Chinese TV Drama Apologizes For Plagiarizing His Dark Materials

Apparently, there is some overlap between the audiences for His Dark Materials and new Chinese fantasy drama Douluo Continent.

Characters From HBO's His Dark Materials TV Show
Photo: HBO

Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery… but not in the world of corporate copyright. New Chinese fantasy drama Douluo Continent came under fire after its premiere last week when viewers noticed that some shots in the drama’s magical opening credits, created by third party company Visual Impact Digital Production, looked quite similar to shots in the magical opening credits for the His Dark Materials TV show…

You can watch the Douluo Continent credit sequence here:

And here’s the opening credits for the first season of His Dark Materials, designed by Clarissa Donlevy at Elastic

As you may notice, the first four shots of each intro appear, at least to this pedestrian eye, to be identical. Viewers also noticed that the credit sequence, um, borrowed some CG animation of a character named Jhin from the League of Legends computer game.

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Visual Impact Digital Production issued an apology via Chinese microblogging platform Weibo on February 7th, stating (via Google Translate) that the plagiarism “was caused by the lack of rigorous creative attitude and incomplete review mechanism … The title content will be revised overnight and replaced in time, and it will strengthen copyright awareness in the future.”

This scenario is an interesting case study in how TV fandom is becoming increasingly global. While media has long been one of America’s chief exports and American TV has been an active part of Chinese culture since the 1980s, it’s become much more common in recent years for American audiences to watch TV from East Asia, especially from China, Korea, and Japan. In 2020 alone, Netflix reported a more than 50% increase in America’s viewing of foreign language titles, and that’s just one platform.

While this blurring between national TV borders has become more pronounced in the last few years, it’s hard to imagine what whoever made the Douluo Continent credit sequence was thinking. Though His Dark Materials airs on BBC in the UK, it is available via HBO in many other countries, including China. Meanwhile, Douluo Continent star Xiao Zhan has gained a massive international following for his starring role on The Untamed, which was one of the most-blogged about live-action TV shows of 2020 on American social media platform Tumblr. As Douluo Continent is the next big project for Xiao, it’s not surprising that American and British viewers have followed him to the historical fantasy.

On that note, Douluo Continent is worth a watch if you’re looking to expand your supernatural fare in international directions. It follows16-year-old prodigy Tang San (Xiao) as he is sent to Ruoding Academy to learn how to harness his magical ability and become a soul master. Once there, he meets and befriends orphan Xiao Wu (she’s the one with the bunny ears in the credit sequence). Later, the duo and five other cultivators from different magical schools form a evil-fighting team called the Seven Devils. Basically, it’s like Harry Potter meets The Avengers. And, past the plagiarized stuff in the outsourced credits, has some pretty beautiful visuals…

Douluo Continent is currently airing and is available to watch with English subtitles via Tencent Video.