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Mulan global release another superb milestone for Auckland

Auckland congratulates Walt Disney Studios on the recent global release on Disney+ of feature film Mulan – which had its main production base in Auckland and was the largest ever filmed in the region.

Directed by Auckland-raised and trained Niki Caro, Mulan was the first production to use Kumeu Film Studios’ two new state-of-the-art sound stages which opened in mid-2018, and marks another milestone in the region’s rapid emergence as a major screen production force.

Disney built 49 intricate sets for the US$200 million budget movie – many within the stages and production buildings at KFS, and on the studio’s large backlots. It also used seven locations around the region.

Many of the 1583 crew employed on the project, including some key heads of departments, were from Auckland’s western screen heartland, and Disney worked with a wide range of local suppliers – delivering substantial economic benefits for the local economy. 

KFS is operated by a specialist team within the region’s economic development agency Auckland Tourism, Events and Economic Development, which also supports the local screen industry through a long-term lease of the privately owned studios.

“We are extremely proud that Auckland’s world-class screen industry played a major part in a stunning production brought to life by an incredibly talented director we happily claim as ours," says ATEED General manager economic development Pam Ford.

“Mulan provided hundreds of jobs and a huge direct spend into our region for everything from drone and digital production companies to local cafes, carpenters and wood suppliers, and is a great showcase of Auckland’s creative talent.”

One of the skilled Auckland screen companies Disney worked with was The Rebel Fleet, based in Mt Albert.

The company’s managing director Mike Urban says its digital workflows and commitment to precision offered Disney total image control across multiple shooting units with fast turnarounds between New Zealand and the east coast of the United States within 24 hours of footage being shot.

“It was fantastic to be able to earn the trust of Niki Caro and her senior production team. The opportunity to work on Mulan was huge for us – we are proud of our part in the film and to be able to add another big feature to our portfolio,” says Mike.

Henderson Wood Machinists, a family owned and operated business established in 1976, regularly provides a complete service to the film and television industry’s set constructions around New Zealand. 

“Mulan was one of our largest jobs for the year," says HWM director Ivan Dobrec.

"We supplied not only tonnes of timber but also used our inhouse machines to create many custom-made products specifically for the movie.  It will be fantastic to see the magic Disney’s set builders created with all of the timber and products we supplied.”

KFS was a hive of activity for about six months in the second half of 2018, with the production also shooting in the South Island and China.

Pam Ford says Mulan’s release on the Disney+ platform comes as Auckland’s screen industry is working within Covid-19 restrictions – with a range of domestic and international productions back underway.

“The screen industry is a crucial contributor to our regional economy, so we’ve worked hard with industry and government agencies to get it up and running safely under new national screen health and safety workplace guidelines.

“New Zealand’s screen industry is one of the most operational at the moment, so our screen team is fielding numerous international inquiries and we are busy issuing permits for on-location filming,” says Pam.

“New substantial private studio space came on stream in Auckland in May, and we’re hugely positive about the industry’s future and working hard in a collective national effort to solve challenges around the ongoing border closure.” 

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