Shanghai Disney In The Works

The Walt Disney Co. announced Nov. 4 that China’s planning agency finally approved a new Disney theme park to be built in Shanghai.

The National Development and Reform Commission has given permission for the city of Shanghai to work with Disney toward the realization of the park, which will be located in the eastern Pudong region.

Some residents of the region, which is near the airport and was once farmland, have already been moved out.

Disney president and CEO Robert Iger said in a statement, “China is one of the most dynamic, exciting and important countries in the world, and this approval marks a very significant milestone for The Walt Disney Company in mainland China.”

The statement added that the project would include a “Magic Kingdom-like” theme park with features “tailored to the Shanghai region.”

The city government of Shanghai also released a statement announcing the approval.

Disney, which already has offices in Shanghaai, Beijing and Guangzhou, opened a theme park in Hong Kong in 2005 that has since been plagued with problems mostly having to do with poor attendance.

Accordingly, Hong Kong’s own government, which owns a stake in the park, has downplayed projections that the Shanghai park will draw visitors away from Hong Kong.

The city’s commerce secretary told reporters that China is a huge country “and can easily accommodate two Disneylands.”

However, a recent New York Times article has pointed out that a newer HK tourist attraction, Ocean Park, is doing so well that it may become a national franchise that could compete seriously with Disney even in Shanghai.

Shanghai has been important to Disney since it remains the most vibrant city in China. The city is in the midst of a construction boom leading up to the World Expo, which opens next May.

Some media have said the timing of the announcement was made to coincide with US President Barack Obama’s first visit to China this week.