How Will Shanghai Disneyland Affect Other Theme Parks?

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.

Dumbo Ride

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.

Soarin In The Sky

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.

4D Cinema

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.

Cinderella Castle Walk ThroughWhat 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?

Dream European Street

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Images Courtesy: P Tesler

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One Comment

  1. fan51
    Posted January 26, 2016 at 11:57 am | Permalink

    While Americans seem to lost their manners at theme parks, the Chinese need to learn new manners like waiting in lines without complaining and cutting-in, and hogging the walkways for a photograph. It will be a big mess. Best to avoid going until the park becomes a smooth operation as shown in Hong Kong and Japan. Who knows if it ends up mostly empty like at Hong Kong Disneyland. Just because there’s a lot of Chinese does not mean they fill up every venue. Ghost towns, shopping centers, and theme parks are notorious there.

    The other theme parks will fail as they should. There’s no reason for anyone to go to a knock-off park. What should happen is new investors should take them over and have a theming makeover. Legoland done this in the US to great success. They can improve park attendance by reducing the admission fee and have a ticket plan for each ride. Turn the park into mixed use with shopping, restaurants, and hotels. The ripoff parks don’t celebrate Chinese culture. That’s the inherent bias that many consider foreign ideas to be superior, which is ironic since Shanghai Disneyland was requested to make its park sensitive to Chinese culture. Let’s see if this works.

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