Wonder-full China

Jin Bo, 09/18/2002

 

Ashort scenic film about China that has been dazzling visitors to Walt Disney World in Florida, the United States, since 1982 is to be updated to showcase many new changes in the nation.

 

"Wonders of China" has been on show at the Epcot Centre in a 360 degree cinema that makes viewers feel they are seeing sights first-hand, as if they are in the country itself.

 

"There has been a lot of changes in China over the past 20 years," said David Katzman, a director of production of Walt Disney Imagineering.

 

"We are looking forward to working with the Chinese Government to give Walt Disney World guests a glimpse of modern China."

 

In early September, a crew of American filmmakers and their Chinese counterparts from the China Research Institute of Film Science Technology began filming in Beijing, the first leg of their two-month trip, to capture new footage in seven Chinese cities.

Fresh spots

 

To add "modern elements," the crew have been quite sensitive in choosing locations to shoot.

 

In Beijing, the footage of Beihai Park, the Great Wall and Tian'anmen Square will be renewed.

 

There is one scene of Nine-Dragon Wall (Jiulongbi), which is located inside Beihai Park.

 

"The reason we are filming the Nine-Dragon Wall again is because 20 years ago most people were walking past it in blue and grey. Now people are dressed more colourfully," said director Jeff Blyth, who also directed the film 20 years ago.

 

The film will include some major additions such as footage of Hong Kong and Macao, which returned to China in 1997 and 1999 respectively.

 

In a bid to provide fresh views of city life of modern China, the crew will capture new footage of Shanghai, which has been transformed as a city.

 

The footage of Shanghai will include scenes on the Bund and the Nanjing Road.

 

"We are also doing small images of places such as the People's Park, some areas in Pudong, all those banks and the Stock Market. Many Westerners do not know Shanghai has a stock market like New York, and the film will give them a surprise," said Steve Spiegel, show writer at Disney who wrote the play of the new version.

 

Over the following two months, the crew will also go to Urumqi, the capital city of Northwest China's Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region.

 

There they will screen a wonderful night market featuring a distinctive style of minority people in the autonomous region, to give the audience a better understanding of the diversity of China. But it is a tough mission to include in seven minutes all the changes China has gone through over the past 20 years, because the changes have been so unimaginably great.

 

Blyth, the director, was deeply impressed with what he saw 20 years ago - and what he can now see 20 years later.

 

"I noticed that young people are taller, they are healthier, they are happier. I just see a general enthusiasm in people.

 

"In the early 1980s, there were not many tourists from the United States in China, so people who come to see the film will say 'Oh, it is China'."

 

But in the past 10 years, more and more American and European tourists have been to the Far East. Those who had their own experience of China felt unsatisfied with what they saw in the film.

 

According to Blyth, people would ask questions such as: "Have you seen Shanghai lately? It has been changing, not like what's in your film."

 

In the old film, actors were employed to act as casual tourists: two sisters, a nuclear family, a group of primary students guided by a teacher, an old couple and two lovers whispering to each other on a bench.

 

Li Bai, a renowned poet in the Tang Dynasty (AD 618-907) who "narrated" the original "Wonders of China" film, will remain the narrator of the new version to remind people of the country's splendid ancient culture.

 

The new version is scheduled to premiere in the cinema at the Epcot Centre next July.