The co-development agreement between The Walt Disney Studios China and Wudi runs for an initial 12 months. It is focused on live-action theatrical titles suitable for joint development and eventual production under China’s co-production rules. The deal is also expected to focus on films that provide leading roles for veteran actor Chen Bolin.
Chen stars in Disney’s upcoming “Miss Taken,” which recently wrapped production and will be released later this year. His co-star in the film is Jelly Lin, the actress who broke out in the lead role of Stephen Chow’s “The Mermaid” last year. The film is a co-production between SMG Pictures, The Walt Disney Studios China and Shanghai Artrendwave Productions.
Wudi was established last year by Maxx Tsai, a senior film producer with years of experience in the film business. Wudi is also working with mainland China’s Hunan Satellite TV on a major Internet TV drama. That is expected to air next year. Other titles with Disney are to be announced later.
Disney has long been present in China, with a large presence in consumer goods. Last year it opened the Shanghai Disney Resort, a complex including the Shanghai Disneyland theme park, hotels and retail facilities. Shanghai Disneyland was the venue last week for the world premiere of “Pirates of the Caribbean,” where Lin walked the red carpet.
The studio has long sought a role in local Chinese production, but has trod carefully and slowly. Its initial steps, including satisfactory box-office performer “The Magic Gourd,” were made with Hong Kong partners. “Disney High School Musical: China” made with Huayi Brothers and Shanghai Television Media, flopped.
More recently the company has partnered with and expanded its relationship with Shanghai Media Group. It established a multi-year studio movie script and talent development fund, and in 2013 another SMG deal launched kids’ entertainment cooperation with SMG subsidiary BesTV.
In 2014 Disney further expanded the SMG deal to include television content development, movie co-production, content distribution and cooperation on marketing. The recently released “Born in China,” a Disneynature-branded documentary directed by Lu Chuan, was one of the highest-profile products of that relationship.