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Wendy Wu: Homecoming Warrior is a 2006 Disney Channel Original Movie starring Brenda Song and Shin Koyamada. Koyamada plays a Chinese monk who visits the title character, an American teenager played by Song, claiming Wu is the reincarnation of a powerful female warrior and the only person who can prevent an ancient evil spirit from destroying the world.
This film had more than 5.7 million viewers on the night of its premiere making Wendy Wu: Homecoming Warrior the fifth highest viewed DCOM. It also received the highest rating in the history of Disney Channel Japan. The film also broke records in the United Kingdom and Europe making Disney Channel the highest rated kids channel in Europe.
The film was shot almost entirely in Auckland, New Zealand. Wendy Wu: Homecoming Warrior is the second DCOM to be added in iTunes. Disney released several products based on the movie to promote the film. The plot was described by the author and numerous critics as a teen installment to a Jackie Chan plot with a Disney twist. Gary Marsh called the film "Buffy the Vampire Slayer meets Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon".
Wendy Wu (Brenda Song) is an average, popular American teenager whose life is turned upside down by a visit from a young Buddhist monk Shen (Shin Koyamada). Shen claims Wendy is the reincarnation of an all-powerful almighty female warrior and the only one who can prevent an ancient evil spirit from destroying the world. He then pleads Wendy to wear an incredibly strong and powerful amulet that will protect her from evil until he can fully train her in martial arts.
Appalled by Shen's obvious lack of fashion sense - he usually wears a traditional monk's robe - Wendy pays little attention to him. She is too busy campaigning for Homecoming Queen against her school arch rival, Jessica Dawson, to be bothered with rescuing civilization. Wendy's traditional grandmother knows that Shen is speaking the truth; her mother (Wendy's great-grandmother) was the previous Yin Warrior who ninety years earlier defeated Yan-Lo (Hadley Hudson) in China. However, the others in Wendy's family have lost touch with their Chinese heritage. Shen's discussion of Chinese culture inspire Wendy's mother, a researcher at Fair Springs National History Museum, and Shen's mooncakes do the same for Wendy's father. However, faced with the choice between fighting evil and going shopping, Wendy is off to the mall in a heartbeat with her best friends Tory and Lisa. Yan-Lo soon materializes and sets out to destroy Wendy before she can attain her full Yin Warrior powers and abilities. In quick succession, the dark spirit possesses a security guard at the museum, Wendy's brother, her principal, her dog, her teachers, her best friend Tory and even (as if Wendy didn't think she was evil enough) Jessica Dawson. Wendy breaks up with her boyfriend, Austin after noticing how much of a jerk he is and starts to bond more with Shen. With Shen's help, her teachers are transformed into the souls of the Five Animals of Chinese martial arts to help teach Wendy. Mr. Medina becomes the Tiger, Coach Gibbs becomes the Snake, Mr. Tobias becomes the Crane, Mr. Garibay becomes the Leopard, and Shen himself becomes the Dragon. The martial arts training unleashes Wendy's inner heroine for a final showdown with Yan-Lo during Homecoming. In the last scene, Jessica thanks Wendy for lending her the Homecoming crown and the Queen status, opposing her usual hostile approach towards Wendy and the conflict between the two is apparently put to rest. Yan Lo then returns, choosing to this time appear in person, and the battle continues. Shen begins to sacrifice himself, his destiny, but Wendy saves him by changing his destiny. Wendy and Shen both kick Yan Lo together, and Yan Lo is destroyed forever. The monks tell Shen this is his last life, and the monks leave. At the end, Wendy and Shen leave to get the cappucinos and chocolate that Shen said he loves earlier in the movie, hinting that they might begin dating.
