Mickey Mouse has a new job in China: teaching kids how to speak English at new schools owned by Walt Disney Co. popping up in this bustling city.
The company says the initiative is primarily about teaching language skills to children, not extending its brand in the world’s most populous nation. But from the oversize Mickey Mouse sculpture in the foyer to diction lessons starring Lilo and Stitch, the company’s flagship school here is filled with Disney references.
Classroom names recall Disney movies, such as “Andy’s Bedroom,” the setting of the “Toy Story” films. To hold the attention of children as young as two years old, there is the Disney Magic Theater, which combines functions of a computer, television and chalkboard and is the main teaching tool.
Disney’s foray into English-language instruction in China comes as the niche industry is booming. McKinsey & Co. estimates that China’s foreign-language business is worth $2.1 billion annually. More than 300 million Chinese are studying English, according to a speech delivered in January by Premier Wen Jiabao.