Chinese 'knock-off' of Disney's 'Cars' set for sequel

Poster for "The Autobots," (L) next to the Chinese-language movie poster for Pixar's "Cars 2."

Story highlights

  • Director says he plans sequel to movie slammed as "Cars" ripoff
  • Zhuo Jianrong says new film would be released next year
  • Disney says it has ongoing legal proceedings against filmmaker

Beijing (CNN)The director of a Chinese animated movie slammed for allegedly knocking off Pixar's "Cars" says he will have a sequel out next year.

Zhuo Jianrong, the director of "The Autobots," a controversial cartoon movie released last year widely criticized online for copying "Cars", told CNN the sequel will be released in the summer of 2017.
    Critics and disappointed moviegoers last year deemed Zhuo's animation a copy of Pixar's hit film franchise, but the filmmaker and production company denied the accusations, insisting it was "independently produced" and an "original" film.
    Zhuo said Disney had sued his company over copyright infringement last year, but refused to reveal more details about the case.
    Disney, which owns Pixar, said it had ongoing legal proceedings against the filmmaker and couldn't comment further.
    But a defiant Zhou said the court case "doesn't affect our making of the second movie at all."
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    'We can do better'

    The Chinese filmmaker, who insisted he had never seen any movies in the "Cars" franchise before making his own movie, claimed "The Autobots 2" will be completely different and a "much finer" movie than his first installment.
    "The storyline and main parts will be completely different than the first one," he said. "This time we are learning from Hollywood, trying to make it a blockbuster."
    Despite the criticism, Zhuo believes the first movie -- which featured a promotional poster that was similar to "Cars" -- was a success. The investment in the movie was less than 3 million yuan ($462,000), but it took in twice as much at the box office, he added.
    Some moviegoers begged to differ.
    "Many innocent moviegoers took their kids to the movie theater believing it to be 'Cars'," said one user on Douban, a Chinese social media platform that allows users to score and review movies.
    "The animation was so poorly made that it is no match for the average domestic cartoon series, and far worse than its not-so-good poster."
    It scored an average of 2.3 points on a five point scale from around 12,763 reviewers on Douban.
    When the controversy erupted last year, a Disney spokeswoman told CNN that the company shared the same concerns as many netizens and movie fans.
    Second time around though, the budget will be much bigger -- 50 million to 60 million yuan -- and Zhuo is confident the sequel will be a better animation, rich with Chinese elements.
    The moviemaker, who is also vocal on Chinese social media, admitted the criticism had motivated him to make the sequel and hoped that he would be able to distribute the new movie worldwide.
    "We are determined to make a world-class movie," he said.
    "Who says that only Pixar and Disney can make good animations with automobile elements? We can, too."