Thanks in part to the immense popularity High School Musical enjoyed whilst it was on the stage in Shanghai, Disney is now working with Shanghai Media Group and Huayi Bro.s on a Chinese-version of the made-for-TV movie – and it’s based in our city! But those looking for a direct translation of the show will be pretty disappointed – it’s being vastly adjusted to fit Chinese culture and sensibilities:
First of all, the Shanghai HSM will actually take place in college, because Chinese kids in China don’t really have fun in high school – they’re way to focused on trying to get their potential gaokao (college test) scores up.
As Jason Reed, GM of Walt Disney Studios Internationa Production points out to China Daily, “In China, students in high school are so focused on academics that it wasn’t realistic to portray them singing and dancing in the way that American high school students have time for.”
Instead, the tale of two kids who find love through singing will take place in the first year of college, where Chinese focus groups say they first felt the freedom to express themselves.
Second, the movie will feature all new songs and choreography, except for “We’re all in This Together” from the original film (now in Mandarin). The storyline’s also been changed to be about a singing competition rather than a musical production – probably because drama departments in colleges not dedicated specifically to drama is still a pretty rare occurance here. To reflect that it’s no longer in “high school” or a “musical,” the name has been changed to “歌舞青春 (Gewu Qingchun – Musical Youth).”
There might be a third change: According to China Daily, the guy filling Zac Efron’s shoes will no longer be a basketball player. In a bizarre twist, Mr. Popular will be a poet… since Chinese kids are more attracted to “thoughtful, intelligent and studious” than say “team player, athletic and with a body like Adonis”? News to us. But Variety has Reed insisting that basketball will stay, despite attempts to “localize” the sport into kung fu at first. Ha.
All in all though, the movie will still be classic Disney, as Reed states:
“A lot of the themes in the HSM series, such as the sense of self-discovery, communal support, optimism and friendship are universal values that work in all countries,” Reed says.
“Also, one of the fundamentals common to our two countries’ strengths is people coming together to achieve greatness. That is a great affinity between the two cultures.”
The film is expected to come out in Summer 2011.