FAKE NEWS | Hollywood Denies Pandering to Chinese Market
LOS ANGELES – Some of Hollywood’s biggest studios have denied allegations that they are cynically tailoring their films to appeal to Chinese viewers and to the Chinese government.
“That’s completely untrue,” said Alan F. Horn, chief creative officer at Walt Disney Studios. “Our only priority is to make great films.”
Fresh allegations have surfaced in light of news that Disney is planning a series of sequels to its 2020 Mulan live action remake, including Mulan and the South China Sea, Mulan and the 14th Five-Year Plan, and Mulan Pacifies Tibet. Most controversial of all is the planned sequel Mulan Avenges a Century of Humiliation, in which, according to a leaked script, Mulan takes the disputed Senkaku/Diaoyu Islands and slaughters a hundred Japanese soldiers.
Horn, however, defended this as “wholesome family fun,” though he also said Disney’s plans resulted from “a logical business decision.”
“Our industry as a whole is going through some tough times with the coronavirus pandemic,” he admitted. “As such, it makes sense for us to shift our resources away from our less popular assets, like the Winnie the Pooh franchise, and towards our more popular ones, like Mulan live action films, especially given how successful last year’s movie was. The Mulan sequels will be shot in China, and the Chinese government has generously allowed us to use prisoners from forced-labor camps as free extras, which will save us a lot of money.”
Once an afterthought, the Chinese market has become increasingly important to Hollywood, with studios jostling for access to China’s 1.4 billion consumers. China’s government only allows 34 foreign films to air in the country each year, prompting studios to make movies with a Chinese dimension, or even to include completely pointless scenes with tenuous Chinese connections – like Batman going to Hong Kong to capture a random criminal in The Dark Knight, and Iron Man getting surgery from two Chinese doctors (played by local stars Wang Xueqi and Fan Bingbing) in Iron Man 3 – to increase the chances of their films being amongst them. Disney has gone through the greatest lengths of all, filming part of the 2020 Mulan movie in Xinjiang, where over a million Uyghurs have been imprisoned, often just because of their ethnicity and religion, and thanking a number of Chinese state entities in the credits for allowing it to do so. It also shared the script of the movie with Chinese authorities to avoid any controversy and guarantee a China release, and cut a kiss scene between Mulan and her love interest because it didn’t play well with a Chinese test audience. The COVID-19 pandemic has only intensified this trend, with Hollywood studios even more reliant on China for revenue, since its cinemas are now reopening after it successfully contained the virus, while most cinemas in the West remain closed.
But Horn warned that Chinese moviegoers are growing increasingly sophisticated, and that such blatant attempts to cater to them aren’t going to cut it anymore.
“To satisfy a Chinese audience, the Chinese dimensions in films have to spring from a genuine appreciation for the richness of Chinese culture,” he said. “For example, in our upcoming Avengers film, the Avengers have to retrieve an ancient artifact from Shenshan Village, which just so happens to be President Xi Jinping’s ancestral hometown.”
These new developments suggest a desire by Disney to move past earlier missteps in China, including attempts to appeal to the Chinese audience which backfired spectacularly, like 101 Dalmatians Visit Yulin, in which the Dalmatians end up being caught up in the city’s infamous dog meat festival.
Disney isn’t the only major studio that’s trying to tap the Chinese market. Warner Bros has planned a new installment to the Harry Potter franchise called Harry Potter and Leopard Walk Up to Dragon, which begins with Harry Potter divorcing Ginny Weasley and reconnecting with his old flame, Cho Chang, who now lives in Guilin. Universal Pictures, likewise, is shooting Fast and Furious 11: 1 Belt 1 Road.
Warner Bros and Universal Pictures also strenuously deny allegations that they’re shamelessly pandering to the Chinese market.
“All we want to do,” said Universal Pictures in a press statement, “is to tell the China story well.”