Reflections of China

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Reflections of China
ReflectionsChina.jpg
The entrance sign for Reflections of China.
Epcot
Land World Showcase
Attraction type Circle Vision 360 Film
Opening date May 22, 2003
Ride duration 13:00 [1] minutes
Formally Known As Wonders of China
FastPass + No
Budget 1,000,000 [2] (Wonders of China)

Reflections of China is a movie located within the China pavilion, within Epcot.

Attraction History

When Imagineers initially conceived the China pavilion, plans for what would eventually become Reflections of China originally called for the film to be shown on a standard theater screen [3]. Subsequently, however, the attraction was developed into a CircleVision 360 film. In order to create the attraction, a MacGillivray Freeman Films crew led by director Jeff Blyth traveled to China to film a travelogue style movie [4]. Initially, the Chinese government was interested in partnering with Disney, but was uncomfortable with Western crews filming their country. Because of this, at the outset, the government put strict restrictions of Disney's film crew, including making the Great Wall and Tibet off limits.

As Disney and China continued to negotiate over filming restrictions, little progress was being made. In a last ditch effort to attain more creative freedom, Disney showed representatives from China the film Fantasia[4]. This showing seemingly helped convince the Chinese government to loosen their restrictions, and Disney was given more autonomy. As part of the new agreement, when shots of China's "sensitive" areas was called for, Blyth would turn the sequence over to his Chinese counterpart[4]. The Chinese film crew would then film the scene, before it was reviewed by the American team, who would then decided if any additional takes were needed.

After two months of scouting, the filming of Reflections of China began in the fall of 1981[4]. As previously mentioned, the film was shot in CircleVision 360, which required crews to film on nine cameras, that were stationed on a platform. Imagineers returned to China in the winter of 1981 to record the seasonal changes, before concluding filming the following spring [4]. To narrate the film, Blyth decided to use the famous Chinese poet, Li Bai. Li Bai (who is known as Li Po in the West) [5] wrote over 1,000 poems during the Tang Period[4]. According to director Jeff Blyth:

Li Bai served as Wonders of China's narrator.
I chose Li Po, a famous poet of the Tang Dynasty, to be our guide and on-camera narrator. This might seem like the equivalent of using Shakespeare to narrate a film on present day England, but I deliberately chose a historic figure so that the words he spoke would not seem to some conservative members of the audience like the official party line. [6]

In the film, Li Po was played by Chinese actor Shih Kuan, whose voice was then overdubbed by Keye Luke.

The completed Wonders of China film was approximately 19 minutes long, and it featured parts of China that had never been seen by most Westerners [4]. The total cost of making the film as just over $1,000,000 [2]. The attraction opened with the rest of EPCOT Center on October 1, 1982.

By 2002, China had become both an industrial country and a popular tourist attraction. With these changes, Wonders of China began to seem dated. Imagineers eventually decided that they needed to update the film, and on March 25, 2002 Wonders of China was shown for the final time [5].

Jeff Blythe returned to direct the updated film, which would combine new footage of the country shot in 2002, with scenes from the original film, and scenes shot in 1981 that had never been used. Disney's film crews arrived in China in September 2002 for two months of filming[7]. Joined by filmmakers from the the China Research Institute of Film Science, the team set out to record new footage in seven Chinese cities[7]. Among the biggest additions to film, were scenes featuring Hong Kong and Macao which were not governed by China when the original Wonders of China film was made. In a similar fashion, film crews also reshot Shanghai, which had been modernized in the intervening twenty years. Other scenes, including the Great Wall, Tienanmen Square, Beijing, Harbin, and Urumqi were all updated for the 21st century [4]. When commenting on the updated film, Blyth noted:

"The biggest difference is that 20 years ago we had permission to film on these locations, but people did not really understand what we were doing. We did not get as much cooperation as we are getting now"[7]

In addition to the updated scenes, Reflections of China (as the film would now be called) also received and updated score composed by Richard Bellis [5]. This score featured new sections added to a revised version of the original Wonders of China score. Finally, although the film was still narrated by Li Po, a new narration was recorded for the film. In the attraction's new scenes, a body double was used to replace original actor Shi Kuan, who was too old to reprise his role. A new actor was brought in to overdub Po's narration throughout the entire film, as Keye Luke had passed away in 1991. In total, Reflections of China is six minutes shorter than its predecessor.

