Disney to open first mainland China resort in Shanghai in June

Image: Shanghai Disney Resort

NBC News:

China‘s very own Happiest Place on Earth will be enchanting visitors as soon as this summer.

The Shanghai Disney Resort is slated to throw open the doors of its Magic Kingdom on June 16, becoming the first Disney destination on mainland China and the third in Asia following Tokyo Disneyland‘s debut in 1983 and Hong Kong Disneyland Resort opening in 2005.

The estimated $5.5 billion resort is a joint venture between Disney and Shanghai Shendi Group, a state-owned enterprise that is holding 57 percent of the project.

The resort reflects Disney’s legendary storytelling along with China’s rich culture, and showcases some of the most creative and innovative experiences we’ve ever created,” Disney CEO Robert Iger said in a statement. “We’re looking forward to showing it to the world and sharing it with the people of China for generations to come.”

Disney is hoping to capitalize on China’s massive economic growth in recent years, although forecasts this year have sent the world’s second-largest economy into a tailspin.

The new resort broke ground in 2011 and will encompass more than 960 acres. It will include an Enchanted Storybook Castle, being billed as the largest, most technologically advanced of Disney’s fabled castles.

The park will also be home to different themes, and include Marvel and Star Wars characters owned as part of Disney’s other properties.

Is this new Star Wars promotional poster from China kinda racist? It certainly seems so

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RocketNews 24:

The promotional poster for the new entry in the Star Wars franchise appears to omit or downplay non-white actors.

Star Wars: The Force Awakens will apparently be the first entry in the venerated franchise to see wide release in China. Chinese audiences’ growing clout in Hollywood almost certainly has something to do with that, with the Chinese movie market recorded as the fastest growing in the world in 2014 and expected by some to overtake the U.S. movie-going public in terms of butts in chairs by 2020.

But it appears that, in Disney’s zealous pursuit of Chinese box office money, the company has allowed a potentially serious PR gaffe in the form of Chinese promotional posters for the new Star Wars film that are similar in nearly every way to the promo posters of other regions except for the glaring omission of several non-white characters.

Hong Kong-based columnist Ray Kwong compares the English-language and Chinese promo posters

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Actor John Boyega’s character Finn – a major protagonist in the film who is also black – is shrunk wayyyyy down in size and pushed down near the bottom of the poster. At a glance, the character appears to have been erased entirely in favor of a more sprawling shot of dogfighting spacecraft. Missing entirely are Oscar Isaac, a Guatemalan-American actor portraying resistance fighter Poe Dameron, and Lupita Nyong’o, a black actress who plays a character named Maz Kanata.

At least one Chinese news outlet says Chinese analysts are brushing off the changes, denying that they’re discriminatory and arguing that the edits aimed for maximum appeal to the Chinese audience and just happened to coincidentally eliminate or downplay all non-white characters. This logic, though, doesn’t make a whole lot of sense, considering that, this being the first Star Wars film to see wide release in China, Chinese audiences would presumably have no affinity with the returning characters from the earlier films – who seem to be emphasized and enlarged here.

Inexplicably, Chewbacca the Wookiee – who we presume needs no introduction on this site – has also been eliminated from the Chinese poster, along with some other subtle changes such as turning villain Kylo Ren more towards the viewer.

Discrimination is rampant in many parts of East Asia, including Japan, and there are many accounts of people of African descent experiencing harsher discrimination than white and Asian foreigners in these countries. In light of this, it seems that – even if the changes to the poster were made purely in the name of economic gains rather than outright prejudice – the idea of the Chinese marketing arm for Disney making these unfortunate changes by sheer, innocent coincidence would be astronomically far-fetched.

Regardless of the exact process that enabled these changes to see the light of day, it seems inevitable that Disney, notorious for carefully curating its reputation worldwide, will pull the posters in favor of something less polarizing.

14-year-old Native Hawaiian Auliíi Cravalho voices Disney’s newest princess, MOANA.

Meet the Next Disney Princess – and Get a First Look at Her Movie, Moana!| Walt Disney Company, Walt Disney Pictures, Movie News, Dwayne ''The Rock'' Johnson

People Magazine:

Like many little girls, Auli’i Cravalho of Oahu wanted to be a Disney princess.

From baby time to now, I wanted to be a Disney princess and then I wanted to be a singer or an actress,” the 14-year-old recalls.

But when Disney Animation began searching for a girl to voice the lead in its next princess movie Moana– about a young teen from 2,000 years ago who sets sail to fulfill her ancestors’ quest – Cravalho didn’t think she was good enough to audition.

Meet the Next Disney Princess – and Get a First Look at Her Movie, Moana!| Walt Disney Company, Walt Disney Pictures, Movie News, Dwayne ''The Rock'' Johnson

Native Hawaiian Auli’i Cravalho, 14, voices Disney’s newest princess

I was getting through my freshman year, and there were already so many great submissions over YouTube,” the 14-year-old Native Hawaiian tells PEOPLE, which features an exclusive first look at the movie in this week’s issue.

