hollywood A-listers.

According to various Chinese media, the list of candidates includes Daniel Craig, Robert De Niro, Ralph Fiennes, Hugh Grant, Madonna, Shaquille O'Neal and Michael Tyson.