Friday, January 29, 2010

Avatar Fiasco Continues

Earlier this week officials from Zhangjiajie, Hunan Province renamed a mountain called South Pillar of Heaven as Hallelujah Mountain in reference to the blockbuster film Avatar.

There were claims that director James Cameron based the fictional mountain in space with the one in the Chinese province.

There is even an "Avatar Office" set up to organize Avatar-themed tours, with some travel agencies reporting a 50 percent increase in tourists in the past few weeks.

After news came out of the change in name, many Chinese were up in arms, accusing the officials of selling out to Hollywood and only thinking of short-term gains.

Now the local officials are trying to do damage control, and putting the blame on local villagers for spreading rumours.

"It's nothing but commercial hype," said Zhangjiajie Tourism Bureau Director Ding Yunyong. "Villagers changed the name privately in order to capitalize on the fame. We don't oppose these non-governmental efforts, nor do we support them."

However, the Beijing News reported that at a January 19 symposium titled "Promoting Zhangjiajie with the help of Avatar", He Zhineng, deputy chief of the tourism bureau, said that the city would name Cameron as honorary citizen and invite the leading cast members to visit the city.

And the general manager of the Zhangjiajie branch of China International Tourism Service Sun Yan revealed that the Avatar camera crew have agreed to film the sequel there in three or four years' time.

Looks like these officials are pretty much guilty as charged.

An editorial in the China Youth Daily rhetorically asked why officials simply don't change the name of the city, Zhangjiajie to Pandora and invite Cameron to be its honorary mayor. That way, the paper said, the tourism bureau could become a Hollywood institution.

Meanwhile, tourism officials for the newly named Hallelujah Mountain and Mount Huangshan, where Cameron claimed he got the inspiration for his movie, are still battling it out over which one was the real mountain in the film.

The Avatar Office claimed that Cameron intentionally misnamed the mountain as Mt Huangshan so as to create controversy in China as a strategy to have bigger box office receipts.

What kind of logic is that?

Well-known CCTV commentator Bai Yansong said the name change has become a gigantic joke.

"It's pathetic that Huangshan and Zhangjiajie are struggling to get the name," he said. "Movie scenes can be found everywhere in the world. So why are we being so serious about it? Why is our cultural back so bendable?"

Methinks this fiasco is far from over. Perhaps some heads will roll...

Now that would be dramatic.

1 comment:

gung said...

in order to make a tourism buck this type of free media exposure may be justified.