INTERVIEW: One man, one bag of money, one night to escape — ‘Have a Nice Day’

Courtesy of Strand Releasing.

Animator Liu Jian has taken a different approach for his new film, Have a Nice Day. This is no Disney movie with princesses, talking animals and a dragon. This is a crime thriller featuring a desperate protagonist on the run for his life.

Xiao Zhang steals a bag of money to pay for his fiancée’s botched plastic surgery. His boss, the owner of that money, spreads the word that Zhang is at large, and all forces are brought to bear on the everyman with the massive loot. What transpires is an action thriller that critics have said is reminiscent of Quentin Tarantino.

Recently, Hollywood Soapbox exchanged emails with Jian about the new film, which is currently playing in New York City and opens Friday, Feb. 2 in Los Angeles. Questions and answers have been slightly edited for style.

What inspired you to tell this story?

I live in China, and I wanted to show a picture of contemporary China with my film.

Did it take some time before you settled on a final animation style?

There is no short cut when making animation films. The images must be painted one by one.

What came first, the story or the main character?

We did a lot of location scouting. We took a lot of pictures. Based on the pictures, we drew the landscape part of the animation. Even the characterization, if there’s any action — like a punch — we will do it, take a picture and draw it based on the pictures.

You have an interesting placement and font for the subtitles. What was your thought on making them so prominent?

I always try to add new and fresh elements to my films, and each new attempt is me aiming to achieve deeper artistic value and social relevance for the work.

What are the extra creative freedoms that come with animation? What are the extra obstacles?

The freedom comes from your ability to control all aspects of the production’s tempo. The obstacles stem from cooperating with other companies.

By John Soltes / Publisher /

Have a Nice Day, directed by Liu Jian, is currently in movie theaters. Click here for more information.

John Soltes

John Soltes is an award-winning journalist. His writing has appeared in The New York Times, Earth Island Journal, The Hollywood Reporter, New Jersey Monthly and at, among other publications. E-mail him at

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