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New Disney Film Offers Take On Traditional Chinese Tale


Fans of Disney's animated films for children are familiar with the standard cast of characters: Mickey, Minnie, and Goofy. But, as Joseph Popiolkowski reports from Hong Kong, you can soon add Wang Bao and his magic gourd to that list.

Disney's newest animated film, The Magic Gourd, which premiered in China on Friday, is based on a traditional Chinese story about a boy who finds a magical vegetable that grants him wishes.

The movie is Disney's most recent attempt to tap into the huge Chinese market. The company opened up a theme park in Hong Kong in 2005.

But the film represents a new strategy. It is Disney's first attempt to localize content for its Chinese audience. The film, which combines live action with computer-generated animation, was shot in China and produced in Hong Kong.

John Chu, chairman of Centro Digital Pictures, produced and co-directed the film. He says he is proud of the final product because it stayed true to his original vision for the film. "From day one it was understood that we must be close to the original story. We must not try to make an American movie. It's a Chinese movie made in China. And we've adhered to that spirit throughout," he said.

The main character, Wang Bao, is a contemporary Chinese boy in modern China. The magical vegetable steals from other people to please the boy, which troubles him.

Chu says The Magic Gourd was a natural choice for Disney to adapt to the big screen because it fits with the company's values and offers life lessons. "China has a lot of very well-known and much-loved children's stories. "The Magic Gourd" is one of them. And, so, it is very natural that we use this story to turn into a film," he said.

Disney has plans to localize content elsewhere. The company announced this month they are teaming up with a studio in India to create a series of original computer-animated feature films.

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