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.
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.
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 for food sold in the park. "Food in Shanghai Disney is really not cheap," groused Cao Xinting, a 24-year-old Shanghai resident who participated in a test run on May 7, joining about 1 million visitors from all over China who are getting an early look at the park. It's not that Cao is strapped for cash. She works for a state-owned enterprise and her annual salary is around 15,300 -- nearly double China's gross domestic product per capita, which reached 8,000 in 2015. But Cao said she was disappointed with a latte that cost around 5. "It costs as much as the coffee in Starbucks, but it tasted far worse than that in Starbucks," Cao said.
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.
Opening its 5.5-billion resort in mainland China this week, Walt Disney Co. has been eager to share all manner of details about its Shanghai theme park -- down to how many bok choy it expects to serve in the first year of operation (12 million, if you're wondering). But one thing Disney reps have not been keen to discuss is whether the resort has a Club 33, the members-only establishment for well-heeled and well-connected fans of the Mouse House. Design documents for the theme park posted online three years ago revealed that significant elements of Chinese culture were being incorporated. The documents also posited a less-than-egalitarian Club 33 would be located in the Shanghai resort, which is operated by a joint venture in which Disney holds a 43% stake and the state-owned Shanghai Shendi Group owns the rest. Rain doesn't dampen the mood of opening day at Shanghai Disney » Still, evidence was scant until this week, when the park formally opened its doors to the public on Thursday.