Long profile of Disney CEO and Chairman Bob Iger in Forbes. The part about Disney trying to get into China was especially interesting.
The fact that Iger is spending 2 1â„2 hours reviewing everything from landscaping to lighting tells you just how important Shanghai Disney is for him and for the company. “This is a big deal,” he says. “The park is not a movie that comes and goes if you miss or fail. This is going to stand there forever.” Shanghai Disney, a joint venture between Disney and Shanghai Shendi Group, with Disney owning 43%, will open at the end of 2015 and serve as a doorway to more than 1 billion consumers.
Making it in China is tough. Disney’s Hong Kong resort lost money for years after it opened in 2005; it’s now close to breaking even. But Disney has an advantage over other Western companies. On a 2010 trip to China, I visited two homes — one a high-rise apartment in Shanghai, the other a peasant’s home near Mongolia. The two living areas had just one thing in common: a stencil of Mickey Mouse on the wall.
A huge part of Iger’s global expansion strategy has been its use of the Disney Channel to pry open previously closed markets. In 17 years it has expanded into 167 countries, including, most recently, Russia. But because of foreign ownership restrictions, Disney has to use other means in China, such as a new partnership with Tencent, the Chinese Internet company, to train local animators. Another creative idea was the 2008 rollout of Disney English, an English language school for kids that now has 33 locations in China. These high-tech centers have animated whiteboards and lots of friendly Disney songs and music. It’s brilliant, if insidious: Get kids to use the Disney characters to study English.