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October 2007 | Vol. VI - No. 10
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Hollywood ToyBoy – China Out? Time Out!

The Blame Game Gets a New Spin


Everyone in La-La Land has jumped on the get-the-lead-out bandwagon. Even the most SUV-loving, oil-guzzling, strip-mining movie moguls have seen the anti-lead-in-toys light. “Think of the children!”

So China is out... except for the fact that there are 1.3 billion Chinese, all of them possible movie, DVD and television watchers. That's a lot of dough-ray-me, and Hollywood will have those watchers ... but how?

“It's not as if no one knew about toys and food being less than top-grade there for the last 20 years,” burbled a very savvy studio exec just before Mattel issued their mea culpas and shifted the blame from bad bad Chinese paint to bad bad American-designed magnets. “We get 90 percent of our merchandizing made there. It's cheap. We're cheap. The cheaper we are, the more money we make.”

That's the rub: Americans want two things from the Chinese: cheap and viewers.

So out of sight, out of mind is the rule. Until it hits our shores, and someone blows the whistle on it. There are billions and billions of dollars to be made. With Yahoo, Google and others already streaming in, deals in the back rooms of every major studio on the table, we're video colonialism in action. And now this. China has become verboten. But the deals go on.

“We're waiting for the smoke to clear,” secret agent'd a top entertainment lawyer to me in a Deep Throat tone of voice. “Hollywood is all about spin. Everyone is going to continue to line up deals.”

And Mattel’s recent “apology” to China – “Oops ... our fault” – is a perfect example that the spin’s already begun. Economists and Hollywood-ites all agree: “Mattel wanted to prevent China from hitting them with more taxes or regulations, put their costs up and hurt their stock price. They were trying to avoid punitive measures.”

Face it: laws, rules and half-baked enforcement are not going to change China. But Hollywood will. The more movies, TV and Internet gets to those 1.3 billion people, the more Western culture those viewers are going to want. And since we don't like lead in our toys, they aren't going to like lead in their toys. So watch for “cleaned-up” toys from China, production facilities moved to fourth world countries, and increased Chinese viewers.

It's only a matter of time... and spin.



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Writer's Bio: Mark Zaslove is an entertainment industry veteran in developing content (writing, directing and producing television and feature films) for the major studios, including Disney, Universal and Warner Bros. A two-time Emmy Award winner for writing and recipient of the Humanitas Prize (for writing uplifting human values in television and movies), Mark is also Head of Content Development for Nice Entertainment. Read more articles by this author

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