After the Hollywood launch of "Kung Fu Panda 2," there's word of a backlash in Beijing.
According to China's official Xinhua news agency, some Chinese artists and scholars say that the animated kiddie flick has "twisted Chinese culture and serves as a tool to 'kidnap' the mind of the Chinese people."
Zhao Bandi, an avant-garde artist in Beijing, has launched a campaign to boycott the DreamWorks film by placing ads in newspapers across the country. He's joined by an academic, Kong Qingdong of Peking University, who calls "Kung Fu Panda 2" a "cultural invasion."
This is a repeat performance for Zhao. In 2008, when the first "Kung Fu Panda" appeared on Mainland screens, he sued the film's producers for its depiction of China's national treasure. (Pandalism, anyone?) Zhao called the green eyes of Po, the animated panda, a conspiracy since green is an evil color, and Po's father an insult to all Chinese since he is a duck.
But after taking in close to $28 million, the movie ultimately had more than its share of fans and set China's animation box office record.
Whereas the first installment was designed from books and online research, the sequel is based on trips to China. DreamWorks Animation's Raymond Zibach says he digitally created the film's look using photos he took of architectural and landscape details from the Forbidden City, Pingyao,Chengdu and elsewhere in China. The art director also went to a panda breeding facility to study and draw from the movements of an actual baby panda.
China's netizens have been actively discussing the film on the country's popular microblog Sina Weibo, and directing a number of their comments at the outraged artist Zhao Bandi. @pandalin013 writes, "Don't use Kung Fu Panda to hype your own work. It's a good movie. If you want to boycott American culture, you should cast out McDonald's and KFC."
Another netizen who goes by the name @ldgiuenguo weighs in, "Looking at the box office for Kung Fu Panda 2, I suspect Zhao Bandi is using the controversy to advertise his work."
Zhao's panda love is not such a black and white affair. His ostensibly nationalist motives aside, Zhao is campaigning for an animal that he has essentially turned into his own commercial calling card.
The Beijing-based artist - who apparently likes to carry a stuffed panda around with him - has long produced, and sold, art based on pandas. Zhao also designs provocative costumes for models posing as panda prostitutes and, yes, panda concubines.
As one Beijing-based blogger points out on Twitter, "Apparently it’s ok for Zhao Bandi to do whatever he wants with the panda's image... just no one else."