Ne Zha (2019 film)

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Ne Zha
Nezha film poster.jpg
Theatrical release poster
MandarinNézhā zhī Mótóng Jiàngshì
LiterallyBirth of the demon child Nezha
Directed byJiaozi (Yu Yang)
Screenplay byJiaozi (Yu Yang)
Story by
  • Yi Qiao
  • Wei Yunyun[1]
Based onInvestiture of the Gods
by Xu Zhonglin[2]
Produced by
  • Wei Yunyun
  • Liu Wenzhang[1]
  • Lü Yanting
  • Joseph
  • Han Mo
  • Chen Hao
  • Lü Qi
  • Zhang Jiaming
  • Yang Wei[3]
Music byWan Pin Chu[1]
Chengdu Coco Cartoon[4] (Chinese: 可可豆动画)
Distributed byBeijing Enlight Pictures[4]
Release dates
  • 11 July 2019 (2019-07-11) (Beijing)[5]
  • 13 July 2019 (2019-07-13) (IMAX, CFGS)[3][6]
  • 26 July 2019 (2019-07-26)[3]
Running time
110 minutes[7][3][6]
Budget$20 million [8]
Box office$742.5 million[9][10]

Ne Zha[7][3][11][12] (Chinese: 哪吒之魔童降世[3]; pinyin: Nézhā zhī Mótóng Jiàngshì; lit. 'Birth of the demon child Nezha'), also spelled Nezha,[13][12][14] is a 2019 Chinese 3D computer animation[3] fantasy adventure film[7] directed and written by Yu Yang, credited as Jiaozi.[14] Its animation production is done by the director's own Chengdu Coco Cartoon.[4][15] Featuring the popular Chinese mythological character Nezha, the plot is loosely based on the classic 16th-century novel Investiture of the Gods, attributed to Xu Zhonglin.[2][16]

It was released in China exclusively in IMAX and China Film Giant Screen theaters[6] on 13 July 2019, followed by other theaters on 26 July,[3] distributed by Beijing Enlight Pictures.[4] It is the first Chinese-produced animated feature released in IMAX format,[15] and, despite being the debut feature of its director and animation studio, and having no widely known actors in its voice cast, it has been one of the biggest commercial successes in Chinese cinema, setting numerous records for box-office grosses: as of August 2019, the film is the highest-grossing animated film in China,[17] the worldwide highest-grossing non-U.S. animated film,[18] and the second worldwide highest-grossing non-English-language film of all time at the time of its release. With a gross of over $725 million,[19] it was that year's fourth-highest-grossing animated film, and China's all time third-highest-grossing film.[20]

It began a North American release on 29 August 2019 in select IMAX 3D theaters, before a nationwide rollout on 6 September.[21] It was selected as the Chinese entry for Best International Feature Film at the 92nd Academy Awards,[22] becoming the first animated film from China to ever do so,[23] but it was not nominated.

A second film set in the same universe, titled Legend of Deification, was released on 1 October 2020, which is National Day in China.[24]


A Chaos Pearl, birthed from primordial essences, begins siphoning energies gluttonously. Yuanshi Tianzun dispatches his disciples Taiyi Zhenren and Shen Gongbao to subdue the sentient pearl. Due to its ability to absorb energy, Taiyi and Shen are unable to gain the upper hand. Eventually Tianzun separates the pearl into two opposite components: the Spirit Pearl and the Demon Orb. Tianzun places a heavenly curse upon the Demon Orb: in three years time it will be destroyed by a powerful lightning strike. Tianzun then instructs Taiyi to take the Spirit Pearl to be reincarnated as the third son of Li Jing, to be named Ne Zha.

Shen conspires to steal the Spirit Pearl and in the ensuing battle, the Demon Orb is placed on the ritual altar instead, causing Li Jing's pregnant wife Lady Yin to give birth to a child, Ne Zha, whose demonic nature is apparent. Taiyi tells them that Ne Zha's fate is sealed: in three years' time the heavenly curse placed upon the Demonic Orb will kill him regardless. Li travels to Heaven with Taiyi in an attempt to plead for Ne Zha's life, but is told that the curse is unremovable.

