Despite a wealth of media coverage, sold out tickets and nearly a million visitors before the park has even opened to the public, Shanghai Disneyland is facing some serious backlash from China’s wealthiest real estate mogul.
Dalian Wanda founder Wang Jianlin, China’s richest man and karaoke king, has decided to pick a fight with Mickey Mouse. Fortune reports that Wanda’s public relations team released a public statement earlier this week in which Wang foretold that the era of Disney has passed and the attraction of its signature characters, like Mickey Mouse and Donald Duck, is long gone. China is ready for new characters that are innovative and appeal to the local culture, Wang argues.
“They [Disney] shouldn’t have entered China. We have a [saying]: one tiger is no match for a pack of wolves. Shanghai has one Disney, while Wanda, across the nation, will open 15 to 20,” Wang said in an interview with CCTV. “Disneyland is fully built on American culture. We place importance on local culture.”
Wang also questioned the cost efficiency of Disney’s $5.5 billion park in Shanghai, and believes that weather and the high production cost will soon lead to an increase in ticket prices, CNN Money reported. Coincidentally, this weekend will mark the grand opening of Wanda’s new theme park in the southern city of Nanchang. Hopefully, they’ve got their rollercoaster fixed by now.
Wanda has grown considerably in the last few years, expanding past its successful real estate business into entertainment. In addition to developing 99 plazas across China and acquiring the cinema chain AMC in 2012, Wanda also acquired Hollywood’s Legendary Entertainment studio earlier this year. Wang is prepared to take on Disney, with a plan to develop Wanda’s tourism and theme park sector across China so that by 2020, its parks will welcome 200 million tourists a year.
Shanghai Disney doesn’t seem too worried. Even amid some unanticipated speed bumps, Disney still expects 10 million visitors this year and the Shanghai government hopes that they will all be on their best behavior.
By Mary Rosea