Disney, Hua Yi and SMG Start Production on a Chinese “High School Musical”

Zhang Junning (L) and a supporting actor who I don't think is one of the six leads. (R) on the set of Chinese High School Musical

It’s not a joke. Disney has long been desperate to tap into China’s market, even going so far as to co-produce with China films like The Magic Gourd and The Forbidden Kingdom. Furthermore, Disney’s Chinese connections seem to be based in Shanghai, where a new themepark finally got the ok after years of Disney pushing for it. So perhaps it is not surprising that HSM, already popular in China, will be remade with funding from Shanghai-based megacorporations Hua Yi and SMG. The  early reports said BOBO would be in this, and somehow, strangely, it changed to Zhang Junning who’s not even a actor under Hua Yi.

Hua Yi president,Wang Zhonglei was at the production start ceremony held on Nov. 22nd. He said that despite the lack of  many successful musicals in China (poor Le Huo Nan Hai!), he expects this to have a big box office when it arrives in theaters next summer. Usually I have more faith in his statements, because Hua Yi’s well managed and their success rate is high, but the casting of Zhang Junning perplexes me, and brings me even more apprehension than just the baseline idea of “Chinese HSM remake”. He’s hot, and can sing and dance pretty decently, but  less charismatic of actor than either Zac Efron or Jing Boran from BOBO. Maybe charisma wasn’t necessary for the character? It’s been a while since I watched it. Nevertheless, I still hope this does help kick-start the Chinese musical genre despite my all my reservations.


For those more interested in information about the film, Hua Yi, SMG , the director and crew, and the history of Disney’s involvement in Chinese entertainment, here’s a massive English-language article from Yahoo fiance with tons of details  that, that I only found after I typed this up. Which sucks…but eh, my post has pictures.

53 thoughts on “Disney, Hua Yi and SMG Start Production on a Chinese “High School Musical”

  1. @cfensi
    At least Gold Typhoon’s not releasing anything else…they are also a bit strange, though. They crowd with their own company rather than other ones. Claire Kuo, Fan Weiqi, Angela Zhang, Huang Yali and A-mei all released in the two months during summer. It was ridiculous considering how the first four are kind of similar in terms of musical styles that Golden Typhoon gave them.

  2. Dude…those three guys who placed top three in Absolute Singing are releasing a Christmas EP together. This December. Have they all gone mental?

    I know China celebrates Christmas, but I didn’t think it was big enough to prompt all these releases.

    You think eeMedia will have a group MV/song again? I hope so…it’d be cute as heck seeing the boys and girls pair up.

  3. @Ivana B. Anonymous
    Among Chinese Americans, there are two main type of people who got here -the high academic and the low-wages workers. But either way, the existence of the former allows the Chinese American to view them as a “stable group,” hence influencing a generation of Chinese American parents to urge their children to go for the stable careers.
    On the other hand, in China itself, I don’t think that’s as much an extreme. While my parents both went for the academic, my uncles and aunts are all in relative random professions. While none of them pursues the arts, I know plenty of people who do.

    As for the idea of culture. Definitely. I believe that China has not done well in the idea of soft politics -selling itself to the rest of the world as kind and friendly. But that does not mean one should deny it or condemn it if it’s your heritage. One should never deny their own heritage based on what others say. When no one else is standing up for a part of you, you should.

    It reminds me of a line from a performance by YaliniDream, a Sri Lankan American spoken artist
    “Uncle screams…I don’t care about that backwards country. Because instead of father’s memory, National Geographic shapes his thoughts”

    On the other hand…really, China isn’t any worse than many countries. It just has a bad image. And I’m okay with the fact that it does more internally than trying to impress the West. But in this world, it seems more important to look good than be good.

  4. Heh…I just deleted my last paragraph because I get paranoid at putting too much personal info. Sorry.

    Yeah, I guess I’m being too harsh. If I were to continue this blog until I’m an old woman…I’d probably be more relaxed about it and just fangirl and post pretty pictures, like when I started the blog and it was just for my amusement. But now it’s mostly just me being dismayed that if I were to stop this blog right now, there’d be once again nothing, at least from the mainland side. And that’s a shame because it really doesn’t deserve just the few fans it’s got considering how developed it is at this point in time, and it really doesn’t deserve the cynical mocking that some give it. The quality is there, but I guess people’s biases are still there too.

    I also wish there was more harmonization btw the HK, TW, mainland etc areas. It’s made things trickier…Korea’s homogeneity certainly helped propel it to attention abroad quicker, whereas I feel the Chinese regions are sometimes attacking each other. Regionalism can be beautiful in showing the diversity of culture, and yet so tricky when one wants something to coordinate and happen smoother, and quicker. China’s life story basically.

  5. @Cfensi + JJ:

    Then consider yourselves both blessed to be offsprings of intellectual parents.

    My parents didn’t gain access into the U.S. through such means. They were accepted because we had relatives here, who also did not make it to the U.S. through that route either. Let’s just say that some illegal dealings took place that eventually admitted them to the U.S. (haha, but as to the details of that, I’m wholly unaware.)

