Hollywood’s Unseemly Kung Fu Panda Hugging

Hollywoodland has had a long and checkered history with Communists, so we shouldn’t be surprised that the current studio execs and creative geniuses are cozying up to their new overlords in Beijing.

Well, that’s the story I’m reading between the lines in the news. There is some logic to this idea anyway, so I really shouldn’t be too critical. Think back to the impeccable reasoning of American patriots of decades past:

1. A lot of Jews were confidante’s of V.I. Lenin and secured important positions in the Soviet government (until Stalin had them shot).

2. A lot of Jews work in Hollywoodland.

3. Therefore a lot of Jews in the movie biz are traitorous Commies.

And therefore names were named, and blacklists were compiled.

Now in 2011:

1. Hollywoodland is doing a lot of business with China.

2. It’s difficult for foreign entertainment companies to make money in China.

3. Therefore something unseemly must be going on.

4. Hey, didn’t there used to be a lot of Commies in Hollywood?

Maybe I’m grasping at straws, but this whole thing is a bit puzzling. Consider today’s headline in the Independent:

‘Kung Fu Panda’ film hits China – respectfully

The article is all about how DreamWorks bent over backwards to be nice to China and defuse charges of cultural insensitivity. The message is clear: DreamWorks kissed a lot of asses over here (or as Jeffrey Katzenberg would say, 拍马屁).

From the Independent:

Hollywood is taking no chances of being accused of disrespecting Chinese culture as it launches Kung Fu Panda 2, featuring the bumbling animated character Po, in the spiritual home of the endangered bear.

The makers of the film at the DreamWorks studio sent key personnel on tours of Sichuan province ahead of the arrival of Po, his teacher Shifu and the kung fu masters, Furious Five, to ensure proper homage was paid. The film is due to be released on Wednesday.

“I wanted to do the Chinese culture justice, to show it is beautiful because I love Chinese painting. I was scared by what Chinese people would think, but finally I was happy to see how they love it, I can’t ask for more,” insists art director Raymond Zibach.

A few things here. First, the “massive protest” that rocked the country when “Kung Fu Panda” (the original) was released was mostly just Zhao Bandi, a raunchy artist who has what I would say is an unhealthy fixation on panda bears. This guy actually sued DreamWorks under some ridiculous theory that he had certain rights to images of pandas.

Second, Zhao’s lame protests were not part of any government conspiracy. DreamWorks had no real fences to mend with the government after the release of the first film, which did extraordinarily well at the box office here, because only about six people in the entire country took any offence to Kung Fu Panda 1.

Third, it sounds to me like a great deal of the travel to Sichuan done by DreamWorks folks while the film was in development was actual research as opposed to special-purpose government relations. Indeed, foreign film studios that want to kiss government arse do so in a dignified fashion — late at night at a karaoke bar in Beijing with an official from the State Administration of Radio, Film and Television (SARFT). Visiting officials at a panda preserve in Sichuan? If that’s not research, it’s a wasted trip.

There’s nothing wrong with this sort of thing, but it won’t get you an import slot:

Although it’s not allowed to be a distributor in China, where the China Film Group has a lock on the release of big imports, Paramount brought [production designer Raymond] Zibach back to help push KFP2 because China’s box office in the last few years has become a key destination for big Hollywood films.AvatarInception and 2012 all grossed more from ticket sales in China than they did anywhere else outside the U.S.

At dinner, Zibach, who speaks no Chinese and doesn’t drink alcohol, sat next to Xiong Yan, a local Chinese Communist Party chief, toasted her with water and gave her an autographed book of the KFP2 art inspired by the beauty of Sichuan, China’s breadbasket and most populous province.

That was from a Hollywood Reporter article, and the author seems enamoured with the idea that the studio was pulling out all the stops making friends with the Chinese government. Really? The production designer met with a local Party official in Sichuan? Uh uh, that’s just an excuse for some friendly PR. When you eventually meet with the SARFT guys, maybe you mention all that Sichuan goodwill you’ve generated, but really, they’re not going to care anyway.

CNN also seems to want to focus on film quotas and domestic criticism:

Grabbing one of coveted 20 slots for foreign films that make it to Chinese screens every year, the much-anticipated “Kung Fu Panda 2” opened in theatres across China this weekend with mixed reactions.

Why mention film quotas in the very first sentence? Is that really the most important item surrounding the opening of this new movie? It’s either a veiled criticism of China, or some sort of suggestion that DreamWorks is connected over here — or both.

And those mixed reactions? You gotta be kidding me. The article mentions “Chinese artists and academics” who are boycotting the film. Who is this huge group of artists and scholars? You guessed it, our old friend Zhao and a buddy of his from Peking University. You will see those two names, and only those two, in every single English-language writeup of the “storm of protests” over the film release.

So DreamWorks got one of these coveted quotas, and they went above and beyond the call of duty to be “culturally sensitive.” And even then, the movie was met with criticism. Gee, that makes DreamWorks (and Hollywood) look like real schmucks. Perhaps they shouldn’t be kowtowing to the Chinese in the first place — that sounds like a strong patriotic sentiment.

Just so you know where I’m coming from, the Kung Fu Panda coverage has to be looked at along with other recent China-Hollywood stories, including the “Red Dawn” fiasco, another China appeasement story, and the mind-numbing contention that Hollywood is now completely beholden to its Chinese masters (who have apparently bought out or co-opted the Jewish cabal).

Look, China has an imported film quota and is extremely sensitive to its national and cultural image. Studios that want to do business here have to play ball, just like the rest of us.

The studios are not Fellow travellers, they just want to make a buck.

Those of you not appalled by this post can follow me on Twitter @chinahearsay.