Mickey Mouse may have met his match — the giant panda.
It was supposed to be a one-sided battle. Instead, in the nearly two years since Disneyland came to town, people in Hong Kong have rediscovered a theme park that's been sitting in their backyard for three decades, weathering all the ups and downs the territory has faced, from British colonial rule to its return to China to the deadly illness known as SARS.
Ocean Park, as it's called, made its improbable comeback under the guidance of a flamboyant businessman who repositioned it as the local choice, evoking nostalgia for the 200-acre park, and its resident pandas, where a visit has been a rite of passage for many Hong Kongers.
With Allan Zeman's help, the government-owned park has since set attendance records while Disneyland has suffered one blow after another, even failing to reach attendance goals. And Zeman, whose bald head and rail-thin body bring to mind Mr. Burns from "The Simpsons," without the evil, has just scored another coup: a gift of two toddler pandas from Beijing.
"China would never give pandas to Disney," said Lee Wing-tat, a Hong Kong legislator. "Beijing wants to show it cares about Hong Kong people. So they gave them to Ocean Park."