MULAN CHARGES INTO CHINA; DISNEY SCALES THE WALL AS BEIJING APPROVES MOVIE'S RELEASE.
The great wall between Beijing and Hollywood was breached Monday as the Chinese government announced it will allow The Walt Disney Co.'s ``Mulan'' to be shown in theaters later this month.
Disney said a Mandarin-dubbed version of the animated hit, which has grossed about $300 million worldwide, will begin showings Feb. 23 after the weeklong lunar new year holiday ends. Martial arts star Jackie Chan will be the voice of Shan-Yu, the film's chief villain, and other prominent Asian actors also are participating.
``Mulan,'' based on a Chinese folk story of a young woman who disguises herself as a man to fight off Hun invaders, had been blocked from the world's most populous nation since its release last summer due to China's anger over Disney's 1997 release of ``Kundun.'' The Martin Scorsese film, which did poorly at the domestic box office, detailed the life of the Dalai Lama and China's occupation of Tibet.
``I think `Mulan' will be well-received in China because the story is really ingrained in their culture,'' said Dennis Speigel, a theme park consultant who has worked on Chinese projects for more than a decade. ``The movie takes some artistic license but I think they'll enjoy it very much.''
The Chinese government currently allows 10 American films in per year on a revenue-sharing basis but Disney has not been in the market since 1996's ``The Rock.'' Its animated movies have not been seen there since ``Toy Story'' and ``The Lion King.''
China has offered little comment on its policy toward ``Mulan,'' which was based on a 12th century poem. A spokesman for Disney said the length of the movie's stay in China will be decided by the state-run China Film monopoly.
The decision to relent on ``Mulan'' could represent a thawing of resistance to American movies in China. The Motion Picture Association of America recently said China's system included heavy taxes and an ``unwritten system of quotas'' for movies, home video and TV programs.
Burbank-based Disney does not stand to make much money initially from ``Mulan'' since the company's after-tax share of revenues is estimated to be 25 percent of box office receipts. Admission prices may be as high as $3 in China's major cities but elsewhere are likely to be 5 or 10 cents.
Disney is also widely believed to be exploring the possibility of creating a theme park near Hong Kong. No timetable has been set, but analysts say it would take at least a decade.
PHOTO (Color) no caption (Scene from ``Mulan'')
The Walt Disney Co.
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|Publication:||Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)|
|Date:||Feb 9, 1999|
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