Disney is planning to take action against the Dalian Wanda Group after several of its characters were spotted at the Chinese company’s new theme park.
The vast Nanchang Wanda Cultural Tourism City opened in Jiangxi province recently, and is widely being billed as a direct competitor to Shanghai Disneyland, which will open on 16 June.
Dalian Wanda Group’s chairman, Wang Jianlin, even said his CNY22 billion (US$3.2bn) park would aim to promote Chinese culture, in the face of an “invasion of foreign cultures”.
But in the opening days of the new attraction, several Disney-owned characters including Snow White, Captain America and Star Wars’ stormtroopers were spotted in the park, and Disney is clearly unimpressed.
In a statement reported by Bloomberg this week, Disney said; “We vigorously protect our intellectual property and will take action to address infringement. Our characters and stories have delighted generations, these illegal and substandard imitations unfortunately disappoint all who expect more.”
Dalian Wanda Group however, has denied that the characters were actually inside its park.
“The products and performers dressed like Disney characters are outside Wanda’s new theme park complex, and all the business operators using these characters have been authorised by Walt Disney Co,” the Chinese company said in a statement.
But the presence of Western characters – whether inside or outside the park – raises questions about whether the new Nanchang Wanda Cultural Tourism City is really the bastion of Chinese culture the company claims.
“Chinese culture led in the world’s for 2,000 years, but since the last 300 years, because of our lagging development and the invasion of foreign cultures, we have more or less lacked confidence in our own culture,” Wang, who is reported to be China’s richest man, was reported saying ahead of the theme park’s launch. “We want to be a model for Chinese private enterprise, and we want to establish a global brand for Chinese firms.”
As well as the Disney characters, products on sale at the Nanchang park include toys that appeared to look like characters from Pokemon and Kung Fu Panda.