On April 7, 2011, Disney broke ground on its newest theme park – Shanghai Disneyland. The park comes as part of a wave of theme parks and entertainment venues taking shape across Asia, and particularly in China. With economic progress in the West ranging from sluggish to abysmal, the rapidly developing world of the East has sent out a siren song to entertainment purveyors. With a developing economy, burgeoning capitalism, and an emerging culture with money to spend, theme park owners are rushing to get in on the ground floor of an area that may soon be looking for a place to spend its entertainment dollars. Not to be left out, Disney quickly moved to establish a presence in China with a beautiful new park.
Early concept art of Shanghai Disneyland revealed a careful Disney balance between proprietary properties and a sensitivity to its new home culture. Main Street USA has been replaced with lush gardens which, in the renderings, seem full of cherry trees, and a large lagoon spotted with attractions sprawls along one side of the park.
At the center of the map, however, stands the familiar icon of a castle. Rather than associating Shanghai Disneyland’s castle with any particular princess, the structure will be known as Storybook Castle, and as the largest Disney castle ever constructed, will act as a dramatic centerpiece for the park.
New art released today reveals that the castle will be more than a showpiece. A breathtaking winding staircase will lead guests on a “Once Upon a Time Adventure” with Disney princesses. Below, guests will be able to embark on a ferry boat trip around the resort from the castle’s ground floor, much like that provided by Walt Disney World’s railroad.
Shanghai Disneyland also represents an interesting business venture for the Walt Disney company. Rather than solely owning and operating the park, Disney is sharing management and profits with Shendi Group, a Chinese property management company. Not only will the two entities share funding and profits, but according to chairman of Walt Disney Parks and Resorts Tom Staggs, they will also share the management of the park.
ChinaDaily.com reports that Shendi will own the larger part of the property and facilities (around 57% to Disney’s 43%) while Disney will retain lion’s share of the park management and operation (70% to Shendi’s 30%). “To put it in a simple way, Shendi provides funding and land, while Walt Disney offers funding and intellectual property. The two sides share the profits according to the shares they hold,” the source said.
This agreement, in many ways similar to common management of foreign hotels, not only allows Disney to share its financial risk, it ensures that the park is perceived as a partnership with China rather than an imposition.
What do you think of Shanghai Disneyland? Would you want to visit? Do you see Disney using its experience to make something really unique, or is this just more of the same?