Good thing a fairy godmother (a.k.a. an Oahu casting agent) was looking out for Cravalho. After the agent discovered the teen’s singing talents during a charity competition, Cravalho was whisked off to Los Angeles, where directors Ron Clements and John Musker (The Little Mermaid, Aladdin cast her opposite Dwayne Johnson in the animated film, set for release on Nov. 23, 2016.

Meet the Next Disney Princess – and Get a First Look at Her Movie, Moana!| Walt Disney Company, Walt Disney Pictures, Movie News, Dwayne ''The Rock'' Johnson

Meet the Next Disney Princess – and Get a First Look at Her Movie, Moana!| Walt Disney Company, Walt Disney Pictures, Movie News, Dwayne ''The Rock'' Johnson

Moana is such an amazing character,” says Cravalho, who lives in the town of Mililani with her mother, Puanani. “She’s brave, she is so empowered, she knows what she wants and she’s not afraid to get it, and I think that’s something that I can relate to as well. I just love watching how she goes along in this wonderful movie and grows as a person and helps her culture along the way.

Cravalho is especially excited to work alongside Johnson, who will play a demigod named Maui whom Moana encounters during her travels.

Beijing Universal Studios set to open in 2019

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Shanghaiist (by Daniel Cunningham):

The completion date for the Universal Studios theme park being built in Beijing‘s Tongzhou district has been set for 2019. Beijing Universal Studios will be the Hollywood corporation’s biggest theme park yet at 2.02 million square meters, or 11 times bigger than the theme park in Singapore.

In total, since Beijing’s approval this time last year, the multi-billion dollar project will take around five years to complete. Stephen Spielberg is involved with the design process, which will incorporate some “Chinese elements” to appeal to both foreign and local punters.

Meanwhile, Disney is still set on opening its new resort and theme park in Shanghai during the “first half of 2016”, with a Six Flags amusement park due to be complete in Tianjin by 2018.

Twitter introduces #StarWarsEmojis

To celebrate the pending theatrical release of Star Wars: The Force Awakens, Twitter has partnered with Disney and Lucasfilm to create custom, Star Wars Twitter emojis that will allow users to “show their enthusiasm for the ever-evolving Star Wars universe.” The first three emojis debuted today at the Star Wars Celebration in Anaheim, California, with a variety of emojis to be added as we approach the film’s release date including icons of both the legacy characters, as well as new characters from the new installment.

To incorporate into a tweet, all you need to do is post a hashtag representing keywords associated with specific Star Wars characters, and the emoji icon will appear at the end of the text.

Try out #C3PO #StormTrooper and #BB8 now, and watch for more emojis to be released as we approach the December 18 release of Star Wars: The Force Awakens.

Disney is making a live-action “Mulan” film!

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 Audrey Magazine:

As an Asian American woman who grew up in the 90’s, it almost feels cliche to say Mulan is my favorite Disney princess, but there’s no denying it. I can still remember the first time I watched the VHS tape of Mulan and the way I instantly felt a kinship with her that I couldn’t feel with the other Disney princesses. This princess was strong, brave and she was the first Asian Disney character I had ever seen on a screen. After I proceeded to watch the movie upwards of a hundred times, I convinced my parents to buy me a Mulan doll and the Mulan Halloween costume. After all, Mulan was “my girl.” So when I read today’s news, I felt both excited and terrified.

After the success of the live-action films Cinderella and Maleficent, Disney announced that they have plans to develop a live-action version of Mulan. In fact, they already have a script written by Elizabeth Martin and Lauren Hynek. However, there is no set date yet, and Disney has a full slate of upcoming live-action films including Beauty and the Beast starring Emma Watson, The Jungle Book, Alice in Wonderland 2 and Dumbo.

Despite my soft spot for Mulan, I am naturally worried that some elements may not translate well to live-action (I’m looking at you, Mushu). But overall, curiosity and nostalgia win out. We’ve already seen a live-action bisexual Mulan, played by Jamie Chung in Once Upon A Time. How will the live-action film compare? Well, we’ll just have to wait and see.

 

Japanese teen whose chalkboard art went viral gets an art commission before a high school diploma

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RocketNews24:

A while back, we took a look at an amazing piece of artwork by student and Twitter user Rena Rena. Almost finished with her last year of high school, Rena realized her opportunities to indulge in youthful abandon were about to become that much scarcer, so she grabbed a piece of chalk and drew an amazing scene of Frozen’s Elsa standing on a snowy mountaintop.

Two months later, it looks like Rena’s life has indeed become so busy that she has no time for such ambitious amateur chalkboard art projects. On the bright side, that’s because she’s now doing professional chalkboard art, having been commissioned to create the cover to the newest book from one of Japan’s most celebrated fantasy authors.

