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Taiwan's Golden Bell-winning 'Magician on the Skywalk' in hot water over VFX

Judge posts complaint after ceremony, accuses show of outsourcing animation work to Chinese firms

Special effects recreation of the Chunghua Mall in "The Magician on the Skywalk." (Facebook,Weijian Liu photo)

Special effects recreation of the Chunghua Mall in "The Magician on the Skywalk." (Facebook,Weijian Liu photo)

TAIPEI (Taiwan News) — Following the success of ‘The Magician on the Skywalk’ at the 56th Golden Bell Awards (GBAs), Lin Chia-chi (林家齊), GBA judge and founder of MoonShine Animation, took to Facebook to complain the show employed foreign special effects (SFX) companies.

In a lengthy post, Lin criticized "The Magician on the Skywalk" for not crediting its visual effects (VFX) supervisor Song Wei (宋威) and Beijing’s Nova Film, which he claimed was “responsible for over 80% of all special effects shots.” He said that as a post-production animator, he believed they should have been credited, and questioned, “Is there really anything that cannot be said publicly or cannot be said in Taiwan?”

Lin also alleged the production outsourced NT$40 million (US$ 1.43 million) worth of VFX work overseas, leaving just some SFX shots to be done in Taiwan. Some Taiwan production companies that participated in the production were even outsourced by China, he added.

Lin said while “The Magician on the Skywalk” marketed its own VFX as a joint effort between Taiwan and South Korea, the Chinese companies did the bulk of location SFX production. He lamented the loss for Taiwan’s VFX industry, and urged producers to keep already scarce resources and funds in Taiwan to help the local industry grow.

In another post, Lin said he was contacted by the Public Television Service (PTS) production team for “The Magician on the Skywalk” two years ago about doing post-production work. However, the plans eventually fell through, and he told PTS, “To my understanding, the problem is not that there isn’t enough budget for it, it is that there is no intention to engage Taiwanese special effects teams in the main part of production.”

Lin said there is a vicious cycle of “outsourcing overseas teams when there is a budget, and going to Taiwanese special effects companies for help when there is not enough budget” in Taiwan’s filmmaking industry, which later led to criticism of Taiwan's SFX performance.

However, “The Magician on the Skywalk” producer Weijian Liu (劉蔚然) said the comments were untrue and hurtful. She said all the VFX work in “Didi’s Dreams,” the biggest production her company has ever worked on, had been done in Taiwan.

Liu also detailed the arduous process for recreating Taipei’s historic Chunghua Mall, a major location for “The Magician on the Skywalk.” She said considering the scale and complexity of the production as well as the short turnaround time, the team had to carefully assign SFX work to ensure efficiency.

She admitted the production’s Korean partner, 4th Creative Party, did outsource some work to Chinese companies, “but only 50% of the work was outsourced to the Korean company 4th (Creative Party), and they outsourced 9% of the entire production’s work.”

“I don’t know where the 80% came from,” Liu added.

In response to Lin, Yang said, “When we asked for your assistance, you were unable to offer any and didn’t join the team, we are still thankful. But after two years, without your help, we still did it, and we did not cheat taxpayers one bit.”