The State Administration of Radio, Film and Television has deniedan application by a local director to shoot a Chinese remake ofPixar's Wall-E because the film did not sell the legal rights tothe director, according to insiders. After filing an application to make his own version of thecomputer-animated blockbuster, the director drew fire from thepublic, with some accusing him of blatant plagiarism. According to a notice three days ago on the SARFT's website, theplanned film is titled Robot Wali and it tells a love story of tworobots in space. The names of the film's two main characters and the plot are almostthe same as Pixar's Wall-E. |
Film producers in China need to send summaries of their scripts toprovincial branches of the SARFT to get approval before they beginshooting. Every project that has won approval will be available onthe SARFT's website. Although Wall-E was never screened in mainland theaters, its DVDwas released in 2008. The picture, which met with universalacclaim, is familiar to most Chinese filmgoers. The publicized notice soon elicited humorous responses fromnetizens, many of whom thought it was a joke.
Film critic Zhang Xiaobei discovered it first and posted it on hismicro blog. Hu Ge, a TV commercials director, said: "This must be some kind ofperformance art". Web editor Zhao Gang put it more sarcastically: "It turns out thatPixar only made a two-hour trailer for our Chinese blockbuster." Zhang himself adds: "Does this mean I can now prepare my own TheDark Knight Rises and Star Wars?" Disney, which owns the copyright of Wall-E, told China Daily via aspokesperson that the company "values and protects its intellectualproperty vigorously and takes reports of suspected infringementvery seriously". "We are aware of this issue and are working proactively with therelevant government authorities to address that," the spokespersonsays.
Xia Peng, the director who submitted the summary to the SARFT, saidthat he tried to purchase the remake rights to Wall-E for 700,000yuan ($110,000). With that amount of money, senior producer Ben Ji said, it isimpossible to buy the remakes right of such a celebrated picture. Xia admits that he does not have any contract to prove he hasbought the remake rights, neither did he include any licenseagreement of the original scriptwriter in his materials submittedto the Beijing branch of the SARFT. He even says he wants to make a 3-D Wall-E with an eight-personteam. When asked if so few people can fulfill the work, heresponds: "You don't know about the animation industry.
It's quitesimple, just some computer work." An insider close to the incident reveals that the SARFT has stoppedthe project after Disney expressed its concern. The notice aboutthe film has disappeared from the administration's website. Phone calls to the Beijing branch of the SARFT remained unansweredas of press time. The incident has shown that Chinese film industry still suffersfrom a lack of creativity, said film critic Shao Yan. "Posters have been found to copy those of Hollywood films, too," hesays.
"But it really takes some audacity to simply take awayanother film's storyline and characters." Producer Wang Yu tries to see something positive from thesituation, however. "To get the public's opinion and prevent possible mistakes is whythe SARFT announces every project on its website," he says. "The overwhelming outcry from netizens over the incident has shownthat the public has developed strong sensitivity to intellectualproperty. Their rapid and strong response as well as the follow-upof media have made it more difficult for copycat projects tosurvive.".
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