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UPDATED: November 6, 2013 NO. 45 NOVEMBER 7, 2013
Prime Time
TV programming from abroad reshapes the thinking of Chinese broadcasters
By Tang Yuankai

COMING TOGETHER: A boy poses with a performer dressed as the character from The Dragon Club, a children's show produced in China by the Walt Disney Co., at an event in Guangzhou, Guangdong Province (COURTESY OF THE WALT DISNEY CO.)

Coming to China

In June 2013, Robert Iger, President and CEO of the Walt Disney Co., told the Chinese media that his company would cooperate with its Chinese partners to launch a project aimed at creating locally produced entertainment programs. The project was already under discussion when the announcement was made. The best way to eliminate copycats is to import the original and enable the consumers to really appreciate the advantages of it, according to Iger.

Iger, who first visited China in the 1970s, believes now is the best time for developing China's cultural and creative industries.

Iger hopes to export Disney's successful experiences to China while seeking cooperation with its Chinese partners, integrating Chinese culture into Disney productions and promoting Chinese culture overseas.

The Dragon Club, a children's show, is a good example of such cooperation. Currently, it can be watched at prime time in more than 200 Chinese cities, reaching about 520 million spectators. It has become the home of Disney in China.

Beginning on June 1, The Dragon Club launched several new programs.

Of these, Kungfu Dragon, now starting its fifth season, is the first Disney cartoon made in China in line with the company's localization strategy and has already won over a large fan base.

A Good Time, a 26-episode school comedy especially made for older children, has also been launched. The comedy combines live action performances and animation.

In the past, most Disney products gave people an impression that they were for younger audiences. In China, when speaking of Disney, most people think of Mickey Mouse and Donald Duck, but things are changing.

A Good Time is an example of Disney's successful attempts at developing programming for audiences of a wider age range. Since it first broadcasted on July 3 on Haha Children's Channel in Shanghai, it has experienced favorable ratings, up by 29 percent among spectators between 4 and 14 years old.

TV programs put more and more emphasis on interaction with audiences. In late July, The Dragon Club launched a national tour, inviting children to join the program.

At its first leg in Shanghai, the two-day activity attracted 200,000 families, all of whom participated with great enthusiasm. With cards distributed by the organizers for free, participants could experience games from the show, follow the little dragon in the dragon dance show and travel through all of the show's five themed areas. On top of this, all participants received gifts.

At its last leg in Beijing on August 24-25, children headed into the art imagination zone, put on a performance that they came up with themselves and created amazing works of art. Obviously, they were deeply influenced by Art Attack, a Disney program that stimulates children's creativity and imagination.

"Innovations in Art Attack are so fresh and interesting. The use of music and lighting is great," said Tan Ping, father and fan of the program who also works at a Chinese television station. "While giving children the chance to enjoy art, it also encourages them to actively participate in it. It helps them overcome the fear and anxiety of not fulfilling the task."

"No wonder it has won dozens of international awards! We should keep bringing in more TV shows like it," Tan said.

Email us at: tangyuankai@bjreview.com

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