The Chinese animation firm aiming to rival Hollywood

Light Chaser Animation aims to make feature films to rival those of Hollywood studios Pixar and Dreamworks

A familiar issue for many businesses these days is a scarcity of top talent.

Chinese film studio Light Chaser Animation has taken an unusual approach to help to solve this problem - it bought a robot.

The device is a "telepresence robot", which it acquired from California-based Double Robotics. It consists of a battery-powered mobile platform to which an iPad is attached.

The wi-fi controlled device can move around the company's offices and it allows animation director Colin Brady - who lives in Los Angeles and did not want to move to China - to communicate with the rest of the team in Beijing.

Staff are watched by a "telepresence" robot The "telepresence robot" allows a key US worker to communicate with the team

He says he uses the robot more than he initially expected to. "During meetings and interviewing new employees, it is very helpful to look people in the eye and then look at their screen," says Mr Brady.

"It is very weird to be a robot that can roll around independently and surprise people at their desks, but that's a little bit of the fun part too." The best thing for him about using it is it allows him to spend more time at home.

His assistant Mo Chen says: "It's a bit scary when Colin suddenly shows up from behind, but thankfully, this doesn't happen a lot." But she says she does not find it weird talking to Colin through the device, since she is used to using Apple's Facetime app.

Gary Wang Mr Wang says he is bad with "routine stuff" and always wants to try new ideas

Company founder Gary Wang says the robot is just one example of the new communication tools that are now available to make working easier for teams that are dispersed across the world.

He adds that recruiting and retaining the right staff is absolutely vital for start-up businesses.

"If you hire 'A' class people they will hire 'A' class people from that point on. If you hire 'B' class people then… it will just go downhill from there. So we want to find our 'A' class people."

Rhino in artistic enclave in Beijing where Light Chaser is based. Light Chaser is housed in an artistic compound on the outskirts of Beijing

Mr Wang says the goal of the company is to produce animated movies like those made by Pixar and Dreamworks, aiming to achieve the same level of quality as the giant US studios.

He believes that the time is right for his new venture. As China goes through a transition from an economy based on industry, to one more driven by domestic consumption, he sees a growing appetite for home-produced entertainment.

"There are a tremendous number of people inside China who are looking to see stuff that's related to them, rather than just seeing another American film," he says.

Light Chaser has already made one short film and work is under way on its first feature.

Light Chaser Animation The company's first feature film is planned for release in early 2016

Little Door Spirits is a fantasy tale aimed at a family audience. Although the content and characters are definitely Chinese, Mr Wang says he also has one eye on the wider international market.

"We want to make… something that can be shared with anyone in the world."

Light Chaser is not Mr Wang's first enterprise. In 2005, he founded Tudou, a video-sharing site which launched shortly before YouTube.

The business grew quickly, attracting millions of users. But after it merged with another Chinese video-sharing firm, Youku, Mr Wang says he became restless.

Chinese cinema Mr Wang believes there is growing demand for Chinese-made films

He began to look for a fresh venture. He considered several possibilities, such as creating a vineyard. Eventually the notion of starting an animation company emerged.

Mr Wang says he soon discovered that putting his idea into practice was not going to be easy. "It requires a lot of people to do an animation feature film - we calculated about 150 people… in various disciplines, [from] artists to computer tech support, animators, lay out and so on."

The problem was that it was difficult to find people with the right skills in China, because few, if any, large-scale animated movies were being made at the time.

"We needed to do a poaching trip," he says.

He travelled to California, visiting Hollywood and Silicon Valley, and ended up hiring a handful of highly experienced people, who helped him to recruit the rest of the team.

Light Chaser's office It takes about 150 people to make one Light Chaser Animation film

Mr Wang says he is in the fortunate position to have raised the resources to make several feature films over the next few years. If the movies prove to be successful, he sees the potential to expand into other areas, such as merchandising or even theme parks.

New Entrepreneurs

Light Chaser Animation

  • HQ: Beijing, China
  • Year founded: 2013
  • Number of employees: 150
  • Ownership: Private

However, he recognises that he has entered a very risky business.

There is also a lot hanging on his shoulders. He is not only the company's chief executive, he is also the screenwriter and director. He says his previous experiences of writing novels and plays has been helpful with the latter roles.

