Disney's Shanghai launch a Mickey Mouse affair
Shanghai Disneyland will be even smaller than previously reported when it opens in five years, it emerged yesterday - but it remains unclear whether it will beat Hong Kong for the title of Disney's smallest park.
At a kitsch, out-of-tune and out-of-synch ground-breaking ceremony for the 24.5 billion yuan (HK$29 billion) project, Walt Disney officials confirmed the Shanghai amusement park, including 'back-of-house areas', would cover just 91 hectares, compared with Hong Kong's 130.
The figure is significantly less than the 116 hectares previously been announced, which included a 25-hectare car park.
In Hong Kong, however, the actual amusement park covers just 25 hectares of the plot, meaning it could still end up smaller than the Shanghai upstart. Disney officials were unable to provide a precise plot ratio for the new project yesterday.
The size of the Hong Kong park has been one of visitors' key complaints, and cited as a big factor in its failure to break even since it opened in 2005.
Walt Disney chief executive Robert Iger declared yesterday a 'defining moment in our company's history', and went on to brush aside suggestions there could be unhealthy competition between the Shanghai and Hong Kong parks.
'I think China is more than capable of sustaining two Disney destinations,' he said.
Iger said a second phase being built at the Hong Kong park would extend it by 25 per cent, and was 'indicative of our confidence in Hong Kong and Hong Kong Disney'.
He added that the Shanghai park would be aimed at the '330 million people within a three-hour car or train ride from Shanghai'.
'It will be a destination that will be authentically Disney and distinctly Chinese,' he said.
The Shanghai Disneyland sits inside a 390-hectare resort zone containing a large artificial lake, two hotels, a conference centre and retail and leisure facilities. It will be the first Disney park not to feature a 'Main Street', the brand's trademark entrance , but its centrepiece 'Storybook Castle' will be the 'tallest and largest our company has ever built' and the first that visitors will actually be able to go inside. 'It will be an attraction all in itself,' Iger said.
Main Street - modelled on Walt Disney's hometown in Missouri - had been dropped in an attempt to make the attraction 'more relevant and interesting'.
However, the ground-breaking ceremony did not bode well for the park's prospects.
It started with a troupe of Chinese drummers dressed in white outfits embroidered with blue dragons, beating out of time - both with each other and the blaring backing track.
Half a dozen female dancers whirled about in front, wearing kitsch oriental-inspired scarlet latex outfits that included knee-length boots and mini-skirts that were so short that the girls repeatedly flashed their underwear.
There followed a discordant medley of hits from the animations Pocahontas, Hercules and Quasimodo. The four main singers, one of whom sang in Chinese, were clearly lip-synching. At one point they were backed by a choir of 50 children, many of whom looked like they had put on their cutesy school uniforms in a hurry, with scruffily tucked-in shirts and skewed tartan skirts.
Technicians missed their cue when Shanghai party secretary Yu Zhengsheng declared the project officially underway - an accompanying video interrupted the emcee as she announced the next act.
The show's finale included a host of characters from the entertainment giant's most famous cartoons, including Mickey Mouse and his girlfriend Minnie, plus Daffy Duck, Goofy and Pluto, all dressed in Chinese outfits.
Other characters joining them on the stage included Aladdin, Princess Jasmine, Snow White and most of the Toy Story cast.
Mini Magic Kingdom
The total area of the Shanghai Disneyland project has just shrunk 25 hectares to this amount, in hectares: 91
One country, two Disneys
Shanghai Disney park
Resort area: 4 sq km
Theme park area: 0.3 4 sq km
Hotel rooms: 1,220
Hong Kong Disney park
Resort area: 1.88 sq km*
Theme park area: 0.28 sq km
Hotel rooms: 1,000
* Size in 2013, after expansion