    But I digress. The reason as to why I say 1st generation AAs are so backwards is contributory to myself. My parents weren’t accepted as a result of their intellectual capacity, so coming to the U.S., they had less to rely on, and thus, only lower end jobs were available to them. These occupations offer no security whatsoever, nor does it ever ensure a good life.

    Perhaps this is the reason why they feel so cynical towards people and life in general. In China, they were happy and invincible, but coming here they have to trade a cushy life with a cruel one. I would be jaded as well.

    Though I understand their reasons for being so cynical towards people and their devotion towards China, I still can’t accept the fact that they’re so backwards in their thinking. It’s as if they were stuck in that time in China when revolutions haven’t started yet. Times are changing, but their survival mode hasn’t changed. Thus I get pressured into careers that would make them happy but not me specifically. It’s security they wish for.

    Anyhow, I didn’t mean for this to be my sob story (lol), and I had no intentions of spilling my life story online, but since this discussion encourages sharing of experiences (as I’m sure countless others also understand my predicament), I just wanted to add in my 2 cents.


    You also made very valid points about why Asian parents chose these occupations — because it has worked for them. But for the most part, I think they chose these careers because they’re safe in the job market, they offer a certain level of prestige (and of course, that’s always important in the eyes of a traditional Asian family), and they pay well. In short, they’re secure.


    When given the premise that these Chinese Americans want to “make the leap” to learn more about their country, it’s understandable why one would be angered if they start mocking it. Or say, idolize another country’s culture rather than finding beauty in one’s own.

    But there’s still a certain stigma attached to liking China, refer to the “panda hugging” comment. Not everyone is as brave as to embrace those who do love their origin country. It’s almost traitorous in a sense, because in the end, you have to question where your loyalties lie. Is it the U.S. or is it motherland?

    But I agree, mocking it is also not the way to show love of your culture, and by association, who you are inherently. That is certainly uncalled for, but I would try to discern the reasons for the mockery rather than condemn them. Harsh words can be a double-edged sword. It can teach you something, or it can belittle something else. It depends on the situation and your take on it.

    As to the idolization of another country…

    In part, I blame the fact that China hasn’t made itself approachable yet — it’s not prepped up enough for the global market, hence why I push for more development in the entertainment field. If you look at Korea, it was still relatively unknown until the whole Hallyu wave started. Many started following it, and trying to trace themselves back to their culture because media glamorized their heritage.

    Some may argue that a culture has nothing to prove to others; it is something that should be of interest inherently. But I disagree. Those who are mature and on the road to self-discovery would feel this way, but as most are clearly aware, they are limited to a certain few. To encourage more China-digest, China has to become more appealing and attractive.

  6. @Ivana B. Anonymous –

    Assimilation’s not what I’m targeting. I don’t begrudge anyone trying to fit in their environment – America or any other place, as long as they don’t resort to mocking another place to do it. I assimilate, although I don’t consciously think of it as assimilating – about 80% of my playlist is non-Asian music. And personally I still think American music is way better as a whole. I don’t talk about Chinese stuff outside of this blog, not even with my parents. My mom recently said to me excitedly – hey Chinese film are really getting better! I was like – uh, yeah.

    It’s the people who already made that leap into wanting to idolize Asian culture but still mock their own specifically. Or they’re so wrapped up in their one particular idol that they won’t give new Chinese artists a chance even though they’re Chinese. Specific idols are fleeting (JTT anyone?) and come and go, but your culture is always a part of you. For Chinese Americans…they can’t even avoid it. China’s too big and getting too powerful in terms of economy.

    I realize my expectations for Chinese Americans are high considering their background. But mostly, I’m just exasperated because I really, really, hate blogging. For the past few years I only went online to download stuff, find some news. I never went to be part of a “community”…I was a big lurker. This was new to me, and it’s tiring, at least it is now. I never thought of this blog in long term goals because I used to always avoid the internet if I could.

    So basically I’m getting anxious for more progress before I ditch this thing so that the momentum is not coming from a blog, but rather an overall push from a population. Yeah, my expectations were too high. I hate wasting my time.

  7. @ Ivana B. Anonymous

    I think the main reason is because the 1st gen AAs were able to immigrate due to their educational credentials.

    And from their perspective, they did provide a better life for their kids when compared to most of their peers back home (it’s debatable, but at least they see it that way).

    So that’s why they push their kids into these safe professions because it worked for them.

    Of course the irony is when they complain their kids are “too American” and can’t even speak their native language :)

  8. @ benji:

    The lack of respect for music/artistry is blatantly apparent in the Asian American’s choice of careers. Most choose to work in fields that guarantees security: i.e., business, medical, law, etc. – the top three choices of occupation most Asian parents aspire for their children. Though this general stereotypical view is starting to lessen, it’s not lifting at a rapid rate. And I attribute this to the fact that a lot of the immigrant Asian parents are still stuck in a backward cycle.

    I really despise how backwards the older generation of Chinese Americans are here in the U.S. They had to live a rat race, always fighting for more, thus becoming ever more cynical and opportunistic in their philosophies of life. Because they’re this way, their kids grow up under the same influence. Security means so much more to them than anything else, so venturing into uncharted and “unsafe” occupations like artistry/music/art is absolute ludicrous and completely idiotic move.

