Tom & Jerry will be the first new U.S. studio title to come out in China this year. The Lunar New Year will have just ended. Regulators ban foreign film releases during the holiday, which is the country’s busiest movie-going period.
In the U.S., both features are receiving hybrid roll-outs, coming out in theaters (where possible) and streaming on the same day. Tom & Jerry will be available, free of charge, to HBO Max subscribers, while Disney+ customers will be able to stream Raya for a .99 premium. The availability of these films online in the U.S. raises the possibility of piracy within China; it remains to be seen whether the Chinese releases are affected as a result.
The confirmation of the dates follows the recent announcement that China has lifted the last of its remaining local lockdowns. Domestic transmission of the coronavirus is now officially at zero. (Caveat: China doesn’t classify asymptomatic cases as part of its official total of confirmed cases, and there were eight such cases yesterday.)
The hybrid Tom & Jerry is directed by Tim Story (Fantastic Four) from a script by Kevin Costello (Brigsby Bear). Framestore was responsible for the animation.
The film is produced by Walt Disney Animation Studios and directed by Don Hall (Big Hero 6) and Carlos López Estrada (Blindspotting). The writers are Adele Lim (Crazy Rich Asians), who was raised in Malaysia, and Vietnamese American writer Qui Nguyen. Disney animated films have had mixed performances in China: Frozen II earned 2.3 million, and Zootopia achieved the highest Chinese gross of 6.1 million, but both Moana and Ralph Breaks the Internet ended up with under million.
Promotion for Raya in China is centering on Zhao Liying, the 33-year-old star who dubs the title character locally. Posters show her, not the animated character. The film, which draws inspiration from a range of Southeast Asian cultures, has come under fire in the U.S., where some have criticized the prevalence of actors of East Asian (as opposed to Southeast Asian) heritage in the voice cast.