Disney: “We Never had Business Cooperation at any Stage with VIPKid"
COVID-19 and China
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Disney has been and still is a part of millions of children around the world. Disney entered China in 2016 when it opened the Shanghai Disney Resort. The colorful opening ceremony featured speeches, fireworks, and "mostly orderly crowds" despite the rain. One of the dignitaries, Vice Premier WANG Yang, joked that the wet weather foretold good luck for the resort because it represented a “rain of U.S. dollars and RMB”. 

Last year VIPKID, leading online education company, announced on their official website that they had cooperated with Walt Disney Company, to which Disney replied that there has been no business cooperation of any sort between the two companies.

On March 18, 2019, Walt Disney (China) Co., Ltd. Issued a statement that said Walt Disney Company never had any level of business cooperation with VIPKid, especially in China. VIPKID had invited their students to participate in the “Disney Youth Education series” which is an extracurricular activities course at Disney land, California and is a project open to all age-appropriate people. 

People familiar with VIPKID revealed to Titanium Media that there is indeed some “cooperation” in the business, but it may have died because of the internal commercial conflict of interest in Disney China.

VIPKID is an online English teaching company. VIPKID has provided one-on-one online North American tutoring courses for young people aged 4 to 12 and has launched a variety of courses covering 18-year-olds in recent years. In June 2018, VIPKID announced the completion of D+ round of USD 500 million financing, with a valuation of more than CNY20 billion, which is known as the largest financing for global online education to date.

In response, VIPKID did not directly indicate whether it had cooperated with Disney officials but indicated that there were indeed many activities supported by Disney.

In April 2018, VIPKID launched its “World Classroom” project cooperating with the Orlando Tourism Bureau of Florida and Tourism Association of California. 16 episodes of children English teaching content in 2 seasons were shot at Disneyland, California and Disney World, Orlando. During the shooting according to VIPKID, they received support from the local tourism bureau and as well as the Disney staff.  

Around 5 months later, VIPKID held “World Classroom conference” at Shanghai Disney hotel and in Beijing. The head of Orange County Tourism Association of California and the Director of Marketing and Sales of Disney Destination China attended the conference and delivered speeches to jointly launch the VIPKID World Classroom Dream Seeking Tour. 

On February 8, 2019, the Orange County Tourist Association of California and VIPKID launched the World Classroom. Dozens of children from China participated in the Disney Youth Educational Series.

On March 5, 2019, VIPKID officially announced that Disney will open its premium experience learning program on the VIPKID platform, around 30 kids from China already became the first group of users of the program.

According to Disney, these activities have no cooperation whatsoever with VIPKID. 

Even if a huge company like Disney had business cooperation with VIPKID why would it suddenly deny it? Well, that is because Disney is very strict when it comes to copyrights and they do not want any company violating that in the name of cooperation. 

Let us say there was cooperation and if there was one there should be a hardcopy, VIPKID can just use it as a proof and it will all be over. Just because an official from Disney China attended the conference, VIPKID cannot say that they have cooperated with the firm. 

About the 16 episodes shot at Disney world, If the videos were shot with the permission of the Disney world officials then the copyrights of the content belong to VIPKID and they can upload it on their official website or accounts. 

People familiar with the Chinese online education company said the sudden backing out of Disney might be because of Disney English. Disney English is used in more than 100,000 classrooms and operates in more than 50 countries according to the official source.

VIPKID, on the other hand, targets the same age of children (2-18) and has more than 500,000 paid users in 63 countries worldwide. 

From Disneys prospective Disney English has been its key business in China since it entered back in 2018.  Although it is based on offline English education, it can be said that its core competitiveness is Disney's content itself.

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