Disney targets China
The Walt Disney Company has said it has partnered "Youth Palaces" run by China's Communist Youth League to build awareness of its stories and characters in the mainland ahead of the opening of the Hong Kong Disneyland theme park in late 2005 or early 2006.
"It's one part of an overall brand-building process," said Mr Jay Rasulo, president of Walt Disney Parks and Resorts.
The company announced that the construction of the US$1.8 billion Hong Kong park on Lantau Island was on track. It will be the first in China, the fifth Disney theme park in the world and Disney's second in Asia after Tokyo.
Marketing of the theme park has started in Hong Kong, China and the rest of Asia with Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand, Philippines and Taiwan specifically targeted.
Tourists from China are forecast to make up 35 per cent of the estimated 5.6 million annual visitors to the Hong Kong Disneyland while locals from Hong Kong itself will make up 33 pc.
Disney began construction of the park in January 2003 after the completion of an 18-month reclamation project to prepare the 126-hectare (311-acre) site.
The project is estimated to create 18,000 new jobs at the opening.
The Hong Kong venture will include two hotels, retail, dining and entertainment facilities. Visitors can expect a 19th century American town complete with shopping and dining.
Marketing initiatives in China this year have included visits by Mickey Mouse and other Disney representatives to 500 children at two youth centres in Guangzhou, in southern China.
The entertainment giant plans similar outreach programs elsewhere in China ahead of its Hong Kong Disneyland opening.
Other efforts to build the Disney brand include story-telling in public libraries, tours of shopping malls by Micky Mouse and other characters such as Goofy and Donald Duck, and programs on Hong Kong television, which can be viewed in southern China.
The company said it is fine-tuning its program for youth centres. Some 70 million young Chinese are members of the Communist Youth League.
China presently limits the number of overseas films that can be shown and restricts foreign TV programming, which means most mainland consumers do not have deep awareness of Disney stories.
Walt Disney announced it will not build a theme park on the Chinese mainland before 2010.
Mr Rasulo indicated Disney hopes to build two theme parks in China in the future.
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