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After five years of construction, $5.5 billion in spending and a month of testing to work out the kinks, Shanghai Disney Resort opened to the public just before noon, Shanghai time, on Thursday, June 16 (which was 9 p.m. Wednesday in Anaheim, home of the original Disney park). Shanghai Disneyland features six themed areas, and the resort contains two hotels, a shopping district and 99 acres of gardens, lakes and parkland. We'll keep you updated throughout the week with new details and peeks inside the resort.

Tracking clues to Shanghai Disney's hidden perk: a members-only Club 33

An entrance to the exclusive Club 33 at Shanghai Disney. (Julie Makinen/Los Angeles Times)
An entrance to the exclusive Club 33 at Shanghai Disney. (Julie Makinen/Los Angeles Times)

SHANGHAI — Opening its $5.5-billion resort in mainland China this week, Walt Disney Co. has been eager to share all manner of details about its Shanghai theme park — down to how many bok choy it expects to serve in the first year of operation (12 million, if you’re wondering).

But one thing Disney reps have not been keen to discuss is whether the resort has a Club 33, the members-only establishment for well-heeled and well-connected fans of the Mouse House.

Design documents for the theme park posted online three years ago revealed that significant elements of Chinese culture were being incorporated. The documents also posited that a less-than-egalitarian Club 33 would be located in the Shanghai resort, which is operated by a joint venture in which Disney holds a 43% stake and the state-owned Shanghai Shendi Group owns the rest.

Still, evidence was scant until this week, when the park formally opened its doors to the public Thursday.

Rain doesn't dampen the mood of opening day at Shanghai Disneyland

A child asks to be carried during a crowded opening day at the Disney Resort in Shanghai. (AP Photo/Ng Han Guan)
A child asks to be carried during a crowded opening day at the Disney Resort in Shanghai. (AP Photo/Ng Han Guan)

SHANGHAI — Under dark skies and light showers, Walt Disney Co. officially threw wide the gates of its most expensive international resort to mostly orderly crowds, creating a beachhead for the popular entertainment company in the most populous nation.

During a colorful opening ceremony attended by Chinese dignitaries, Disney Chairman and Chief Executive Bob Iger called the opening of the nearly 1,000-acre, $5.5-billion Shanghai Disney Resort “one of the proudest and most exciting moments in the history of the Walt Disney Company.”

Iger also read a letter from President Obama, who said the park “captures the promise” of the bilateral relationship between the U.S. and China.

To shine some sunlight on the day, senior Chinese official Wang Yang told Iger that the rain is an auspicious sign of dollars and renminbi to come.

Waiting in Shanghai -- lines are a theme park constant

Dressing up for opening day

Long lines and umbrellas on opening day at Shanghai Disneyland

Is the exclusive Club 33 coming to Shanghai Disney?

Club 33, a members-only club billed as "the most exclusive address in all of Disneyland," has long been one of the Anaheim park's most mysterious elements.

It is marked by a "33" sign next to the Blue Bayou Restaurant. Membership is exclusive and expensive -- with a waiting list that famously could take years to work through.

When Disney opened California Adventure at the Disneyland Resort, it introduced a second private club , called "1901" for the year Walt Disney was born. Access was granted only to members of Club 33.

Times Beijing Bureau Chief Julie Makinen spotted this at Shanghai Disney. Is it a secret doorway? An inside joke among Imagineers? Or, perhaps a third private club?

Beijing Bureau Chief Julie Makinen shrugs off the rain to give a glimpse of Shanghai Disney's opening day festivities

More faces of Shanghai Disney's first visitors

Disney fans rush into the Shanghai park as the rain pours down

Watch the dedication ceremony for Shanghai Disney Resort

Walt Disney Co. CEO Bob Iger mingles with Shanghai Disneyland visitors

Disney CEO Bob Iger reads a letter from Pres. Obama at Shanghai Disney opening: park 'captures the promise' of US-China relationship

--Julie Makinen

@JulieMakLAT

Brooklyn Nets center Brook Lopez rode Tron Lightcycles 'five or six times in a row'

At Shanghai Disney, there are fans and then there are superfans

The lines outside of Shanghai Disney on opening morning are remarkably quiet and orderly. Most of the visitors appear to be families -- lots of elderly people and small children -- with scattered corporate teams and bands of twentysomething superfans snapping selfies in front of a large, copper-colored Mickey Mouse fountain.

