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September 7, 2009

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Haibao revealed in cartoon series

MORE people, especially children, have started to recognize Haibao, the mascot of the World Expo 2010 Shanghai. With the event coming closer, the sea-blue, elf-like figure waving two hands and with a shock of hair sticking up at the top of his "head," like an unruly curl, has become popular among more people around the world.

But do you know whether Haibao is a boy or girl? The mascot is lively or shy? What is the mascot's favorite food? Where does Haibao come from and does Haibao have any superpowers?

A 52-episode cartoon about the mascot from the Expo organizer will give all these answers next spring. The organizer invested more than 10 million yuan (US$1.46 million) in the cartoon's production to expand the figure's personality and "legendary" experiences.

As a result, it is hoped the mascot will become more than a statue at tourism spots for people to pose with. It will be an enlivened creature able to smile, to cry, to be excited and to be angry.

Haibao is a seven-year-old boy creature from the sea. He has all the characters of a human child at the same age - he is friendly, clever, lively and curious about everything, as well as capricious sometimes, revealed cartoon director Hong Bing, associate professor of Shanghai Theater Academy China.

The cartoon series "Coming Haibao" will be telecast on about 200 channels around world next spring.

In the series, Haibao will use his wisdom and superpower - to become a robot or other different shapes - to battle a bad character, named Chou Chou (literally means ugly in Chinese) who intends to invade the Rainbow City, Haibao's hometown.

The Rainbow City is originated from Shanghai. Many iconic venues of the city, such as the Oriental Pearl TV Tower and the Jing Mao Tower, as well as the Expo Shanghai site, will appear in the series.

In the story, Haibao will live in a Shanghai longtang (lane) house with another friend, Pi Pi, and his parents. The mascot will gradually find his superpowers and lead his friends to fight against the invaders.

Haibao's favorite food is xiaolongbao, or steamed buns, a traditional Shanghai snack.

And the biggest enjoyment for the mascot is to have a bath.

His best pal is a five-year-old girl, named Bei Bei, a charismatic and clever girl. As the series develops, the little mascot even falls in love with the girl.

His curl will tell his mood - it will turn up when Haibao is angry and will whirl when the mascot is thinking.

"I've tried to give more human personality to the mascot to make people feel that he is not an elf but a boy," said Hong. He said the directors' team originally cast Haibao as an "all mighty god" who could save the world.

Haibao has to keep drinking water because he comes from the sea. When he becomes tired, his blue skin will fade to a lighter color while his body will shrink, but he will soon be rejuvenated after plunging into water. In the winter, Haibao will need to wear a thick coat, otherwise he will freeze.

His biggest weakness is that he is extremely ticklish. Sometimes, Haibao will become sad because he does not have a mother.

The cartoon figures of kung fu movie star Jackie Chan, pianist Lang Lang and NBA star Yao Ming - all official Expo Shanghai Promotion Ambassadors - will appear in the cartoon to help Haibao.

Chan will use his kung fu to fight the robot invaders. Yao will lead a basketball team to compete with a team made up of aliens from other planets.

When the enemies become too strong, Lang will use his beautiful music to move and overcome them.

The three super stars will appear in many episodes and they will dub their own voices for their characters.

The story features a "Puppet Planet" which will be the biggest enemy of Haibao's Rainbow City. The planet is on the edge of collapsing because it relies too much on modern technology but neglects to love and communicate with its inhabitants.

The story will be a good lesson to children to encourage them to take more care of others, Hong said.

At the end of the cartoon, the bad characters will be "reclaimed" by Haibao, rather than being defeated.

The cartoon's target audience is children between six to 10 years old, but adults will also be entertained by the funny dialogue and interesting plots.

Introductions of major Expo pavilions at the 2010 world fair will be featured in the cartoon. For example, a storyline will be based in the China Pavilion of the Expo. The interiors featured in the cartoon will reflect the real pavilion, Hong said.

The cartoon will be telecast ahead of Expo, so it will offer a good chance to preview the Expo site, he said.

Hong said the organizer would make a movie about Haibao which will be telecast around the world for the duration of the 184-day event.

Who's Haibao

Name: Haibao

Gender: a boyish character

Birthday: December 18, 2007 (when the Expo organizer announced him to be mascot of the 2010 event)

Height: can be as high as he wants.

Hobby: taking baths and dancing.

Favorite place: Shanghai

The world in his eye: simple, splendid, fresh, full of creativity.

Favorite beverage: coffee-tea which helps keep him reinvigorated anytime so that he can welcome guests from all over the world to Expo Shanghai.

Favorite food: xiaolongbao, or steamed buns, a traditional Shanghai snack.


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