Chinese billionaire says Disney destined for failure at the hands of Wanda

Posted | Contributed by Jeff

Billionaire Wang Jianlin, who’s starting tourism projects across China as Walt Disney Co. readies to open its first mainland theme park in Shanghai on June 16, said the U.S. company misread the Chinese market and shouldn’t have stepped on his home turf.

“One tiger is no match for a pack of wolves -- Shanghai has one Disney, while Wanda, across the nation, will open 15 to 20,” the 61-year-old chairman of Dalian Wanda Group Co. said in an appearance on a China Central Television show that aired Sunday.

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Jeff's avatar

I love how he says that Disney's IP is a burden. Says the guy with no recognizable IP.

Jeff - Editor - - My Blog - Phrazy

IP's that we know are irrelevant here since the Chinese government greatly limits the number of foreign movies and keep a stranglehold . The domestic films and TV shows is what the guests are familiar with, much like people in North America know Fast and Furious, the Disney movies and characters, etc. China recently made Disney and other foreign IP producers access to China very difficult by banning them from distributing that content themselves. They are forced to go through a local partner, so yes, Disney will need to deal with Wanda or others to get access to China and their 200 million middle class that is growing up really fast.

If you look at the domestic Chinese market, Wanda is the biggest movie producer in China and they hold the cards for many foreign films, since they also own the largest cinema chain in China and the second largest... in the US. They bought AMC Theaters in 2012.

Shanghai Disneyland is a 5.5 billion US$ theme park project solely aimed at the domestic market and that is where things will get interesting. Like Wang Jianlin said, the building costs means they've priced themselves out of most of their market and will need to rely on domestic Chinese tourism. Will a park light on rides, but full of IP's most have never heard of be enough to bring them to Shanghai Disneyland?

In addition to the 800 million US$ that went on a non existant capacity prior to opening, Everest, a Marvel Coaster and an Alice dark ride are already being pushed through the pipeline to open as fast as possible.

janfrederick's avatar

The days of Mickey Mouse and Donald Duck being able to create a frenzy are over,” said Wang. “They are entirely cloning previous intellectual property, cloning previous products with no innovation.

I have a feeling Disney is going to do very well in Shanghai.

"I go out at 3 o' clock for a quart of milk and come home to my son treating his body like an amusement park!" - Estelle Costanza

Yes. As long as Disney doesn't hate poor Chinese people.

kpjb's avatar

Disney hates Wang. That much is certain.


They still need to deal with him if they want access to the Chinese market and AMC Theaters. Bob Iger grand plan to directly access China with Disney content fell through last year when China passed a law stating foreign content producers have to go through a Chinese distributor. It means that Disney won't have control on what goes in China on that front. Only owning 47% of Shanghai Disneyland also effectively means that Shendi call the shots there, not Disney.

RCMAC said:

Yes. As long as Disney doesn't hate poor Chinese people.

When you place your park admission price at a level that only the top 10% earners of the Shanghai region can visit, its a mistake. But hey! I can tell you it will be the "most visited theme park in the world" because Shendi and the Chinese government will say so. They've already started on that front by counting anyone breathing that use the Disneytown train station and visit Disneytown (shopping district outside of the park) in the park attendance for the preview.

Jeff's avatar

Absimilliard said:

Disney will need to deal with Wanda or others to get access to China and their 200 million middle class that is growing up really fast.

Considering the masses showing up before it's even technically open, I'm not sure that Disney is particularly concerned. And AMC? Come on, if you want to sell popcorn, you need to let Disney in. They had 4 of the top 10 US grossing films last year, 3 of the top 5.

I don't care what the population growth is in China, I think it's a little silly to suggest you can build 20 theme parks of that size and scope and make money. I'll believe it when I see it.

And I don't think you post enough to understand RCMAC's joke.

Jeff - Editor - - My Blog - Phrazy

Yes, I drug out that old chestnut of a C'Buzz meme for a tired joke. But... Is it?

I've always been under the impression that China has an awfully lot of poor people. Not just entitled middle class people, mind you, but really poor ones. And sure, Shanghai has to be one of the most cosmopolitan and advanced cities in the country, but when this project was announced I thought "Really? What percentage of Chinese will be able to do this?"

But let's rely on the premise that The Mouse did his homework and already knows who's coming, what and who they have to deal with there, and then took the time to become well acquainted with the government, business, and cultural differences present in China.

And 10% of 200 million gazillion people can make for a very, very busy park, right?

