Disneyland With Distinctly Chinese Flavor Opens In Shanghai

Plutarc Sicat - Author
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Jun. 10 2016, Updated 12:03 a.m. ET

The first Disneyland that is customized to the culture and taste of its host country officially opened on June 9, one week before it opens to the general public on June 16. Dubbed Shanghai Disneyland, the resort boasts of the biggest castle ever built by the Walt Disney Company, in addition to the biggest Disneyland ever.

According to CNBC, the Chinese Disneyland is “spread over 963 acres – a space that includes two hotels, a 100-acre lake and the most interactive Storybook Castle ever built by Disney.”

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In the words of the Los Angeles Times, Shanghai Disneyland “is nearly twice the size of the Anaheim Resort (which includes Disneyland and California Adventure, three hotels and the Downtown Disney shopping, dining and entertainment complex).”

With the creation of the most expensive Disney theme park to the tune of $5.5 billion, no one dared to accuse the Disney company of going crazy or blowing things out of proportion. After all, the total population of China is pegged at 1.382 billion. With this many people potentially entering park gates, what initially looks like a supersized investment is actually chicken feed — or is it chicken feet?

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Besides, Walt Disney did not exactly cover the full amount of the investment. It had help from a local Chinese company, the Chinese state-backed consortium Shanghai Shendi Group. Under this dispensation, the U.S. company only holds a 43 percent stake in the business.

With Shanghai Disneyland, the company that American visionary Walt Disney built now has four Disneylands outside mainland America: Paris, Hongkong, Tokyo, and China.

However, what sets the China Disneyland apart is that the family entertainment resort is tailored to Chinese tastes. In contrast, all other Disneylands outside of the mainland United States stick to the tried-and-tested Disney formula, as well as overall architectural design. CNBC expounded on the uniqueness of Shanghai Disneyland as follows:

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“Unlike Hong Kong Disneyland and Tokyo Disneyland, which visitors say are near-carbon copies of the U.S. theme parks, the Magic Kingdom in the Middle Kingdom gave plenty of nods to its host nation, by mixing classic Disney features with Chinese customs and architecture. For example, rather than an American-style Main Street, the main promenade is called Mickey Street, and the 12 animals of the Chinese zodiac have been given a Pixar-style makeover.”

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It is unconfirmed whether the Shanghai Disneyland serves up Chinese fast food, but there are many other customizations worth mentioning as follows:

  • Walt Disney hired Chinese architects and tasked them with reimagining a Disneyland that is authentically Disney and distinctly Chinese.
  • More seating capacity in areas where food is served, as Chinese guests are known to linger longer after a meal.
  • Better crowd control features at the gates due to the anticipated attendance numbers rivaling a stampede of Jurassic Park proportions if things get out of hand.
  • A mobile app that advises patrons when Shanghai Disneyland is over capacity.
  • Extensive picnic areas, since the Chinese love to bring their family and extended family along when visiting.
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Both CNBC and The Wall Street Journal are eyeing developments over Shanghai Disneyland’s opening as this is the single biggest financial risk that Disney has taken so far in an overseas market. Disney CEO Bob Iger explains, as follows.

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“Shanghai park is part of a bigger push into the Chinese market and a booster rocket for people’s appreciation of Disney.”

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The Wall Street Journal has covered security concerns at the Shanghai Disneyland and is only too happy to report that policing this particular Disneyland is relatively easier despite the maddening crowd. The source explains that the Chinese government will leave policing in the hands of park operatives instead of maintaining a strong presence in the theme park.

With the opening of Shanghai Disneyland, Disney’s Star Wars portfolio can potentially receive a big boost. Disney bought the rights to the space opera lock, stock, and barrel from original creator George Lucas on October 20, 2012, to the tune of $4.05 billion. With increased awareness for all things Disney comes a warmer upcoming reception for future Star Wars movies.

[Photo by Handout/Getty Images]

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