Billionaire Jianlin Wang says Mickey Mouse and friends aren’t welcome in China.
As Shanghai Disneyland prepares to officially open its doors to the public in just a little over a week, one entrepreneur in China is already predicting their inevitable demise.
Chairman of the Dalian Wanda Group, Jianlin Wang, who ranked as the country’s wealthiest man in 2015 and is as an avid philanthropist, wasn’t feeling particularly charitable to the Walt Disney Company as he insinuated that the media giant would eventually be driven out due to Chinese citizens’ fading interest in foreign influences over local culture.
However, seeing as Shanghai Disney quickly sold out of opening day tickets and entry tickets for the following two weeks, it would seem Wang might have underestimated Mickey Mouse and company’s charm. In fact, shortly after his comments, Wang found himself in hot water after accusations and pictures surfaced showing what appeared to be workers dressed as Disney princesses, Stormtroopers, and Marvel characters (all part of the Disney franchise) during the opening of one of his company’s cultural-themed parks in Nanchang.
Shanghai Disneyland has already been through a few hiccups after construction delays and groups of impolite visitors trashed the gardens, vandalized lampposts, and experienced some pooping in public incidents, but doesn’t appear to consider Wang a real threat.
▼ Mom helping her daughter add some “fertilizer” to Disney’s flower bed
According to Disney spokespeople, the company has no desire to engage in a public battle with the real estate mogul, but will pursue any copyright infringement if the need arises. Wang says he plans to tackle Disney by outnumbering it with up to 20 Wanda theme parks around the country, providing cheaper and more innovative cultural alternatives for China’s increasing middle class.
▼ Recently opened Wanda Nanchang Theme Park
Only time will tell if his methods will have any impact on Disneyland’s profits, but considering how Disneyland’s debut in Japan signaled the closure of many of its local theme parks, which were left to decay into spooky relics of the past, history isn’t exactly on Wang’s side. On the other hand, with the right kind of marketing, China’s size and large population certainly makes hosting multiple major theme parks a real possibility.
In the future, Wang may not only be competing with Disney, either. Other companies like Universal Studios and Six Flags currently have plans to eventually develop their own parks in China — and likely before he can finish all 20 of his proposed parks.