Even before Walt Disney Co. opened Euro Disneyland outside Paris in 1992, French intellectuals called the park a “cultural Chernobyl,” workers protested the Disney dress code and neighbors complained that the park’s train whistles provoked their dogs to bark and geese to honk.
But Paris came to embrace its new neighbor, and now the park attracts 10.4 million people a year, more than the number of visitors to the Louvre museum or the Eiffel Tower.
On June 16, Disney will open its biggest and most expensive international resort — a nearly 1,000-acre, $5.5-billion development in Shanghai — and company executives know the challenges of trying to take the Disney magic abroad. An opening-day misstep or cultural faux pas at the Shanghai Disney resort could dent Disney’s hugely popular brand.
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.
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.