When ticket sales went live in late March it only took a couple of hours for Shanghai Disneyland’s opening weekend to sell out. Scheduled to open in June of 2016, the new Disneyland park in mainland China will be the largest amusement park ever to open. Already operating in Asia with Hong Kong Disney and Tokyo Disney Land and Sea parks, Disney Shanghai will be the newest addition to the Disney Park franchise, representing a major investment by the Disney group.
The park will include classics like the Disney Castle and the Dumbo Flying Elephant ride, but there will also be unique rides exclusive to Shanghai Disney the Tron Lightcycle Power Run rollercoaster and the Seven Dwarfs Mine Train. There will also be several different sections of the park new to Disneyland such as Adventure Isle and Treasure Trove. The park hopes to see record turnout and requires several hundred foreign volunteers to help with the predicted levels of foreign tourists, especially during opening week. Part of the preparation for Shanghai Disney is even happening in Minnesota where a restaurant owner is working to recreate his Boathouse restaurant.
Shanghai Disneyland has been hampered by setbacks and delays including a pushed-back opening date and a cut in labor at the Disneyland Resort in California to make up for the costs, all in order to ensure a smooth opening. In spite of these setbacks, Disney’s CEO is looking positively at the new park, stating that the estimated population within a three hour traveling distance of the park is 300 million, nearly equivalent to the entire population of the United States. His confidence is not unfounded, as others have also stated positive expectations for Shanghai Disney, with some suggesting that Chinese air travel stocks will soar thanks to the new park. The new Disney store that recently opened in Shanghai – like the park, also the largest of its kind anywhere in the world – also suggests the investment will be a success.
The Disney brand has proven hugely popular in Asia over the years. Tokyo Disney and Hong Kong Disney are both very successful in their respective markets. Ahead of the latest Star Wars film, promotion drew huge crowds to a wide range of events and special offers. A recent Disney film, considered by many to be a love letter to Japan, Big Hero 6 ended up gaining widespread popularity in Japan and won the Academy Award for best animated picture. Disney’s Frozen was also met with rave reviews and huge box office and DVD sales in Asia.
Lian Eytinge is research intern at the East-West Center in Washington and a student at the University of Southern California.