- Brenda Song as Wendy Wu
- Shin Koyamada as Shen
- Ellen Woglom as Jessica Dawson
- Tsai Chin as Grandma Wu
- Justin Chon as Peter Wu (Wendy's brother)
- Michael David Cheng as Kenny Wu (Wendy's father)
- Susan Chuang as Nina Wu (Wendy's mother)
- Paul Willis as Principal Frank Nunan
- James Gaylyn as Mr. Medina (Wendy's history teacher)
- Sally Stockwell as Coach Gibbs (Wendy's soccer coach)
- Tomothy Raby as Mr. Tobias (another teacher)
- Michael Saccente as Mr. Garibay (another teacher)
- Andy Fischer-Price as Austin (Wendy's boyfriend)
- Sally Martin as Tory (Wendy's friend)
- Anna Hutchison as Lisa (Wendy's other friend)
- Heff DelFino as pizza delivery guy
- Geoff Dolan as museum security guard
- Evie Andres as an extra
- Hadley Hudson (uncredited) as Yan-lo (Wendy's enemy)
The premiere of Wendy Wu: Homecoming Warrior aired at 8 p.m. Eastern Time on June 16, 2006, and included a telecast hosted by Brenda Song and the movie's cast. The movie premiered on Toon Disney on May 12, 2008. The film aired on ABC Family on June 20, 2006 and was the first DCOM to air on that channel.
On Saturday, August 18, Disney Channel aired "Wendy Wu: Homecoming Chat", in which the stars of the movie answered questions posed by fans. Advertising used the taglines "She's pretty... she's pretty tough"; "Part Teenager. Part Warrior. All Hero."; and "Homecoming Warrior: Queen."
Disney Channel On Demand debuted the movie in January 2007. The "Kick'in" version of the film first aired on February 19, 2007 in United States and on April 14, 2008 in Canada, in which the cast had a chat and a did you know section. The version also included 5 never before seen scenes and extended endings. The "Remixed" version aired on September 8, 2007, in which the entire cast answered questions and taught the viewers easy kung-fu moves.
The "Pop-Up" version of the film aired on November 23, 2007, in which random movie trivia appeared throughout the film in boxes at the bottom of the screen. The "What's What" version of the film aired on March 7, 2008 at Disney Channel Asia, in which random movie trivia appeared throughout the film in boxes at the bottom of the screen, like the Pop-Up version. The movie premiered on May 2009 on Disney Channel Latin America.
Wendy Wu had more than 5.7 million viewers on the night of its premiere, making it currently the fifth highest viewed DCOM. The movie was originally set to air on June 2, 2006 but got bumped by Disney Channel because they had trouble putting up the movie's official web site. It crushed the basic cable competition, ranking a dominant No. 1 in the time period with Kids 6-11 (2.1 million/9.5 rating) and Adolescents 9-14 (2.1 million/8.6 rating). The movie also grew by 1.2 million viewers start-to-finish, with 6.0 million Total Viewers tuning in for the movie's final quarter-hour (4.8 million to 6.0 million).
Wendy Wu jumped over year-ago time period numbers, delivering massive triple-digit gains in Total Viewers (178%, 5,649,000 vs. 2,050,000), Kids 6-11 (132%, 8.8/2,129,000 vs. 3.8/933,000) and Tweens 9-14 (187%, 8.6/2,120,000 vs. 3.0/731,000).
UltimateDisney.com said that the movie relies on stereotypes, but Song shined as the title character. The San Francisco Asian American Film Festival considered the character a strong protagonist and good role model. In an interview with Asiance magazine, Song described how she identified with the character struggling to keep her heritage. While commending Disney for the strong Asian cast, a BellaOnline review noted that it is rare to see a female martial arts star with a black belt.
The movie was filmed in Auckland, New Zealand to accommodate action unit director Koichi Sakamoto who also choreographs Power Rangers in Auckland, though some scenes were filmed in Disney Studios, USA. It took 24 days to shoot the movie in New Zealand according to Brenda Song. The cast then promoted the movie and the trailer to Disney Channel fans. Disney promoted the movie in various countries including Malaysia, Japan and Australia. Although the movie was set in California it was shot on location in New Zealand with parts of it shot at an Auckland High School, Long Bay College. Many drama students from the school were used as extras, and can be seen chiefly in the school scenes.
