Walt Disney Co. employees and partners will get a sneak peek of the $5.5 billion Shanghai Disneyland from this weekend, as the world’s largest entertainment company gets set for next month’s official opening of its first theme park in mainland China.
The company will start six weeks of trial operations for the Shanghai Disney Resort from May 7, Disney said in an e-mail statement Friday. Invited participants, limited to the resort’s employees, partners and stakeholders, will be able to try out some attractions, entertainment and dining on selected dates, it said.
Such trials are a key pre-opening step for all Walt Disney Parks and Resorts destinations and major attractions around the world, Disney said. The Chinese resort officially opens June 16.
Disney is planning a three-day event to mark the opening of its newest park next month, which will include a red carpet premiere of its Lion King Broadway show, the first time the production will be performed in Mandarin. The company has been on a recruiting drive to staff up the park, which Chief Executive Officer Robert Iger said last year would employ about 10,000 workers.
The highly anticipated Chinese park, Disney’s sixth worldwide, comes as the company shocked investors on April 4 when it announced Iger’s top lieutenant Thomas Staggs was departing the company in September, leaving the CEO without an obvious successor. A 26-year-company veteran, Staggs had supervised major expansions such as the Shanghai resort and spearheaded acquisitions for the Burbank, California-based company.
Iger met with Chinese President Xi Jinping on Thursday in Beijing, in which Xi cited Disney as an example of expanded cooperation between U.S. and Chinese firms.
“What the Walt Disney Company has been able to achieve in China, I think, is a perfect example of cooperation, but it also came after years of understanding, years of building up a deep respect for one another and appreciation for each other’s interests,” Iger said in remarks to Xi at the meeting.
The CEO has called Shanghai Disneyland the company’s greatest opportunity since Walt Disney bought land in Florida in the 1960s. He’s counting on 330 million Chinese living within a three-hour train or car trip of Shanghai to fill the resort, which boasts two hotels and the largest castle it has built.
Tickets for the Shanghai park, three times the size of Hong Kong Disneyland, are priced at 499 yuan ($77) for peak periods such as weekends and summer holidays, and 370 yuan at other times.
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