Disney Not Happy About Snow White, Captain America Seen At Chinese Theme Park

Image courtesy of Michael Saechang

Competition is great: when there are more options for something, consumers usually come out ahead. That applies to entertainment theme parks as much as to anything else: if there are more places to go, crowds will be mitigated, prices will be competitive, and amenities will probably improve. But “competing” doesn’t actually mean “duplicating the other guy’s stuff and displaying it at my place instead.” At least, it’s not supposed to.

And yet, Bloomberg reports, that’s exactly what seems to be happening overseas, as a fight between Disney and Chinese company Wanda heats up.

Disney has been building a new major resort in Shanghai, to join their list of international destinations in Paris, Tokyo, and Hong Kong. The Shanghai resort opens June 16, and will obviously be a big deal for the company in a major, growing, international consumer market. In short, there is money to be made in China, and Disney intends to use their existing, globally popular intellectual property to make that money.

But China is, as they say, a very competitive market — and Chinese business is competing. There are already hundreds of theme parks in China; Disney is far from alone. So Dalian Wanda opened up their own Wanda City giant theme park complex this weekend in Nanchang, about 450 miles southwest of Shanghai.

All would be well and good, but Wanda City’s kickoff opening ceremony weekend featured some very familiar costumed characters on hand to amuse crowds. Like archetypal Disney Princess Snow White, and square-jawed Avenger Captain America.

Disney, which is notorious for clamping down hard on its IP rights, is not pleased. “We vigorously protect our intellectual property and will take action to address infringement,” the company told Bloomberg in a statement. “Our characters and stories have delighted generations, these illegal and substandard imitations unfortunately disappoint all who expect more.”

Wanda representatives counter that the costumed characters were in a “non-ticketed area” of the complex, and said, “The non-Wanda characters were operated by individual stores within Wanda Mall. They do not represent Wanda.”

Bloomberg spoke with a lawyer who said that the hands-tied excuse out of Wanda was not likely to fly: “Legally, the bottom line is that the owner of a space is responsible for infringement that has occurred,” he said, “unless they argue that they cannot exercise control over their tenants — which would require thorough proof that they have done all they can to control the situation.”

At least, despite some barbs from Wanda top executives, Disney can feel comforted that it’s not personal: the characters were spotted next to Pokemon and King Fu Panda merchandise, neither of which are anything close to being Wanda properties.

Snow White Spotted at Wanda City Triggers Backlash From Disney [Bloomberg]

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