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Disney hopes China will welcome ‘Mulan’

'Kundun' flap may affect release

SYDNEY — Signaling a probable thawing in relations between the Walt Disney Co. and China, the Hollywood studio hopes to get the clearance to release “Mulan” in that territory before the end of this year.

“We’re talking to (Chinese authorities) and we’re getting close (to a deal),” a Disney source who asked not to be identified told Daily Variety.

The source was responding to a Xinhua news agency report suggesting that Disney was facing a battle in getting “Mulan” distributed in China.

The animated film about a Chinese heroine who poses as her father to fight the emperor against invading hordes has been a huge B.O. hit in Hong Kong, Taiwan and South Korea, and Disney does not expect the content will cause any problems with officials at the China Film Corp.

“The film has been very well-received. We’re just talking about the timing,” the source added.

The Chinese government effectively placed a ban on Disney product last year to demonstrate its strong disapproval of the U.S. major releasing “Kundun,” Martin Scorsese’s bio of Tibet’s exiled spiritual leader the Dalai Lama.

If it’s accepted under the quota of 10 foreign films a year, “Mulan” would be the first Disney film to be shown in China since the “Kundun” flap. Disney also is hoping “Armageddon” will be approved for release in China.

Jack Valenti, president of the Motion Picture Assn. of America, was in China this past spring to try to smooth ruffled feathers at the film ministry by negotiating possible future investments by American film studios into Chinese theaters.

Reuters says pirated video compact disc versions of “Mulan” already are available in stalls in Beijing.

(Reuters contributed to this report.)