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.
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
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.
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.
“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.
“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.
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.
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.