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Shanghai Disney: Magic Kingdom with a Chinese twist

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By Natalie Huet  with Reuters, The New York Times, Bloomberg
Shanghai Disney: Magic Kingdom with a Chinese twist

Disney has just opened a new theme park near Shanghai, where it hopes to tap China’s booming middle class and domestic tourism.

The group already had a park in Hong Kong but the Shanghai one is the first in mainland China. The project had been in the works for nearly two decades, and negotiations with Chinese authorities weren’t always easy.

Today Shanghai Disney is a joint venture with a state-run group – meaning Disney is sharing the keys with the Communist government.

The U.S. group poured $5.5 billion, or close to 5 billion euros, into this resort, its biggest foreign investment ever. It comes as China’s economic growth is actually slowing down. But Disney says this is a market that’s just too huge to ignore, and it hopes it will offset tough business at other sites around the world, including Hong Kong’s.

“China obviously represents incredible potential for the Walt Disney Company,” CEO Bob Iger told reporters at the park, which officially opened on Thursday (June 16).

Americana meets China

At this seven square kilometre park, Chinese zodiac symbols combine with Disney characters.

Attractions include a Chinese-style Wandering Moon tea house, a Chinese Zodiac-themed garden and a Tarzan musical featuring Chinese acrobats. An app will let guests check wait times on rides.

The firm estimates some 330 million people within a three-hour radius of Shanghai, China’s financial centre, could afford to come to the park.