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.
As Disney prepares to officially open its first theme park in mainland China on Thursday, hundreds of members of the press and VIP guests descended upon the company's Shanghai resort Tuesday for final previews of the massive 5.5-billion complex. Disney isn't saying how many guests it expects to entertain in the first year, though outside analysts have put the number at 10 million to 12 million, with up to 30 million a year if Disney expands onto adjoining parcels. Capturing the vast nature of the Shanghai park -- Disney's largest investment to date outside of the United States -- is hard to do in both words and pictures, but the Mouse House's masters of publicity have prepared a raft of statistics that aim to illustrate just how huge the development is. Take our quiz to see if you've got a grasp on the dimensions of Disney's newest theme park.
Tickets were sold out within hours of going on sale at midnight on Monday, Bloomberg reported Monday. A girl buys tickets of the Shanghai Disney Resort on Chinese online shopping site Taobao.com in Shanghai, China, 28 March 2016. People who don't mind missing out on the big opening extravaganza can still get tickets for the days leading up to Sep. 30, which are priced between 370 yuan ( 56) and 499 yuan ( 76). SEE ALSO: Happy Birthday, Disneyland: Inside Walt's relationship with the Happiest Place on Earth Disney had said in earlier local reports that the pre-sale was arranged in order to give the park time to plan for and manage crowds on opening day and deal with counterfeit tickets. This is Disney's first theme park in mainland China -- Hong Kong Disneyland opened in 2005.
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.
"We will take a phased approach with limits on attendance using an advanced reservation and entry system, controlled guest density using social distancing and strict government required health and prevention procedures," Disney Chief Executive Officer Robert Chapek said on a conference call with analysts after reporting second-quarter earnings.