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Magic Kingdom comes to China

With an eye on huge market, Disney opens Hong Kong park

HONG KONG -- Walt Disney Co. officially opened its new Hong Kong theme park yesterday, exporting a piece of the Magic Kingdom to China's doorstep in a bold bid to gain a bigger foothold in the vast Chinese market.

As a blanket of smog covered the territory, Chinese lion dancers in gold and red emerged from Sleeping Beauty's Castle to chase away evil spirits and bring good luck to the new business.

''China is an important area for us to move forward in and building a Hong Kong Disneyland will certainly introduce everyone to who we are," Robert Braunstein, senior show program manager for the park, told Reuters. Both the company and the government have high hopes for the park, Disney's first in China and its second in Asia after Japan.

The American icon's presence in communist China has lagged rivals despite being a household name in many other parts of the world. China's tight control of foreign media and widespread copyright piracy have limited its expansion and eaten into sales. But Disney is hoping millions of Chinese who visit the park will develop a taste for its products, from stuffed toys to DVDs.

The park is also expected to give a major boost to Hong Kong's economy, creating tens of thousands of much-needed jobs and generating $19 billion in revenue at the venue over 40 years.

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