According to a story by the Hollywood Reporter Disney has struck a deal with Tencent’s “China Literature” platform, which is the largest e-book and online reading platform in China.
As part of the deal 40 Star Wars books will be translated into Chinese for the first time, but the deal includes one more, much more important thing. Click through to read more!
As part of the deal Disney will not just have several existing Star Wars books translated into Chinese, in a step that goes beyond that a brand new Chinese Star Wars book will be written by a Chinese author. This Chinese Star Wars novel will include “a new Chinese hero” and will “combine native Chinese elements and the narrative style of Chinese literature to tell the story of Star Wars.”
It is apparent that Disney hopes to build a Chinese fanbase from the ground up. Each successive Disney era Star Wars movie did worse in China, so it’s understandable why Disney would want to try from scratch and familiarize Chinese people with Star Wars.
But it’s certainly interesting that Disney is willing to go so far as to adapt Star Wars and change it significantly to make it more palatable for Chinese audiences.
The big question is if this will eventually also have an effect on the movies. Rogue One had two famous Chinese actors, but the movie itself was traditional Star Wars and Rogue One didn’t really do well in China, despite the Chinese movie stars.
Big blockbuster Hollywood movies are already influenced by Chinese sensitivities, be it that “The Ancient One” in Dr. Strange can’t be Tibetan, or how certain topics are approached.
You can go to Wikipedia to see a list of Hollywood movies that are either banned in China or needed to be edited to get a release over there. More recent examples of movies that could not be released in China are “Suicide Squad” and “Deadpool” because of the violence and nudity. “World War Z” was allegedly rejected because Brad Pitt had starred in “Seven Years In Tibet” many years ago, it seems China can hold a grudge for a long time.
And of course, quite famously, the movie “Christopher Robin” was banned because of Winnie the Pooh. China’s president Xi Jinping really doesn’t like it when people say he looks a bit like the beloved bear from a children’s book.
Another example of anticapatory obedience in Hollywood is the remake of “Red Dawn”, the movie was originally about China invading the USA to reclaim its huge debts. But the story was changed in post and the Chinese soldiers were transformed into North Korean soldiers with CGI in the hope the movie would get a release in China – it didn’t. And the movie flopped.
Fact is, if you want to make a lot of money, especially in the very important markets outside North America, you need China. The country will probably become the largest market for movies in 2020, no surprise given the 1.4 billion people living in it.
So you either adhere to the rules of the Chinese government and make movies (or write books) that avoid anything that might get you banned in China (basically censoring yourself), or you give up on all the money you could make.
And since Hollywood is all about the money, and never about anything else really, even if actors and all the other creative people make heartfelt speeches at awards ceremonies that could make you think otherwise, Hollywood will of course go for the money. And Star Wars is too expensive, it needs the global appeal, but with most of Asia and most importantly China turning a cold shoulder towards it, Disney is willing to do what it takes to change that. The book deal certainly underlines that. “Tegridy” all the way…
How do you feel about Disney’s decision to make a Chinese Star Wars, even if only in book format for now?
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