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Kung Fu Panda 2: Hollywood works harder to win Chinese audiences

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No more Chinese enemies in the movies

Hollywood seems equally eager to do so. MGM recently scrubbed all references to a Chinese enemy from its upcoming remake of the 1984 cold-war-era drama "Red Dawn," digitally replacing Chinese military insignias with North Korean ones in a late edit.

Betting that China's multiplex owners, like their counterparts around the world, want as many high-earning 3-D films as possible, DreamWorks is playing one of its strong cards: attention to detail.

"3-D technology forced us to give depth to the film and show off the research we did in China so carefully this time around," says Raymond Zibach, veteran DreamWorks production designer for "Kung Fu Panda," during a three-day promotional tour to this cradle of the panda.

Before the first "Kung Fu Panda," which took five years to make, Mr. Zibach fought with DreamWorks chief executive officer Jeffrey Katzenberg for a China visit. He was told it would be too costly. Then the movie grossed $633 million worldwide. On his second request, Zibach got his trip.

In November 2008, with much of the first film's core creative crew in tow, Zibach went to Beijing; to Chengdu, in central China, to see pandas face to face; and then, outside Chengdu, to Mt. Qingcheng, a wellspring of Taoist philosophy and home to its own kung fu tradition.

"The mountain changed how we went about making the second film," says the California native, revisiting Chengdu and Mt. Qingcheng in late May, on only his second trip to China. "We absorbed its colors, its misty atmosphere, and its magic."

His group took 40,000 photos on that first trip and have incorporated inspiration from China's architecture and color palette into the sequel's computer-generated imagery. Local audiences may perk up at the Chinese characters for Mt. Qingcheng carved into rocks in digital scenery. "That's not product placement. It was just a nod of 'thank you,' " Zibach says.

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