"I don't know much about the park, but I think my kid's really going to love it," said Summer Jiang, 32, a Shanghai resident visiting the park with her 1-year-old son. "I used to love Disney, maybe in my early 20s. But now I'm too old."

The Shanghai Disney launch has brought together a rare breed of Chinese citizen: the Disney superfan.

Claudia Wu, 30, an employee at an American law firm in Shanghai (second from left in the tweeted photo below), came to the opening with three other fans that she met via Weibo, China's version of Twitter. "When we watch Disney movies it makes us really happy," she said.

The Captain Jack stunt show plays well in Mandarin

Among the other attractions at Shanghai Disney's Treasure Cove is the "Eye of the Storm: Captain Jack's Stunt Spectacular" at the El Teatro Fandango, the playhouse for the pirate village. The show is unique to Shanghai Disneyland.

The crowd lines up for Shanghai Disneyland

How the Shanghai Disney version of Pirates of the Caribbean works

The original Pirates of the Caribbean attraction in Disneyland in Anaheim opened in 1967 and was the last attraction whose construction was overseen by Walt Disney before he died.

Nearly 50 years later, the latest version of the ride, officially opening to the public at Shanghai Disneyland, includes many advances that won't be found in the original.

The new ride, Pirates of the Caribbean: Battle of the Sunken Treasure, will feature boats that can spin, travel sideways and backward, and “react smartly to their position” to create a more individualized experience.

In this video, Disney fans rely on patent records and overhead images to try to uncover the technology behind the magic.

How Chinese is Shanghai Disney?

 (Ng Han Guan / Associated Press)
(Ng Han Guan / Associated Press)

With its giant Starbucks, Cheesecake Factory and Wolfgang Puck restaurant, you might for a minute mistake the new Shanghai Disney Resort for theme parks in Anaheim or Orlando, Fla.

A marching band walks by playing “Zip-a-Dee-Doo-Dah,” then Pharrell Williams’ “Happy,” along with a snippet of “When the Saints Go Marching In.”

But little differences gradually come to light: Squat toilets? Check. “The Lion King” in Mandarin (with no English subtitles)? Check. Eel over rice and Peking duck pizza for lunch? Check and check.

So just how Chinese is Shanghai Disney?

That’s been the $5.5-billion question for Disney fans around the globe as the Burbank-based entertainment giant opens its first park in mainland China in close cooperation with state-run Chinese investment companies and Communist Party officials.

Video: A flyover view of Shanghai Disney

Shanghai Disney  opens Thursday -- a massive, nearly 1,000-acre resort that is expected to draw up to 10 million visitors per year. Here is a taste of what those visitors will see when they get to the park.

Is there enough Chinese demand for a double dose of Disney in Shanghai and Hong Kong?

 (EPA)
(EPA)

Will the opening of Shanghai Disney suck the wind out of the sails of Hong Kong Disneyland or push more mainland Chinese to visit the new resort?

That’s the multimillion-dollar question facing Hong Kong government officials and Disney executives as the theme park giant prepares to open its Shanghai resort on June 16.

Attendance at Hong Kong Disneyland dropped sharply in the 12 months ending September 2015, the park has said, falling to 6.8 million from a record high of 7.5 million in 2014. Hotel occupancy declined to 80% from 93%. The facility — which is 52% owned by Hong Kong’s government and 48% by Disney — reported a loss of about $20 million.

Disney representatives say the market is large enough to support multiple parks.

“From the beginning, our strategy was to create two complementary parks that have their own distinct experiences,” Disney spokeswoman Angela Bliss said. “The U.S. supports two Disney resort destinations, with six theme parks, and the population is relatively smaller than China’s.”

-- Violet Law and Julie Makinen

The Tron roller coaster is one of a kind

On Shanghai Disneyland's Tron ride, an exhilarating roller coaster in the park's Futureland area, riders race headlong into dark tunnels interspersed with shows of red, blue and yellow lights.

The ride, inspired by the 1982 movie, is the first of its kind in a Disney park and is expected to be Shanghai Disneyland's most popular attraction.

The reviews so far have been glowing and many Disney fans have been clamoring on online chat sites for Disney to recreate the attraction in other parks. No word yet if Disney plans to follow through on that idea.

Copyright © 2017, Los Angeles Times
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