Until he got the call Han Lei was living the American dream: working one of the animation industry's most demanding jobs at Dreamworks' lighting department in Los Angeles.
After moving to Texas to study visualization science, Han began working at Dreamworks in 2004. He programmed light and life into the African savannah in Madagascar, the warty green epidermis of Shrek and the rippling pelt of Kung Fu Panda.
And then in 2013 Han got a call from Chinese tech billionaire Gary Wang - a man on a mission to produce world-class animation in China. Wang was recruiting for Light Chaser Animation, a studio he had just launched; Han accepted.
"Gary wanted someone with experience in a major studio but from a Chinese background," Han said. "It feels like the early age of Pixar."
"Our goal is to make a high quality feature-length animation in China -- at least close to a Hollywood level of quality," he added.
Light Chaser's team is hungry to bring the industry to life and win an audience as young Chinese begin to view animation as more than children's television. However, unlike Pixar, Light Chaser faces competition from a host of multi-national rivals who dwarf their studio in size and experience.
While U.S. box office sales are roughly stagnant – sales grew an average 2.7 percent over the past five years – in China they've grown over 30 percent annually for the past decade. According to a 2012 Ernst & Young report China's box office is on track to surpass America's by 2020.
American animation houses are catching on. Last year, Disney formed a joint venture with Shanghai new media giant BesTV, while Dreamworks formed Oriental Dreamworks with a consortium of Chinese investors, establishing equal footing in China's markets.
Upon announcing its China partnership, Disney executives highlighted China's technological innovation.