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Shanghai Disney to build world's 1st Zootopia-themed land

By He Wei in Shanghai | China Daily | Updated: 2019-01-24 09:19

An artist's impression of the world's first Zootopia-themed land, which will come up at Shanghai Disney Resort. [Photo provided to China Daily]

Shanghai Disney Resort is making its second major expansion in less than three years of operation, signaling the ambition of media conglomerate The Walt Disney Co to meet China's growing appetite for quality themed entertainment.

The resort announced on Wednesday the building of the world's first Zootopia-themed land in its latest park, featuring characters and stories from Disney's animated hit Zootopia.

Construction will begin later this year for an unspecified opening date. The expansion will bring the total number of themed lands to eight in the Shanghai facility, which debuted in June 2016.

"The rapid rate of expansion at Shanghai Disney Resort demonstrates our confidence and commitment to the company's future development in China," said Bob Chapek, chairman of parks, experiences and consumer products at The Walt Disney Co.

As the first-ever themed land of its kind, Zootopia is designed to feature a new major attraction that blends Disney's storytelling and technologies in order to bring this fan favorite movie and its characters to life, the company said.

By rolling out its own merchandise, entertainment and food and beverage offerings, the new land will also invite guests to fully immerse themselves in the mammalian metropolis of Zootopia, and come along on an adventure with Judy and Nick, the lead characters from the Academy Award-winning movie that has been the highest-grossing animated film in Chinese box office history.

Blockbuster intellectual properties with a substantial follower base like Zootopia stand to attract both newcomers and recurring visitors alike, said He Jianmin, a professor specializing in tourism management at Shanghai University of Finance and Economics.

"Disney has this long tradition to introduce new attractions to its parks each year. New IP rollouts can provide constant inspirations for Disney's parks and resorts, therefore enhancing user loyalty," he said.

Shanghai Disneyland logged some 11 million visitors in the first year of operation, putting it in the top eight theme parks worldwide and one of the most-visited sites in China, according to data from the Themed Entertainment Association and consulting firm Aecom released in May.

Total attendance at China's theme parks grew to 190 million visits in 2017, a 20 percent year-on-year growth, the association and Aecom said. But it is still a markedly lower per-capita attendance compared with some developed economies, indicating huge market potential.

"The Chinese market has responded enthusiastically to high-quality theme park offerings," said Chris Yoshii, vice-president for Asia-Pacific at Aecom. But he noted that apart from Disneyland, robust momentum also comes from Chinese themed-parks like Oct Parks China, Fantawild, and Chimelong Group.

The US entertainment giant is in a race to dominate the fast-booming industry in China, where at least 70 new theme parks are under construction or in a detailed planning stage, and where theme park attendance will surpass the United States by 2020, Yoshii noted.

But Disney's comprehensive entertainment offerings can create great synergies among various business, such as using its parks to promote new film openings, thus fending off competition, He said.

"Disneyland banks on and benefits from its super intellectual property chain, from media to publishing to content studios," he said. "To grab a share from Disneyland, rivals have to devise ways to get visitors truly glued to their stories-or to come up with a story in the first place."

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