Even if you’re not an avid reader of Japanese literature, you may have some experience with the works of Miyuki Miyabe. A recipient of both the Naoki and Yamamoto Shugoro Prizes, the Tokyo native has had a handful of her works adapted to TV and film. Among her titles best known to Western audiences is Brave Story, a 2003 fantasy novel that served as the basis for an anime theatrical feature, manga, and video games.

Publisher Kadokawa is just about to release Miyabe’s newest book, The Castle of Kingdom Gone (Sugisarishi Okoku no Shiro in Japanese). Amazon Japan describes the novel as centered on a pair of middle school students who come across a mysterious sketching of an old castle, and discover they can enter its world by adding pictures of themselves to the drawing.

Between Miyabe’s renown and Kadokawa’s financial resources, they probably could have taken their pick of artists for the novel’s cover, and the pick they made was Rena.

View image on Twitter

As Rena revealed in this tweet, she’s landed a professional project even before leaving high school. While her Frozen fan art was lighting up social media, it caught the attention of Kadokawa’s executives, who decided “Her art would be perfect for Miyabe’s new book,” and approached the teen to formally offer her the position of cover artist.

▼ Kadokawa tweeted this side-by-side comparison of Rena’s inadvertent job application and the drawing she made for The Castle of Kingdom Gone.

 

View image on Twitter

And here’s how the final cover will look.

View image on Twitter

Amazon Japan is currently taking preorders here for the book, which is priced at 1,728 yen (US$15) and scheduled for release on April 24. Ordinarily, we’d say you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover, but as for judging this cover itself, it’s an awesome piece of artwork, and perhaps just the first step in Rena’s budding artistic career.

Village in Taiwan has dozens of anime and children’s characters painted on its houses!

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RocketNews 24:

Don’t you agree that our surroundings influence our mood? Being in a bright, vibrant environment usually makes one feel more positive and happy, and the positive energy in us in turn has the power to influence the mood of others around us.

A small village in Tainan City of Taiwan has been attracting attention online and attracting visitors because of the cheerful vibes that emanate from its brightly colored walls. With walls covered in colorful paintings of SpongeBob, Totoro, Doraemon and other characters and motifs, there’s no doubt this village must be a happy place!

Now more famously known as Cai Hui Cun (彩繪村), which literally means “painted village,” Hujia Village, located in the Shanhua District of southern Taiwan, used to be a quiet, rundown district until about a year ago. Since then it has blossomed into a vibrant tourist spot that continues to see an increasing number of visitors each day, and it’s said that property prices have even risen, thanks to its brilliantly painted walls. What’s more impressive than the numerous wall murals is the fact that this amazing transformation started with a home project that stemmed from the filial piety of five sisters.

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According to Yahoo News Taiwan, some time last year, the Li sisters, who spent a couple of their childhood years living in Hujia Village, went back to the village to visit their grandmother. The trip back to the old village brought back fond memories of when their grandmother used to care for them, and that triggered Fan Ting Li’s inspiration to paint the outer walls of her grandmother’s house as a way to express her gratitude to her 86-year-old granny.

With no experience or training in painting wall murals, the Li sisters had a rough start. The elderly woman watched with worry as Fan Ting and her sisters, Hui Qing, Guan Yu, Qing Yan and Wei Zhen, spent long hours under the scorching sun, and asked her “silly granddaughters” to give up on the idea several times, but the sisters were determined to complete their project.

Studio Ghibli murals

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Residents of the village gazed upon them with curiosity and doubt at first, but were eventually moved by their passion, and some even volunteered to join them. Their little home project gradually spread throughout the village, and their painting team once grew to the size of 18 members coming from all walks of life, including an eight-year-old elementary school girl.

▼ Western influences

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Watching as the voluntary painting team contributed their time, effort and money to beautifying their village, the other villagers too, often contributed to their cause by bringing them snacks and beverages. There have also been private companies that donated items to aid in the decoration of the walls, but due to the residents’ limited funds, they narrowed down their mural locations to the houses of elderly residents who lived alone, hoping to brighten up their days.

▼ Japanese anime characters

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Since word of the painted village spread across cyberspace, tourists from near and far have begun visiting the village, not only bringing some liveliness to the once-sleepy place, but boosting profits for local businesses as well. The local authorities have since acknowledged the efforts put into Hujia Village, and have given their word to contribute to the beautifying and expansion of the painted village.

▼ Chinese motifs.

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The Li sisters and their team of mural maestros can still be spotted creating more wall paintings in the village on weekends. If you’re interested in stopping by, the location details are below! Although the area has pretty much turned into a tourism spot, bear in mind that these murals are painted on actual residences, so it would only be nice to show some consideration for their residents, just as you probably wouldn’t appreciate strangers littering or creating a racket outside your house.

Village information:
台南市善化區胡家里300號 (陽明國小)
Tainan City, Shanhua District, 300 Hujia Village (Yang Ming Elementary School)
*Note: The Painted Village is in the vicinity of the elementary school.

 

Look out for this school as a landmark to guide you to the Painted Village.

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