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Hong Kong Disney opens 'It's a Small World'

/ Source: The Associated Press

Hong Kong Disneyland has opened the classic boat ride "It's a Small World" in a bid to boost sluggish attendance at the theme park.

The new attraction launched Monday amid lower-than-expected visitor numbers two years after the theme park opened in September 2005.

The ride, which first appeared at the 1964 World Fair in New York, will feature 38 Disney characters and 241 moving and talking figures of children dressed in different national costumes. They sing a theme song in four new languages — Cantonese, Putonghua, Korean and Tagalog.

Management has been under pressure to improve turnover at the $3.5 billion park, which is majority owned by the Hong Kong government. Local legislators have criticized the park's performance, with one suggesting that Hong Kong pull out of the joint venture with The Walt Disney Co.

The theme park was supposed to be a triumphant showcase of the Disney brand on the doorstep of mainland China. In its first year it attracted 5.2 million visitors — 400,000 fewer than projected — and attendance slumped to about 4 million in the second year.

It faces increased competition from Ocean Park, a local marine-based adventure park. There have also been reports of a possible Disney theme park development in Shanghai.