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Chan kids around for animated 'Adventures'
LOS ANGELES -- As a child, Jackie Chan liked to watch John Wayne and the cartoon characters Popeye, Superman and Batman.
"When I was young I loved action, but later on I find action too violent. I love comedy. I like to make everybody laugh ... When I hear everybody laugh that makes me happy," says Chan, 48, who has been Asia's top box-office action star for more than 20 years, and has more recently become a Hollywood draw as well.
"I want the kids to learn good martial arts, good action, good exercise ... right now it's important for the world to have peace and health."
Chan is speaking on the set of the Kids' WB cartoon series "Jackie Chan Adventures." He's been shooting transitional footage -- "bumpers" in industry parlance -- that will take the series in and out of commercial breaks.
They're lesson-oriented, including explanations of how words such as "cat" and "uncle" translate into Chinese, as well as responses to young viewers' questions.
"I know how important it is, especially right now, to teach the kids good things," says Chan.
"Jackie Chan Adventures" airs weekdays (2:30 p.m.) and Saturdays (8 a.m.). The half-hour comedy-adventure features a cartoon version of Chan as Jackie, an archaeologist and martial arts expert who works for a covert police force called Section 13.
His mission: to stop magic from being used for evil. His partner is his 11-year-old niece, Jade. They're assisted by Jackie's uncle -- an antiquities expert and chi wizard -- and by the stoic apprentice Tohru.
John Hardman, senior vice president of programming for Kids' WB, says Chan is an accessible personality who remains very involved with the series, now in its third season for producers Sony Pictures Television.
Chan performs the stunts that the animators use to create his character's moves. Acknowledging his limitations with English, however, the Hong Kong-born star doesn't do all of Jackie's dialogue. Voice-over actor James Sie -- who also does some of the villains -- gets that credit.
"In the beginning, I try to record myself, but I find out very difficult and I don't have time. So I do all the yowling," Chan says.
"Nobody yowls like me," he adds with a laugh, and illustrates some of his distinctive "walla" sounds from martial arts.
As a child and teenager, Chan apprenticed at the China Drama Academy.
"After I change to action from dance, I wanted to make the martial arts prettier. Whenever I fight you can tell it's like a ballet."
Chan's current movie is "Shanghai Knights," which re-teams him with "Shanghai Noon" co-star Owen Wilson from 2000.
Perhaps his breakthrough hit in the United States was 1998's "Rush Hour" and its 2001 sequel, "Rush Hour 2," with co-star Chris Tucker. He recently completed "Highbinders," aimed more directly at the Asian market.
"Jackie Chan Adventures," which airs in 35 countries, crosses boundaries, he says.
"Worldwide, even Hong Kong, they like it. Thailand, Korea ... children like cartoons in all international territories," says Chan.
Hardman says the cartoon is heavy on humor and avoids mindless violence.
Chan also draws inspiration from the physical comedy of Buster Keaton and Harold Lloyd in their silent-film classics.
"I think the way I make a film is almost the same," he says. "After watching these films it give me many ideas. I really learn a lot of things from the silent films."