Mr Wang believes it is in his nature to attempt to overcome difficult challenges. Some of the biggest difficulties many entrepreneurs face are uncertainty and self-doubt. He says he learnt to push these fears aside - and urges others to do the same.

"There's an old Chinese saying that when a boat hits the bridge, it will go straight again, [all] by itself," he says. "It basically means that it's actually not that terrifying. The big unknown is just like anything else."

More on This Story

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external Internet sites

More Business stories

RSS

Business Live

  1.  
    17:10: ITV results
    Brenda Kelly

    Brenda Kelly, a markets analyst, tells the BBC News channel that ITV's profit boost was partly down to more willingness among corporations to splash cash on adverts. "Ultimately, advertising spend is up, and it is down to a better economy, and a little bit extra to spend amongst corporations at the moment. So ITV making hay while the sun shines there."

     
  2.  
    16:48: Markets update

    The FTSE 100 closed slightly higher at 6919.24, having gained 30.11 points. ITV saw the biggest gains after it announced a full-year dividend of 4.7p, up 34%, and proposed a £250m special dividend worth 6.25p a share. Precious metals miner Fresnillo saw the biggest drop after it posted lower-than-expected full-year profit.

     
  3.  
    16:24: Aluminium price-fixing dismissal

    Banks Goldman Sachs, JPMorgan, and logistics firm Pacorini have won a dismissal of aluminium price-fixing claims in a US court. New York district judge Katherine Forrest said that complaints had failed to suggest the firms had participated in unlawful conduct.

     
  4.  
    16:10: RBS job cuts BBC World News

    Business editor Kamal Ahmed said it's "too difficult to tell" whether the RBS investment bank job cuts will be in the region of 14,000. "I interviewed the chief executive of the Royal Bank of Scotland [Ross McEwan] last week... he said the job cuts would be significant."

     
  5.  
    15:54: McDonald's chickens
    McDonald's restaurant, New York

    Fast food giant McDonald's has said it's going to stop using chickens that have been given antibiotics that are also given to humans, and stop taking milk from cows that have been given a specific artificial growth hormone. "Our customers want food that they feel great about eating," said Mike Andres, head of McDonald's USA. The food giant faces intensifying competition from smaller rivals positioning themselves as more wholesome alternatives.

     
  6.  
    15:40: RBS job cuts BBC World News
    Kamal Ahmed

    With the news that RBS may shed around 14,000 investment banking jobs, BBC business editor Kamal Ahmed has told World Business Report that the industry has been hit by new regulations. "In the old days investment banking was where you made your money. In the new era of regulation, with very tight capital controls, investment banking is hard work."

     
  7.  
    15:26: Fresnillo shares dive
    Fresnillo share price graph

    Shares in the precious metals miner Fresnillo are down more than 8% now, after being down almost 9%. It reported a 40% fall in full-year pre-tax profit, hurt by falling gold and silver prices.

     
  8.  
    15:09: Poland cuts bank rate

    Poland's central bank has cut its key interest rate by half a percentage point to a historic low of 1.5% amid concerns over deflation. Most economists had expected a cut of 0.25 percentage points.

     
  9.  
    14:59: Wall Street open

    In early US trading, the Dow Jones opened down 123 points to stand at 18,080, and the S&P 500 dropped 14.78 to 2,093. This could be the start of a second day of losses.

     
  10.  
    14:35: Greece bailout
    Jean-Claude Juncker and Angela Merkel

    It's "premature" to say whether Greece will be in line for a third bailout after it completes its existing programme, European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker has told a news conference. German chancellor Angela Merkel added that the eurozone has its "hands full" trying to make the second Greek bailout succeed.

     
  11.  
    14:27: Dirty property?

    The Independent has a theory about why London's property prices are so wild. It's dirty money, it says. We are not going to illustrate this post with a picture in case the luxury mansion pictured has been bought perfectly legitimately through hard scrimping and saving... yeah, right.

     
  12.  
    14:02: ITV results
    ITV shares

    ITV shares are hovering around record highs after the broadcaster posted better-than-expected profits of £605m. Shares have risen more than 5% to around 233p.

     
  13.  
    13:52: Jay Z and WiMP

    High drama in the music streaming world today. Rapper Jay Z (Shawn Carter, or Mr Beyonce if you prefer) had offered $56m for Sweden's Aspiro, which owns the WiMP/Tidal service, a few weeks ago. Norwegian media group Schibsted, which owns a 76% stake, accepted the offer, but more than 10% of Aspiro's minority shareholders have now rejected it, meaning the deal can't go through as is. The rapper's Project Panther is yet to react.

