Donald Duck, Mickey Mouse, Elsa, Ariel, and the rest of the Walt Disney clan, enjoy it while you can — your days are numbered! That’s if the richest man in China gets his way and fulfills his ambition to put Disney to the sword and end its worldwide dominance.
You wouldn’t think that declaring war on Disney would be the brightest move to make — after all, the granddaddy colossus of the entertainment world now owns a stable of characters, which includes Iron Man, Captain America, Thor, Luke Skywalker, and Kylo Ren. A pretty formidable bunch to go toe to toe and trade blow for blow with by anyone’s standards.
However, the new supervillain who has waged war on Disney may not have any special superpowers, a magical hammer, or a cool iron suit to get physical in, but he does have a lot of cold hard cash. In fact, he’s China’s richest man, and that’s some serious dollar, baby.
The Daily Mail reports that 61-year-old Wang Jianlin is estimated to be worth more than £20 billion, and he has splashed $3.4 billion of his seriously large fortune to open a mammoth theme park in Nanchang, in southeastern China, which he believes will spell the end of Mickey Mouse and herald the demise of Donald Duck. Oh, quack!
What’s more, Mr. Wang has expressed his desire to open 15 more parks in China by 2021 in a bid to keep Disney out of his homeland. And as the 29th richest man in the world, he certainly has the bottom line to make such a brash move.
To rub salt into an already raw wound, Wang Jianlin’s Wanda City theme park, which opened its doors last week, is a direct challenge to Disney’s brand new $.5 billion park, which will open for business in Shanghai later this month.
And if the battle lines weren’t already clearly visible, senior Disney officials were incandescent with rage after Captain America and Snow White characters were spotting mingling and chatting with guests at the Wanda City site.
In the aftermath of having some of their best-beloved characters kidnapped and forced to parade around a rival company’s park, Walt Disney released a statement that pretty much said if Mr. Wang wants a war, he’s got one.
“We are perplexed that Mr Wang would choose to do public battle with us, or attempt to undermine our business in any way.
“We have a good relationship with Wanda, particularly in the film distribution business, including in the United States.”
Yet, Mr. Wang remains unperturbed and unruffled by the combined might and majesty of Walt Disney and has picked up the gauntlet, snarling, “A tiger cannot take on a pack of wolves.”
“This craze for Mickey Mouse and Donald Duck is over, the period when we would blindly follow where Disney led has been gone for years.
“They have cloned past accomplishments without innovating. We want to ensure that Disney will not be able to make a profit in this sector in China for between 10 and 20 years.”
However, experts believe that the Wanda group’s lack of experience in the theme park market will undermine Wang’s ambitions.
The huge Wanda Park complex includes a giant mall and a 200-acre park that boasts what is said to be the longest roller coaster in China. There’s also a cinema complex that grants visitors the opportunity to fight 3D monsters, but it’s unlikely the Wanda Park will provide a true challenge to Disney’s Shanghai gamble, which includes the largest Walt Disney Castle ever created.
As Mickey Mouse once famously said, “Don’t stress over anything you can’t change.”
[Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images]