In a few years, the Chinese will no longer need to go abroad or to Hong Kong to meet their cartoon idols, Mickey Mouse and Donald Duck.
On November 5, an agreement between the Walt Disney Company and the Shanghai Shendi Group (SSG) on the building of a Disneyland in Shanghai was officially signed. The Shanghai fun park will be the fourth Disney theme park outside the United States besides Paris, Tokyo and Hong Kong.
The whole project, which is to cover 1.16 square km, will be the largest Disneyland in the world, said He Jianmin, Director of the Tourism Department of the Shanghai University of Finance and Economics, which participated in the appraisal of the project.
The construction will be divided into three phases. The first phase, including a nearly 1-square-km theme park area, is to involve an investment about 25 billion yuan ($3.68 billion) and is planned for completion around 2014. After it opens, the number of tourists is expected to add up to 10 million every year, while the total tourists visiting the whole park will be 30 million annually, He said.
Water will be one of the main features of the first phase of the Shanghai Disneyland. A 0.39-square-km lake will be built in the first phase, which will take up a sizeable proportion of the entire park. It will be used as a base for water recreation activities and transportation.
In the northeast of the lake, a 7,000-square-meter artificial island will be built. On the north side of the lake are spaces for the construction of a public transportation hub, entertainment facilities and hotels. A river which will surround the park has been under construction since October. As a whole, the park will present to tourists an impression of a water world.
The section to be built in the first phase will focus on the theme of a magic kingdom. It will include five different theme areas.
A 20-square-km Shanghai International Tourism Resort will be built to surround the theme park. A joint venture set up in August by Disney and the SSG will be in charge of operating the Shanghai theme park.
A special Disneyland subway line is to be built to link the fun park with the urban area of Shanghai.
From the idea of cooperation to the formal signing of the agreement, both parties of the park's construction have waited for more than a decade.
Walt Disney was the first big U.S. entertainment company to have access to the Chinese market. In 1986, the China Central Television (CCTV) and Walt Disney signed an agreement to air the Mickey Mouse and Donald Duck cartoon series in China. Since then, Disney has had wide-range cooperation with its Chinese business partners in areas such as movies, TV and Disney brand product promotions and sales.
With the success of the cartoon series, the idea of building a Disney theme park in Shanghai struck the then city leader.
A decade-long negotiation between the two sides began. But, Disney was cautious about site selection, the first Disney theme park in China opened in Hong Kong in 2005.