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Disney English
Company typeSubsidiary
FoundedOctober 2008
DefunctJune 22, 2020 (2020-06-22)
Number of locations
Key people
David Roberts (Executive Director of Digital Learning & Publishing, The Walt Disney Company, Greater China)
ParentDisney Learning division
Disney Publishing Worldwide

(Disney Parks, Experiences and Products)

Disney English (Chinese: 迪士尼英语; pinyin: Díshìní Yīngyǔ) was a subsidiary of Disney Publishing Worldwide's Disney Learning division that specialized in English language training for young learners, ages 2 to 12, in China using Disney characters.[2] Founded in 2008 in Shanghai,[3] its classes used a curriculum put together by teaching professionals from China, Europe, and the United States.[4] The program used the "Disney Immersive Storytelling Approach" which created an immersive environment incorporating Disney characters to make learning more fun for children.[5] The brand is also used in Europe and Singapore as a name for Disney's English-language learning products.


The outside of the first Disney English learning center on Mao Ming Road in Shanghai, China.

Since the mid-1980s, Disney had licensed its characters out to other English-language training programs.[6] The first center, located on Maoming Road in Shanghai, China, was opened in September 2008.[3][7] By July 2010, the company had 11 schools in 2 cities, eight in Shanghai and three in Beijing. While the English language instruction market had double since 2005 to $3.1 billion, 30,000 organizations or companies offered private classes in 2010.[7] Addition outlets for the curriculum were under consideration in 2010, distance learning program and a retail language training package.[6]

The opening of additional learning centers coincides with the development of the Shanghai Disneyland Park.[8][9] The entry into the English teaching market is expected to provide Disney with additional growth opportunities.[10]

With the launch of Disney English, several unauthorized schools using the Disney name or characters have been closed.[11]

In 2011, Disney English was named a finalist in two categories for the Distinguished Achievement Award from the Association of Educational Publishers. The categories included Life Skills and Character Education and The Arts.[12]

On June 4, 2012, in Washington DC, Disney English was presented with a Distinguished Achievement Award from the Association of Educational Publishers (AEP) for Whole Curriculum Programs ELL/ESL.[13]

In its Fiscal Year 2013 Annual Report, The Walt Disney Company stated that the company owned and operated 44 learning centers in 11 cities across China.[14]

On June 22, 2020, Disney English announced the permanent closure of all 26 training centers.[15]


The program was designed with an advisory board of academics specialized in English language teaching. An advisory panel of 19 international educators and early childhood experts[5] to the program included Dr. Jun Liu, head of the English Department at the University of Arizona and former President of TESOL; Dr. Renee Cherow-O'Leary,[16] Professor, English Education, Teacher's College, Columbia University;[17] Dr. Peiya Gu,[16] Professor of English at Soochow University (Suzhou); and Dr. Dilin Liu,[16] Professor of English and Coordinator of the TESOL/Applied Linguistics Program at University of Alabama.

The program is not a Western program but rather a global program that gives children a chance to combine what they know locally with the opportunity to see things globally.

-Andrew Sugerman, former General Manager of Disney English

Disney English used an immersive environment[5][18] approach that focused on the claims of multiple intelligences and experiential learning and on communication.[19] The program incorporated singing, interactive games, role-play and other activities aiming to engage children with the language.[5][18] Classes averaged only 12[citation needed] with a maximum of 15[2] and are given 1.5 to 2 hours per week.[20] The program cost about 12,000 yuan for 96 hours of instruction.[2][4]

Classes were taught by native English speaking foreign trainers[16] and local bilingual assistant trainers. While teaching, Disney English's foreign trainers were trained in TEFL-C.[16]

Each classroom was equipped with an interactive whiteboard, an adjacent projection wall, and a sound system. A typical center had 5 to 10 classrooms, each themed with a specific Disney property. The flagship center on Maoming Road in Shanghai, China had classrooms themed to: Snow White, The Lion King, Cars, Peter Pan, Tinker Bell, Winnie The Pooh and Toy Story.[2]

The program had been cited as an effort to establish the Disney brand in China. "US entertainment giant Disney saw this as a unique opportunity to teach English to small children, while at the same time establishing an extention [sic] of its branded products and characters across the country."[21] Shang Yang, chairman of Shangyang Enterprise Management Consulting has stated that "They're [Disney] starting years early, brainwashing Chinese children and cultivating them as potential clients in a very indirect, yet penetrating fashion."[20][22] Mary Bergstrom, founder of Bergstrom Group, a Shanghai consultancy, stated: "What Disney is doing now in China is growing a future consumer base."[22] As Wang Bing, an analyst at Philip Securities Research in Shanghai puts it, "Being surrounded by all sorts of Disney products and characters, it's almost impossible for parents and their children not to love Disney."[22] One author stated that Disney English was an example of childhood marketing[23][24] and preceded the development of the Shanghai Disneyland Park.


