I was recently asked to give my professional opinion to China Daily on how I think Shanghai Disneyland will do considering the Chinese economy is taking a small dive. The short answer is, it will do fine. A follow up question was, “Do I think Shanghai Disneyland will suffer due to Universal Studios also opening up in China?” Considering the distance between the two parks, they can both co-exist in harmony. However, what I do think will suffer are the smaller parks that have dotted China’s landscape for years.
China has become notorious for ripping off content from Warner Brothers, Dreamworks and, most frequently, Disney. In an article published here in 2013, author P Tesler covered Shijingshan Park in Beijing and noticed several icons that were clearly borrowed from Disney.
From nods to Spaceship Earth to a knock-off of Soarin’, the amount of similarities between Shijingshan and Disney theme parks are far too many to be a coincidence. In 2007, the Walt Disney Company nearly bankrupted Shijingshan after suing them due to their use of copyrighted characters, despite the park saying it did nothing wrong.
Deputy General Manager Yin Zhiqiang said: “The characters in our park just look a little bit similar to theirs. But the faces, clothes, sizes and appearances are different. We do not have any agreements with Disney.” And with many of the direct references to Disney characters in the park, there are still several knock-off attractions remaining.
What Disney, Universal and even Six Flags bring to the table is a sense of quality that many Chinese people have never experienced in a theme park before. Sure, the ticket prices will be more expensive, but we are talking about a booming middle class economy that can now afford the luxuries of a nicer park where several years ago they couldn’t. Eventually, I see parks like Shijingshan closing down if they can’t keep up with competition. Your thoughts?
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Images Courtesy: P Tesler