Disney Markets Mickey Mouse in China

From Reuters

China’s future Communist Party cadres are learning about Mickey Mouse along with Mao.

Walt Disney Co. said it has partnered with “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 a Hong Kong Disneyland theme park in late 2005 or early 2006.

“It’s one part of an overall brand-building process,” Jay Rasulo, president of Walt Disney Parks and Resorts, told a small group of reporters in Hong Kong on Thursday.

Mickey Mouse and other Disney representatives visited 500 children at two youth centers in Guangzhou, in southern China, in July, a spokeswoman said.


The Burbank-based entertainment giant plans similar outreach programs, with storytelling and interactive games, elsewhere in China ahead of its Hong Kong Disneyland opening.

Other efforts to build the Disney brand include storytelling in public libraries, tours of shopping malls by the famous mouse and other characters such as Goofy and Donald Duck, and Hong Kong television programs, which can be viewed in southern China.

There are about 70 million members in the Communist Youth League.

“In one session, we teach them to draw Mickey Mouse -- they’re all amazed by that,” said Irene Chan, vice president for public affairs at Hong Kong Disneyland. “We hope we can expand to more cities and provinces.”

Disney expects that about one-third of visitors to its Hong Kong park will come from mainland China, where its brand recognition is high but not deep, said Rasulo, who was in Hong Kong for the “topping” of the park’s Sleeping Beauty Castle.

China limits the number of overseas films that can be shown and restricts foreign TV programming.

Similar grass-roots brand-building was not needed when Disney opened its Paris and Tokyo theme parks, Rasulo said.


“We’ve had to be innovative. If you look at Europe and Tokyo, the brand was far better understood,” he said.

The $1.8-billion Hong Kong park is being built on rural Lantau Island.