Disney-Shanghai deal portends a creative boost

Updated: 2014-04-17 11:21

By Liu Wei in Beijing (China Daily USA)

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Walt Disney Studios and Shanghai Media Group Pictures will co-develop stories with Chinese elements, says an executive of the Magic Kingdom.

"The deal focuses on the weakest point in the Chinese film industry, the storytelling," says Stanley Cheung, managing director of The Walt Disney Company, China.

Under the deal, US-based action, adventure and fantasy writers will team with locally based Chinese writers and filmmakers to develop stories and scripts that bear all the hallmarks of Disney films and feature authentic Chinese elements fit for local co-production and aimed at the international market.

The two sides will jointly set up a fund, collecting scripts in both English and Chinese and co-owning the copyrights.

"SMG is proud to work with Disney to create a new era of classic content featuring uniquely Chinese storytelling elements for audiences around the world," says Su Xiao, chief executive officer of SMG Pictures.

"The combination of our media coverage and understanding of the China market and Disney's long-standing success in telling magical stories will surely spark a brand-new chemistry that transcends age and borders."

China's box-office revenue has sustained rapid growth over the past decade. In 2013, the year's gross was 21.8 billion yuan ($3.5 billion), second only to the United States.

The first quarter of 2014 has seen a 31-percent rise over the same period last year, reaching 6.7 billion yuan.

For Hollywood blockbusters, only 34 of which can be imported for theatrical release every year in China, the country has become a tempting territory.

"The Chinese market is absolutely an important market now," says Cheung. "Films with Chinese elements should sell."

The cross-cultural exchange will expand training opportunities between Chinese and US writers and filmmakers.

In 2012, Disney joined with the Ministry of Culture's China Animation Group to be a founding partner of the National Chinese Animation Creative Research and Development Project. The initiative, now in its third year, aims to advance China's animation industry and train local talent and promote the development of Chinese content and franchises.

In the Beijing Film Festival, which opened on Wednesday, Disney will host a forum on animation, to be attended by the producer and visual artist behind Frozen, the Academy Award-winning Disney film that has generated nearly 300 million yuan in ticket sales in China.

The nongovernmental communications between filmmakers in the two countries have also been expanding.

In 2013, Paramount Pictures and the Motion Picture Association of America invited five Chinese directors, including Xue Xiaolu of Finding Mr. Right and Wuershan of The Painted Skin series, to visit their studios and see a preview of the films for summer 2014. The directors also met with executives of different departments and exchanged their visions for the industry.

The MPA is also hosting a film workshop during the Beijing Film Festival. Hollywood producers and executives and established Chinese filmmakers will spend two days together, during which rising directors will pitch their stories. "Creativity is not built in one day," says Cheung of Walt Disney.

"But I have full confidence that we will finally find appealing global stories with a Chinese touch."


 Disney-Shanghai deal portends a creative boost

The Disney film Frozen has generated about 300 million yuan ($48 million) in ticket sales in China. Provided to China Daily

(China Daily USA 04/17/2014 page2)