Chinese Filmmakers Want To Make Films Like ‘Frozen’ And ‘Zootopia’ – And Disney Is Teaching Them

You won’t hear any mention of it in the Western press, but the Chinese media has offered plenty of coverage of the Disney-China Animation Exchange Program, a five-day gathering of Chinese animation executives and producers at Walt Disney Studios in Burbank, California.

The most recent edition of the event, which ended last Wednesday, allowed a small group of Chinese animation creators to visit Disney and learn more about the company’s creative approach and production pipelines, as well as best practices for marketing and distribution. Some of the participants can be heard from in this news story:

The Exchange Program is the brainchild of Disney and Pixar Animation chief creative officer John Lasseter, who came up with the idea after the Chinese publicity tour for Big Hero 6, during which he was repeatedly asked if Disney would open a Chinese facility.

While Disney hasn’t opened a studio, Lasseter created the program – with cooperation from the Chinese government-run China Film Bureau – to create a platform for exchanges between Disney and Chinese animation makers.

Over the five days, Chinese attendees heard from high-level Disney execs, including Walt Disney and Pixar Animation Studios president Ed Catmull, Lasseter (who gave a talk on risk-taking and innovation), Walt Disney Animation Studios president Andrew Millstein (who spoke on studio leadership), senior v-p of production Ann Le Cam, and Big Hero 6 and Tangled producer Roy Conli, in addition to other directors, producers, and writers at Disney.

The Chinese attendees appeared to be both thankful for the opportunity and intimidated by Disney’s operations. “It’s exciting to closely observe Disney studios,” Zhigang Yang of Shanghai Pic-moment Film Corporation told China’s state-run Xinhua news agency. “It makes us ponder the gap between Chinese animation studios and Disney, the world’s leading animation studio. Not only in facilities and hardware, but also in ideas and creativity.”

Added Linlin Shang, general manager of Fantawild Animation Inc., “We should learn from Disney how to tell a story. It’s essential for Chinese filmmakers to learn how to tell the China story well, so we can share it with the world.”

(Photo at top: Xinhua/Gao Shan)