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Turkey legs a Disney treat that will run and run

OVER nearly a century Disney has exported US culture across the globe, but the company was astonished to find one slice of Americana wildly popular in China — the turkey leg.

The entertainment giant opened its US$5.5 billion theme park in Shanghai in June last year, expecting to shift mainly bok choy, Mickey Pork Buns and Minnie Red Bean Buns to hungry customers.

“If you go to Disneyland or Disney World, we sell gigantic turkey legs — they’re like the size of my arm,” Bob Iger, chairman and CEO of the Walt Disney Co, told reporters yesterday. “And when I heard we were putting them on the menu in Shanghai I thought our group was crazy. Why are we selling turkey legs in China?”

Iger was quickly proved wrong, with legs in a hoisin sauce selling in their thousands.

“We were there a few weeks ago for the anniversary, and we sold 4,500 in one day. We couldn’t buy enough of them,” Iger said at a press conference in Burbank, California.

Demand quickly grew to 4,000 units a day in Shanghai — more than Disney’s Polish supplier could manage — and buyers were sent to track down more poultry legs in South America.

“That surprised us, and there were other things about food that surprised us — not bad, by the way, just things that we had to adjust to,” said Iger.

Incorrect rumors that the turkey legs sold at its theme parks are actually emu meat have circulated online for years, boosted most recently by a segment on TBS’s “Conan” talk show.

In fact, they look bigger than normal turkey legs because they are from the male and not the female Americans are used to seeing at Thanksgiving.

Shanghai Disneyland — Disney’s sixth theme park and third in Asia — pulled in nearly a million visitors in its first month.

Shanghai received an early introduction to Disney when the “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs” showed in the city’s cinemas in 1938.

In the 1980s, classic Disney cartoons aired on state television while, more recently, movies like “Zootopia” introduced new characters, which Shanghai Disneyland features in its parade.

“Zootopia,” in particular, is cited as an example of China embracing Hollywood after it became Disney’s most successful animation in the world’s second-largest box office, scooping US$236 million.

Sean Bailey, president of Walt Disney Studios Motion Picture Production, said the company was currently scouring China to cast actors for “Mulan,” a live-action version of its 1998 animation based on the Chinese legend of Hua Mulan.

“Many of us have been spending a great deal of time in China for a number of reasons, including the opening of the park in Shanghai. So ‘Mulan’ is something we’ve been eying for a long time,” he said.


 

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