Animation, China, Film

DeZerlin Media: “Watch The Skies” | Chinese Feature Animation 2017

February 10, 2017

Studio: DeZerlin Media

Film: Watch The Skies

Director: Mark Byers

Writer: Mark Byers

Release: Late 2017

Budget: “Lunch money by Hollywood standards” – Mark Byers

“Watch The Skies” is the first feature from creative content boutique, DeZerlin Media. The 30-person company, formed around seven years ago in the east coast city Qingdao, generates IP for animated and live-action features and series, games and print . It adopts a Western studio model, creating the IP and managing the property, but outsourcing the animation locally. It has since established a wholly-owned subsidiary in Beijing.

Writer, director and producer Mark Byers has been living in Beijing since his first Chinese co-production in 1999, the live-action movie, “Gua Sha”. He met DeZerlin CEO Lin Zhang around the time Zhang was forming the company in 2009. The pair subsequently worked together to develop Zhang’s story idea, “Dragon Resurrection”, which ultimately became a graphic novel published by Dark Horse Comics, and is now in development as a live-action feature, game, and animation.

Lin Zhang and Mark Byers, co-writers of the graphic novel “Dragon Resurrection”, at the book signing in the booth of publisher Dark Horse Comics, San Diego ComicCon.

DeZerlin has spent years building IP development divisions for each of its media interests, creating subsidiary companies when needed.  It has been working with investment company HG Capital to creating a funding infrastructure to help get the IP produced.

Most Chinese studios talk about having a global vision, but Byers says DeZerlin are a different proposition, they are one of the very few IP creators in China who I believe can truly bridge East and West at this time. The others talk about it, but Lin and his team watch the international market, see what is working, and analyze why.”

“Even though they are currently a smaller company, they are way ahead of the pack when it comes to penetrating the international market”, continues Byers, “Hollywood can’t believe their work is from China.”

“Watch The Skies” concept art

In 2015, DeZerlin signed a movie production deal with UK production company Zycon, to co-produce ten films over the next eight years, with a new show beginning every nine months.

Mohammed Khalid, CEO of Zycon Media, London; Lin Zhang, CEO of DeZerlin Media, Qingdao; Tracy Chen, partner and CEO of HG Capital, Beijing; Mark Byers, director & producer at the signing ceremony for the slate of animated movies between DeZerlin and Zycon, Beijing International Film Festival.

Mohammed Khalid, CEO of Zycon Media, London and Lin Zhang, CEO of DeZerlin Media, Qingdao, at the Beijing International Film Festival

The first project, “Watch The Skies”, written by Byers, is aimed at an international family audience. The film is a globe-trotting sci-fi fantasy adventure following a teenage alien, St’aar, that crash lands on earth and must evade capture with the help of a group of kids while searching for the parts to reassemble his starship. Byers says that the story, so often the downfall of Chinese films, is layered like a Pixar movie.

“Watch The Skies” concept art

“Thor”

“Dylan”

Byers predicts “Watch The Skies” can “definitely compete with the big dogs” despite a “lunch money” budget, at least by Hollywood standards. A teaser animation test should be emerging in the coming weeks.

The next films in the Zycon slate will follow in 2018 and 2019.

“Watch The Skies” concept art

“Watch The Skies” concept art

Chinese Feature Animation: Five Tips for 2017

Original Force Animation – “Duck Duck Goose”

DeZerlin Media – “Watch The Skies”

Yi Animation – “Kung Food”

Light Chaser Animation – “Tea Pets”

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