Big on ‘Pirates,’ but No Space Mountain: Shanghai Disney Plans Unveiled

15 Jul 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

Big on ‘Pirates,’ but No Space Mountain: Shanghai Disney Plans Unveiled.

SHANGHAI — The Walt Disney Company unveiled on Wednesday the designs and attractions at the new megaresort that is expected to open here in Shanghai in the spring, its first theme park in mainland China. Shanghai Disneyland will feature new “Star Wars” and Marvel experiences along with six themed areas that combine classic Disney brands with new ones.Walt Disney Co.’s new park in China will offer Jet Packs, a rafting adventure, rides on a Tron-themed Lightcycle and the largest parade in any of its resorts, all aimed at winning over Chinese customers.

The $5.5 billion resort in Shanghai will feature six themed lands, two Disney-themed hotels, a Disneytown shopping and entertainment district and Wishing Star Park, a walkable garden next to a lake. In a major unveiling in China, Disney chief executive Robert Iger gave details about the major areas and attractions that will be at the company’s sixth theme park, scheduled to open next spring. Disney, which is developing the $5.5 billion theme park with China’s state-owned Shanghai Shendi Group, said the park has been designed to appeal to Chinese visitors. Mickey Avenue: The main entrance to the park, with designs inspired by Mickey Mouse and other cartoon characters, as well as meet-and-greets with employees dressed up as them. Disney earlier this year delayed the opening of Shangai Disneyland until the first half of 2016 from a scheduled start at the end of 2015 as it expanded plans for the park.

A more Chinese theme will be seen in the Garden of the Twelve Friends, where animals of the Chinese zodiac are re-imagined as Disney and Pixar characters. One of the most anticipated new rides, this rollercoaster in Tomorrowland that will reach top speeds of 100 kilometers, or 60 miles per hour, said Bob Weis, executive vice president of Walt Disney Imagineering.

Disney’s first resort in the Chinese mainland “celebrates and embraces China’s incredibly rich heritage,” Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Robert Iger said at the media event in Shanghai. The company promises it will be “authentically Disney and distinctly Chinese.” Credit Johannes Eisele/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images Disney’s goal is to create an engine that will drive demand in China for a wide range of Disney products: toys, clothes, furnishings, movie downloads and video games. Details are still scant, but also included in Tomorrowland will be Star Wars Launch Bay, where guests can view props and memorabilia from the most recent film — which should arrive in theaters just a few months before Shanghai Disney opens — and “be immersed in the Skywalker story through a state-of-the-art cinematic experience.” A Marvel Universe attraction will offer visitors the chance to “learn to draw some of the characters” and “attend a multimedia mission briefing” in the world of Marvel superheroes. Disney typically relies on the creation of new Disney TV channels to pump its brand abroad, but China’s limits on foreign media have made that impossible.

The highlight will undoubtedly be the Pirates of the Caribbean — Battle for Sunken Treasure ride, a modernized version of the classic Disneyland boat ride. The world’s largest theme-park operator also will have to deal with increased competition, including a Universal Studios theme park being built in Beijing, and a studio and entertainment center in Shanghai from DreamWorks Animation SKG Inc. The new ride will feature boats that can spin, travel sideways and backwards, and “react smartly to their position” to create a more individualized experience.

Generating particular interest online ahead of Wednesday’s announcement was Disney’s decision to build a major “Tron”-themed attraction. “Tron: Legacy” was released in China in 2010, but it took in only $19 million there. Those looking for a more placid experience can ride the Explorer Canoes, with the assistance of a captain, or check out a sword-fighting stage show, Eye of the Storm: Captain Jack’s Stunt Spectacular. The ride will take guests into a dark cavern where they will discover the secrets of an ancient tribal legend and a “massive, mysterious” reptilian creature called “Q’araq” that looks like a T-Rex and is “almost the size of a bus.” The back story of Adventure Isle is said to revolve around “the Arbori people, whose thriving civilization was founded on this isle several thousand years ago” and was discovered by a group of international explorers. The parks and resorts division is Disney’s second largest, after TV networks, accounting for 31 percent of the company’s $48.8 billion in revenue in the last fiscal year.

A boutique-size Hong Kong Disneyland, which opened in 2005, struggled with losses for its first six years, in part because attendance was lower than expected; visitors and the local news media criticized the park as not offering enough to do. Disney and the Hong Kong city government, which owns 52 percent of that resort, have since poured more than $1 billion into a resort expansion that will stretch into 2017. The first ride to take Disney visitors under a castle, it is a boat ride into a “secret underground chamber” with “fountains of light and shimmering pools.” The Shanghai Disney castle will be the biggest at any Disney park, and feature all Disney princesses. In its announcement Wednesday, Disney said the new resort had more technology and original features than previous parks, including many Chinese features blended into mosaics, gift items, performances and even the huge castle. The castle itself will feature a walk-through attraction, Once Upon A Time Adventure, with an animated version of Snow White that guests can interact with.

Some of Disney’s most iconic attractions, including Space Mountain, It’s a Small World and Star Tours, a “Star Wars”-themed journey through space, will not be featured when the park opens. Disney owns about 43 percent of Shanghai Disneyland, with the balance held by Shanghai Shendi, a government-controlled entity; Disney retains operational control, however, holding a 70 percent stake in the management company created with Shendi to run the resort.

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