Disney has partnered with Centro Digital on kids' drama

Buena Vista Intl. has set out its movie production ambitions in mainland China and unveiled “The Secret of the Magic Gourd” as its first Chinese-made picture.

Kids’ drama, based on a tale by Zhang Tian Yi, will be filmed as a contempo live-actioner with extensive special effects.

Disney is partnered on “Gourd” with Hong Kong-based effects and post house Centro Digital, which provided visual effects on pics including “Kung Fu Hustle,” and with China Film Group.

Involvement of China Film makes project a full Chinese-qualifying co-production and automatically eligible for theatrical release in China.

Pic started lensing in late October and will wrap early next year. Centro CEO John Chu is supervising director, with former f/x director Frankie Cheung co-helming. Budget was not disclosed but is understood to be in the mid-seven figures.

Film is principally targeted at Chinese auds in China and other parts of Asia, but BVI hopes the finished product can be released further afield.

China Film has local Chinese rights, with BVI handling other territories. Deal terms mean revenues are cross-collateralized and BVI will receive a portion of the Chinese B.O. revs.

BVI prexy Mark Zoradi said no decision has been made as to whether the film will be Disney-branded in the same way that “National Treasure” and “Remember the Titans” were given the Disney label only after completion.

“The model for our local filmmaking involvement in China is the U.K.,” Zoradi said. In Blighty, BVI made low-budget lossmakers “High Heels, Low Lifes” and “Hope Springs” before hitting it big with “Calendar Girls.”

“We would hope to be involved with Centro on other projects and with other Chinese producers. We have people in Hong Kong and Beijing, and we are looking to hire a development and production exec in Beijing,” Zoradi said.

In Latin America, Disney owns a one-third stake in local producer Patagonik.

Zoradi also confirmed that a martial arts adaptation of “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs” has been developed with Miramax’s China representatives and now is overseen by Buena Vista Motion Picture Group prexy Nina Jacobson.

Zoradi said Daniel Battsek’s new Miramax also is eyeing China as a venue for local productions.

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