  1. ^ "Disney English Centers". Retrieved 9 May 2020.
  2. ^ a b c d "Mickey Mouse Teaches English In China". Forbes. 2012-04-18. Retrieved 2013-03-29.
  3. ^ a b "Here's why Disney built a resort in Shanghai". The Straits Times. June 1, 2016. Retrieved June 29, 2017.
  4. ^ a b F_221 (2010-08-16). "How Donald Duck and Mickey Mouse are explaining the intricacies of English - People's Daily Online". Retrieved 2013-03-29.((cite web)): CS1 maint: numeric names: authors list (link)
  5. ^ a b c d "Special Disney Project | TEFL Jobs in China | TEFL International". Archived from the original on 2012-11-02. Retrieved 2012-11-19.
  6. ^ a b Garrahan, Matthew; Saperstein, Annie (July 6, 2010). "Disney to expand language schools in China". Financial Times. Retrieved June 29, 2017.
  7. ^ a b Thorniley, Tessa (July 13, 2010). "Battle intensifies for $2bn English-teaching business in China". The Guardian. Retrieved June 29, 2017.
  8. ^ "Disney seeks 'cast members' to teach English in China". L.A. Biz. January 10, 2012. Retrieved 18 November 2012.
  9. ^ Jandt, Fred E. (2 February 2012). An Introduction to Intercultural Communication: Identities in a Global Community. SAGE. p. 291. ISBN 978-1-4129-9287-9. Retrieved 19 November 2012.
  10. ^ Yu, Howard (January 21, 2012). "Rethinking strategy to escape commoditization". The Jakarta Post. Retrieved 18 November 2012.
  11. ^ "Bogus 'Disney' school told to refund parents". Shanghai Daily. Retrieved 2009-03-11.
  12. ^[dead link]
  13. ^ "2012 DAA Supplemental Resources Winners | Awards | Association of Educational Publishers". Archived from the original on 2013-01-02. Retrieved 2020-06-23.
  14. ^[bare URL PDF]
  15. ^ "Disney English quits China after 12 years". SHINE. Retrieved 2020-06-22.
  16. ^ a b c d e "Disney English – Passion for English". Archived from the original on 2012-11-13. Retrieved 2012-11-18.
  17. ^ "Renee Cherow-O'Leary". LinkedIn.
  18. ^ a b "Disney English… Join the Adventure!". 2012-12-07. Archived from the original on 2013-01-16. Retrieved 2013-03-29.
  19. ^ "Disney English – Passion for English". Archived from the original on 2012-11-13. Retrieved 2012-11-18.
  20. ^ a b Michael Wei & Margaret Conley (June 9, 2011). "Some Chinese Kids' First English Word: Mickey". BusinessWeek (June 13–19, 2011): 24–25. Archived from the original on September 20, 2011.
  21. ^ "English as a Second Language". Archived from the original on 2013-02-05. Retrieved 2013-03-29.
  22. ^ a b c Michael Wei; Margaret Conley & Bloomberg Businessweek (2011-06-13). "Disney English: small world for Chinese students". SFGate. Retrieved 2013-03-29. ((cite web)): |author3= has generic name (help)
  23. ^ McLoughlin, Damien; Aaker, David A. (24 May 2010). Strategic Market Management: Global Perspectives. John Wiley and Sons. p. 218. ISBN 978-0-470-68975-2. Retrieved 10 June 2011.
  24. ^ Institute, Worldwatch (11 January 2010). State of the world, 2010: transforming cultures : from consumerism to sustainability : a Worldwatch Institute report on progress toward a sustainable society. W. W. Norton & Company. p. 64. ISBN 978-0-393-33726-6. Retrieved 10 June 2011.
External videos
video icon M-I-C-K-E-Y Teaches China to Speak English, Love Disney, Bloomberg