Disneyland Source: Xinhua/Song Zhenping

Chinese children can watch the cartoon films, meet Mickey Mouse at the Hong Kong theme park and even learn English from Donald Duck, but they have not yet been able to buy Disney merchandise directly from the entertainment company.

Whether this is a distinction the kids will appreciate, after all the company already has over 1000 authorised dealers in China, is debatable. But investors will be watching closely as Disney further establishes itself as a designer brand for China's little consumers.

China Daily reports that Walt Disney will open its first direct store - which will sell gifts, t-shirts and toys - in mainland China by mid-2012.

Disney has not said how many stores it plans or in which cities it will wave its magic wand, but it has revealed that it will locate its outlets in premium shopping malls, according to the local newspaper.

The entertainment company has had a tetchy relationship with the Chinese authorities after spending ten years battling to get a theme park in Shanghai.

Permission for the project was granted just before President Obama's visit in 2009, presumably to make him feel welcome, but Disney will still only own 43 per cent of the park.

The Shanghai government is taking the majority stake, echoing a similar arrangement which led to squabbles over staffing and capital spending at the Hong Kong Disneyland, according to the FT's Lex.