Battle of the Disneylands: Advantage Hong Kong

Posted by: Bruce Einhorn on November 30, 2009

A month after the Chinese government finally gave the okay for Shanghai Disneyland, skeptics are pointing out the park’s success is hardly a sure thing. The latest edition of the Beijing Review (“China’s National English Weekly”), just out today, proudly states how China “will be the first country to host more than one Disneyland.” (First country outside the U.S., that should be, since the U.S. has parks in Anaheim and Orlando.) However, the Beijing Review adds, “amid the profit frenzy and hopes for commercial and industrial growth brought by the little mouse from overseas, doubts and uncertainty also arose. Shanghai’s local newspapers reported that it will cost 24.4 billion yuan ($3.6 billion) for the first phase of construction of Shanghai Disneyland. Disneyland had long been regarded as the most expensive theme park in the world, especially compared to its profitability. To date, out of the three overseas Disneylands in the world, only the Tokyo park has seen profits.”

The weekly even indulges in some French-style Disney bashing. “Targeting children as its major visitors, Shanghai Disneyland will hardly attract the millennium-born generation, which has not developed a close link with the classic Disney cartoon characters. ‘I doubt whether Chinese children will be interested in the septuagenarian and octogenarian Mickey Mouse and Donald Duck,’ said Shi Jianxiong, a professor at the School of Economics and Management of Tongji University.” Sorry, professor, but as senior citizens go, Mickey and Donald look pretty sprightly, and I doubt Chinese kids care any more than American kids do when the characters first got their start. Moreover, the quality of Disney’s rides and other attractions are really what pulls in customers, and it’s a pretty safe bet that Shanghai Disneyland’s will be much better than what local rivals can offer.

The real concern for Shanghai Disneyland is the news that the park, despite earlier hype about it being the world’s largest, is going to start off very modestly: Just 116 hectares in the first phase. That’s smaller than Hong Kong Disneyland, which has struggled since opening in 2005 because it just doesn’t have enough attractions to keep kids and their parents entertained for more than a day. (I’ve never been to Orlando but I’ve made my share of trips to Anaheim, where you need a good two or three days to see everything.) “It’s a small Disney after all for Shanghai,” crowed Hong Kong’s South China Morning Post last week. “So much for the best laid plans of mice and men,” the paper’s page-one story began. “After being billed as the mother of all theme parks, Shanghai’s new Disneyland will be the smallest yet.”

Meanwhile, Hong Kong Disneyland is growing. Disney and the Hong Kong government, the two partners in the Hong Kong Disneyland joint venture, have agreed on a plan to expand the park, adding three new lands to the existing four. (I suspect it wasn’t a coincidence that Beijing delayed giving approval to Shanghai until Disney and Hong Kong reached a deal to make Hong Kong Disneyland big enough to compete.) Hong Kong Disneyland today denied a report over the weekend that there are plans for even more expansion, but for now that’s not necessary. After years of worries here about competition from up north, Hong Kong’s much-maligned Disneyland is surprisingly well positioned.

Reader Comments

joshali

November 30, 2009 4:09 PM

good

Heide

November 30, 2009 4:17 PM

I beleive the Beijing review is correct in it's statement that they will be the first country to host more than one Disneyland. From a factual standpoint this is correct because here in the United States, we host Disneyland in Anaheim and Disney World in Orlando; 2 different parks owned by the same company. From a widely accepted persepctive however, I agree in that it should say outside of the U.S. because Disney is Disney. Enjoyed the article!

siphandone

November 30, 2009 7:32 PM

If it's small, don't bother to go there and waste your money.... People want to see the best. Bigger the better!!!!!!

rob

November 30, 2009 11:09 PM

What do you want us to say to convince you that the next Disneyland is in Shanghai, India. India is the largest democracy on planet earth and only India democracy can have Disneylands, and India is, has always been, and will be the No.1 super power of the world because our prime minister says that he does not care about short term GDP growth and he always says in the next 10 years India will overtake everybody including the USA and China. Jai Hind!

Rajash

December 1, 2009 1:43 AM

Only India is deserved to have two Disneyland outside US, for the simple reason of India being the largest democracy, and have the fast growing rate predicted in 2010.

C. H. Ng

December 1, 2009 1:47 AM

I have never been to another Disneyland other than the one at Tokyo. That was many years back but of which I can still remember it very well as it was during our 2nd honeymoon. The other good memory is the cleanliness of the place & how orderly the Japanese people are when queuing up in line whether to ride the rides and/or buying foods.

I remember too at one fast food corner when I was ordering my food, I couldn't speak or understand Japanese. I didn't understand the amount I had to pay in Japanese & so I took out a bundle of Yen notes for the cashier to take. She just took an amount & when I was about to walk away, called me back for my change. If this thing is to happen in China, I think most probably I will get ripped off.

I believe if the new Disneyland will to be successful in Shanghai, the local people's altitute must changed - whether they are the workers there or visitors. And I meant that in terms of cleanliness (no spitting and/or simply throwing of rubbish everywhere), orderly (no queue jumping), manners (loud talking on their mobiles)..etc.
Last but not least, amble clean toilets!

C. H. Ng

December 1, 2009 3:18 AM

@Rob...I remember you said you are from a high caste Indian. Now I am beginning to doubt your claim; you seem more like someone on a "high" -- high on drug so much so that you are always talking rubbish. Hope you will keep on having your "fix" for all we care but please keep your stupid comments to yourself.

Sam

December 1, 2009 2:52 PM

Bruce, great article and fun to read. As a small investor who has Disney stock, articles like these are always welcome in understanding the company's future revenues.

I wish comments were edited by Businessweek before they are posted, so comments like Rob's do not get posted at all. They do not add value or even criticize in a meaningful way. Shame on you Rob.

Robdaman

December 1, 2009 8:18 PM

USA please bulit a disneyland in India also.

And also create more cartoons about indian culture like kung fu panda and mulan did to chinese culture.

And promote more curry and the beauty of eating using barehands (hehe) instead of chopstick dimsum.

Hollywood, why always show chinese cities in their blockbuster like transformers and MI3 showing shanghai and batman showing hong kong, FF2 showing greatwall. Even with the current new movie 2012 feature china. Show more Indian cities!

And please dun make so much slumdog movies about india. That very negative. Becoz of this movie ppl start calling indian slumdog.

sikh

December 2, 2009 2:38 AM

Rob, you are an embarrassment to us Indians everywhere.

samyvellu

December 3, 2009 1:18 AM

Rob is correct. India, the only Superpower in 10 years!

Zergy

December 4, 2009 2:49 AM

Right, India the next superpower that has more people starving than Zimbabwe. ( http://business.rediff.com/slide-show/2009/nov/27/slide-show-1-hunger-india-worse-off-than-zimbabwe.htm )India's hunger rank is 65th place, among the worst in the world. China ranked 5th place, up from 15th in 2008. India's democracy is a joke. Take care of your people first before you think of Disneylands. Ever heard of the word humble? You guys should learn it and stop embarrassing yourselves.

Wondaland

December 6, 2009 2:36 AM

Disneyland? No...in india there is only wondaland. In fact all indian lives in wondaland. Indian in wondaland, that how the saying goes.

Disneyland is nothing compared to lalalan..er...wondaland.

Lin

December 7, 2009 7:29 AM

Indians here are jokes!

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