Shanghai to get a Disney theme park: Does it need one?

In five to six years, Shanghai will have joined Tokyo, Hong Kong and Paris as a city out of the U.S. with a Disney theme park. China may or may not need a Disney theme park, but Disney’s aim is that the Shanghai location will help create a mighty want for Disney products among the country’s population.

With 1.5 billion people in China, Disney is hoping that the big bucks it will cost to dazzle the multitudes will pay off in other avenues. As anyone who has ever been to a Disney property knows, the theme park is not just a way to be wowed for a day or two; it’s a gateway into other Disney habits. The hope is that the wow moments are enough to make you crave more.

For example, not only is the Pirates of the Caribbean ride now one more place to get a Johnny Depp fix as Captain Jack Sparrow, it’s a marketing tool for all things having to do with the movie. As Depp, aka, Captain Jack Sparrow makes appearances throughout the ride, and then talks so provocatively right before the end, the connection to the movie is not subliminal advertising–the type where an image triggers off our subconscious.

Nope, by the time we climb out of the ride at the gift shop, it’s no surprise to see shelves laced with every sort of Pirates of the Caribbean merchandise that has ever been cranked out. (Ironically, most of it is probably cranked out in China.) There’s no other way to end this particular ride but to push on through the gift shop, not the easiest thing to do without a purchase when one has a child in tow who now has Captain Jack Sparrow on the brain.

Disney is hoping that the Chinese families who fork out the money to enter its theme park will leave wanting more Disney. DVDs, video games, touring musicals and more are the perfect Disney fix for creating some of Disney’s magic back at home.

For the Chinese government, the hope is that Disney in Shanghai will provide tens of thousands of jobs for people who are in need of viable employment.

Because it is possible to teach an old dog new tricks sometimes, this Disney park will incorporate Chinese history and stories into some of its attractions. Many classic Disney rides will be included. I bet Captain Jack Sparrow will be speaking Chinese. Ni hao, Johnny!