Walt Disney Co. on Wednesday announced its first film production in China, adding to its efforts to break into the booming Chinese entertainment market.
The Chinese-language film, "The Secret of the Magic Gourd," began shooting in October in the city of Hangzhou and is due to be released next year, Disney said. It is based on a popular children's book by late Chinese novelist Zhang Tianyi.
Disney's partners are state-owned China Film Group Corp. and Hong Kong's Centro Digital Pictures Ltd., a special-effects house best known for its work on director Quentin Tarantino's "Kill Bill."
Burbank-based Disney has opened Disney-brand stores in several mainland Chinese cities and is reportedly in talks on setting up a Shanghai theme park and a television channel. But its film offerings to mainland audiences have been mostly imported U.S. productions.
The company didn't release the film's budget.
Foreign film and television distributors are eager to expand in China but face regulatory obstacles.
China's state-owned film distributor frequently releases foreign titles at awkward times and limits the length of time they are shown to minimize competition with China's own film industry.
Chinese studios have tried without success to create franchise characters that can match the success of Mickey Mouse and other Disney icons with Chinese children.
Chinese regulators also are especially sensitive to entertainment aimed at children, insisting that most cartoons on state television be domestically made.
An official of China's main TV regulator said in June that Beijing might further reduce the amount of foreign cartoons that broadcasters can show once Chinese producers can meet demand.
China Film Group is the government's main film production and distribution company, with interests in studios, a movie channel and DVD sales.