Disney and Tencent-owned China Literature, the Asian country’s largest online publisher, are teaming to produce the first original Chinese Star Wars story for the latter’s online reading platform, according to the official Star Wars Weibo account.
The two companies will also distribute 40 Star Wars novels translated into Chinese for the first time.
The goal here is to build a bigger fanbase in China for the Disney franchise, which has had mixed success in the territory to date.
With no pre-existing Star Wars fans, due to the lack of release for the original trilogy in the 1970s, building popularity for the brand has been a challenge for the studio. The first entry in the new trilogy, J.J. Abrams’ The Force Awakens took a promising $124m in China in 2016, but spin-off Rogue One grossed only $70m in 2017, while The Last Jedi was a flop last year with $43m.
The new partnership was unveiled in Shanghai on Wednesday, October 16. It will see the original story written by a young Chinese author who goes by the pen name ‘His Majesty’. The 40 existing works, once translated, will roll out across China Literature’s online platform, which it says currently has 217 million monthly users.
“We hope that more Chinese readers will be exposed to the Star Wars story and let Star Wars renew its vitality in China. At the same time, through creative experimentation and exploration, we will jointly bring Chinese-style Star Wars stories to Chinese readers,” said Wu Wenhui, CEO of China Literature, in a statement translated from its original Mandarin.