Mickey Mouse with Chinese Characteristics

Mickey Mouse with Chinese Characteristics
Photo Credit:RT/ 達志影像

What you need to know

Shanghai Disneyland opened today amid enthusiasm from Disney and the Chinese government, but not everyone is smiling.

Shanghai Disneyland, which opened today, is the biggest of the franchise outside the U.S., covering 3.9 square kilometers. It is also Disney’s largest foreign investment to date at US$5.5 billion. The mega venture has grabbed the world's media and is a new symbol of pride for the city. But not everybody is jubliant.

Bob Iger, Walt Disney chief executive, said recently that the park was tailored for the Chinese market. “We didn’t just build Disneyland in China," he said. "We built China’s Disneyland.”

Disney owns 43% of the park in a partnership with a Shanghai government-owned company. The idea to build the park was conceived in 1990, but was not authorized until 2009.

And already Iger says he is considering expanding the park, according to The International Business Times.

Analysts expect Shanghai Disneyland to become the world’s most visited theme park with up to 50 million visitors per year, more than double the 19.3 million annual visitors to Disney World in Orlando, The Hong Kong Standard reports.

Many in the surrounding area are anticipating major economic benefits. According to the China Daily, hotels are preparing packages for visitors to the park. The China International Trust and Investment Corporation expects Shanghai Disneyland will generate around 20 billion yuan (US$3 billion) for local retailers.

Disney, however, may not experience a direct financial boost from the project. Wells Fargo analyst Marci Ryvicker told The Hollywood Reporter the impact of the park for Disney was small. She said the potential profit was insignificant against Disney’s total revenue, which last year was US$52.5 billion. Any noticeable impact will come in the long term from the Disney brand being “anchored” in the Chinese market.

Not everyone is enthusiastic about the opening.

A BBC Shanghai correspondent had difficulty gaining an interview with Iger and Disney about the opening. When asked during the opening ceremony whether Shanghai Disneyland was made for China’s rich, or if the park was built with any corrupt practices, Iger refused to answer, and a security guard led the correspondent away.

The new park will be a luxury many nearby residents cannot afford, reports South China Morning Post says. The cost for one couple and their child for a day at Shanghai Disneyland Resort is roughly 2,600 yuan, almost twice the average monthly disposable income in China.

According to the Los Angeles Times, many Weibo users complained of exorbitant food prices at the new park, with more than 9,000 comments posted on a topic “Shanghai Disney is too expensive.” Weibo users appear particularly astounded by the price of a steamed pork bun: 35 yuan.

The Shanghai Economic and Information Technology Commission has forced 153 factories to close by the end of the year to "improve the environmental quality" of the area surrounding Disneyland. Huanqiu reports the land made available from the factories will undergo “ecological reclamation” to provide Disneyland with a more natural environment.

A few days ahead of the event, China Labor Watch, a monitoring organization based in New York, claimed factory workers involved in making toys for the new park were underpaid and experienced poor working conditions. Disney responded it will thoroughly investigate the allegations, The Asian Correspondent said.

China’s richest man and Dalian Wanda Group founder Wang Jianlin (王健林) said during an interview that competition from his company would ensure that Shanghai Disneyland remains unprofitable for the next two decades. His firm later sent a transcript of the interview to media. Wanda’s new venture is to create amusement parks for the growing Chinese middle class.

Shanghai Disneyland undertook a massive recruitment campaign earlier this year to hire the 10,000 staff it needs to operate the park. A Bloomberg Singapore correspondent noted the high turnover rate in China’s job market, saying many workers may leave their posts after they receive training. She said workers with Disneyland training on their resume will have a competitive edge over other jobseekers in the market.


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