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Monkey King Theme Park Creator to present at UCLA-USC Media & Culture Conference

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We’re all familiar with the cartoon mouse made famous by Walt Disney more than 80 years ago. With his prominent black ears, white gloves, big yellow shoes and red shorts, Mickey Mouse is a worldwide icon. Now, can the same mass market appeal surround Monkey, a legendary Chinese figure that has played a prominent role in Chinese literature and culture for more than 400 years?

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Acclaimed Chinese film and television director and producer Zhang Jizhong (left), who is currently creating a theme park in China based on the Monkey King legend, thinks so.  Zhang will be joining Hollywood entertainment heavyweights and academic experts at the Media and Culture in Contemporary China conference, which will be held at the University of California – Los Angeles (UCLA) on Oct. 21 and the University of Southern California (USC) on Oct. 22. 

“Zhang Jizhong is virtually unknown in the West, but he is a household name in China due to the popularity of his TV serials based on the historical novels Romance of the Three Kingdoms, The Water Margin and now his remake of Journey to the West, ” says UCLA history professor Andrea Goldman, one of the conference’s lead organizers.  “Purveyors of popular entertainment in film and TV, such as Zhang Jizhong, have a strong impact within China in terms of shaping Chinese audiences’ understanding of their own past and culture. Perhaps even more importantly, Zhang is representative of this new phenomenon of Chinese producer/directors eyeing a global market for their work.”

The free two-day conference, sponsored by the UCLA-USC Joint East Asian Studies Center, a consortium that brings together the Asia Institute at UCLA and the East Asian Studies Center at USC, will focus on the globalization of the Chinese entertainment industry and the impact of film and television on public perception and culture in China. Sessions topics include the state of the film and television industry in contemporary China; recreating Chinese history and classic literature in film and television; and the globalization of theme parks. The event will also explore what kinds of U.S.-China entertainment collaborations have worked, what haven’t and why.

The conference kicks off on Oct. 21 at UCLA’s James West Alumni Center with a panel session on the state of the film and television industry in contemporary China from an academic perspective. This will be followed by a panel session examining the state of the film and television industry in contemporary China from the perspective of the entertainment industry. Moderated by Prof. Martin Kaplan, director of the Norman Lear Center at USC’s Annenberg School for Communication & Journalism, panelists will include Mike Medavoy, chair and CEO of Phoenix Films and co-founder of Orion Pictures; William M. Mechanic, president and CEO of Pandemonium Films and former chair and CEO of Fox Filmed Entertainment; and Janet Yang, president of Manifest Films and former president of production of Oliver Stone’s Ixtlan Productions; among others.

This will be followed by a discussion about the recreation of Chinese history and classic literature in film and television, and a keynote address by Zhang.  The evening will also feature the American premiere of Zhang’s new television series Journey to the West at UCLA’s Lenart Auditorium in the Fowler Museum beginning at 7:30 p.m.

The second day of the conference, which will be held at USC’s Annenberg Auditorium, will examine the emerging presence of theme parks in China and the globalization of such venues from both academic and industry lenses. Experts from UNC, UCLA, USC, the University of Arizona and the University of Missouri-St. Louis, along with industry specialists from Walt Disney Imagineering, Super 78 Studios, Inc., the American Institute of Architects and the Asia Society Southern California will share their knowledge and expertise. The conference will close with a 90-minute audience conversation with Zhang.

“Los Angeles is the perfect location to bridge dialogue between entertainment industry experts, including Hollywood producers and theme park creators; and scholars who study globalization, film and television, and Chinese popular culture, ” says Goldman.

For more information, including a schedule and a link to pre-registration, go to dornsife.usc.edu.mccc. 
SOURCE UCLA-USC Joint East Asian Studies Center

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