(Status: in development)
In ancient China, dragons were once friends of men, but men’s greed and lust for power ended their alliance, and these wise and magical creatures were hunted down by the Empire. Years later, in a remote fortress, a young slave girl named Ping strikes up an unlikely friendship with Long Danzi, the last of the imperial dragons. Learning the power of Qi, Ping helps the dragon escape from captivity and together they journey across the Empire in order to save his lineage, chased by the Emperor’s men and pursued by even darker powers. Based on the acclaimed first novel of the Dragonkeeper trilogy by Carole Wilkinson.
Directors: Ignacio Ferreras and Jian-Ping Li
Authors: Ignacio Ferreras, Rosanna Cecchini, Pablo Castrillo, Carole Wilkinson and Xiamping Wang (Adaptation from Dragonkeeper by Carole Wilkinson)
Producer: Manuel Cristóbal (Dragoia Media, Spain)
Target audience: Family
Technique: 3D digital
Experienced Spanish producer Manuel Cristóbal’s new studio Dragoia Media is developing an animated feature film titled Dragonkeeper. It is based on a popular novel series of the same name, written by Australian author Carole Wilkinson, which have sold millions of copies worldwide. We can experience an epic adventure across ancient China with a young Chinese girl and a dragon within the film. What they showed us during their pitch were a great fusion of Western culture and Asian culture, and I felt that this universal film could be a successful example of international co-production between the West and East. I asked Manuel behind the story of their well-managed international project.
Interview with Manuel Cristóbal
Hideki Nagaishi (HN): How did the project start?
Manuel Cristóbal: I discovered the novel at the Bologna Children Book Fair, but it was not the right moment for the project at that time. Some years later, I presented the project to Larry Levene, my partner at Dragoia Media, and we decided to go for it, given the new situation with China in which co-productions were being encouraged. Also, the Chinese market was exploding and we both felt it was a great story that was worth the effort. We had the support from Atresmedia and Telefonica from day one and we also had development support from the MEDIA Programme.
HN: What was your first impression of the original book series?
Manuel Cristóbal: Carole Wilkinson is a great writer and she managed to create two characters like Ping, the slave girl, and Danzi, the dragon, that are unique but recognizable. That is also why we acquired the rights for the three novels of the Dragonkeeper trilogy, we know there is more than one film in them. At the moment, we are focused on doing the best film possible, but we know we have the right material to continue.
HN: Could you please let us know your journey on welcoming Chinese partners to your international project?
Manuel Cristóbal: The journey was led by my partner Larry Levene, he has a lot of experience with China. After exploring several possibilities, we reached an agreement with China Film Animation. We are very proud to have such great partners and we feel at home when we go to China Film Co. They did an excellent job distributing Kung Fu Panda 3, and we hope they will do even better with Dragonkeeper.
HN: Regarding to the creative side of the project, what sort of benefits are you receiving so far from teaming up with a Chinese studio and Chinese artists?
Manuel Cristóbal: Dragonkeeper has to be a natural collaboration in order to aim for the challenge both partners want to achieve, and that is having a film that works both inside and outside China. The benefit is, to have what is relevant for them in the project, and what would be exotic for a western audience, it takes a lot of time and commitment from both sides, but it is totally worth it.
HN: What do you think are the unique sales points of the story and visuals of the film?
Manuel Cristóbal: Dragonkeeper is an adventure film that takes places in an epic and magical China that is not normally seen on screen. We think it will surprise and engage the audience, no matter where they are.