Even before Walt Disney Co. opened Euro Disneyland outside Paris in 1992, French intellectuals called the park a "cultural Chernobyl," workers protested the Disney dress code and neighbors complained that the park's train whistles provoked their dogs to bark and geese to honk. But Paris came to embrace its new neighbor and now the park attracts 10.4 million people a year, more than the number of visitors to the Louvre museum or the Eiffel Tower. On June 16, Disney will open its biggest and most expensive international resort -- a nearly 1,000-acre, 5.5-billion development in Shanghai -- and company executives know the challenges of trying to take the Disney magic abroad. If it proves a hit, Shanghai Disney will add momentum to the Burbank entertainment giant's efforts to turn China's 1.4 billion citizens into more voracious consumers of Mouse House merchandise and films. Shanghai Disneyland won't swing wide its gates to the general public until June 16, but pre-opening visitors to Walt Disney Co.'s first theme park in mainland China already have found something to complain about amid operational tests for a dazzling array of attractions: the prices, particularly... Shanghai Disneyland won't swing wide its gates to the general public until June 16, but pre-opening visitors to Walt Disney Co.'s first theme park in mainland China already have found something to complain about amid operational tests for a dazzling array of attractions: the prices, particularly... Disney's target is the country's upper middle class, which is forecast to double to 100 million by 2020, according to the Boston Consulting Group.
The chairman of China's biggest conglomerate recently predicted that a new 5.5-billion Disney theme park opening in Shanghai next month would fail, citing a lack of innovation with intellectual properties and characters. But when that same conglomerate, Dalian Wanda Group Co., opened a rival theme park over the weekend, visitors were greeted by workers dressed as Disney characters, including Captain America, Snow White and Star Wars storm troopers. Disney vowed to take action to protect its intellectual property rights. "We vigorously protect our intellectual property and will take action to address infringement," Disney said in a statement to Bloomberg News. It was only a week ago that Wang Jianlin, chairman of the Wanda Group, predicted that the 15 to 20 theme parks his company plans to build throughout China will outperform the Shanghai Disney Resort by offering lower prices and "constant innovation."
The 60th anniversary celebration at Disneyland helped push attendance at the park up by 9% last year, while SeaWorld San Diego continued to struggle amid animal rights controversies, with attendance falling 7%. New attractions and celebrations helped lure more visitors to every major theme park in North America other than SeaWorld San Diego, according to estimates from an annual attendance study by Los Angeles-based consulting firm Aecom. "Over the last couple years, the aggregate increase of the 20 top performing theme parks in North America was between 2% and 3.5% -- good, steady, moderate growth. But it positively leapt beyond that in 2015 to an impressive 5.9%," said Brian Sands, a vice president with Aecom, which produces the annual attendance report with the Themed Entertainment Assn., a trade group for theme park designers and producers. The report didn't speculate why SeaWorld lost ground last year, bringing in 3.5 million visitors, but the marine park has acknowledged that it has foundered in its efforts to improve its image in the face of criticism from animal rights groups.
When you emerge from Disney subway station, turn left at "Wonder Street" and stroll along the banks of Wishing Star Lake towards the Mediterranean-style buildings of Disney Town, with its friendly staff waving their giant Mickey Mouse hands, you could be forgiven for wondering if you are really in the People's Republic of China. That's where the media's recently been filled with government warnings about the dangerous influence of Western values on the nation's young people. But the combination of the capitalist West's most famous dream merchants and the ideologues of the Chinese Communist Party was always going to involve some suspension of belief. The ultimate test of that combination comes Thursday, June 16, as the 5.5 billion Shanghai Disneyland -- the Walt Disney Co.'s sixth theme park worldwide and mainland China's first foreign-invested theme park -- opens to the public. What Disney calls the "biggest magic kingdom park ever made" is also a significant leap of faith for the company.
Tourists in China, take out your Mickey Mouse ears: The gates to Shanghai Disneyland have been flung open. Walt Disney Co. opened the sprawling 5.5 billion theme park Thursday in a bid to attract growing numbers of middle class Chinese and to capitalize on newfound openings for Western dollars in communist China. Disney calls its Shanghai project the "biggest magic kingdom park ever made." Spread across 963 acres, the park includes an Enchanted Storybook Castle, a Disney Town with restaurants, toy shops and hotels, plus six so-called theme lands, including pirate-riddled Treasure Cove and eternally youthful Peter Pan's Flight ride. Shanghai Disneyland is Disney's sixth theme park worldwide and the first in mainland China built with foreign investment.