Meanwhile, it is revealed that Shen stole the Spirit Pearl for the Dragon King to reincarnate as his son, Ao Bing. The dragons resent their role as jailers of the Heavenly Court and being confined to a hellish existence on the ocean floor. They hope that through the blessed nature of a son born from the Spirit Pearl that dragon kind would be deemed worthy by Heaven, allowing the dragons to ascend. The Dragon King allows Shen to take Ao Bing as a student.

To tame his demonic nature and to make him happy, Ne Zha's parents lie to him, telling him that he was born of the Spirit Pearl and is destined to be a great demon hunter. Ne Zha studies under Taiyi and acquires great skills. Eventually becoming impatient, the impetuous Ne Zha escapes his confines to hunt demons. While chasing a water demon, he burns down a fishing village. Ao Bing also comes to fight the demon, but is eventually defeated. Ne Zha cleverly overcomes the water demon and rescues both Ao Bing and a little girl, but is nevertheless misunderstood by the townsfolk. In a rage, Ne Zha lashes out at the villagers, hurting many of them.

The Li household organizes a lavish birthday party for their son, inviting a nervous town to attend. Shen visits Ne Zha before the party, revealing the truth of his nature to him. Angry and upset, Ne Zha unleashes his true demonic form and nearly kills his father. Feeling betrayed, Ne Zha leaves to await his fate.

Shen says that if his deceit is revealed to Tianzun then not only will he be punished, all of dragon kind will be condemned forever. Ao Bing, not wanting to betray his kind, decides to bury the town alive under a massive sheet of ice so there are no witnesses. Meanwhile, Ne Zha learns that while visiting Heaven to plead for his life, his father sought an enchantment that would allow him to trade his life for Ne Zha's. Moved by his father's sacrifice, Ne Zha returns to the village to stop Ao Bing. Eventually unleashing his full demonic form, Ne Zha defeats Ao Bing but spares his life, calling him his only friend.

When the heavenly lightning approaches, Ne Zha surrenders to his fate but is unexpectedly joined by Ao Bing. Linking hands, they unleash the power of the Chaos Pearl, which has the ability to absorb energy. Their mortal bodies prove too weak to contain the energy of the strike. Though their bodies are destroyed, the townsfolk kneel before Ao Bing and Ne Zha in their spirit forms.

In the mid and post credits scenes, the Dragon King vows vengeance on the citizens of Chentangguan for what happened to Ao Bing, while in an unknown location, Jiang Ziya is introduced.

Voice cast[edit]

Mandarin Chinese[edit]

  • Lü Yanting as the child Nezha, son of Li Jing and Lady Yin
  • Joseph (囧森瑟夫) as the adolescent Nezha
  • Han Mo as Ao Bing, the Dragon King's third son
  • Chen Hao as Li Jing, the chief who governs Chentangguan. He becomes a noble father willing to sacrifice his own life to rescue his son Nezha
  • Lü Qi as Lady Yin, Nezha's mother
  • Zhang Jiaming as Taiyi Zhenren, Nezha's master, a Taoist immortal who lives on the Kunlun.
  • Yang Wei as Shen Gongbao




The film tells the mythological origins of Nezha, who is a protection deity in Chinese folk religion, and its story is loosely based on the literary version of the myth that forms two chapters of Investiture of the Gods, a Ming-dynasty shenmo novel, traditionally attributed to Xu Zhonglin, which incorporates various existing myths into a wider narrative.[2]

The story has been adapted for the screen many times before, at least as early as 1927[citation needed] or 1928,[25] whether on its own (as in the 1979 traditionally-animated film Nezha Conquers the Dragon King) or as part of adaptations of the whole of Investiture of the Gods (such as the 2016 live-action film League of Gods).


