Chinese billionaire takes aim at Disney with own theme park

Chinese billionaire battles Disney with theme... 03:21

Disney is about to open its first theme park in mainland China next Thursday, but it's already receiving high-profile critics. Some praise Shanghai Disney, but others may be attempting a Magic Kingdom coup d'état, reports CBS News correspondent Adriana Diaz.

At Shanghai Disney, iconic characters will have Chinese characteristics. The Donald here practices the ancient Chinese art of tai chi and the Shanghai Minnie Mouse wears a jade bracelet and a traditional Chinese dress.

But the richest man in China thinks the park isn't Chinese enough.

"The time has passed when people blindly follow and go crazy for Donald Duck and Mickey Mouse," said real estate mogul Wang Jianlin.

Wang is a businessman with a mission. Wang's Dalian Wanda Group - Wanda for short - has spent $3 billion on a competing venture in central China. It boasts the country's highest roller coaster. Fourteen more parks are in the works.

Wanda and Disney are vying for China's 120 million theme park goers - a number expected to nearly double by 2020. Disney is pouring $5.5 billion into its Shanghai park, but Wang hopes domestic tourists support his local brand and ditch Disney.

"Chinese culture led the world for 2,000 years," Wang said at his park's opening. "But for the last 300, we've lacked confidence in our own culture and have fawned over foreign culture."

Ken DeWoskin advises companies doing business in China. He said Wang may be playing to grow nationalism here.

"This is a theme - the rejuvenation of Chinese culture and ways of sort of reducing the influence of Western culture," DeWoskin said. "And that's why he puts emphasis on something like Mickey Mouse."

But Mickey is popular in China. The mouse himself was spotted at Wang's property, along with other Disney faces and masks.

Wanda told CBS News that independent stores on his own property "use Disney characters on some merchandise and for promotional purposes," adding that "the use is officially licensed by Disney."

Whatever the draw, attendance was strong on Wanda's opening day. They hope to welcome 10 million visitors a year.

A Disney spokesman told CBS News, "We have a good relationship with Wanda... We are perplexed that Mr. Wang would choose to do public battle with us, or attempt to undermine our business in any way."