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Oriental DreamWorks and Chinese partners announce Tibet movie

April 20, 2013|By Richard Verrier
  • Oriental DreamWorks, a China-DreamWorks Animation joint venture, is co-producing a movie set in Tibet.
Oriental DreamWorks, a China-DreamWorks Animation joint venture, is… (DreamWorks Animation )

Filmmakers doing business in China are often advised to avoid the three Ts, as in Taiwan, Tibet and Tiananmen Square.

But that warning doesn't apply if you happen to be Jeffrey Katzenberg, the animation mogul who has been at the forefront of Hollywood's push into China.

The chief executive of DreamWorks Animation was in Beijing on Friday to attend a news conference announcing a China film project called "Tibet Code," an adventure movie based on a popular Chinese book series set in ninth-century Tibet.

The project is a co-production of Oriental DreamWorks -- a Chinese joint venture with Glendale-based DreamWorks Animation -- and Chinese investors, including China Film Group,  the nation's main film distributor.

Seeking to tap into China's rapidly growing film market -- the second-largest in the world, after the U.S. --  DreamWorks Animation unveiled its Chinese joint venture last year to operate a studio in Shanghai that will produce animated movies and other entertainment for the Chinese and global market.  The studio plans to co-produce the third installment of the "Kung Fu Panda" series, which has been a big hit in China.

At Friday's news conference, Han Sanping, chairman of China Film Group, said "Tibet Code" would help export China's culture and values to the world, a long-term strategic goal of the Chinese government.

Katzenberg, who was visiting China to attend this week's premiere of his company's "The Croods" there, was not available for comment late Friday afternoon. A company spokeswoman declined to comment on the announcement about "Tibet Code."

But in an interview with the Wall Street Journal after the news conference, Katzenberg said he viewed the series as a strong franchise and disputed suggestions that there was any political motive behind the film.

China's rule over Tibet and its depiction in film has a been a very delicate subject in the country.  Government authorities balked at Hollywood films such as the Brad Pitt vehicle "Seven Years in Tibet" and Martin Scorsese's "Kundun" for their sympathetic portrayals of the Dalai Lama, the exiled spiritual leader of Tibet.

Although China has taken steps to ease restrictions on the number of foreign movies it allows into the country each year, Hollywood films are still subject to censorship. This month, on the day of its China premiere, theaters abruptly stopped showing Quentin Tarantino's violent Western "Django Unchained."

ALSO:

'Kung Fu Panda 3' to be China co-production

U.S. film producers are engaging the Chinese

DreamWorks Animation unveils China studio plans

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