Director Jiaozi spent two years in total to write the screenplay, and the film was in production for three years.[26][27]

Animation production[edit]

The film has more than 1,318 special effects shots, and it took over 20 Chinese special effects studios, employing more than 1,600 people, to realize the film's fairy tale setting, the mysterious Dragon King's Palace, and a complex fight between fire and water. One scene alone took two months to complete.[26][28]



Executive production company and distributor Beijing Enlight Pictures[4] premiered Ne Zha on 11 July 2019 in Beijing, followed by an encore on 12 July.[5] The film was given a limited release in IMAX and China Film Giant Screen premium large format theaters[6] on 13 July, and was released nationwide on 26 July.[3][29]

Box office[edit]

The film grossed 600 million yuan (est. $84 million) in its first three days alone. It broke local records with a $91.5 million opening, the highest ever for an animated film in China.[30]

On August 2, 2019, It became the highest-grossing animated film of all time in China, a record held by Zootopia ($235.6 million) since 2016.[31] On 7 August 2019, Ne Zha became the fastest animated film to reach $400 million (in 12 days). It is currently the highest-grossing animated film of all time in a single market ($703.71 million in China)[19] overtaking Incredibles 2 (2018) ($608.5 million in North America), the highest-grossing non-Disney or Pixar animated film in a single market, overtaking Shrek 2 (2004) ($441.2 million in North America), and the highest-grossing non-English spoken animated film, overtaking Spirited Away (2001) ($361.1 million worldwide).[26][32][33][34] Upon reaching $700 million (in 46 days), it became the first ever animated feature film in film history to reach that milestone in a single market.


The film was released in cinemas in English-speaking regions in Mandarin with English subtitles around the end of August and beginning of September 2019.

It was released in Australia on 23 August and in New Zealand on 29 August, distributed by CMC Pictures.[35]

It was released in the United States and Canada in select IMAX 3D venues on 29 August, followed by other cinemas on 6 September, distributed by Well Go USA Entertainment.[18][21][12]

It was released in the United Kingdom and Ireland, including in select IMAX 3D venues, on 30 August, distributed by CMC Pictures in collaboration with Cine Asia.[36][7][11]


Douban, a Chinese media rating site, gave the film 8.7 out of 10.[37]

The review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes reported that 88% of critics have given the film a positive review based on 17 reviews, with an average rating of 7.2/10.[38] On Metacritic, the film has a weighted average score of 54 out of 100 based on 5 critics, indicating "mixed or average reviews."[39]


