Felix Stalder on Sat, 25 Sep 2004 19:46:42 +0200 (CEST)

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<nettime> Mickey Mao's alliance with China's communists

[And this after Nikita Krutchev could not go to Disneyland in 1959. 

With a report from Reuters

UPDATED AT 3:06 AM EDT 	Friday, Sep 24, 2004

Forty-five years ago, during the Maoist era, Chinese people were ordered 
to kill rats as part of a hygiene campaign.

This week, Walt Disney Co. announced it had entered into a partnership 
with China's Communist Youth League to promote Mi Laoshu, or Mickey Mouse, 
whose Chinese name means rat as well as mouse.

The California-based entertainment giant is organizing "outreach programs" 
through the Youth Palaces run by the Communist Youth League to teach 
Chines e children about the travails of Daffy Duck and Goofy, how to draw 
Mickey, an d the many other delights of North American consumerism.

The marketing ploy, in advance of the opening of a $1.8-billion (U.S.) 
Hong Kong Disneyland, is a telling sign of the extent to which China has 
become more corporate than Communist.

Mi Laoshu is already known in some Chinese cities, his image on countless 
knockoff T-shirts, computers, schoolbags and toys in flagrant violation of 
copyright laws.

He is even used as a mascot for an English-language school for children. 
But few Chinese associate Mickey with Walt Disney, which will make it 
difficult to market Hong Kong Disneyland, slated to open in late 2005 or 
early 2006, observes Mike Szonyi, a professor at the University of 

Walt Disney's partnership with China's Youth Palaces "is one part of an 
overall brand-building process," Jay Rasulo, president of Walt Disney 
Parks and Resorts, told Reuters in Hong Kong yesterday.

Such grassroots brand-building was not needed when Disney opened its Paris 
and Tokyo theme parks, said Mr. Rasulo, who was in town to view the mock 
turret being put in place atop Sleeping Beauty's castle at Hong Kong 
Disneyland on rural Lantau Island.

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

In July, Mickey Mouse and other Disney characters visited 500 children at 
t wo youth centres in Guangzhou, in southern China, and the company plans 

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

"In one session, we teach [children] 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 

Prof. Szonyi notes there is a disconnect between Mi Laoshu and Walt Disney:
"The Chinese have had Mickey Mouse for decades, but he's a copyright 
rip-of f version," he said. "The company has to repair this."

Some 70 million young Chinese are members of the Communist Youth League. 
Disney expects that about one-third of visitors to its Hong Kong park, the 
second in Asia after Tokyo, will come from mainland China.

Some in Hong Kong worry the park will suffer from competition if Disney 
bui lds another park in Shanghai, which the company says it will not do 
before 2010.

"There's very little doubt in my mind that there will be a market further 
north in China for a second Disneyland," Mr. Rasulo said.


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