The film was shot on a budget of $5 million. Song trained for more than 2 weeks, 16 hours each day. Although Song had stunt doubles for some scenes, she did most of her own stunt work for the film with guidance from Koichi Sakamoto, executive producer for the Power Rangers series. Song was inspired to endure the stunt training by the way her mother dealt with breast cancer in 2005.
Several actors from this movie have been in the Power Rangers series. Sally Martin and Anna Hutchison both portrayed actual Rangers: Martin was the Blue Ranger (also named Tori Hanson) in 2003's Ninja Storm, and Hutchison was the Yellow Ranger in 2008's Jungle Fury. Additional actors in this film that appeared in Power Rangers include James Gaylyn (Ninja Storm, Dino Thunder, S.P.D, Operation Overdrive, and RPM), Geoff Dolan (Mystic Force), Sally Stockwell (Mystic Force), and Shin Koyamada (Wild Force).
This film contains so many martial-arts sequences that Disney had to rate it TV-PG. Wendy Wu: Homecoming Warrior is the sixth DCOM to receive a TV-PG rating; before it were Tiger Cruise, Don't Look Under the Bed, Halloweentown, Halloweentown II: Kalabar's Revenge, and Twitches.
Song commuted during film breaks to film the second season of The Suite Life of Zack & Cody.
The movie takes place in the fictional city of Fair Springs, California. According to a local weather report that Wendy sees on TV, Fair Springs is located around the actual city of Modesto, California. The evil spirit Yan Lo is named after Yamarāja, the lord of death in Buddhist and Hindu philosophy. The name Yan Lo is a shortened Chinese transliteration of Yamarāja's name.
In one scene a mural, with the letters "LBC" on it, can be seen in the background. This is an Acronym for "Long Bay College".
Wendy Wu: Homecoming Warrior was released on DVD on October 24, 2006. Entitled Wendy Wu: Homecoming Warrior:Kickin Edition which features a
- Never-Before-Seen Extended Ending
- Homecoming Warrior In Training—An Inside Look At The Making Of Wendy Wu,
- Cast Connections With Brenda Song -- Brenda Talks About Her Disney Family Tree
- Bonus Episode Of The Suite Life of Zack & Cody featuring Brenda Song
It is the third DCOM on DVD to be certified Platinum in DVD sales; the first is The Cheetah Girls. The Wendy Wu: Homecoming Warrior sold more than 13,933 in DVDs on amazon.com making the DVD the #14 most popular Kids DVD ever sold on Amazon.com. Despite being filmed in the 1.85:1 aspect ratio, the original and Kickin Edition DVD releases featured a 1.33:1 "full screen" version (though not pan and scan as the camera stays directly in the center of the image), the format of the film as shown on the Disney Channel.
- Brenda Song recorded a song for Wendy Wu: Homecoming Warrior called "I'm Not That Girl" written by Eddie Galan. The song aired on Radio Disney. The track was released in 2007 under Walt Disney Records label and peaked at number 2 in the American Pop Airplay. The song was not released separately on iTunes instead Disney released the track with Wendy Wu: Homecoming Warrior. The song "I'm Not That Girl" was a bonus track on the album, Radio Disney Jams, Vol. 10.
- Go (Jump! Mix)" Performed by Jupiter Rising
- "Will it Go 'Round in Circles? Performed by Orlando Brown
- "Dance Alone" Performed by Sweet James
- "Keepin It" Performed by Drew Seeley
Wendy Wu: Homecoming Warrior won the "Best TV Movie" award at the Nickelodeon Australian Kids' Choice Awards 2006. It also won the Golden Icon Award for "Outstanding Cast Ensemble", the award was presented by The Travolta Family Entertainment. The movie also won the "Best Asian American Cast Ensemble" at the "San Francisco International Asian American Film Festival". The movie was voted number 1 by Asiance magazine for favorite teen movie of the year.
