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.
If Walt Disney Co. executives thought they were going to open a theme park in mainland China without major opposition, they were wrong. Only weeks before the launch of the 5.5-billion Shanghai Disney Resort, a Chinese rival has vowed to outperform Disney with local theme parks that offer lower prices and more innovative rides and characters. "I'm holding that we can win out," said Wang Jianlin, chairman of the Dalian Wanda Group, a Chinese conglomerate that specializes in hotels, malls and department stores. This weekend, the company plans to open a 3.2-billion tourism center in Nanchang, a midsize city in southeastern China. The Wanda Group, which acquired United States-based AMC Theaters in 2012, has promised to build 15 to 20 other smaller theme parks across the country over the next several years.
Will the opening of Shanghai Disney suck the wind out of the sails of Hong Kong Disneyland or push more mainland Chinese to visit the new resort? That's the multimillion-dollar question facing Hong Kong government officials and Disney executives as the theme park giant prepares to open its Shanghai resort on June 16. Attendance at Hong Kong Disneyland dropped sharply in the 12 months ending September 2015, the park has said, falling to 6.8 million from a record high of 7.5 million in 2014. Hotel occupancy declined to 80% from 93%. The facility -- which is 52% owned by Hong Kong's government and 48% by Disney -- reported a loss of about 20 million.
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.