Shanghai Disneyland Opens Amid Rain and Pageantry
SHANGHAI — “Mickey Maose” has officially arrived.
In a rain-dampened ceremony attended by Chinese dignitaries, the Walt Disney Company on Thursday opened its $5.5 billion Shanghai Disney Resort, a theme park and hotel complex that represents a hard-fought victory in China for the singularly American entertainment conglomerate. “Our dream comes true,” a beaming Robert A. Iger, Disney’s chief executive, said in Mandarin at the ceremony’s start.
周四，在有中国政要出席的仪式上，华特·迪士尼公司(The Walt Disney Company)在雨中为上海迪士尼度假区揭幕。这座主题乐园耗资55亿美元打造，设有酒店区，代表了这家美国风味十足的娱乐集团在中国经过辛苦努力获得的成果。“我们梦想成真了，”开业仪式开始时，迪士尼的首席执行官罗伯特·A·艾格(Robert A. Iger)喜气洋洋地用汉语说。
The park — Disney’s first on the Chinese mainland — was held up as nothing less than a historic symbol of United States-China relations. Mr. Iger read aloud a letter sent by President Obama that heralded the resort as capturing “the promise of our bilateral relationship.” In a letter of his own, China’s president, Xi Jinping, called the project, which took nearly two years of bruising negotiations to realize, a sign of China’s “commitment to cross-cultural cooperation and our innovation mentality in the new era.”
On a lighter note, Wang Yang, one of China’s vice premiers, stood onstage in front of the park’s lavish storybook castle and joked that the rain was a sign of good luck — the “rain of U.S. dollars and RMB,” he said, referring to China’s currency, the renminbi. Disney owns 43 percent of the resort, with the majority stake held by a Chinese state-controlled consortium.
With that, fireworks exploded, fountains danced and jubilant performers dressed as Disney princesses took to the stage as more than 30 dancers and flag twirlers frolicked.
It was a discordant scene with happenings elsewhere in the Disney empire. Mr. Iger was awakened at 4 a.m. on Thursday with the news that the authorities in Florida had found the body of a toddler, Lane Graves, who had been dragged by an alligator into a hotel lake at Walt Disney World on Wednesday. Mr. Iger phoned the child’s parents and said in a statement that “as a parent and a grandparent, my heart goes out to the Graves family during this time of devastating loss.”
Mr. Iger and his public affairs teams, working nearly round the clock from Shanghai in recent days, also had to contend with the mass shooting on Sunday in Orlando, Fla., which is in many ways a Disney company town. Disney employees were among the shooting victims; it was subsequently reported that the gunman, Omar Mateen, had earlier made a surveillance trip to a Disney World shopping complex.
In Shanghai, more than a year of meticulous planning resulted in an opening that was surprisingly smooth. So far, the park here has suffered none of the cultural missteps that marred Disney openings in France and Hong Kong over the decades.
“I brought my daughter here because she loves Mickey,” said Zhang Yan, 28, who came on opening day with her daughter, Li Xinyi, 7, who was wearing pink princess regalia. Ms. Zhang said she had driven three hours from Yangzhou.
Mr. Iger’s goal for Shanghai Disneyland was nothing short of immediate perfection, but no amount of experience, planning and focus-group research could prepare Disney for what would happen when Chinese patrons began to pour through the gates. Would they buy mouse ear headbands? How long would they stay? Would they understand that waiting in line was part of the experience?
“On a lot of things, we had no idea,” Mr. Iger said, striding through the park on Saturday, an extremely sticky day on which roughly 35,000 people turned out as part of a soft opening.
So far, the answers have been mostly positive. “Turkey legs, corn dogs, hamburgers, popcorn — what you might call American food — is blowing the doors off,” Mr. Iger said. “We didn’t expect that.”
Mouse ears are one of the biggest sellers in stores. “I’ve even seen men wearing them,” Mr. Iger said.
The monumental task of opening the park, which included planting 2.4 million shrubs, stocking 7,000 pieces of merchandise and training 10,000 employees, has had its challenges. In recent days, engineers were racing to finish an elaborate white-water raft ride. And Soaring Over the Horizon, a flight simulator that whisks riders to world monuments like the Eiffel Tower, was having some technical difficulties, resulting in four-hour lines at one point.
