Fresh from receiving an Oscar in February, Chinese martial arts superstar Jackie Chan has a new goal in mind.
The 63-year old re-launched his J-Team cartoon series in Beijing on Thursday, updating the old US-made cartoon into a 3D and “totally made in China,” 104-episode series.
“I really like cartoon — I never get old!” Chan told a group of reporters in the Chinese capital. “One day, when I’ve passed away, when I am 80, young children can still see the cartoon and still think ‘Jackie is a young brother!'”
Chan has enlisted the help of Kyana “Poppy” Downs, who, at the age of eight, has already become a household name in China after starring on the runaway TV hit Dad, Where Are We Going?
Joined by a llama named “Duang Duang” — so called after a viral meme inspired by a 2004 shampoo commercial by Chan — the duo introduced the US$6 million, 104-episode show that features cartoon versions of themselves fighting monsters in a dream land to ensure every child can have a good night’s sleep.
At the end of each episode, Chan imparts important life lessons to his young audience.
“It’s meant to help all young children to do things they don’t always like to do — don’t look at your phone for too long, remember to brush your teeth, respect your elders, pick up the trash,” Chan said. “If you tell them that, sometimes children won’t listen, but through comedy and action, then they will start to follow.”
The star, who pulled in around $61 million last year, according to a Forbes ranking, says the cartoon isn’t about adding to his bank account.
“It’s not about the money. I have a lot of money already,” Chan said. “Today what I’m really doing with this cartoon is, I can show to the world, it used to be Jackie’s adventures from America, but these days, everything is made in China.”
The original American animated series, which ran for five seasons from 2000 to 2005, was distributed across the globe with accompanying toys and video games also made.
But Chan thinks he has found the right production partners in Zhejiang Talent Television & Film Co., Ltd (唐德影视), Khorgas JJ Culture Media Co., Ltd (霍尔果斯博纳文化传媒有限公司), and VJ Animation Studio (上海俪薇杰影视文化有限公司), to make a new version that can be sold across the globe.
The first season is already scheduled on at least three children’s satellite TV channels and 200 terrestrial TV channels in China, including Hunan TV Children’s Channel, Jiajiakt, BTV’s Kaku Children’s Channel, JSTV’s Youman Children’s Channel and Toonmax TV. International co-operation has so far been agreed with Mondo TV, Bomanbridge, Rainbow, Shemaroo, and MBC Group.
“There are a lot of cartoons that make it into China, but not many Chinese cartoons make it out of China. Why? There are so many reasons,“ Chan said.
“Like, we’ve got the panda, and we’ve got kung-fu. But Dreamworks makes Kung Fu Panda and the whole world knows. We have Hua Mulan. We’ve made so many Mulans already — TV, movies. We made them, but nobody knows. Disney makes Mulan and the whole world knows. “
Chan already has plans to make an animated feature version of the cartoon to come out in 2019 which he hopes will have global appeal.
“Because I’ve been doing this so hard for the last 30 to 40 years, and trying to break out around the world, today, whenever I make a movie, I aim for the world,“ he said.
The intensely market-researched series has been designed to appeal to a young Chinese audience but the show’s creators also have global plans for it including an animated feature version slated for 2019, as well as video games, product franchising, stage plays, books, and theme parks.
Chan says he will continue to follow his instincts and leave the details to his large team.
“Probably when the theme park is finished, I’ll be 80. I don’t care. I just care about this year.”