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When the Goat meets the Mouse

By Xu Xinlei (
Updated: 2011-01-12 11:23
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What does Disneyland have in common with Heaven? They both have long lines. This time, the Happiest Place on Earth has landed in Shanghai, a city long known for its fusion of tradition and modernity, and the line may be about to get much longer.

Located in the rapidly growing Pudong New Area, Shanghai Disneyland Park covers an area of 4 square kilometers, and the total investment amount remains undecided, as the local government continues carefully studying the project. The construction is widely interpreted as a milestone in Disney’s adventure in China’s entertainment market, and also part of its ambition to reach more deeply into that market.

Disney embarked on the Oriental market as early as in the 1930s, and its huge success owes much to its localization in marketing. Mulan, an animated film adapted from an ancient Chinese story, grossed over $304 million. But remember that a number of artistic supervisors were sent to China to receive artistic and cultural inspiration when development for the film started in 1994.

Also, when building the Hongkong Disneyland, Disney conducted a study about the Chinese tourists’ behavior and found that their favorite activity was taking photos. Therefore, it designated four special sites in the park for the tourists to take photos, a rare and unusual thing for Disneyland parks.

Today, Disney has set up three offices in Beijing, Guangzhou and Shanghai, and has developed extensive cooperation with China in film, interactive entertainment and brand marketing. Its retailing sector has reached 25 cities; over 5,700 outlets have appeared throughout China. By 2012, that number is expected to reach 15,000, and Disney may spread into the second and third tier cities of the country.

“The Chinese market is one of the most important parts of our international market. In the past five years, our revenue in China has doubled and redoubled. We expect double-digit growth this year,” Zhang Zhizhong, executive president of Walt Disney in the Greater China, told China Business News in 2010.

But its presence has sparked mixed feelings within the Chinese cartoon industry, especially for several happy goats born in China.

Pleasant Goat and Big Big Wolf (Xi Yang Yang & Hui Tai Lang), the most successful Chinese-made cartoon of recent times, has appeared on more than 70 domestic channels since its debut in 2005 and is widely enjoyed by children and their parents, too.

The experts predict that the cartoon has reached 1 billion yuan in market value. In January 2009, the first Pleasant Goat and Big Big Wolf movie - The Super Snail Adventure was launched in China, collecting 30 million yuan (US $4.39 million) during its opening weekend, a box office record for a Chinese animated film. It makes a hard act to follow for its Chinese counterparts, most of which are still struggling to survive in the sluggish yet huge market for Chinese cartoons.

Noticeably, the cartoon has managed to nudge its way into the market in a more mature way. Over 600 episodes and 200 kinds of derivative products have been produced; the theme ice creams alone have earned 5 million yuan and theme toys have raked in 20 million yuan.

But soon it will find a strong rival, Mickey Mouse of the Disney family, as the Disneyland Park-- the third park in Asia after Tokyo and Hongkong--is expected to be put into service in 2015.

Its arrival, some believe, may be an inspiration to the local cartoon industry. As the national fervor over cartoon production continues to grow, concerns have risen as many companies churn out cartoons that are extravagantly produced but, sadly, without interesting content.

Today, a good cartoon product is still an exception, rather than the rule.

The introduction of Disneyland to the mainland may change the landscape of the Chinese cartoon industry and create a better environment in which for Chinese cartoon producers to learn. With its first-class operation and management expertise, Disneyland may bring in new design and business ideas, just as China is stepping up its efforts to learn from its foreign partners.

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