Robert Iger first set foot on the site in China that would become a Walt Disney Co. theme park 17 years ago. Back then the 963-acre site was mostly agricultural land, but now it has been transformed into Shanghai Disney Resort, a 5.5-billion project that has become an important symbol of Disney's ambitions in the world's most populous country. "It's kind of hard to believe we've been involved so long," said Iger at the MoffettNathanson Media and Communications Summit in May. The development, which opens June 16, means a lot to Disney's chief, who became CEO in 2005 and is expected to depart the company when his contract expires in 2018. And the stakes couldn't be higher.
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.
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.
Under dark skies and light showers, Walt Disney Co. officially threw wide the gates of its most expensive international resort to mostly orderly crowds, creating a beachhead for the popular entertainment company in the most populous nation. During a colorful opening ceremony attended by Chinese dignitaries, Disney Chairman and Chief Executive Bob Iger called the opening of the nearly 1,000-acre, 5.5-billion Shanghai Disney Resort "one of the proudest and most exciting moments in the history of the Walt Disney Company." Iger also read a letter from President Obama, who said the park "captures the promise" of the bilateral relationship between the U.S. and China. To shine some sunlight on the day, senior Chinese official Wang Yang told Iger that the rain is an auspicious sign of dollars and renminbi to come. The first wave of park visitors hurried through the gates, toting umbrellas or wearing rain slickers.
Zhou Jian, a 26-year-old folk dancer, dreams of a stage career, and he believes the Magic Kingdom can help him get there. Zhou recently made the 14-hour journey by train from Shanxi, China, to attend a jobs fair in Shanghai, where he hopes to land work at Walt Disney Co.'s 963-acre, 5.5 billion resort set to open June 16. He covets a role in the Lion King musical production that will be performed in Mandarin for the first time. The company's greatest business opportunity since founder Walt Disney bought land in central Florida in the 1960s. "I want to be famous before 30 years old," he said.