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Disney era is over, head of China’s Wanda Group vows

Wang Jianlin, chairman of Wanda Group, says his

Wang Jianlin, chairman of Wanda Group, says his firm will overtake Disney as the biggest global tourism company by 2020. Wanda Group opened a $3 billion sprawling entertainment complex Saturday, May 28, in China's southeast, three weeks before the June 16 opening of Disney's first mainland Chinese park in Shanghai. Credit: AP / Vincent Yu

BEIJING — Mickey Mouse has a new and deep-pocketed challenger: China’s shopping mall king.

The developer that bought Hollywood studio Legendary Entertainment is preparing to fight Disney to lead China’s — and possibly the world’s— theme park industry.

Wanda Group and its billionaire founder, Wang Jianlin, inaugurated a sprawling entertainment complex Saturday in China’s southeast, three weeks before the June 16 opening of Disney’s first mainland Chinese park in Shanghai.

Wanda’s 20 billion yuan ($3 billion) site in the city of Nanchang has an outdoor theme park and teacup-shaped buildings that house a shopping mall, cinemas, restaurants, a film park and the world’s largest ocean park. It has 10 hotels.

Wanda has lots of cash and a huge home market but lacks Disney’s brand power and decades of theme park experience.

Still, Wanda exudes confidence it can win.

Wang told Chinese state TV last week he plans to “overtake Disney” as the biggest global tourism company by 2020.

“The frenzy of Mickey Mouse and Donald Duck and the era of blindly following them have passed,” he said. Disney is “cloning previous intellectual properties . . . with no more innovation.”

Disney said Wang’s comments were “not worthy of a response.” — AP

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