Doraemon pic to screen in China


TOKYO -- Doraemon is already a huge hit with China's piraters of movies and television programs, but in the summer the robot cat with a pocket full of magic will become the subject of the first Japanese animated movie to hit the big screen in China.

Doraemon stars in "Nobita and the Dinosaur," which will be screened in 200 cinemas across the country beginning in early July.

Shogakukan Inc., the publisher that holds the rights to the blue cat's adventures, said Wednesday that more than 40 million Doraemon books have been sold in China.

"The character is very popular in China, although all the videos and DVDs that are available there are pirated versions," said Takashi Fukuda, manager of Shogakukan's International Division.

"This will be the first authorized theater release in China of a Japanese animated film, and we think it will do very well at the boxoffice," he said.

The title is a production collaboration between Asatsu, Shin Ei Animation and TV Asahi as well as Shogakukan.

Directed by Ayumu Watanabe and originally released in Japan in March 2006, it is being distributed in China by Huaxia Films. Sales of foreign films has been difficult in the past as the Chinese government limits the number of imports to 50 a year.

This year marks the 35th anniversary of the normalization of diplomatic ties between two countries that have historically been either enemies or fierce economic rivals, while 2007 is also the Japan-China Exchange Year of Culture.

"This is only our first release there, but we hope to be able to release another Doraemon movie there every year in the future," Fukuda said.