Located in the heart of Shanghai's Pudong District, Disney's first store in China is the largest in the world. Image: The Walt Disney Company.

Disney Dreams Big in China with New Store and Park

Japan China

The doors to Disney’s first store in China recently opened to huge crowds of eager shoppers. The store opened on May 20th at 1:14 pm, a time chosen for its significance in Chinese social media as a time for openly expressing love and long-term commitment to one another. The Chinese location is the largest Disney store in the world at 9,257 square feet and sits in Shanghai’s iconic Pudong district. Each year the area welcomes around 40 million tourists, both from China and abroad.

In addition to the new store, Disney has partnered with the Shanghai Shendi Group in a joint venture to open Shanghai Disneyland in the spring of 2016, the first Disney theme park in Mainland China. Expected to be the largest theme park in China, the park will also feature the largest Disney castle in the world and the first instance of an entire section of a Disney park to be devoted to its Pirates of the Caribbean brand. Originally projected to open by the end of 2015, the park’s debut was pushed back to because of the challenges posed by its massive scale and cost.

Disney already operates a park in nearby Hong Kong. Despite a rocky opening in 2005, Hong Kong Disneyland has since enjoyed great success. In 2014, Hong Kong Disneyland generated $5.4 million in revenue, a 12% increase from the previous year, and welcomed its 50 millionth guest. Roughly 48% of visitors to Hong Kong Disneyland were from Mainland China. The new Shanghai theme park hopes to attract the 330 million residents who live within a 3 hour travel radius of the park.

Disney has already found huge success in Asia, and especially in Japan. In Japan alone, Disney has 46 stores and 2 theme parks, Tokyo Disneyland and Tokyo DisneySea. Disney has also enjoyed huge box office success in Japan with its recent animated films Big Hero 6 and Frozen. Big Hero 6 was the first ever Disney animated movie to premier at the Tokyo International Film Festival and Japan accounted for 29% of Frozen’s total international box office revenue. By bringing the full Disney experience to Chinese consumers, the company is hoping to mirror its success in Japan and tap into an already strong market demand in China for its products.

Sarah Wang is the Event Coordinator and a Project Assistant at the East-West Center in Washington.