The Walt Disney Company unveiled 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.
The company said it was completing work on a 1.5-square-mile area that will house the Shanghai Disney Resort, with six themed areas, including one devoted to the hit “Pirates of the Caribbean” film series, as well as live entertainment venues, a Broadway-style theater, two hotels and the “tallest, largest and most interactive castle at any Disney theme park.”
“We are taking everything we’ve learned from our six decades of exceeding expectations — along with our relentless innovation and famous creativity — to create a truly magical place that is both authentically Disney and distinctly Chinese,” Robert A. Iger, Disney’s chief executive and chairman, said at a news conference here.
Shanghai Disneyland represents an enormous bet on China’s shifting approach to westernized entertainment and leisure travel. Mr. Iger has said the company considers the $5.5 billion resort to be as transformative for the company as the establishment of Walt Disney World in Florida was in the 1970s.
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.
Despite Disney’s efforts, however, plans for the park have leaked for months onto fan blogs. 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. Disney recently decided not to move ahead with a sequel.
To compare, the last “Pirates of the Caribbean” movie, subtitled “On Stranger Tides,” took in $70 million in China in 2011. The strong audience response was one reason Disney felt comfortable in moving ahead with plans for a large “Pirates”-themed area.
In its announcement, 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.
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.
Perhaps surprisingly, “Star Wars” and the Marvel superhero movies will be represented upon opening, not by showpiece rides but by costumed character meet and greets, a comic book drawing area and a “cinematic experience.” When the resort opens, its Broadway-style venue, the Walt Disney Grand Theater, will have a global premiere of Disney’s hit show “The Lion King” in Mandarin.
Early this year, Disney said that it was moving the opening of the park to next spring, a delay from early 2016, and that the company and its Chinese partner would spend an additional $800 million to increase the number of rides on opening day, bringing total spending to $5.5 billion.