Clothing and dolls
In 2006, Claire's and Disney released necklaces and hairbrushes on the face of Wendy Wu and Shen. They later released a full line of accessories. Postcards and coloring books were also released. Brenda Song and Shin Koyamada got the opportunity to design some items in the line. A calendar for the movie was released in 2006 and 2007.
Asian toy distributors teamed with Disney to release a line of Wendy Wu: Homecoming Warrior dolls exclusively released only in Malaysia, Japan and South America.
Most of the merchandise lines are mainly available in Asian retailers in Asia though some postcards and coloring booklets are available in the USA and in Europe. The merchandise depended on the film's popularity in states. A video game was also released in various countries.
In Japan, Bandai (The movie's sponsor in Japan) made Wendy Wu: Homecoming Warrior toys, with a Gashapon series released on the day of the DCOM's release.
Books and video games
In June 2006, Disney Press published Wendy Wu: Homecoming Warrior: the Junior Novel, the novelization of the successful film. This novel hit number one on The New York Times best-selling list and remained on the list for several weeks. As of August 2007, the novel has sold more than 3 million copies, with 1 million copies of the novel's follow-up, Wendy Wu: Homecoming Warrior 2: the Junior Novel, being shipped to American retailers.
- Wendy Wu: Homecoming Warrior: the Junior Novel (June 30, 2006)
- Wendy Wu: Homecoming Warrior 2: the Junior Novel (December 2008)
- Poetry in Motion by Alice Alfonsi (May 12, 2007)
- Wendy to Shen by Helen Perelman (November 17, 2007)
- Yan Low is Back by Catherine Hapka (February 26, 2008)
- Homecoming Dance by Alice Alfonsi (April 28, 2008)
- Wendy Wu: Homecoming Warrior Covert Ops Muses (Xiao Xiao Stick Comic Series)
- Activity books
- Disney's Wendy Wu: Homecoming Warrior Challenge (January 2007)
- Wendy Wu: Homecoming Warrior Poster Book (June 2007)
- Wendy Wu: Homecoming Princess Colouring Booklet (June 2007)
- Disney Channel's Wendy Wu: Homecoming Warrior by Cynthia Stier
- Wendy Wu: Homecoming Warrior Party Planner (August 2007)
Wendy Wu: Homecoming Warrior Kick-in Challenge is a video game in which Wendy Wu travels across America in a competition hoping to win the "Homecoming Queen" title with the help of Shen and the others. The release date was originally set for September 14, 2007 for the Nintendo DS, Wii, and PlayStation 2. The release date was later delayed to November 17, 2007.
In popular culture
In Malaysia, TV3 created a small parody of the movie, the plot was the same though the channel joked about the monsters and villains in the movie.
MADtv had a small parody about Wendy Wu and Shen losing their virginity and having to lose their supernatural powers and Yan Low attends to reappear in the scene battling Wendy and Shen.
Also TV ONE in New Zealand launched a reality show for the Next Homecoming Queen which has some references to the movie and to the cast. In a Halloween-themed episode of The View, Barbara Walters referenced to Yan Low and Wendy Wu.
In Costa Rica, Disney created a search for Wendy Wu and Shen for a small stage production airing on Disney Channel. The production did not include stunt doubles or moves since the actors were not trained that professionally.
Song and Koyamada attended the Walt Disney World Christmas Day Parade in Disneyland as Wendy Wu and Shen doing a small sketch and battle scene. Song was one of the co-hosts in the parade before her appearance. The April 13, 2008 comic of comic series, Marvin featured Brenda Song in kid form promoting a fictional Dizney Preshcool Karate.
In October 2007, Variety reported a sequel to Wendy Wu: Homecoming Warrior; filming had been planned to start in shooting in New Zealand in early 2008. However, no further announcements were made since then, with it being highly assumed that the sequel was canceled.
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