    Jay Z and Beyonce
     
  14.  
    13:35: Geneva motor show Russell Hotten
    Car

    Our man with the oily rag is in Geneva at the motor show. He tells us the hottest car there is the 450th - and last - Bugatti Veyron to be manufactured. Until last year it was the fastest road car on the planet. Though perhaps calling it just a car is a bit unfair - we prefer pure automotive art. Jeremy Clarkson went a tad further: "It's rewritten the rulebook, moved the goalposts, and in the process given Mother Nature a bloody nose."

     
  15.  
    13:21: Household incomes Brian Milligan Personal Finance Reporter, BBC News
    Incomes chart

    This chart shows how over-60s have fared the best since the financial crisis struck.

     
  16.  
    13:07: Irish unemployment falls
    Temple Bar

    The number of benefit claimants in the Irish Republic fell to 10.1% in February, another fall from a revised 10.3% in January. Those claiming jobless benefits fell by 4,300 to a seasonally adjusted 355,600, down from 450,000 shortly before Ireland entered its bailout.

     
  17.  
    12:48: Markets update

    Lunchtime trade sees the FTSE 100 down 0.2% at 6,876 points. The Dax is up a touch at 11,289 and the Cac 40 has added 0.3% to 4,883. The pound is down 0.1% against the dollar at $1.5347 and against the euro is 0.26% higher at €1.3779.

     
  18.  
    12:33: Banker bonuses
    Canary Wharf

    The UK could face legal action if it fails to implement the European Union's new rules on capping banker bonuses. The European Banking Authority cap limits bonuses to no more than two times fixed salary. Most of the bankers hit by the cap are based in London and the EBA said in October that "allowances" paid by banks to boost fixed pay soften the bonus cap and breach EU rules.

     
  19.  
    12:18: Live long and prosper
    Spocked dollar bill

    The Toronto Sun doesn't feature often on Business Live. In fact it may be a first. But what a first. "Star Trek fans told to stop 'Spocking' Canadian $5 bill" by the Bank of Canada". Take a look. Or the BBC's version of the story is here.

     
  20.  
    12:07: Toyota moves
    Toyota

    Toyota is promoting two foreigners to senior roles. Didier Leroy, its European boss, will become one of six executive vice-presidents - the first non-Japanese employee to hold such a role. North America group vice-president Julie Hamp will become Toyota's managing officer - the first woman to hold an executive position.

     
  21.  
    11:49: Household incomes Douglas Fraser Business and economy editor, Scotland
    IFS graph on living standards

    retweets: "The rapid fall and slow rise of living standards: new IFS projections and analysis."

     
  22.  
    11:32: Areva cost savings
    Areva building

    The French state-controlled nuclear group Areva has a new strategy. It will focus on its nuclear business, which will boost its partnership with utility EDF. It's made losses in the past four years. Now it plans to have made cost savings of 1bn euros (£727m, $1.12bn) by 2017.

     
  23.  
    11:21: Greggs results
    Greggs share price graph

    Greggs shares have gained well after its results - up 3.4%. Earlier it said it made gains from property disposal of £1.5m (2013: £1.3m). Its pre-tax profit was up 41.1% to £58.3m (2013: £41.3m).

     
  24.  
    Via Twitter Robert Peston Economics editor

    tweets: "A win is a win, but @George_Osborne will note ECJ ruled on ECB's lack of authority not on merit of discrimination against non-euro members"

     
  25.  
    10:55: Scottish Power
    Pylons

    Scottish Power has been banned from "proactive sales" for 12 days by Ofgem for failing to meet customer service targets. The energy supplier said it was committed to treating customers fairly.

     
  26.  
    10:43: Indian economy World Service
    Arya

    A trip not to Bollywood but Tollywood for Business Matters presenter Fergus Nicoll in the latest instalment of the programme's trip to Chennai in southern India. Fergus asks how far economic development is provoking social change and interviews Tamil language film star Arya (pictured left). Listen here.

     
  27.  
    10:29: Tesco board
    Tesco

    More boardroom moves at Tesco. Gareth Bullock is stepping down from the main board tomorrow after almost five years, but will remain a director of Tesco Bank. He follows Jacqueline Tammenoms and Liv Garfield, who said last week they would leave. Byron Grote - a director of Unilever, Anglo American, Standard Chartered and Akzo Nobel - will join from 1 May.

