I haven’t been to China in two years but after watching the Summer Olympics 2008 opening ceremony I want to return. Because in two years, it’s become a different country. It is no longer an aspiring economic and political power as it was then; it now has arrived. Watching the ceremony inside the “bird’s nest” stadium, which was designed to be the world’s most technologically advanced stage, you could not help but realize that China has big plans to move beyond being the world’s copy cat.
What struck me was not just the dazzling precision of the choreography and technical elements of stagecraft such as sound, music and lights. It was the grandeur of designer Zhang Yimou’s vision, the power of his storytelling, and the enormous scale of the spectacle. Compare that to Italy’s opening ceremony in Turin two years ago — more like a tired fashion parade. A nice confection but not much underneath.
This was a very high standard of entertainment. Disney should be afraid. The Chinese have made it clear they have a grasp on a very contemporary brand of mass market magic.