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Federico Tio's artistic rendering of the title character on horseback against a vivid red backdrop became the driving marketing force behind the success of Walt Disney Motion Pictures Group's summer hit "Mulan."

Mr. Tio, 37, senior VP-creative director for the division, says the work represents the essence of the film, which in many ways is a departure from Disney's usual animated fare. He calls it "real art" vs. a simple logo or poster drawing. "It set up the tone," Mr. Tio says.

He studied many ancient Chinese watercolor paintings to learn the style. The image was intended to be arresting and convey the majesty of the story of a Chinese girl who goes to war in her father's place.

The design was used in movie posters, newspaper, outdoor and TV advertising handled by Craig Murray Productions, Burbank, Calif.

"Mulan" grossed about $300 million worldwide.

Mr. Tio has been with Disney for almost 10 years. Prior to that, he worked for Warner Bros. for about six years.

He says his next big challenge is to help market Disney's "Tarzan" and Imax

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