Anderson shoots for Disney English in Shanghai

Thanks to a local connection, director John Anderson spent a week in July shooting for Disney English in Shanghai, where the company established its first English-language instruction centers in China.

Original songs and music used by the Disney English school were created by Anderson’s long-time friend, local music star Ralph Covert who records his children’s band, “Ralph’s World,” for Disney Sound.

Anderson got the job when L.A.-based Disney executive producer, Julie Blore-Bizot, asked Covert to recommend a local filmmaker to create video content for their education modules.

Anderson has an ideal background for the Disney assignment. From 2006 to 2008, he exec produced and directed “CPS Right Now!” ? the Midwest-Emmy nominated Chicago Public Schools’ half-hour series which aired on municipal cable.

He shot the first part of the Disney project in March at Artisan Stage & Lighting in Glenview — video clips now being shown on the interactive screens at the Disney- Shanghai school.

Anderson spent two-day shooting with children from the Baker School in Evanston in front of a blue cyc. The children demonstrated the proper pronunciation of the first hundred words covered in the Disney curriculum.

Anderson then made the 14.5-hour trip to Shanghai to shoot a second series of four half-hour videos. He was accompanied by DP Frank Krochmal of First Run Co.

Shooting with two Sony EX-1 HD using cards, they shot over 50 hours in two days in Shanghai. “We shot in the classrooms, the clubhouse, and interviewed students, teachers, parents and content experts. But these videos will be used exclusively for Disney internal and external communications,” Anderson said.

In Shanghai, he saw the earlier video pieces he shot here in active use in the Disney school. “On one wall is this interactive whiteboard with the kids from Baker School, and on the perpendicular is an animated projector.

“When a student gives the correct answer, he or she goes up the board. If they bang on the right spot, an animated Goofy congratulates them and makes something magical happen on the other screen. Then they sing along with one of Ralph’s songs to reinforce what they just learned.”

A big part of the Disney English approach is the parents’ participation. They attend classes with their children and watch parts of the classes on the web. “Since the Chinese are only allowed to have one child, they take their education very seriously,” he said.

Anderson’s take on the people of Shanghai? “They are beautiful, warm and friendly. They looked at us almost like we’re helping to bring them more freedom. It was a really welcoming feeling.”