Disney to produce film in and for China
Updated: 2005-12-14 21:32
LONDON - Walt Disney Co. is making its first movie in China, an
adaptation of a local children's book, joining a growing field of Hollywood
studios seeking access to the nation's tightly controlled media and
Disney said on Wednesday its Walt Disney
Studios was co-producing "The Secret of the Magic Gourd" with local investors
Centro Digital Pictures and The China Film Group Corp.
A picture from the
Chinese black-white version of the movie, made in 1963 about the story.
"We feel their participation is exactly what's required in ensuring that this
film lives up to the expectation of generations of Chinese audiences," said Mark
Zoradi, president of Disney's Buena Vista International distribution arm.
Centro's work may be familiar to Western audiences because it created visual
effects for such films as "Kill Bill," "Shaolin Soccer" and "Kung Fu Hustle."
China Film is, among other things, the only government-authorized importer of
foreign movies and therefore works regularly with Hollywood studios.
The cost of the "Magic Gourd" production was not disclosed, but the companies
expect to finish main filming early next year and a nationwide theatrical
release in China in the second half of 2006. It began shooting in Hangzhou in
Disney expects to distribute the film outside China, a spokeswoman said, but
no specific plans have been set. Because the story is similar thematically to
that of its other popular titles, Disney expects to find audiences in other
Although Disney opened a theme park in Hong Kong in September and is
exploring one in Shanghai with government officials, rivals News Corp. and Time
Warner Inc. were quicker to pursue local production in China.
Disney Chief Executive Robert Iger has broader ambitions for the company in
China, including launching a Disney Channel and distributing content over
broadband and mobile phones.
In addition to pursuing local production, Hollywood has been increasingly
using China as a shooting location to take advantage of unique vistas and low
Bernardo Bertolucci's 1987 film "The Last Emperor" was one of the earliest
Western productions in China, with sets at the Forbidden City in Shanghai.
Logistic and political issues, however, kept Hollywood from ramping up
business in China until a few years ago when Quentin Tarantino shot his martial
arts "Kill Bill" movies in Beijing in 2002. They were made by Miramax, which was
then a Disney subsidiary.
The distinction for "The Secret of the Magic Gourd" is that Disney is working
with local partners and producing a film specifically for the Chinese market
rather than importing its U.S.-based material.
The story, written by the late Zhang Tianyi, was first published in 1958. It
is about an imaginative little boy who happens upon a mysterious gourd with the
apparent power to help him accomplish everything he desires.