Making a song and dance for China

0 CommentsPrint E-mail China Daily, August 10, 2010
Adjust font size:

On Aug 10, Disney will release a Chinese remake of its smash hit High School Musical (HSM). But the box office, says a senior executive, is not the only criterion of the new version's success.

Disney: High School Musical China will hit China's screen on Aug 10. [China Daily

Titled Disney: High School Musical China, the film is inspired by the first installment of the HSM franchise, which has 300 million viewers globally. Disney co-produced it with private Chinese media group Huayi Brothers and State-owned Shanghai Media Group (SMG).

With its booming film market, China has seen increasing international co-productions in recent years, such as The Painted Veil, starring Edward Norton and Anthony Wong, and Shanghai featuring John Cusack and Gong Li.

But Disney is the first Hollywood studio to set its story in modern China with an all-Chinese cast.

"If people feel better about Disney and want to see another Disney movie, or try other experiences such as video games and theme parks, that's as important as how much money we make here on this movie," says Rich Ross, chairman of the Walt Disney Studios.

Efforts to build the emotional bond with local audience are apparent.

Disney changed the set from a high school to a university, partly because romance is officially not allowed in high schools in China.

The main love interest is still a basketball star, but more thoughtful and smart, and one who often bursts into poetic lines - because Disney and its partners believe in China it is the intelligent and studious young men who tend to win more attention in school.

Local comedian and cross-talker Guo Degang plays a Peking Opera singer who forces his son to take over his mantle, and pop singer Sun Nan a vigorous teacher.

Music and choreography for the new film are by local talents, except for the hit melody, We're all in This Together, which is from the original film, but now has Mandarin lyrics.

"We always try to be respectful of the culture that exists," Ross says. "We do not marginalize what we do, we harmonize what we do."

Ross thinks that many of the issues in the original film such as friendship, self-discovery and generation gap, are of universal appeal and will have no trouble attracting a Chinese audience.

Li Ruigang, president of SMG, believes the film pioneers a new way for the future of international cooperation in the Chinese film market.

"High School Musical China is a perfect example of positive cooperation amongst international, State-owned and private companies."

The advantages the co-production brings are obvious. First of all, China can only import 20 foreign films a year for theatrical release, but co-produced films are exempt from this rule.

In addition, the film's trailer was shown before the popular Aftershock, a local blockbuster by Huayi Brothers.

"The trailer of HSM was screened before Aftershock. Could you have a better opportunity?" Ross says. "We are on that movie because Huayi Brothers is our partner. Everybody expected Aftershock to be big, this big is beyond explanation, Avatar-like here. For us that was an unbelievable opportunity."

Huayi also helped adjust the film's screening time from the original middle July to early August, to avoid a direct clash with Aftershock.

SMG, in addition, has used its assets, such as entertainment news and shows, to promote the film.

As an Emmy Award-winning film series first launched in 2006, HSM is not new to Chinese youth. The stage show of its first installment opened in Shanghai last summer, and all of the three films of the trilogy had been aired on CCTV.

Print E-mail Bookmark and Share

Go to Forum >>0 Comments

No comments.

Add your comments...

  • User Name Required
  • Your Comment
  • Racist, abusive and off-topic comments may be removed by the moderator.
Send your storiesGet more from