Disney China: “The Happiest Place on Earth”

By Gordon Chu | Tuesday, November 10, 2009

In business school, case study after case study, Disney was the belle of the ball in nearly all of my classes. From marketing to finance, you couldn’t escape the Disney name without seeing them in one form or another. And I say why not – after all, they have undeniable brand power internationally. Mickey Mouse is synonymous to US pop culture and Walt Disney’s marquee signature is universally recognized in any language around the world.

This year especially, Disney seems to be very active in extending their reach in all facets of media. In movies, Disney’s summertime blockbuster lineups (from ‘Up’ to ‘A Christmas Carol’) show little signs of wear from this bad economy here domestically in the United States. Then there was the $4B (USD) plan to acquire all of comic behemoth Marvel’s assets. And to top off this illustrious year, breaking news to create a brand-new Disney China outside of Shanghai valued at over $3.5B (USD).

BACKSTORY OF DISNEY CHINA

Now, I should be very clear that Disney China is not a spur-of-the-moment decision by the Chinese government to bring Western media groups over to China. The idea has been percolating for over 20 years to bring a brand-new amusement park for the Chinese market. Previous attempts were curtailed mainly due to perceived unwanted foreign cultural influences in the China market by the government.

After numerous attempts to bring an amusement park on to mainland China, Disney eventually ‘settled’ on Disney Hong Kong as a constellation prize. Unfortunately for Disney, the park has not fared well and paled in comparison to corporate’s grandiose expectations for the landmark.

Still, Disney Hong Kong was a great first run for Disney to test the waters when dealing with China