Quake coverage could push ‘Panda’

Anniversary of Sichuan disaster surrounds 'Trail'

Disney’s latest Chinese-language pic, “Trail of the Panda,” has bowed in China, with B.O. likely to be nudged higher by media coverage surrounding the first anniversary Tuesday of the earthquake in Sichuan, where the pic was set and lensed.

Pic was shot at the Wolong Giant Panda Nature Reserve in Sichuan, and the May 12 quake hit just days before the end of lensing.

Wolong was destroyed in the 8.0-magnitude quake, which left more than 80,000 dead or missing. Crew members, including helmer Yu Zhong, were trapped by the tremor and had to walk for days across the mountains to reach safety.

In “Trail,” 16 giant pandas took part and six of them played the lead giant panda, Pang Pang. One of the pandas, Mao Mao, died in the quake.

“Trail” follows the adventures of a baby panda, who is separated from his mother and then befriends a lonely orphan boy, played by newcomer, Japanese thesp Daichi Harashima.

Pic opened on nearly 1,000 screens in major cities including Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou, Chengdu, Chongqing and Wuhan, said Wang Huifang, a marketing manager of distrib Huaxia Film.

As China’s national symbol, movies about pandas have great traction in China. “Kung Fu Panda” took nearly $15 million at the box office in China, even though it was a foreign production.

China is getting ready to mark the anniversary of the quake with a number of public events, including a memorial in the town of Beichuan, near the tremor’s epicenter.

Disney’s first major co-operation with Chinese filmmakers was its 2007 hit “The Secret of the Magic Gourd.”

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