I’m starting to suspect that Netflix is an entity born of a dark, malicious Old God, slowly enslaving the populace by keeping them latched to their couches, binge-watching away their souls. If you need any evidence, just look at their September release schedule, which is full of latchery things – siren songs in the shape of BoJack Horseman’s new season, teen movie Sierra Burgess is a Loser (starring Barb from Stranger Things) and, for the masochists, season 2 of Iron Fist.
But there’s one thing that fascinates me more than the rest. Think, if you will, the light on the top of the angler fish. It is Next Gen, an animated feature film.
Sure, it looks like a mash-up of Big Hero 6 and I, Robot, but it’s not the premise alone that is intriguing me. It’s the circumstances behind it.
See, Next Gen was a mysterious US$30 million procurement Neflix made back in May – which, as reported by Cartoonbrew, is a large sum to pay for streaming rights to an animated feature made by relative unknowns, and coming from a Chinese company with no track record of animated features.
What’s more, the movie is based on an original online comic by the name of 7723, written by Wang Nima, who is the founder and editor of Baozou Manhua – a mini-media empire grown from a humble beginnings of being a ‘rage comics’ website. Baozou financed and produced the film, while Chinese majors Alibaba and Wanda will be releasing the movie in China.
Global rights to Next Gen, though, belong solely to Netflix. It’s not the first time the SVOD company is offering Chinese-made animated features – dig around a little, and you’ll find movies like the Alibaba-distributed feature Guardian Brothers (or Little Door Gods) and critical darling Big Fish & Begonia – but those have been theatrically-released before Netflix took them up. You have to wonder what the streaming giant sees in Next Gen.
Besides the strange circumstances surrounding it, there are a few other reasons to mark down its September 7 release dates:
- It has an Asian girl as the primary protagonist, voiced by an Asian American (comedian, actress and writer) Charlyne Yi.
- The animation and CG looks gorgeous. The movie is made using the Blender software, an open-source animation suite that can help reduce animation budgets without sacrificing on quality.
- Some A-listers in the voice cast, including The Quiet Place’s John Krasinki, Crazy Rich Asians’ Constance Wu, and the ever reliable trio of Jason Sudeikis, Michael Pena and David Cross.
Maybe, like most other Chinese-made animated feature films, it will be a passably-okay film. But maybe, owing its big investment, it could truly be the Next Big Thing.