How The Mighty Ducks And Martin Scorsese Influenced Disney+’s Inspiring Original Movie Chang Can Dunk

Chang Can Dunk movie still
(Image credit: Disney+)

Among the latest Disney+ releases this month is an original gem called Chang Can Dunk. The movie follows a high-schooler who challenges his school’s basketball star to dunk a basketball by homecoming with some big stakes to impress a new girl at school and earn a prideful status among his classmates. Chang Can Dunk also introduces an exciting new filmmaker into the fold, Jingyi Shao, whom CinemaBlend had the chance to speak to ahead of the movie now being available on streaming. 

Jingyi Shao’s Chang Can Dunk has been graced with positive reactions (peek that Rotten Tomatoes score), making it the latest great basketball movie with its own unique flair with influences from expected and quite unexpected places. As the first-time filmmaker shared with us:  

I drew from all sorts of cinematic influences. The movie really represents my film taste because I am both very mainstream, those are the films that I grew up on, like Mighty Ducks, Little Giants. I love those Disney-esque sports coming of age [movies] like Cool Runnings growing up. But, you know, in college I also watched a lot of art house films and films from great directors and stuff. So, I think that obviously if you watch this film, it's more of the sort of early nineties coming of age sports comedy, but there's little moments of my more indie art house tastes as well.

Ok, so this totally makes sense. If you’re going to make the latest Disney sports movie, you have to look at the classics like 1992’s Mighty Ducks or 1994’s Little Giants. That said, there’s an elevated cinematic quality about Chang Can Dunk too that Jingyi Shao shared he drew from great Martin Scorsese films. In his words: 

I think that there's some shots in there that I pulled from like Scorsese films… he likes to do these sort of like mirror shots where the character has to look at themselves and the way they see themselves versus the way that we see them seeing themselves has always had a profound impact on me, because the way you see yourself is such a reflection of your story. And, self-perception is a really important theme in this film, you know? And, so I wanted to make sure that like Chang looked at himself in the mirror multiple times, and you could see his evolution through how he looked at himself.

Chang Can Dunk

Bloom Li in Chang Can Dunk

(Image credit: Disney+)

Written/Directed By: Jingyi Shao
Starring: Bloom Li, Ben Wang, Zoe Renee, Mardy Ma, Dexter Darden, Chase Liefeld
Where To Stream: Disney+ subscription

Watch out for those Scorsese influences next time you check out Chang Can Dunk on Disney+. The movie finds a unique spin on the classic coming-of-age sports movie that the studio has done before, but never from this particular perspective. The story of Chang (played by Bloom Li) is a personal one to Shao that draws on his relationship with his immigrant mother and struggles to pursue a passion as the possibility of failure looms. 

During CinemaBlend’s discussion with the writer/director of the new movie, Shao shared that he wrote the script for the movie early in the pandemic back in 2020 before getting it picked up by Disney that same summer. Ahead of the filmmaker’s debut movie being among recent upcoming Disney movies, he was named one of Variety’s directors to watch alongside Charlotte Wells, whose recent movie Aftersun was among 2023 Oscar nominees, with her lead Paul Mescal being nominated for Best Actor.  

Whereas the classic ‘90s coming-of-age sports movies Shao was influenced by certainly can be found in the premise, this movie is told with more foresight in its message about the high schooler being laser-focused on hitting a goal for the wrong reasons. Chang Can Dunk is only the beginning for Shao, and we’re excited to see what influences his career going forward. 

Sarah El-Mahmoud
Staff Writer

YA genre tribute. Horror May Queen. Word webslinger. All her writing should be read in Sarah Connor’s Terminator 2 voice over.