     
  28.  
    Via Twitter

    Simon Nixon, chief European commentator for the Wall Street Journal, tweets:

    Huge upward surprise in eurozone retail sales, up 1.1% on month compared to consensus forecast of 0.2%. More evidence recovery strengthening. @Simon_Nixon

    Shopping
     
  29.  
    10:13: Household incomes BBC Radio 4

    Shadow chief secretary to the Treasury, Chris Leslie, accepts that incomes have improved for some, but not most people: "The Chancellor has got a plan which is very much focussed on that trickle-down philosophy lavishing tax cuts on those at the top - and the people at the top are doing very well. It's the question about 90% of the rest of the country - what is happening to them? And for them life is getting much harder."

     
  30.  
    09:57: Market update

    Here are the market numbers. London's FTSE 100 is down 0.12% at 6,880.78. Frankfurt's Dax is down 0.41% at 11,234.49 and Paris's Cac 40 is up 0.05% at 4,871.87. The pound is down 0.13% against the dollar at $1.5344 and is up 0.28% at 1.3783. Ho hum.

     
  31.  
    09:48: Eurozone economy

    More good news. The January services PMI for the 19-country eurozone, which is up one point to 53.7 - but a touch under the flash reading of 53.9. "The outlook has brightened for all countries," says Chris Williamson, chief economist at Markit.

     
  32.  
    Via Twitter James Landale Deputy political editor

    Big question: is UK win at ECJ against eurozone land grab a one off or proof that UK can win EU reform battles? @BBCJLandale

     
  33.  
    09:26: Euro ruling
    Euro notes

    Good news for the City after the General Court of the European Union ruled that the European Central Bank was wrong to insist that euro clearing houses be based in the eurozone. Britain had challenged the policy, saying it went against the bloc's single market.

     
  34.  
    09:16: Economy CBI Radio 5 live

    John Cridland the CBI chief got in a couple of requests for George Osborne via Wake Up to Money: "Lower taxes on business because if you give business money they can create more jobs. But we need to invest in childcare support for low paid families. The cost of childcare is holding them back from taking jobs."

     
  35.  
    09:02: Household incomes BBC Radio 4

    Chancellor George Osborne, has been talking to the BBC: "The picture you hear, particularly from my political opponents, of the British economy, is not one reflected in this independent report. Indeed quite the opposite - what they show is that Britain is growing, that incomes are rising, that the richest have made the biggest contribution, that inequality has fallen."

     
  36.  
    08:48: Standard Chartered
    Standard Chartered

    No great surprise, perhaps, that outgoing Standard Chartered chief executive Peter Sands - and three other directors - have decided not to take a bonus for last year considering that the bank's pre-tax profits fell by a quarter to $5.1bn (£3.3bn). With a touch of understatement, chairman Sir John Peace says: "2014 was a challenging year and our performance was disappointing."

     
  37.  
    08:35: Household incomes

    More on that research suggesting living standards in the UK have now returned to levels last seen before the financial crash. The IFS says incomes are now rising at more than 1% a year. Its director, Paul Johnson, says there is not much to trumpet about: "It's astonishing actually that seven years later incomes are still no higher than they were pre-recession and indeed for working-age households they're still a bit below where they were pre-recession."

     
  38.  
    08:23: BlackBerry BBC World News

    Technology correspondent Rory Cellan-Jones has been speaking to John Chen, the boss of BlackBerry, on World Business Report. Rory asks him if he can imagine company no longer making handsets: "It's a little bit of speculation at the moment. I would say this: for our shareholders, nothing is sacred." Perhaps sales volumes speak louder than words.

     
  39.  
    Via Twitter Adam Parsons Business Correspondent

    So what does @jimmy_wales consider "an abomination"? And what does @CBItweets want from the Chancellor? Click here to listen to today's Wake Up to Money. @AdamParsons1

     
  40.  
    08:07: Eurostar sale BBC Radio 4
    Eurostar

    Sim Harris, managing editor of Rail News, tells Today that Britain's 40% stake in Eurostar went for a higher than expected £757m because there was a lack of high quality assets available to investors. He adds: "Whether it's the right thing to do is a question for George Osborne."

