Shanghai Disney Resort could be bigger than Disneyland

Shanghai Disney Resort could be bigger than Disneyland
A woman rides a motorcycle taxi with a Disney character Minnie Mouse balloon in Beijing on November 7. Construction has begun on the Shanghai Disney Resort, which will be the first Disney resort in mainland China and is expected to open in late 2015. (MARK RALSTON / AFP/Getty Images)

When it comes to theme parks, the Walt Disney Co. could have a new No. 2 – Shanghai Disney Resort.

Speaking at the UBS 41st annual Global Media and Communications Conference on Tuesday, Chief Financial Officer Jay Rasulo said that Disney’s forthcoming park and resort in Shanghai could become “the second largest Disney destination in the world” behind the Walt Disney World Resort in the Orlando, Fla., area.

According to the Themed Entertainment Assn., which ranks theme parks worldwide by attendance,  17.5 million people visited Disney's Magic Kingdom property in Orlando last year – good for the highest attendance of any amusement park in the world.


The Shanghai property, which is under construction and projected to open at the end of 2015, is slated to include two hotels, 495,000 square feet of retail space, a dining and entertainment venue, a lake and other facilities and amenities.

The theme park will have a version of the Burbank-based entertainment company's Enchanted Storybook Castle -- a prominent feature at other Disney theme parks around the world.

Rasulo said the company has "big expectations" for the property, adding that Shanghai Disney will be situated in a "somewhat entertainment-deprived country."

"They have focused on many aspects of development in China and not surprisingly entertainment and leisure has lagged," he said. He noted the park and resort will be located within three hours of 330 million people.

"We believe we are developing a park that will absolutely blow people away...we look for big things there," Rasulo said.

Rasulo said the park has reached a construction milestone – it has gone "vertical," moving above ground.

"If you saw a picture of it today you would clearly see the outline of what will be a theme park," he said.  "Six months ago you wouldn't have been able to see that."

He said that the park and resort, upon opening, will be situated on a land mass of nearly 1,000 acres, making it the third largest in terms of physical size behind Walt Disney World and Disneyland Paris. He said that the company and the Shanghai government are “eager and willing to expand rapidly after that.”

At Disney's annual meeting in March, Disney Chairman and Chief Executive Robert Iger said he'd spent 15 years on the Shanghai project.

"This is personally very special to me," he said.