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January 14, 2016

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Home » Metro » Entertainment and Culture

Disney names day for city opening

DISNEY’S long-awaited theme park, its first on the Chinese mainland, will open in Shanghai on June 16, a Thursday, the company announced yesterday.

Disney, which hasn’t yet announced ticket prices, said the launch would include a three-day grand opening celebration.

“We have prepared a three-day celebration and are hiring more than 8,000 cast members, so about 10,000 cast members will welcome guests at the opening,” Philippe Gas, Shanghai Disneyland Resort’s general manager, told Shanghai Television yesterday.

“Six is a lucky number in China and according to the Chinese calendar it is the best date,” he said.

The US$5.5 billion facility will feature everything from an Enchanted Storybook Castle — the tallest in any Disney park — to a “Toy Story” hotel and a theater with a Chinese-language production of Broadway hit “The Lion King.”

Disney says the park will also reflect Chinese culture.

“When it opens in June, Shanghai Disney resort will be a one-of-a-kind, world-class destination that is authentically Disney and distinctly Chinese,” Disney Chairman and Chief Executive Robert Iger said in a statement.

“The resort reflects Disney’s legendary storytelling along with China’s rich culture, and showcases some of the most creative and innovative experiences we’ve ever created,” he said.

The blend of Disney and Chinese cultures will be visible in many classic Chinese designs, such as a teahouse named Wandering Moon, a garden mosaic depicting the 12 animals of the Chinese zodiac using images of Disney characters and local shikumen architecture.

Celebrations of seasonal festivals and stage shows will also incorporate Chinese language, performers, theatrics and acrobatics.

Shanghai Disney Resort will feature new attractions not seen at the five other Disney resorts worldwide, including a Magic Kingdom-style theme park with six different “lands,” two themed hotels, Disneytown — a huge shopping district — and Wishing Star Park.

“Shanghai Disney Resort celebrates China’s rich heritage and is the result of years of partnership and innovation with contributions from our talented cast members and imagineers, as well as thousands of artists, designers, construction workers and suppliers from across China and around the world,” Gas said.

The park is a joint venture between Disney and China’s state-backed Shanghai Shendi Group, with the US firm owning a 70 percent stake in the management company that will run it.

Construction of the resort started in 2011 and is now complete. An extensive period will now follow to ensure the resort is fully operational and ready to greet millions of guests.

“The construction of Shanghai Disneyland ... has gone through an extensive construction period and is now entering the preparation phase,” said Fan Xiping, chairman of Shanghai Shendi Group.

The idea for the Shanghai project was floated as far back as the late 1990s and President Xi Jinping has said he backed the plan.

Last year, he told US business executives that he helped the venture get under way when other officials were pushing for a more Chinese culture-based project.

“I voted yes for Disney,” Xi said, “because China needs a diverse-culture-based entertainment market.”

The park was initially due to open last year, but a decision to invest a further US$800 million on additional attractions for the park meant its debut had to be rescheduled.

Iger said the extra spending had “significantly” increased the size of the park.

The park is in the city’s Pudong New Area, not far from its international airport.

Chinese academics say it could contribute US$3.3 billion to Shanghai’s economy every year and account for 1 percent of the city’s annual gross domestic product.

The opening of the resort will help stimulate consumption of recreation facilities and their derivative products, said He Jianmin, director of the tourism management department of Shanghai University of Finance and Economics. It could provide an alternative model to the heavy reliance on ticket sales as a major source of income generally used by Chinese resorts, he said.

Parks and Resorts contributed about a third of Disney’s revenues for the latest fiscal year, according to a Disney report released in November.

The Shanghai Disney Resort will benefit enterprises which hold the stakes and franchise rights as well as tourism, trade and retail in the city itself, said Sun Jinju, an analyst with Guotai Junan Securities.

The resort is expected to bring 5 million new passengers annually to the Pudong International Airport after it opens, according to Sinolink Securities. It is also expected to attract 10 million visits a year, it said.

Yesterday’s announcement boosted a number of stocks on the Shanghai Stock Exchange, including hotels, retailers and subway companies, although it closed lower due to weak performance across the board.


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