The Chinese conglomerate Wanda opened its first theme park, with its billionaire boss declaring war on Disney-- just weeks before the American entertainment giant launches its attraction in Shanghai (a $5.5-billion-dollar investment and Disney’s 6th and largest theme park).
The new $3.4 billion Wanda City, in southeastern Nanchang, features a giant mall set over 2 km2, as well as an 80-hectare theme park boasting "the highest and longest roller coaster and the highest drop tower in China." In the outdoor theme park, tourists can fight 3D monsters in an interactive cinema complex and fly through China’s Jiangxi Province in a flight simulator.
Disney Shanghai features the usual iconic castle as well as a “pirate” zone, Treasure Cove, and the Tron Lightcycle Power Run.
Wanda City offers a 2-night package in its luxury Mandarin Hotel and two adult tickets for the theme park for less than one-third of a similar package at Shanghai Disney Resort. Wanda deliberately undercuts Disney: the basic cost of admission for one adult to their Nanchang park about one-half of a Disney visit.
"We want to be a model... and highlight Chinese influence in the cultural domain," Wanda founder Wang Jianlin said (according to state television channel CCTV) during an opening ceremony at the park-- as he referenced an "invasion" of foreign cultures.
Wang -- China's richest man, according to Forbes magazine -- says he is setting his sights on Disney.
"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," he told CCTV.
After the site in Nanchang, Wanda plans to open six more theme parks in China within three years and plans to have around 15 in the country by 2020. "A tiger cannot take on a pack of wolves," he said during the same interview, in which he also accused Disney of "cloning past accomplishments without innovating."
Wanda's goals are ambitious: "We want to ensure that Disney will not be able to make a profit in this (theme park) sector in China for between 10 and 20 years."
Some experts think the group is too ambitious because it lacks experience in the theme park market. Wanda is a 110,000 employee conglomerate with insurance companies, finance companies, department stores, commercial buildings, sports, art and cultural companies… but no theme parks… until now.
Wanda does own 20% of Atlético de Madrid as Chinese rush to buy into European football.
Nor is Wanda entirely new to entertainment, having bought US cinema chain AMC Entertainment Holdings in 2012 while it has also been branching out into film production, print media and art investment.
We are guessing his AMC Theatres make a lot of money off Disney films. Even in China, Disney has been generating an increasing share of box office revenue. Which means Donald might not even have to duck to avoid Wanda’s War.
To bring the war closer to home, Wanda signed a deal in February with French retailer Auchan Group to develop a $3.4 billion project called EuropaCity to be built adjacent to Charles de Gaulle Airport in Paris. Not far from Donald’s residence in EuroDisney Paris.