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Jimmy Kimmel Row: An Obstacle for Shanghai Disneyworld?

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Asia Life

Jimmy Kimmel Row: An Obstacle for Shanghai Disneyworld?

Chinese Government calls for a “sincere” apology from Disney-owned ABC.

A spokesman for the Chinese Foreign Ministry has entered the “kill everyone in China” row instigated by a late-night network television skit in the U.S. last month – asking for a more “sincere” apology than those already issued by ABC and show host Jimmy Kimmel.

The controversial remark, made by a 6-year-old boy during an unscripted segment meant to satirize the U.S. government shutdown, has sparked protests from the Chinese-American community and calls for the comedian’s resignation. It may also create troubles for Disney – the owner of embattled ABC – as the entertainment behemoth plans an ambitious expansion into mainland China.

“If anti-ABC protests in the U.S. turn into anti-Disney protests in China, the bad publicity could spoil the company’s plans to win over Chinese consumers in time for the opening of its newest theme park,” said BusinessWeek.

The sprawling 963-acre facility is currently under construction in the Pudong district of Shanghai. Under development since 2005, Shanghai Disney will be three times larger than Hong Kong Disney when it is completed in 2015.

Following backlash from critics, ABC first apologized, in the form of a letter, to an Asian-American equal rights group. The initial gesture was followed by a November 8 press release posted to ABC Medianet.

“On behalf of everyone at Jimmy Kimmel Live and ABC, please accept our heartfelt, sincere apology for the airing of the [offensive] segment,” the statement read. “Systems we have in place for these types of things did not function properly, and steps have been made to try and prevent this kind of egregious mistake from occurring in the future.”

Jimmy Kimmel also apologized on air, stating that “it was obvious that I didn’t agree with that statement.”

Regardless of ABC and Kimmel’s attempts at reconciliation, a Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman was unmoved.

“ABC should acknowledge the misconduct, and respond to the Chinese community's demand in a sincere way,” said Qin Gang, the ministry official, according to China’s state-run Xinhua news agency. “Spreading racism and hatred goes against the media's social responsibility and that ABC should prevent similar incidents from occurring in future.”

The spill-over from the Jimmy Kimmel show isn’t the only obstacle facing Shanghai Disneyland’s completion – the mainland citizenry’s embracing of the park as something uniquely Chinese also remains to be seen.

“[It] can’t be the Disneyland that Walt built in California, because this is China. It has to look, feel, resemble China’s Disneyland. And that has taken a lot of thought, a lot of work,” said Disney CEO Bob Iger. “[It isn’t] just about bringing Mickey Mouse to China, it’s about looking at China today and seeing what’s popular and figuring out a way that we can have a commercial relationship with that product, that intellectual property, so that we can offer it to the people who visit.”

Shanghai Disneyland, already being touted as the franchise’s most technologically advanced park to date, will come at a price tag of $4.4 billion. It will also house the world’s largest Disney store and offer cuisine tailored to the different regions of China rather than mixing and matching Asian and Western dishes.