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'Artist' calls for Pandaland boycott of Kung Fu Panda
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"Idle parochialism and xenophobia! The film doesn't insult the panda or the people of China. How can this 'artist' - who has not even seen the movie – start a call for a boycott based on nothing more than his own over-fertile imagination!" a furious netizen wrote in an Internet post, the Shanghai Morning Post reported.

Zhao Bandi presents designs for prostitute and concubine panda clothes at China's International Fashion Week in Beijing, November, 2007.

Zhao Bandi, in spite of the role he has appropriated as the stalwart defender of the panda and Chinese culture, previously presented designs for prostitute and concubine panda clothes at China's International Fashion Week in 2007 -- something that he described as "satire". This angered Chengdu's legislators and they discussed the drafting of a local law for pandas, protecting against overuse or abuse of the panda's image - a move which caused controversy at the time.

In a Shanghai Evening Post commentary, the author asked, "Why the boycott? What's with the postponement? Is it about Zhao's own fragility, or does he genuinely believe that the quake-hit victims are too sensitive? The panda is cute, the Kung Fu is Chinese, the story is hilarious, and the theme is inspiring! Is this not what the people in the disaster area need most right now? Sichuan, more than any other place, needs to find something to laugh about! "

The Modern Express also said in its commentary, "Unless you are looking for an excuse to be offended, you will see that the film positively promotes Chinese culture and the panda's image, which is exactly what Chinese directors like Zhang Yimou and Chen Kaige themselves have been doing."

Children pose at a Kung Fu Panda clothing launch ceremony in Hong Kong, June 19, 2008. Paramount Pictures, parent company of DreamWorks, refused to comment on the suspension yesterday but said the film was screened in other Chinese cities as scheduled.

It is rare for the release of a film like Kung Fu Panda to be blocked due to this kind of controversy, even though cultural imperialism has long been a hot topic in China.

"Boycott" is a word that has been heard all too frequently in recent months. Targets have ranged from Spielberg to Carrefour, Sharon Stone and Louis Vuitton. But in the case of Kung Fu Panda, a massive number of Chinese people have joined in an online campaign to protest against the boycott, turning the instigator Zhao Bandi into a publicity-hungry clown.

One netizen called Ning Cai said, "I'm from Sichuan, and I was really looking forward to Kung Fu Panda. I'm not in the least bit pleased to hear the film has been postponed."

Film critics, while praising the film, have also questioned what Chinese filmmakers are thinking of, while foreign studios make increasing use of Chinese elements to achieve success. Disney's Mulan was an early example from a decade ago. With the Olympics approaching, as well as Kung Fu Panda, another Chinese-oriented film The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor is due to open in China in August.

(China.org.cn June 20, 2008)

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