     
  41.  
    07:55: Legal and General results

    The insurer Legal & General said operating profits rose 10% last year to a lower than expected £1.28bn. Company pension deals helped sales of annuities to jump 28% to £44bn.

     
  42.  
    07:44: Greggs results

    Greggs has been freshening up its stores over the past year. It refitted 213 shops, opened 50 new outlets and closed 71 to bring the total to 1,650 shops as of 3 January.

     
  43.  
    Via Twitter Kamal Ahmed BBC Business editor

    Forget the IFS, the Pasty Index is in - Greggs sales up 4.5%, always a good barometer of consumer confidence. @bbckamal

     
  44.  
    Via Twitter Robert Peston Economics editor

    tweets: "Living standards back to where they were in 2007-8, but mainly for those over 60. & are rising strongly now, says IFS "

     
  45.  
    07:17: ITV results
    ITV

    ITV plans to return £250m to shareholders with a special dividend of 6.25p a share after a bumper 2014, with adjusted pre-tax profits up 23% to £712m and 39% higher at £605m on the pure pre-tax measure. Revenue rose 7% to a shade under £3bn. "ITV is now a high-growth business," says chief executive Adam Crozier.

     
  46.  
    07:06: Eurostar sale BBC Radio 4
    Eurostar

    Gemma Godfrey, head of investment strategy at Brooks Macdonald Asset Management, tells Today that the £757m the Government got for the Eurostar stake was higher than expected, but questions what the proceeds be used to fund. She believes the cash should be used to fund the next generation of infrastructure that will in turn create profits for the public purse.

     
  47.  
    07:00: Greggs results
    Greggs shop

    Greggs results hit the desk. Total sales rose 5.5% to £804m, while like-for-like sales up 4.5% - much better than the 0.8% fall in 2013.

     
  48.  
    06:49: ITV results BBC Radio 4
    Downton cast

    ITV reports annual results very soon. Toby Syfret of Enders Analysis has told Today that while channel brands have become less important than they were in the past, the decline is gradual. Programming - such as Downton Abbey - remains the crucial factor. "Good content is going to be the core of whoever is successful in the future," he says.

     
  49.  
    Via Twitter Sally Bundock Presenter, World Business Report

    tweets: "Morning. #Ukraine hikes interest rates to 30%. Plus GDP slows in #Australia and an i/v with the boss of #Blackberry. See you soon." That's on World Business Report.

     
  50.  
    06:26: Household incomes

    Big discussion about the Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS) report on household incomes. Whether the average household income is back to levels they were at before the financial downturn struck. One measure, for the over 60s, it is. But for most of the rest of us, it hasn't got there yet. Our story here.

     
  51.  
    06:15: India rates

    India has cut its main lending rate by a quarter of a point to 7.5% in a bid to boost economic growth. It is the second time this year that the Reserve Bank of India has cut rates as inflation is running at 5.1% - well under the 8% target - on the back of cheaper oil.

     
  52.  
    06:12: Sandwiches Radio 5 live
    UK map of bread names

    Greggs figures are out in an hour or so. The market is looking for 4% growth, earnings are expected to be up 9%. The UK is estimated to spend £9bn a year on sandwiches. Wake Up to Money has been discussing what these are variously called around the country. There's a map illustrating this.

     
  53.  
    06:07: Eurostar sale

    The stake is being bought by a Canadian pension fund and a UK asset manager will buy shares for £585m and Eurostar will also hand over £170m to redeem shares which guarantee a dividend. The stake was officially valued last year at £325m.

     
  54.  
    06:02: Eurostar sale Radio 5 live

    The sale by the Government of its shares in Eurostar for £750m is under discussion on Wake Up to Money. Gemma Godfrey head of investment strategy at wealth manager Brooks MacDonald tells the programme: "After the debacle we saw when they were selling Royal Mail they had to get it right and the value has come in above expectations."

     
  55.  
    06:00: Rebecca Marston Business reporter, BBC News

    Good morning. Strap in and sit back. Today's Business Live page will have all the news, all day. Greggs and ITV results are expected to be early highlights.

     

Features

From BBC Capital

Programmes

  • Kinetic sculpture violinClick Watch

    The "kinetic sculpture" that can replicate digital files and play them on a violin

Try our new site and tell us what you think. Learn more
Take me there

Copyright © 2015 BBC. The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.