    *Sigh* And hence, why there’s little respect for the arts, and also the reason why there’s so little variation with the job markets that are saturated with Asians.

  9. I agree that a lot of the Chinese American population in my area are skeptics – skeptic of what China can do for them and what China can accomplish.

    I also agree that the good of one’s country depends on its citizens, but with due respect, majority of the first-second generation of Asian Americans in the U.S. has been distanced greatly from the motherland. And survival in America means having to adapt to their way of life and culture. This assimilation has been dug deep into the fabric of their life. I know they’re ignorant of their heritage and roots, but I don’t blame them for being that way. They just can’t relate, nor do they find any interest in doing so.

    Who are we to pressure them to like their mater country?

    Now, if they were spewing lies about their country of origin, and by association, mine’s, then we will have beef. But otherwise, I’m not bothered by their apatheticness.

  10. My parents came from the worst periods too…and told me about them in detail, ableit with context.

    It’s still hard not to get annoyed. Especially when Chinese people are like…”I’m waiting to be impressed”. It’s kinda WTF? for me. Your culture is not supposed to work hard to impress you. It has to get grassroots support from its own population in order to thrive and develop.

    So many smaller countries can’t have the luxury of large populations to develop their market and thus their entertainment…if their population all had the attitude of Chinese Americans that I’ve seen, they’d be doomed.

  11. I have a lot of respect for higher education, and thinks that everyone, if possible, should receive professional training, and not just by the companies.

    If you look at the actor/actress side, I can’t help but feel that there is a level of professionalism from film academy students as opposed to newly found ones.

    I think Sichuan Conservatory of Music produces great idols. While schools like the Central Music Academy are much superior musically, Sichuan Conservator of Music seems to foster a type of individuality in its musicians that gives them life and makes them perfect as idols. But at the same time, they obviously care enough about music/dance to study it without the real chance of film.
    And I fear a day when there are “real idols” that haven’t gone to school and can’t sing at all and don’t even like to sing become more prevalent than the Sichuan crowd. Too much Sichuan biase?

    I think it’s because many Chinese Americans have parents who came during the worst periods of recent Chinese history, and so they’re taught to be cynical of their origins and China.

  12. Not quite sure what you mean by “Real idols”? Like Disney-channel stars? (I usually don’t compare China’s future to other Asian countries, but rather the US because their size is similar)

    I’ve always felt like higher education was to be admired. We talk about the Sichuan conservatory graduates at length because we like that university. But there are also plenty of Chinese stars who worked their butt off to get noticed like Qiao Renliang, who didn’t attend.

    Bottom line is I like ambitious artists who have what it takes to last in the industry, who have that fire that loves the stage and loves spreading their music, and take initiative – either by entering university to perfect their craft, or if they don’t have the grades or the money, do whatever it takes. Even Taylor Swift worked her butt off sending out tapes of her songs to get noticed before she finally got signed.

    Idols of the Disney, Johnny’s and SM variety are nice where they pick through lots of applications- but I don’t think they’re absolutely necessary. Although I gotta say – Johnny’s does a hell of a good job maintaining the popularity of his artists.

    As for the whole 10 years things, I hope. I can’t believe there still aren’t more sites on cpop. Yay for cpopaccess. I think Chinese Americans are a bunch of idiots. Period. I may understand that their upbringing has made them biased against their own culture, but that doesn’t make me like them better when I see them mock it without having actually researched it. Their self-hate is unbelievable. Whatever. I’m just going to take the next year off because the part I dislike most about all of this is seeing the short-sighted stupidity. It’s frustrating and I feel like smacking people all the time. I live in an area where there are very few Chinese people or Asians in general, and frankly my opinion of them was higher before I started this site.

    Now I feel no affinity towards Chinese-Americans anymore. They’re a cynical, annoying bunch that I don’t really empathize with.

  13. Well, I think it’s less about ‘not’ wanting your children to be an entertainer and more about wanting your child to take a prestigious career path.
    Of course there’s more to it than just wanting your child to become a doctor, lawyer, scientist, engineer, etc. Those jobs are popular because they earn good money, have some kind of prestige attached to them, and importantly, because there’s little risk in pursuing a career as, say, a neurosurgeon. There’s that security because people always need neurosurgeons. (I think)

    You have to take into consideration that China is still a lot poorer than South Korea or Japan, and that the elderly in China rely more on their children and grandchildren to support them. There might be less reluctance in wealthier families who can support themselves, but most of the richer areas in China are subjected to the One Child Policy, which means the parents would be placing everything on just one that child.

    That’s not to say that parents would not want their children doing music or dance. Chinese-American parents might want their children to go to Harvard or Yale, but I don’t think they’d complain if their kids went to Juilliard, either.
    Again, I think in tens years, we’ll see a lot more ‘real’ idols being produced than Sichuan Conservatory of Music graduates in the industry. Once there’s no longer that need to do better than your parents, then there’ll be much more freedom to join the entertainment business.

    Oh, but in ten years, cfensi, hopefully this won’t be the only English-language blog with news on Mainland Chinese entertainment. : )

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