Mon, Feb 06, 2006 - Page 1 News List

Local martial-arts puppet series screens on US cable


Retitled Wulin Warriors: Legend of the Seven Stars, the Taiwanese puppet series Pili was broadcast on Saturday for the first time in the US on the Cartoon Network.

The series, originally known outside of Taiwan as Thunderforce, is the most popular puppet series in the country.

Broadway Video Enterprises and GoodTimes Entertainment finalized an exclusive deal last year, acquiring worldwide television, merchandising, licensing and home rental rights to Thunderforce.

According to US media reports, Terry Kalagian, Cartoon Network's vice president of acquisitions and co-productions, said that the company was excited about bringing to television a whole new kind of action show for children.

"It's a combination of Eastern action with a Western bent," Kalagian said. "It's just what you would expect out of butt-kicking marionettes."

Britta von Schoeler, vice president of Broadway Video Enterprises, said that Wulin Warriors is a one-of-a-kind franchise and will turn into something much more than "Taiwan's little secret."

"As the popularity of Asian-influenced entertainment continues to grow around the world, genre fans are always on the look-out for the next cool import. The series delivers on many levels -- from its unique look featuring martial arts puppetry blended with animated special effects to its action-packed storyline," Schoeler said.

However, some of the original dialogue has been cut, and the puppets now speak fluent English instead of Hoklo (commonly known as Taiwanese).

Some puppet fans expressed discontent over the changes made to the series and are afraid that it will turn out to be an action cartoon that doesn't represent local culture.

However, one puppet fan said that the changes were necessary as they would help foreign viewers appreciate the series more easily.

"After they become interested in the series, they will do further research and understand what the original series was like as well as the whole history of Taiwanese puppets," said the fan, surnamed Hsu. "It will help spread Taiwanese culture."

The predecessor of Pili, the hugely popular Yun Chou Warriors, was one of the first puppet TV shows to screen in Taiwan and was watched by so many people when it aired in 1970 that it ended up banned for several years because it "caused students to skip classes and farmers to abandon their fields," as one fan said.

Another puppet fan surnamed Lin said that he could recall when an exam question had asked who the nation's founding father was. Many students answered the name of the warrior hero in the series instead of Sun Yat-sen (孫逸仙).

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