The Magic of “The Monkey King” Unveiled in Behind-the-Scenes Documentary

Above: Donnie Yen stars in “The Monkey King”.

3D epic The Monkey King <西遊記之大鬧天宮> has generated a lot of buzz with its fancy costumes and Hollywood-grade special effects. The production team recently gave viewers a glimpse of the behind-the-scenes effort required to transform blue screens and concept art into Sun Wukong’s living world.

Directed by Cheang Pou Soi (鄭保瑞), The Monkey King introduces lead character Sun Wukong and chronicles his birth and rebellion against the Heavens. Starring top Chinese actors Donnie Yen (甄子丹), Chow Yun Fat (周潤發), and Aaron Kwok (郭富城), the film hopes to set box office records when it hits theaters on Chinese New Year, January 31, 2014.

Shot almost entirely in front of blue screens, a whopping ninety-eight percent of the film was created digitally with the help of a 1900-member special effects team, seventy of which are Hollywood veterans. To showcase their impressive work, the film studio released the first part of a behind-the-scenes documentary on December 17, along with photos showing Donnie Yen’s transformation into the Monkey King.

Headed by American visual effects supervisors behind Hollywood blockbusters 300Fantastic 4, and Spider-Man 3, the special effects team spent thousands of man-hours and over $1 million USD to recreate Sun Wukong’s fantastical journey. Extra attention was given to the Monkey King’s look, from the muscles on his body to the hairs on his skin. To ensure realism, the team painstakingly selected the correct color mixture for his hair and manually glued them onto Donnie. They allegedly used up to 200 kilograms of hair over the course of production.

Not only did the special effects team create magic, the actors also contributed greatly to their characters’ stunning images. Donnie was certainly tested on his patience as he sat through six hours of body makeup every day, waiting while dozens of pieces of prosthetic skin were carefully glued to his face. His body suit required five people’s help to put on and take off, and its tightness often caused difficulty in breathing. Even removing the makeup created headaches; the sessions frequently lasted as long as five hours.

As daunting as it seems, the cast and crew are proud of the end-product, declaring that the special effects are far more superior than that of Hollywood’s groundbreaking 3D film Avatar. One of the biggest investments in recent Chinese movie history, The Monkey King will likely break many industry limits, and may create a new trend of putting “Asia’s super heroes”, as Donnie dubbed them, onto the big screen.

The Making of “The Monkey King”

[vsw id=”zJiP-0uclTY” source=”youtube” width=”500″ height=”375″ autoplay=”no”]


This article is written by Katrine for

Related Articles


  1. one of the ugliest monkey kings.
    stephen chow’s portrayal is my favorite.

    1. There are two versions of this. The Hollywood version not due out until summer of 2014 or later. This is just the china mandarin spin off. the hollywood team is a company called Global Star productions in which website for its version is

      1. Thanks for the link. I just noticed now. Kelly Chan is Guanyin. Rubbish production. They just sexed up the entire myth/story/adaptation and the poster/graphic work is pretty bad for a production that boasts fantastic special effects work. Oh come on, Donnie Yen as monkey king is already wrong.

  2. not a fan of Donnie, but looking forward to see it cos i love Monkey King!

  3. “declaring that the special effects are far more superior than that of Hollywood’s groundbreaking 3D film Avatar. ‘

    HA HA HA HA HA HA!! Thanks for the funniest joke of the year!

    1. Wait! If Avatar is ground breaking then this one is Earth splitting?

      1. Hi Funn,

        Love your descriptive words. The witty comment. ..!

    2. so it’s one Hollywood special effects team trying to outdo another one?

      1. It’s very vague. The guy that turns on a light switch behind the scene is part of visual team of production as well. They need to state the actual names of the visual effect artists.

  4. You know this movie is gonna suck ass when they need to make comparisons to Avatar.

  5. Just added video link for the making of “The Monkey King”. Special effects team seem to be headed by Hollywood talents. The movie seems to be shot entirely in front of the blue screen.

  6. if this is targeted toward western audiences, it’s gonna suck. just like crouching tiger.

    1. Suck indeed. Crouching tiger made the lists of many best movie awards in the west, won some oscars and had a big box office in USA. Maybe you mean it sucked to audiences in China?

      1. I assumed that was the intention as asian audiences who have seen wuxia films didn’t think much of it. Personally, I found it pretty draggy and boring but the western audience loved it cause it was something different I guess at the time. Look what happened after a few more releases, it completely fell off the mainstream radar.

      2. now people look back crouching tiger it is somewhat overrated foreign film

Comments are closed.