“It’s meant to help all young children to do things they don’t always like to do — don’t look at your phone for too long, remember to brush your teeth, respect your elders, pick up the trash,” Chan said. “If you tell them that, sometimes children won’t listen, but through comedy and action, then they will start to follow.”
This is the latest addition to the Jackie Chan empire: On top of his long, storied career as an actor and singer, he also owns firms in the entertainment industry, has a charity and supports many other causes, and even sits on a central government political advisory body. There’s a vast variety of branded products out there, including bath towels, wine cases and LED light bulbs. And with the launch of this new cartoon, Chan and his business partners have plans for an endless array of even more, including theme parks, books, toys, apparel, video games and stage plays.
Experts say Chan, 63, is one of China’s most successful cultural exports, and that his stardom has played well as the world’s second-largest economy pushes itself to rival Hollywood. Chinese firms have spent billions buying up U.S. companies, like Legendary Entertainment, in recent years.
“Between people like him and companies like Wanda and all this overseas investment … it’s clear China is trying to exert a lot more intangible soft power force on the world,” said Ben Cavender of China Market Research Group. “With (President Donald) Trump coming into power, it’s created a massive opportunity for China to sort of rebrand itself.”
Building up China’s entertainment industry can also support other sectors, from retail to advertising, which is a crucial move as the government works to maneuver an economic growth transition away from manufacturing and exports.
“It used to be very difficult for China’s movie industry to go abroad,” Chan said. “Now, China has the capital and the ability to start purchasing foreign companies … this kind of cooperation will lead us to learn more, and allow us to spread Chinese culture overseas to help more people understand China.”
Chan says he’s happy to use his influence to introduce China to the world, and that falls in line with next steps for his new animation. There are plans to roll out internationally, and eventually make a feature film over the next few years.
But he has become so ubiquitous — showing up on commercials for everything from shampoo to energy drinks — that consumers sometimes feel “he’s in it for a paycheck because [it seems] he doesn’t care about the product,” Cavender said.
In reality, Chan probably doesn’t need a few extra bucks: He is one of the world’s highest paid actors, raking in $61 million last year, according to a Forbes ranking.
Chan’s star seems yet to fade. And if he has his way, that legacy will continue.
“I really like cartoon — I never get old!” Chan said. “One day, when I’ve passed away, when I am 80, young children can still see the cartoon and still think ‘Jackie is a young brother!'”