25 October 2016
Rainy debut: Golden Mickey and Minnie entertain visitors during the opening of Shanghai Disneyland on Wednesday.  Photos: Xinhua, RTHK
Rainy debut: Golden Mickey and Minnie entertain visitors during the opening of Shanghai Disneyland on Wednesday. Photos: Xinhua, RTHK

Shanghai Disney can’t wait to expand as it opens its gates

Shanghai Disneyland Resort, which opened on Thursday, is set to start work on its expansion this week, Walt Disney Co. announced.

The move shows that the US entertainment conglomerate is very optimistic about the prospects of its fourth overseas theme park after those in Paris, Tokyo and Hong Kong, the Hong Kong Economic Journal reports.

Chief Executive Robert Iger made the announcement on Wednesday at the pre-opening festival, which featured landmark Broadway musical The Lion King and the traditional Peking Opera.

A fireworks display scheduled for the night was canceled due to heavy rain, however.

Iger pledged to build Shanghai Disneyland into a theme park that truly belongs to China.

He said the park hosted as many as 500,000 visitors during its trial operation over the past month while the restaurant at the Cinderella Castle has been fully booked until July.

The Disney chief acknowledged that some improvements have to be made for the resort, which took five years to construct and cost over US$5.5 billion. 

He cited the long queues at some facilities, but stressed that the park has plenty of space to expand.

The park’s many attractions will ensure that visitors will enjoy their stay in the Magic Kingdom, he added.

The park’s unique features include a purely Chinese-style restaurant that serves pizza with Peking duck flavor and a Minnie Mouse doll with fashion accessories depicting the Chinese zodiac animals.

While Shanghai Disneyland is expected to help Disney tap the vast Chinese market and make a big contribution to its overseas business, the New York Times pointed out that the company had yielded to many of Beijing’s demands in order to land the deal.

Such an attitude towards China was totally different from Disney’s hard-line stance during its negotiations with the Hong Kong government for a theme park years ago, the newspaper said.

The NYT also revealed that the company once gave Chinese President Xi Jinping a gift, a photo of his father visiting Disneyland in the United States in 1980, as a token of friendship.

Apple Daily, meanwhile, quoted an unnamed source as saying that the Central Propaganda Department issued an order Wednesday banning media from posting a congratulatory message from Xi for the opening of Shanghai Disneyland. No explanation was given.

The Shanghai Disneyland’s opening has stoked concerns over its possible business impact on its Hong Kong counterpart.

Local travel agencies, including Hong Thai Travel Services and China Travel Service (Hong Kong), said tourist demand for the Shanghai theme park’s opening was not as huge as they had expected, Ming Pao Daily reported.

Simon Lee, assistant dean at the Business School of the Chinese University of Hong Kong, said students were busy preparing for their final exams and the Shanghai park itself does not seem to be very attractive to Hongkongers.

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