Disney works its magic on new Shanghai theme park

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Disney works its magic on new Shanghai theme park

Shanghai - But, say observers, in a country where the average disposable income is just $278 a month, that might prove a little bit rich for some.


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Published: Wed 15 Jun 2016, 12:00 AM

Last updated: Wed 15 Jun 2016, 2:00 AM

 The Magic Kingdom comes to the Middle Kingdom this week when Disney opens its first theme park in mainland China, betting the growing middle class will spend big on leisure despite a slowing economy.
The $5.5 billion resort, which opens on Thursday, features the world's biggest Disney castle, its blue-topped spires rising above land once occupied by farms and small factories on the outskirts of commercial hub Shanghai.
Disney is seeking to attract crowds with a boat ride based on the 'Pirates of the Caribbean', a show from the mega-hit 'Frozen' and a 'Star Wars' attraction populated by characters from the science-fiction saga among the draws featuring the company's beloved movies. The project broke ground in April 2011, with Disney chairman and chief executive Bob Iger telling reporters it would be a "significant milestone" in the company's history.
But the opening comes as China's economic growth has dropped to its weakest level in a quarter of a century, a disappointing end to decades of double-digit growth spurred by government infrastructure spending.
Nevertheless, Disney is hoping weak economic indicators will not stop China's burgeoning middle class from descending on Shanghai Disney Resort in droves, a bet backed by a Chinese government push to increase domestic consumption.
China is banking that consumers - the same kind willing to spend on food, lodging, and souvenirs in Mickey Mouse's new house - will become a powerful growth engine for the world's second largest economy.
However, Disney isn't the only company looking to tap into the rising consumer class, who are increasingly spoiled for choice.
China is building theme parks faster than any other country in the world, with more than 300 projects receiving funding in recent years, according to the National Business Daily newspaper.
Last year alone, 21 parks opened and another 20 were under construction, it said.
Universal Studios is planning a theme park near Beijing, while DreamWorks Animation is cooperating on an entertainment district in Shanghai. And it isn't just the foreign giants who are chasing the Chinese fairy tale.
Last month, local tycoon Wang Jianlin, who is building his own string of theme parks and reportedly has close ties to China's leadership, criticised Disney for a cultural "invasion" just days before opening his "Wanda Culture and Tourism City" in Nanchang to the south of Shanghai.

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