Last edited by RCMAC,

As the saying goes, "In China if you're one in a million, there are 1,300 people just like you."

There is a perception amongst many (whether its real is an issue we have discussed at length in multiple threads here) that Disney is pricing out middle class people in the US. One issue there is a shrinking middle class (which has been trending smaller for decades). Two, Disney is viewed as something of a rite of passage for many.

China has a growing middle class (at least believing the Chinese government which is known for telling people only what they want them to know/hear). And Disney isn't a rite of passage at this point in China. So its very much a different situation than in the US.

ApolloAndy's avatar

Disney is definitely a name brand and a status symbol, but beyond that, it is a symbol of "the west" and therefore desirable. In my experience, the fascination with "the west," possibly inspired by the Chinese government's insistence on keeping large parts of it out, will fuel a lot of intrigue and desire beyond just the contents of the park itself.

Hobbes: "What's the point of attaching a number to everything you do?"
Calvin: "If your numbers go up, it means you're having more fun."

Plus, the park will be successful if the Party says it will be successful. I would not believe a single park attendance stat for Shanghai. I'm fairly certain they'll reach that ridiculous 25 million guests mark by June of next year, but I bet well over half will likely never have paid for admission to the actual park or gone through its gates. They'll simply be reporting the estimated total of the park AND those visiting Disney Town (the equivalent of Disney Springs/DTD in the US). They've already reported that almost one million people visited the resort...before the park was even ready to accept pre-opening visitors, let alone many locations in the shopping area. Only 24 million to go.

I think Wang was blowing some hot air over having to actually compete in another market, mostly. I also think the party will protect his major investments as much as their 53% stake in Shanghai Disney Resort, so nothing to really worry about. Like Andy said above, there's serious interest in "the West" because of it being almost taboo, so it will succeed. Just take the stats with a large grain of salt.

Original BlueStreak64

Rick_UK's avatar

I am hopeful that the Mouse will have learned from Hong Kong and DCA. Although I understand that it's difficult to deliver something on the scale of Magic Kingdom etc off the bat on opening day and I am respectful that parks need to grow etc....

However, the expectation is pretty much set on the basis that you're going to a Disney park.

Nothing to see here. Move along.

Tekwardo's avatar

Andy beat me to it. I think Chinese people will go simply based on the band Disney, regardless of whether they know any invite other IP or not. And there will be plenty of ways to introduce that soap whilst the Chinese people are in the park.

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Don't cry because it's over, smile because it happened.

I agree with Andy and Tek. It'll be ok as long they keep adding new attractions. Which it sounds like they're doing.

On another note Disney World is already offering 30% off a room or free dining plans promotion. This is the same promotion they offered last year when we booked our trip. Is that their way of keeping the middle class in for another year? ;-)

Wait, Disney hates poor people, why would they offer discounts to people that can't afford luxury suites. /sarcasm

I think multiple buzzer's have said before Disney manages to market experiences available to most income levels. This is one way of reaching the value-conscious or bargain-hunter.

Disney does percent off offers and free dining with room/ticket packages every year. The dates are typically targeted to the slower periods.

A stay at one of the All-Stars or Pop Century with free dining is within reach of many that couldn't fathom spending the money a non-discounted vacation at any of the other resorts might cost. It's how we got hooked. Before we bought into DVC, we almost always booked via the free dining offers. I haven't checked in a few years, but the math used to work out to about the same total vacation cost for either the percent off or free dining promotion.

Absimilliard said:

IP's that we know are irrelevant here since the Chinese government greatly limits the number of foreign movies and keep a stranglehold .


the building costs means they've priced themselves out of most of their market and will need to rely on domestic Chinese tourism.

I just got back from a week in Shanghai. Two observations. First: I saw a surprising number of people wearing Disney (and "Disney") clothing, including a couple of different young girls in the Yuyuan Garden shops wearing princess dresses. Second: based on the rapidly developing high-end shopping districts with plenty of customers, and given the size of the country, I don't think domestic tourism will be limiting. Most people in the country cannot afford it, but almost 1.4B people live there. Even if they target the upper 10%, that's 140M potential customers. It will also likely be at a lower price point than either HK or Japan, which might make it a regional draw with other pacific rim countries.

As for Wanda: my guess is that there will be room for both, just as there is room for both Disney/Universal plus the regionals in the US.

Last edited by Brian Noble,
rollergator's avatar

Jianlin to Disney:

You still have Zoidberg.... You ALL have Zoidberg! (V) (;,,;) (V)

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