The Walt Disney Co. said Tuesday that it would join an initiative to develop China’s animation industry.
The agreement brings together the Burbank entertainment giant with an animation arm of China’s Ministry of Culture and China’s largest Internet company, Tencent Holdings Ltd.
China’s government has identified animation as a key area for development to boost the country’s global influence, or soft power. The success of DreamWorks Animation’s “Kung Fu Panda” franchise has sparked wide debate within China about why the country can’t leverage its culture as effectively as Hollywood.
The Disney announcement comes on the heels of DreamWorks Animation’s announcement of a joint venture with Shanghai Media Group, China’s second-largest media company. The deal was unveiled in February when Chinese Vice President Xi Jinping visited in Los Angeles.
Disney said it would offer its expertise in areas such as story writing and market research to help develop local Chinese talent, the company said in a written statement.
“Our philosophy is to operate as the Chinese Walt Disney Company and as such will remain front and center to help local creative talent realize their dreams and help to create one of the most dynamic original animation industry sectors in the world,” Stanley Cheung, managing director of Disney China, said in the statement.
Disney is currently building its first theme park in mainland China, a $3.7 billion attraction in Shanghai slated to open in 2015.
The company also operates a network of English schools in China. In February, Disney reached an agreement to offer some of its films to Chinese cable television subscribers. The company has had less success getting a dedicated television channel approved in the country, considered a vital part of its marketing strategy.