China’s Dalian Wanda group this weekend opened its latest theme park in Nanchang, Jiangxi Province. And immediately stirred the rivalry with Disney, which will open its first theme park in mainland China next month.

Snow White and Captain America characters were reportedly seen as part of a promotion at the Saturday opening of the Wanda Cultural Tourism City. Disney responded with a promise to protect its intellectual property if the sightings are confirmed.

“We vigorously protect our intellectual property and will take action to address infringement. Our characters and stories have delighted generations, these illegal and substandard imitations unfortunately disappoint all who expect more,” Disney said, according to a Bloomberg news report.

Wanda subsequently (Wednesday, June 1) said that the characters in question were not in the theme park and were not used for promotion of the park. Rather they were in the business areas of the Wanda Mall, and licensed by Disney to the relevant stores.

The Nanchang park is described by Wanda as its “first city-size culture and tourism project.” It includes an outdoor amusement park, an indoor theme park, hotel resorts and dining and commercial districts. All are built around a Wanda Mall with the intention of offering entertainment throughout the year and in different weather conditions.

Wanda City spans 200 hectares (2 square kilometers) and the cultural and tourism segment of the project represents a $3.35 billion (RMB22 billion) investment.

Wanda is betting hugely on theme parks as a means of corporate diversification and of driving business to its malls and entertainment properties. It already has massive parks in Xinshuangbanna (opened in 2015) and what it billed as the world’s first indoor theme park in Wuhan (opened in late 2014.)

Wanda says it will open its second Wanda City in Hefei this September and another five are planned to open within China in the next three years. “By 2020, Wanda will unveil 15 Wanda City projects in China and five overseas,” the company said.

That capital intense rivalry explains the recent verbal attack on Disney by Wanda group chairman Wang Jianlin. Speaking on China Central Television, Wang last week suggested that the Shanghai Disney resort might struggle to be competitive due to high ticket prices. He went as far as to suggest that Disney should not have entered China.

  • In a separate move Monday Wanda said that it was heading a consortium that is making a $4.4 billion offer to buy up the Hong Kong-listed Wanda Commercial Properties. The consortium is offering HK$52.8 per share, or 10% higher than the HK$48 per share at which it listed in late 2014. Wang has said that the shares have been undervalued by investors on the Hong Kong market and has made it clear that he expects a higher rating if they are refloated on the mainland.