Not too long ago the BtT team were advised that a theme park based on a certain annoyed birds game was being developed in China. We were not surprised of course since the popularity of said game had risen dramatically in that region so we field it away as interesting but not news worthy. Imagine our surprise when a wildfire of theme park development suddenly sprouted all around the country and China found itself staged to be the new theme park destination for the future.
Now it seems that every major IP and manufacturer (as well as many smaller companies) have jumped on the China-Development market and it seems that if you can think it, it is being built and tested there. Disney, Universal, Sea World, 20th Century Fox, Wanda and Atlantis are all set to build (or are currently building) and it is just going bigger from there.
Of course the most talked about is the Shanghai Disney Resort. With its Chinese reimagining of Disney classics and retelling of the concepts (see Tokyo Disney Resort) that Disney is known for it will be interesting to see what WDI has created for us. Technical “open date” is slated for December 2015 so we won’t have long to wait to see what new experiments WDI has come up with. After seeing some of the concepts drawings (see below), we are convinced this gamble will take off for Disney. Moving into another country is always a test and there will be a learning curve (as there will be with all of these companies). With any luck Disney has learned from its mistakes in other locations and will take this to the next level.
The next giant of course is Universal. With its park slated to open roughly 2019, Universal Studios Beijing will be a minimum $3.3 billion dollar investment that has been repeatedly shelved but now seems ready to go. With aging IP’s such as Shrek and Harry Potter it remains to be seen just how popular this park will be by it’s opening. With the fanfare of the Harry Potter additions in Orlando and its sister park in Hollywood getting some of that IP attention from HP himself, Universal seems determined to keep the HP steamroller going. If they succeed, then it will be another instant hit for them overseas (Beijing and possible Moscow as well) in 2019 (or whenever the park is completed). Time will tell on that one
Though details are limited it seems that Sea World is still considering taking their show (literally) on the road to China as well as the market there seems to be exploding and animal activist seem to be a bit thin on the ground there.
The Wanda Group is dropping roughly $5.9 billion in a theme park just west of Shanghai in Wuxi in hopes to compete with Disney. Though details are limited Wanda is considering this project one of its ten “cultural cities” they plan to roll out all over China. Add to that their building of the indoor movie theatre “experience” in Wuhan and their plans for another series of mega-plex locations and Wanda may just give Disney and Universal a run for their money.
Atlantis has added its name to the Chinese development list with its impressive design and nods to Hawaii on the coast of southern China in Sanya. The concept art alone (see below) look impressive and there is no denying the amount of money being put into this seemingly beautiful resort. With a construction end date sometime in 2016, this resort will be a destination for elite vacationers (see Atlantis Bahamas and Dubai). Sanya is a very high-end location for vacationers, a far cry from the surrounding areas that usually house travellers and is much more comparable to Dubai than its neighbouring Vietnam or Malaysia.
Speaking of Malaysia… just a quick jump across the water and you will be able to visit 20th Century Fox World in Genting. This park, slated to open its doors in 2016 may include such ride/attraction IP’s such as Ice Age, Alien Vs Predator, Night at the Museum and Rio. The few clues to what will be included were given with the release of the concept art and demonstration, but it is more than enough to show how much they are sinking into this project and should provide another location for visitors not willing to go to China or looking for an alternate experience.
With all of this being rolled out over the next few years, where does this leave your local parks and how will they compete with the emerging market? Remember that most of these parks are subsidised and partially (if not mostly) funded by the government and people of its host country. While there is no doubt that companies like Disney will be sinking considerable capital into its Chinese park, they will also use this as a sandbox to test new technologies and methods before rolling them out in Europe or the US. We have seen this many times over and it is often how we end up with amazing tech locally. Does that mean that if it were built in China we will see it in Orlando? Sadly no, not necessarily, (we are still waiting for our chance to talk to Stitch) but what it does mean is that newer more creative and inventive rides can effectively be funded with “someone else’s dollar” and leave the R&D free to do something never thought of before.
We will just have to wait and see exactly how far this move to China will take these companies but it should be seen as a good thing. Assuming they do not stretch themselves too thin it can only help out the industry. Though some question the location (see poor air quality and questionable legal practices) after the hit of the World’s Fair, no one can deny that China is an untapped market… but not for long.