Wanda Group’s founder, Wang Jianlin, the richest man in China, said in a TV interview that he plans to “overtake Disney” as the biggest global tourism company by 2020. This is a challenging ambition but not out of ordinary. However, he kept on saying the frenzy of Mickey Mouse and Donald Duck and the era of blindly following them have passed. Wang alleged that Disney is “entirely cloning previous intellectual properties, cloning previous products, with no more innovation.” He said Disneyland’s high prices would also drive away Chinese customers.
Wanda boasts its “multiple-business model” of rides, film, culture and shopping is an advance over Disney’s more narrowly focused entertainment. Wanda plans to build 15 to 20 Wanda Cities by 2020. The site of Wanda’s first park, Nanchang, is the capital of Jiangxi province. And the park is focused on a Chinese theme.
Disney can draw on a brand built up over 90 years through classic movies and highly recognizable characters. Wanda is creating a wider array of malls and rides to attract people to its theme parks. Wanda is counting on the thrills of capricious high tech rides and the thrills of reminiscing cultural heritage to attract visitors.
In a sense, Disney is more surreal and Wanda is more down to earth. Disney’s theme parks have roller coasters for sure. But most of them are not super terrifying. If you want your heart pumping like never before, in the US you can go to theme parks like Six Flags. Disney is never the type of place to seek close to dying experiences. Disney is more about fantasy which is passed down for generations and evolving as we speak. People visit Disney theme parks to relive the fantasy they experienced in Disney’s animations and movies with a little bit of heart pumping thrills, but not a heavy dose of them.
I am not saying fantasy is more marketable than thrill. Both fantasy and thrill have their distinctive markets. Some people might only be attracted to fantasy and some might be to thrills. However, there are also a lot of people who enjoy both of them either together or alternatively. So it is not really a matter of overtaking but coexisting. The world is big enough for both of them to thrive at the same time and to complement each other.