For more than 90 years, the name Walt Disney has been synonymous with family entertainment. From humble beginnings as a cartoon studio in the 1920s to today’s global corporation, The Walt Disney Company remains a strong brand known for quality family entertainment around the world, including China.
In 1938, Disney introduced Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, the first full-length Technicolor animated feature film to the Chinese market. In those early days, over 400,000 Chinese saw the company’s first animated movie during the first six months of its debut.
In 1964, Disney Comic Books were available in Hong Kong. Walt Disney wrote a letter on November 7, 1963, to the Sino-American Publishing Co. in Hong Kong congratulating them on the launch of Disney Comics magazine in the Chinese, Malay, and Thai languages. In the letter, which was printed in the first issue, he wrote “Here at the studio, we look upon this latest addition to the family of Disney Magazines as a means of establishing even closer ties of friendship with our neighbors overseas.”
But it was not until 1986, when the Walt Disney Company negotiated an approval agreement with state-owned television CCTV for a 30-minute cartoon show every Sunday, that Mickey Mouse officially entered China with his idiosyncratic stride.
The cute, lively and adventurous mouse, along with other popular Disney characters, became a talking point in China’s market. Just ask the post-80s and post-90s generation of young Chinese – their collective memories include childhood TV time dominated by Mickey Mouse, Donald Duck, and Winnie the Pooh, and reading Mickey Mouse magazine, which was first published in China in 1993, still in circulation today. Mickey acted as a cultural ambassador, winning the hearts of billions of Chinese with his kindness, optimism, and good humor.
Disney’s focus on localization paved the way for its future expansion in China. Today, the company’s long association continues with offices in Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou with over 3,000 employees. The company is focused on creating high-quality entertainment and effectively building local and Disney franchises in China.
Disney has several established businesses in the country, including studio entertainment, parks and resorts, consumer products, media networks, interactive, and its English language program, Disney English, which launched in 2008. In July 2006, Disney opened its award-winning musical “The Lion King,” the largest Broadway production in Shanghai, which further helped build brand awareness in China. In September 2005, Disney opened its first theme park in China, Hong Kong Disneyland and in 2011 celebrated a major new milestone with the announcement and ground breaking ceremony for the Shanghai Disney Resort, a $5.5 billion joint venture with Shanghai Shendi Group. In May 2015, the first Disney Store in China, also the largest in the world, opened its doors in Lujiazui, complementing Shanghai’s reputation as a family, business, cultural, entertainment and tourism destination.
Over the past three decades, Disney has evolved from a foreign cultural symbol to a noteworthy contributor and participant in China’s mass family entertainment market. Supporting and nurturing a local animation industry is also important to Disney. In 2012, Disney China partnered with the Ministry of Culture’s China Animation Group, and Tencent, China’s largest Internet service provider, to form “The National Animation Creative Research and Development Cooperation,” to advance the country’s animation industry. The organization’s initiative is focused on nurturing and training local talent and developing original content that will entertain audiences in China and worldwide and since the launch, three ideas have gone to pilot.
In 2016, Disney along with Shanghai Shendi Group will open the second Disney resort destination in Greater China, covering 963 acres with an investment of US$5.5 billion. Shanghai Disney Resort promises to be a one-of-a-kind, world-class destination – designed and created specifically for the people of China, and offering unique attractions and entertainment which will be authentically Disney and distinctly Chinese. The resort will feature Shanghai Disneyland, home to Disney’s largest castle and six unique theme lands, Toy Story Hotel and Disneyland Hotel, and Disneytown, a retail, dining and entertainment district.
Just as Walt Disney intended when he created Disneyland 60 years ago, the Shanghai Disney Resort seeks to be a place where families and friends can have fun together and make lifetime memories. The opening of Shanghai Disney Resort will introduce new generations of Chinese guests to the magic of Disney, and a unique location for residents of Shanghai and guests from across China to enjoy the magic of Disney!