The creative team behind the film has announced that Ne Zha will be the first installment in a fictional universe based on the stories told in the Fengshen Yanyi.[40] The next film in the franchise was announced to be Legend of Deification, featuring Jiang Ziya. It was slated for release on 25 January 2020 in China,[41] but following the COVID-19 pandemic, all Chinese New Year releases were cancelled. It was released on the 1st of October 2020, which aligned with China's national day, in both China and the U.S.[42]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c 哪吒之魔童降世 的全部演职员. (in Chinese (China)).
  2. ^ a b c Zhang, Phoebe (4 August 2019). "Chinese animated legend Nezha makes box office history, roaring past The Lion King". Yahoo. Retrieved 10 August 2019.
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h i 哪吒之魔童降世 (豆瓣). (in Chinese (China)).
  4. ^ a b c d e Milligan, Mercedes (30 July 2019). "'Nezha' Breaks Chinese Animation BO Records".
  5. ^ a b "Ne Zha (2019) - IMDb".
  6. ^ a b c d e "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 25 August 2019. Retrieved 26 August 2019.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  7. ^ a b c d e "NE ZHA | British Board of Film Classification".
  8. ^ "AiF""Animation is Film". Retrieved 31 March 2020.
  9. ^ "Ne Zha Zhi Mo Tong Xiang Shi (2019) - Financial Information". The Numbers. Retrieved 18 September 2019.
  10. ^ "Ne Zha (2019) - International Box Office Results - Box Office Mojo". Retrieved 18 September 2019.
  11. ^ a b "Past, present and future releases to Past, Present and Future Releases | UK Recent and Upcoming Movie".
  12. ^ a b c "NE ZHA (2019)". Well Go USA Entertainment.
  13. ^ The title is romanized as Ne Zha on the film's title card but as "Nezha" in the official English subtitles when referring to the character, and also on the U.S. poster and in the U.S. trailer.
  14. ^ a b "NE ZHA (2019) Official Trailer | Epic Animated Chinese Movie".
  15. ^ a b "$91.5 Million Debut Of 'Nezha' Crushes Animation Records In China". Cartoon Brew. 29 July 2019.
  16. ^ 《哪吒之魔童降世》:这部国产动画,值得“吹” (in Chinese). thepaper. Retrieved 20 July 2019.
  17. ^ "'Nezha' Overtakes 'Zootopia,' Sets All-Time Highest-Grossing Chinese Animation Record". Cartoon Brew. 2 August 2019.
  18. ^ a b "American Audiences Don't Have To Wait Long To See The Chinese Blockbuster 'Ne Zha' In Theaters". Cartoon Brew. 16 August 2019.
  19. ^ a b "Boxoffice, China Boxoffice, China film Boxoffice, Weekly Boxoffice, Yearly Boxoffice". EntGroup. Retrieved 12 September 2019.
  20. ^ "Ne Zha 2nd place on Chinese mainland's all-time box office chart". Retrieved 10 September 2019.
  21. ^ a b Brzeski, Patrick (16 August 2019). "China's Summer Hit Ne Zha to Get North American Release from Well Go USA (Exclusive)". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved 19 August 2019.
  22. ^ "93 Countries in Competition for 2019 International Feature Film Oscar". Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. 7 October 2019. Retrieved 8 October 2019.
  23. ^ "Oscars: China Selects 'Ne Zha' for International Feature Film Category". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved 8 October 2019.
  24. ^ "国漫力作《姜子牙》10月1日国庆上映-新华网". Retrieved 16 September 2020.
  25. ^ 哪吒出世 (豆瓣). (in Chinese (China)).
  26. ^ a b c Katherine Chen (8 August 2019). "Nezha Becomes China's Highest-Grossing Animation Ever". thatsmags. Retrieved 10 August 2019.
  27. ^ 五年筹备 66版修改 动画电影《哪吒之魔童降世》上映两小时票房破亿. (in Chinese). 27 July 2019.
  28. ^ 《哪吒之魔童降世》能否延续《大圣归来》的传奇. sina (in Chinese). 24 July 2019.
  29. ^ 国漫《哪吒之魔童降世》宣布提档7月底公映 (in Chinese). iFeng. 2 July 2019. Retrieved 26 July 2019.
  30. ^ Mia (25 July 2019). 国漫崛起!《哪吒之魔童降世》票房已过亿 (in Chinese). sina. Retrieved 26 July 2019.
  31. ^ "'Nezha' beats 'Zootopia' to become biggest animation of all time in China".
  32. ^ "Ne Zha leads Chinese mainland box office for 7th day". chinadaily. 2 August 2019. Retrieved 10 August 2019.
  33. ^ Dudok de Wit, Alex (9 August 2019). "Nezha Smashes $460 Million Box Office, Set To Overtake Avengers: Endgame In China". Cartoon Brew. Retrieved 10 August 2019.
  34. ^ Davis, Rebecca (5 August 2019). "China Box Office: Nezha Is 10th-Highest Grosser Ever in China After Two Weekends". Retrieved 10 August 2019.
  35. ^ "Sina Visitor System".
  36. ^ "Sina Visitor System".
  37. ^ 30万人评《哪吒之魔童降世》依旧8.7分!颠覆还是合理改编?. Sohu (in Chinese). 29 July 2019.
  38. ^ "Ne Zha (2019)". Rotten Tomatoes. Fandango. Retrieved 10 October 2021.
  39. ^ "Ne Zha Reviews". Metacritic. CBS Interactive. Retrieved 3 May 2020.
  40. ^ "《哪吒2》来了,饺子导演透露剧情走向,新角色新法宝都将登场?". Sohu. Retrieved 9 June 2020.
  41. ^ "Chinese mythology series Jiangziya relay Nezha at the beginning of the new year". 25 September 2019. Retrieved 17 December 2019.
  42. ^ "Legend of Deification (2020) - IMDb". IMDb.

External links[edit]