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November 5, 2009

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Mickey doesn't scare city's 2 theme parks

SHANGHAI'S two major amusement parks said yesterday that they aren't worried about losing customers when Disneyland opens in the city, but domestic animation firms did express concern about the competition.

"We are born here and grew up here, and we know what the Chinese people want," said Ren Kelei, president of Happy Valley, the newest and biggest of Shanghai's theme park.

The Shenzhen-based OTC Group, which developed Happy Valley, said the park will build a strong reputation and customer base by the time Disneyland opens.

Ren said the park, which opened last month, will be targeting a different customer than Disneyland. Happy Valley will appeal to young people seeking heart-stopping thrills while Disneyland will appeal more to families and tourists, he said.

Happy Valley management is so confident that two more phases of the park are planned in the Sheshan Hill area of Songjiang District. The expansion will include accommodations and restaurants to entice visitors to stay for a few days.

The Jinjiang Amusement Park, which has been running roller coasters and Ferris wheels for about 25 years and is 10 times smaller than Happy Valley, also said it is not concerned about the heightened competition.

"There should be a place just for parents to take their children to have a relaxing day out," said Ge Yunkui, deputy general manager of the park.

The Hong Kong Disneyland Resort recently said in Shanghai that it also won't be affected much by a Shanghai Disneyland because it draws most of its customers from south China, Southeast Asia and Hong Kong.

"In fact, the disposable income of Chinese people is rising because of economic development," Andrew Kam, managing director of Hong Kong Disneyland, said in Shanghai recently. "We're not worried because the whole market is growing bigger."

In fact, Hong Kong Disneyland will start a 5-hectare, HK$30 billion (US$3.9 billion) expansion this year to add three new areas and 30 new attractions.

Shanghai Disneyland will be profitable in the long run, said Zhu Lianqing, a professor at the Shanghai Academy of Social Sciences.

"The park will affect not only Shanghai but the whole Yangtze River Delta, and even beyond," Zhu added.

Lu Hua, senior project manager from Shanghai SJS Animation Co Ltd expressed concern about the domestic cartoon industry after Shanghai Disneyland is in business.

"Local animation companies will face big challenges and competition if the decision is followed by the launch of the Disney Channel," he said.

Lu added that the Walt Disney Co has been seeking Chinese animation talent over the past few years and is planning to buy small animation studios in China.

"We have no choice but to get stronger," Lu said. "We won't give up our mission to create and promote our own compelling cartoon characters and heroes."

Shanghai SJS Animation Co Ltd has spent five years producing a highly anticipated 3D science-fiction film "Animan," a Chinese answer to the Hollywood blockbuster "Transformers."


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