(Shanghai-AFP) – US entertainment giant Disney on Wednesday unveiled details of its planned theme park in Shanghai, promising Chinese features and new attractions not found in its five other resorts.
The Walt Disney Co. and Chinese Partner Shanghai Shendi Group broke ground on the $5.5 billion park in April 2011. The opening was originally planned for this year, but Disney has pushed it back to 2016.
“When we began this project, our goal was to create something that was authentically Disney and distinctively China. We believe we’ve achieved the perfect blend,” Disney chairman and chief executive Robert Iger told a media event.
The company has scrapped its signature “Main Street, USA” for mainland China, using a “Mickey Avenue” to replace the facade of an American town found at its theme parks in Paris, Hong Kong and Tokyo as well as those in the US.
When the French park was first proposed there was outrage over the prospect of an American cultural invasion, although Europeans later embraced it.
For the Shanghai Disney Resort, cultural considerations include food and attractions — such as a garden mosaic depicting the 12 animals of the Chinese zodiac using images of Disney characters — as well as the presence of Chinese language throughout the park.
It will also feature the biggest Disney castle in the world and an entire pirate-themed “land” based on the movie franchise “Pirates of the Caribbean”.
The company has not announced a specific start date, but Iger reiterated that the doors would open next year.
Shanghai, China’s financial capital, sees the park as a key driver of tourism revenue for the future, as well as a showpiece for an international city.
A Disney executive played down potential competition, which includes homegrown offerings and projects by international rivals, saying China’s domestic tourism boom was a “tremendous opportunity” for the company.
“We feel like it’s really important for us to be in China at this time,” Bob Weis, executive vice president for Walt Disney Imagineering, told journalists.
US film studio DreamWorks Animation is building a $3.2 billion “entertainment zone” in Shanghai, while Universal Studios plans to construct a park in Beijing.