The Mummy in Shanghai

22 Jun 2005
The Mummy Returns

The entrance of Zhongshan Park

Ever since the May holiday, Shanghai’s Zhongshan Park has been housing a big The Mummy Returns promotional activity. It’s like a mini Egypt-themed fair. The main entrance of the park is all Egypted out, and a huge-screen (but low-res) TV has been installed which shows nonstop The Mummy Returns clips, interspersed with advertisements for the mummy fair going on inside the park. Each ticket costs a ridiculous 80 rmb per person.

After you pay, you head into the park and find the mummy section. If you’re unlucky there’s a line. (There were really long lines all throughout the first week of May, but there rarely are now.) You’re herded into the mummy’s temple, a sort of Egypt-themed haunted house. The haunted house was actually quite well done. The best part was all the workers inside dressed up like statues (they really did look like statues). They would remain motionless for a while, and then suddenly come to life, totally freaking people out. Good stuff.

carnival games

Carnival games

When you come out you’re in the familiar carnival setting. You are surrounded by booths selling everything from National Geographic videos to The Coffee Bean Tea Leaf refreshments. There are lots of impossible games you can play, paying with expensive tokens for a chance at impossible odds to win a virtually worthless “prize.” The familiar favorites were there: shooting (ridiculously small) hoops, fishing, ring around the bottle, etc. The one game with decent chances was a dart game. You just had to pop balloons with darts to win your crappy prize.

If you’re there at the right time, you may also get to see a live show. Yes, it’s Shanghai’s version of the Egyptian craptacular! When I was there the performances alternated between dances which tried to stay on theme, using Middle Eastern music and costumes, and dances which seemed to appeal to teenagers, using flashy clown colors and pop music. Guess which are which!

The Mummy Returns dancers The Mummy Returns dancers The Mummy Returns dancers The Mummy Returns dancers

All this is somewhat odd, of course, but the big question in my mind is: WHY? The Mummy Returns was released in 2001! Why go to all this work to promote a movie that’s already four years old? (I think the event has increased sales of pirated copies, though.) Is it a coincidence that Shanghai started whoring out Zhongshan Park to carnivals the same year that it stopped charging park admission for a lot of its parks?

P.S. Did anyone think it strange that there were Egyptian designs behind the video Coke machine I wrote about? Didn’t think so. Well, it was at this Mummy Returns carnival.

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John Pasden

John is a Shanghai-based linguist and entrepreneur, founder of AllSet Learning.

Comments

  1. In the States there was recent Public TV reports that those Egyptian mummy and treasure shows that used to tour major US cities and were hugely popular now suddenly got too expensive for many nuseums. Basically the Egyptian government says yes those were good tours that promoted Egyptian culture/turism etc., but why should we show them to you free. Therefore, now the contracts set minimum revenues and heavy upfront payments. I wonder if any dots can be connected here.

  2. Da Xiangchang Says: June 22, 2005 at 8:18 am

    Haha! This I gotta see! It’s all so unbearably kitschy (just like the movies), but hey, I have no problem with that. The Mummy Returns was the best bad movie I’ve ever seen.

    I’m looking forward to the Sinbad movie that’s coming out. Sinbad will be played by Keanu Reeves. Haha, that is priceless!

  3. I wonder if it’s related to Brendan Fraser being on the judges’ panel for the Shanghai Film Festival. Or the recent decision to film Mummy III in China. This was all announced after the May holiday, but there could have been deals going on behind the scenes.

  4. John,

    I’ve been a lurker here for some time, but never could come up with a good reason to post.

    Anyway…did you see that /. had an article on an adopt a chinese blog project. The article is here: http://yro.slashdot.org/article.pl?sid=05/06/21/1242216&tid=153

    Keep up the good work, love the blog.

  5. Many of my Chinese friends and students, when asked where on earth they’d like to go, mention Egypt with the pyramids and mummies…so this is not much of a surprise for me..i think it is aimed more for the chinese fascination with egyptian stuff and less related to the movie.

  6. was zhongshan park free before? (well, obviously) I guess my question is just whether or not they’ve done stuff like this before.

    I lived over on Dingxi Lu for awhile (like, a block away) I mean, I know they did stuff for the 50th anniversary and have rides, but I’m curious as to when they came about. I’m kind of glad they didn’t mummy out the park when I was living there. Too much kitsch to drive/walk past every night.

  7. The park charged an entrance fee at one point, but became free as the Shanghai city government works to open up more parks to everyone. This may have been as recent as early this year, as it was for many of the city’s parks.

    The park is still free right now. The Mummy thing occupies only a relatively small, fenced-off section of the park.

  8. Regan Fraser Says: November 16, 2007 at 12:07 am

    I am Regan Fraser, brother of Brendan. I’ve never been to China, but every pair of shoes that I’ve bought at a nearby mall is Made in China. Including all shoes for sale at Sear’s or Wal-Mart! As I write, I sit at a computer in Halifax, Canada. I think it’s maid in China, too. Wow those Chinese are some busy people! I think the review about The Mummy park in Shanghai was/is hilarious. I know what rmb stands for! For a time, I was employed as a cashier at a nearby supermarket and all the Chinese students with their VISA cards buying food would pay that way and explained to me that means “Ren Men Bee”-so I guess that 80 rmb is a lot of money to pay to walk thru a city park. To try to win cheap prizes… I’m sorry, gotta lol. From my POV, it would appear that China is definitely getting a grasp on the concept of capitalism. Just in time to offer locations for movie shoots and AND host the 2008 Olympics!
    PS Can anyone answer these 3 questions, please?: (1) How many rmb is admission to Chinese movie Theatres? (2) Has the waterfront shoot of a Shanghai chase scene been safe and sane? I hope some English or American or Canadian eyewitness on that can say.(3)If anyone can talk to Brendan, tell him his brother Regan loves him and thanks him for all his attention. Tell him congrats on being a dad 3 times over. I am the UNCLE!!! And that Yuk Yuk’s comedy club in Halifax won’t let me even have an act on Amateur Night. Then again, that could be a good thing as I would rather turn professional, wherein I’d crack jokes about the incredibly industrious Chinese!

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