The deal will see U.S.-based writers team with Chinese writers and filmmakers to develop movie properties that are both Disney family-friendly and feature authentic Chinese elements.
“Disney’s collaboration with SMG adds an exciting chapter of new stories for the next generation of global Disney fans,” said Alan Bergman, president of Walt Disney Studios, in a prepared statement.
“The combination of our media coverage and understanding of the China market and Disney’s longstanding success in telling magical stories will surely spark a brand new chemistry that transcends age and borders,” said Su Xiao, CEO of SMG Pictures.
Tony To, exec VP of production at the Walt Disney Studios, will oversee the co-development program.
The statement specifically refers to action, adventure and fantasy writers. But there was no announcement of specific titles to be developed under the agreement. Nor were financing and distribution terms revealed.
The filmmaking move builds on a number of other Disney activities in China. These include the development of a joint venture Disneyland theme park on the outskirts of Shanghai and the development of the group as a major consumer brand.
In 2012 Disney joined with the Chinese Ministry of Culture’s China Animation Group as founding partner of a National Chinese Animation Creative Research and Development Project. The initiative, now in its third year, aims to advance China’s animation industry and train local talent and promote the development of Chinese content and franchises.
In January, Chinese media reported that former Marvel executive Avi Arad and Marvel were close to a deal with SMG to produce a fantasy movie featuring China’s famous terracotta warriors. Marvel denied the reports.
Disney and Marvel previously co-ventured with China’s DMG to produce, finance and release “Iron Man 3.” The movie was a huge success, grossing $121 million, though it was considered an import rather than a full co-production.