The Donkey King, the Highest-grossing Animated Feature Film in Pakistan Released in China
Congrats The Donkey King, the highest-grossing animated feature film in Pakistan, on getting premiered in China on November 19th, with a dubbed theatrical release in over 10 other countries around the globe.
When the ruler of Azad City suddenly renounces the throne, a down-on-his-luck donkey wins the nation's first election, and is crowned The Donkey King, therein a fun story unfolds.
- Director of The Donkey King
- Founder/Non-Executive Director, Talisman Animations
Given the fact that The Donkey King is the first film from Pakistan in recent times to get a wide theatrical release in China, Mr. Aziz expressed his excitement to and hope for this amazing cultural communication: “So I would hope that the Chinese audiences are able to connect with the content and hopefully, it is the beginning of more content exchange both ways to advance our cultural ties between Pakistan and China. ”
Fox Renderfarm: Could you briefly introduce The Donkey King?
Aziz: In Pakistan, It is the highest-grossing animated feature film. This is the first Pakistani animated feature film that has been dubbed and has been released in over ten countries. So we've launched prior to this in Spain, in Greece, in South Korea, Russia, Ukraine, Peru, Colombia, Ecuador, Turkey.
Fox Renderfarm: What is the inspiration for The Donkey King?
Aziz: I got this inspiration earlier, but I think I later on figured out that The Donkey King’s story and narrative are very similar to this allegorical story by the name of Animal Farm, which was written by George Orwell. So I think the narrative style is allegorical like what you're seeing and what you are meaning are two different things. So that's why we say The Donkey King is a film for the entire family from kids who are at 9 to people who are at 99, for people who are kids and kids at heart. And a lot of this inspiration came to me from the socio-political situation in Pakistan. We're having this dialog about the socio-political setup and a lot of inspiration is locally driven. And I think it resonates with everybody in the developing countries because we are all sharing that experience. So I think the surrounding is the inspiration, frankly.
Fox Renderfarm: Why did you choose donkey as the protagonist?
Aziz: Well, why did we choose donkey is a very important question, a lot of people asked me. There are 2 things about a donkey. The term donkey is associated with hard work. They're probably the most hard-working creature. But at the same time, you can call someone a donkey metaphorically as an insult, but you can also say it lovingly. And in our local culture, in the Pakistani and Indian literature, I’m not talking recently, I’m talking about over the last 100 years, the donkey has been used as a metaphor to tell a lot of stories. There’s one film that’s been made on donkey years back in Pakistan. There are books written using the donkey as a metaphor in India-Pakistan literature. The donkey has been used as a metaphor. It is a symbol for close to 100 years. Because it's both endearing and hard-working, you can use it to abuse somebody or with your friends. It has multiple meanings. In the US, the Democratic Party has a donkey as their sign, too. The donkey has got global resonance. There's something intriguing about the donkey.
Fox Renderfarm: How is the pipeline of The Donkey King?
Aziz: We worked on a traditional pipeline. All character designing, all modeling, all environment design, entire animation and lighting, everything has been done locally in Pakistan. For the rendering services, because we had to render out more than 150,000 frames. And that is where we leveraged our association with Fox Renderfarm.To pull that out, without their support, we wouldn't have been able to do it.
Fox Renderfarm: Did you search for any references when doing the character design?
Aziz: For character designing, the number one choice that we made, ours is an allegorical and a symbolic story, so we go bi-part versus four-part, like a humanoid type of animal, so the donkey stands on two legs. It doesn’t do like the real donkey, It’s more human-like. That was the fundamental design choice we made. Because we are showing donkeys and other animals, to some extent, I think it would be unfair to say that, any animal-based film that you make and you're not inspired by Zootopia, I think that person is lying. We watched a lot of Zootopia. And we sought what inspiration that we could.
Because of the fur on the animals, the rendering time per frame was much higher. We were doing it on 2K, and that is where there was a big challenge. Once again, as I said, we reached out to outsource rendering collaboration with Fox Renderfarm. Otherwise, we wouldn't have been able to put it out.
Fox Renderfarm: How did you manage to release The Donkey King in China? Anything to share with Chinese audiences?
Aziz: First of all, I am very excited that The Donkey King is getting premiered in China. And given the economic collaboration between Pakistan and China, I think this is another step forward. Even our films are getting exported, I believe, this is one of the first films that is getting released at that scale (in China). On November 19th, it's opening with about 5000 sessions. So I'm very excited about that and really looking forward to that. Across genres, whether animation or non-animation, It is the sixth highest-grossing film ever (in Pakistan). we are thankful for our audiences in Pakistan. I think I’m very pleased.
My collaborators in China, we connected with them. They showed interest in the film. It was a long process. It took about two and a half to three years. There's a certain level of documentation that needs to be done for the film board who approved the film. We had to make sure that we're getting on the certificate of originals on the copyright and the entire chain of title. Because we were doing it for the first time, we were not very familiar with how to do it. Learning that has also been a great experience. That making sure we are getting all the documentation to the Administration of Foreign Affairs here at the Chinese Embassy in Pakistan, It took a lot of doing and then came forward and everything got passed, I can’t tell you how happy I am. And finally, it has seen the light of the day in China. Probably, it is one of my biggest achievements I would say. And my message to the Chinese audience is, I have been to China a lot of times. I used to work for Procter & Gamble. I used to work on this brand called Safeguard, the soap bar. I’ve been to China at least 50 times, and I only find love when I go to China. Between Pakistan and China, We just not only share a border, we are not just part of the Belt and Road Initiative, I think our hearts are connected. There's the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor. With this collaboration and love that Pakistan and China share and respect, I think this is graduating to cultural exchange. So I would hope that the Chinese audiences are able to connect with the content and hopefully, it is the beginning of more content exchange both ways to advance our cultural ties between Pakistan and China.
Fox Renderfarm: How do you feel about the cloud rendering services of Fox Renderfarm?
Aziz: Rendering this film with the scale, with the fur, and the rendering time that it was taking, it was unfeasible or unthinkable for us to be able to pull this out locally. And I think we were lucky to find Fox Renderfarm as a collaborator. We almost rendered 60 to 70% of our film there. And I think if it was not for that collaboration, we wouldn't have been able to pull this film in the time that we did. So big shout out to Fox Renderfarm for their contribution and making The Donkey King a reality.
Fox Renderfarm: Anything you want to share with us?
Aziz: Please make The Donkey King a success in China. And long live Pakistan-China friendship!
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