On the other hand, the Explorer Canoes, called Davy Crockett’s Explorer Canoes in the United States, have been lost in translation for some.
另一方面，“探险家独木舟”——在美国叫“大卫·克洛科特的探险家木舟”(Davy Crockett’s Explorer Canoes)——受到了某些人的误解。
“When people first got into the canoes they didn’t realize they had to paddle,” Mr. Iger said. “So we had the two cast members” — Disney’s term for park employees — “paddling, like, 30 people.”
Although Disney holds only a minority position in the park, the profit potential for the company remains nothing short of spectacular, analysts say. It will receive a 43 percent share of revenue from the park, which includes merchandise, food sales and hotel income. Single-day adult ticket prices cost $75 on weekends and holidays, a healthy price in China, and $56 for nonpeak days. (That compares with $125 and $105 at Disney World.)
Disney will also receive a fee for its role in managing the resort and royalties for the use of its characters. Moreover, Disney expects Shanghai Disneyland to increase interest across China for its movies, toys, clothes, video games and books.
Even a little growth in China would have a big financial impact on Disney. The entertainment conglomerate generated $52.5 billion in revenue in its last fiscal year, and Asia represented about 7.5 percent of that total. Disney does not release more detailed information, but Anthony DiClemente, an analyst at Nomura Securities, estimates that Disney had $1 billion in revenue in China in 2015; excluding Hong Kong, the total is closer to $700 million — a drop in the Disney bucket.
中国市场即便只是少量增长，也会对迪士尼造成重大的财务影响。该娱乐集团上一财年的收入为525亿美元，来自亚洲市场的收入占比7.5%。迪士尼未披露更详细的信息，但野村证券(Nomura Securities)分析师安东尼·迪克莱门特(Anthony DiClemente)估计，2015年，迪士尼在中国市场获得了10亿美元的收入；剔除来自香港的收入之后大约为7亿美元——这对迪士尼而言只是九牛一毛。
With so much at stake, Mr. Iger deeply involved himself in the preparations. He tasted the food in advance, including Mickey Mouse-shaped Peking duck pizza and what he called “distinctly Chinese” turkey legs with hoisin sauce. He gave feedback on ride-operator costumes and personally chose the spot where a statue of Walt Disney would be placed. “I said, ‘No, no, no – I want it closer to the castle,’” he recalled.
On his tour, Mr. Iger walked through a 15-acre garden in the center of the park designed for older visitors. In part because of China’s longtime one-child policy, Shanghai Disneyland must have strong intergenerational appeal. As “Let’s Go Fly a Kite” from “Mary Poppins” played on the Fantasia Carousel sound system, Mr. Iger pointed toward a grove of cherry trees where 12 mosaics depicted Disney characters in Chinese zodiac style.
巡视期间，艾格穿过了主题公园中心一个15英亩大，专为较年长游客设计的花园。部分是由于中国曾长期实施一孩化政策，上海迪士尼乐园必须具备强烈的超越代际的吸引力。当“幻想曲旋转木马”的音响系统播放《玛丽·波平斯》(Mary Poppins)里的《让我们去放风筝》(Let’s Go Fly a Kite)时，艾格指向一片樱花树丛，那里有12幅以马赛克拼成的壁画，上面是由迪士尼角色演绎的中国十二生肖。
“We think this will be a very popular photo op,” he said. Disney learned at Hong Kong Disneyland, which opened in 2005, that the Chinese love to take pictures of themselves in front of whimsical facades. (Mr. Iger’s zodiac symbol — he was born in 1951 — is a rabbit, represented on the wall by Thumper from “Bambi.”)
Next, it was on to the castle, the largest, and the tallest (197 feet), that Disney has ever built. Upstairs is an ornate princess-themed restaurant with leaded-glass windows, intricately painted ceilings and chandeliers that look as if they belong at Versailles.
Mr. Iger cited the opulence as an example of what he calls “the Disney difference,” which means a presentation so time-consuming and expensive that most rivals can’t come close to mimicking it.
Suddenly, however, Mr. Iger’s ebullience faded. Upon exiting the castle, he had spotted a dozen people crouched in the building’s vestibule.
“This is because we still don’t have enough benches or shade yet,” he said. “Believe me, that’s getting fixed.”