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$5.5 billion Shanghai Disney Park Route for Disney’s China Fairytale Opened

$5.5 billion Shanghai Disney Park Route for Disney’s China Fairytale Opened
Prompting a rush from thousands of gathered Mickey Mouse enthusiasts to be the first to storm Treasure Cove, ride the Roaring Rapids or visit Disney's tallest castle, Walt Disney Co has opened the gates to its first theme park in China.
The park is a bet on China's middle class and booming domestic tourism and is Disney's largest overseas investment at $5.5 billion. The international theme park business has been lackluster as are the cash-burning sites such as Euro Disney, the U.S. firm hopes it will offset this loss making trend in the theme park business.
"This is one of the proudest and most exciting moments in the history of the Walt Disney Company," chief executive Bob Iger said at the official ribbon cutting ceremony where he was flanked by Chinese government officials.
Letters of support from Barack Obama and President Xi Jinping were read out by Iger and Chinese Vice Premier Wang Yang.
However everything about the park has gone quite to plan.
While at Disney's park in Orlando, Florida, a young boy was grabbed by an alligator and killed, the opening gala - meant to be a bonanza of fireworks, live music and dance - was rained off on Wednesday night.
Since the time that Walt Disney had bought land in Florida in the 1960s for what is now Walt Disney World - the world's most-visited theme park, the US company sees China as its biggest opportunity.
With that in mind, while attractions include the Chinese-style Wandering Moon tea house, a Chinese Zodiac-themed garden and a Tarzan musical featuring Chinese acrobats, Main Street has been replaced by Mickey Avenue to reduce the feel of Americana.
Nearly 330 million people within a three-hour radius of Shanghai will be able to afford to come to the park according to he estimates of Disney.
In a country where competition from a plethora of local theme parks promises to be fierce, the iconic U.S. firm is already expanding the Shanghai site to keep the home crowd keen.
"There is actually construction going on this week. When we open we will continue the construction to expand what's on the opening day menu," said Iger, who first scoped out the seven square kilometer plot in 1999.
"We have plenty of space to do that and we believe we've got willing partners ... We think we will probably do that sooner rather than later," he added.
Disney’s hit films such as "Zootopia" and "Captain America: Civil War", which are among the top grossing films in China this year, would attract more consumers with the opening up of Shanghai Disney.
However homegrown parks and domestic cartoon characters are giving Disney intense competition. With some consumers being skeptical about American values overriding Chinese traditions and culture, they also have an ambivalent attitude to its products.
Disney has been granted "special" trademark protection and Iger received a presidential welcome from Xi Jinping in May. However "Zootopia", a story about a rabbit police officer in an animal city, was a tool for spreading U.S. propaganda and ideals, warned China's main military newspaper.

Christopher J. Mitchell

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