Sat, Apr 09, 2011 - Page 10 News List

Disney’s Magic Kingdom comes to Middle Kingdom

Reuters, SHANGHAI

Walt Disney Co broke ground on its long-awaited Shanghai Disneyland theme park yesterday, banking on its global brand and fairytale attractions to draw millions of visitors and boost its profits in the region.

Mickey and Minnie Mouse, dressed in ersatz Chinese garb, took to the stage with Cinderella and Snow White to launch a Magic Kingdom-styled park tailored specifically to China.

Disney’s first theme park in mainland China and its third in Asia will cost 24.5 billion yuan (US$3.7 billion). Hotels, additional entertainment and retail facilities will be built at a cost of 4.5 billion yuan.

Disney had long sought to build in Shanghai, China’s financial hub, and a wealthy city of 22 million that is ringed by the prosperous Yangtze River Delta, home to tens of millions more potential visitors.

“Today is a very, very special day in the history of Walt Disney,” Robert Iger, chief executive of Walt Disney Co, told a news conference.

“For many years, Disney has had a great affinity for China and has been interested in sharing its great products and services with the people of China,” Iger said.

Shanghai Disneyland will cover 3.9km2, will feature the largest Disney storybook castle in the world and have a huge 405,000m2 lake. The entire resort will house two Disney-themed hotels, outdoor recreation areas and a large entertainment, retail and dining facility.

“When they come to the park, we want them to say: ‘Wow look at that big castle,’” Iger said of the key feature of the park.

The park aims to attract 7.3 million visitors annually when it opens in about five years. Disney said the target market population for the park is 330 million people, the number of whom live within a three-hour drive or train ride of Shanghai.

The investment amounts will be split between Disney and the Shanghai Shendi Group (上海伸地集團), with Disney holding 43 percent of the shares of the owner companies and government-backed Shendi holding the remaining 57 percent

A joint venture management company will also be formed, with Disney having a 70 percent stake and Shanghai Shendi Group holding a 30 percent stake.

Disney opened Hong Kong Disneyland in 2005 and suffered years of slow attendance growth and net losses. In the park’s 2010 fiscal year, it suffered a net loss of HK$718 million (US$92.4 million)

Hong Kong Disneyland is undergoing expansion that will increase its size by 25 percent. It drew 5.2 million visitors last year, more than 40 percent from the mainland.

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