Reflections of China officially opened to guests on May 23, 2003. Since this time, the attraction has not seen any major changes. At the 2017 D23 Expo however, Walt Disney Imagineering's Vice President and Senior Creative Executive Tom Fitzgerald announced that Disney would be creating a new Circle-Vision film for the China pavilion. According to Disney, the new film will be the first shot using a "next-generation digital camera system" [8]. It is unclear at this time what relation, if any, the new film will have to the current Reflections of China film.

Film Plot [4]

The filming of Wonders of China

Reflections of China showcases many of China's cultural and natural landmarks. The scenes in the film depict:

  • The Great Wall at Jinshanling
  • Shanghai from the Bund with a view of Pudong
  • Shanghai montage
  • Nanjing Road, Shanghai
  • Shanghai from the riverfront park
  • Huangpu waterfront
  • Morning exercises in Hangzhou
  • Huangshan mountain
  • Li Bai's study
  • Yangtze River
  • Suzhou canals and garden
  • Heavenly Lake in wilderness of Xinjiang Province
  • Urumqi night market
  • Gobi Desert, Gansu Province
A poster for Disneyland's Wonders of China
  • Inner Mongolia
  • Yunnan Province
  • Shilin Stone Forest, Yunnan Province
  • Harbin Ice Festival, Heilongjiang Province
  • Macau
  • Hong Kong
  • Hong Kong skyline
  • Dragon Wall in Behai Park, Beijing
  • Terracotta Soldiers
  • Ming Tomb Statues
  • Giant Buddah of Leshan
  • Peking Opera performing "Havoc in Heaven"
  • Forbidden City in Beijing
  • Tien An Men Square in Beijing
  • Behai Park, Beijing
  • Reed Flute Cave at Guilin
  • Limestone formations at Guilin
  • The Li River
  • The Great Wall at Jinshanling

Watch the Film

To see the Reflections of China film, click play below:

Cast and Crew

Wonders of China

Kuan Shih- Li Bai (Body) [9]

Keye Luke- Li Bai (Voice) [10]

Jeff Blyth- Director/Writer [1] [2]

Leon Chooluck- Production Manager [2]

Greg MacGillivray- Producer [11]

Peter Anderson- Visual Effects [9]

Woody Mu- Sound Recording [9]

Reflections of China

Jeff Blyth-Director [1]

Steve Spiegel Writer [7]

Fun Facts and Trivia

Wonders of China

  • When filming the Huangshan Mountain sequence, over three dozen locals were hired to lift a 300-pound camera up 16,700 stone steps [4].
  • In Wonders of China guests could see the Peking Opera Company perform The Monkey King Raises Havoc in Heaven [2]
  • To make the scene seem more natural, in Wonders of China, actors were used instead of real tourists in the Great Wall scene [2]

References

  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 https://d23.com/a-to-z/reflections-of-china-film/
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 2.4 2.5 https://news.google.com/newspapers?nid=1314&dat=19820607&id=tvdLAAAAIBAJ&sjid=kO4DAAAAIBAJ&pg=7014,2843621&hl=en
  3. http://www.martinsvids.net/
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 4.3 4.4 4.5 4.6 4.7 4.8 4.9 http://land.allears.net/blogs/jackspence/walt_disney_world/theme_parks/epcot/china/
  5. 5.0 5.1 5.2 The EPCOT explorer's encyclopedia: R. Pedersen - Epcyclopedia Press - 2011
  6. Viner, Michael, and Terrie Maxine. Frankel. Tales from the Casting Couch: An Unprecedented Candid Collection of Stories, Essays, and Anecdotes by and about Legendary Hollywood Stars, Starlets, and Wanna-bes--. Beverly Hills, CA: Dove, 1995. Print. Pages 68-69
  7. 7.0 7.1 7.2 7.3 http://www.china.org.cn/english/culture/43324.htm
  8. https://disneyparks.disney.go.com/blog/2017/07/new-film-at-china-pavilion-in-epcot-will-feature-new-technology/
  9. 9.0 9.1 9.2 https://www.imdb.com/title/tt0084915/fullcredits?ref_=tt_cl_sm#cast
  10. Blyth, Jeff. “INTERVIEW WITH JEFF BLYTH, DIRECTOR OF REFLECTIONS OF CHINA.” Tiara Talk Show, Mar. 2014.
  11. https://www.ocregister.com/2017/08/29/a-former-disney-imagineers-guide-to-epcots-world-showcase/