SHANGHAI, April 8 (UPI) -- Chinese officials welcomed one of the enduring symbols of Americana, Walt Disney Co., in a groundbreaking ceremony for a $3.7 billion theme park in Shanghai.
Shanghai Mayor Han Zheng said, "This project will improve Shanghai's international profile as a world-famous tourist destination," the Los Angeles Times reported Friday.
The company lined up bulldozers with giant red bows at the ceremony. Two children sang, "When You Wish Upon a Star" in Chinese. Yu Zhengsheng, a Communist Party leader from Shanghai, signaled digging could begin for the project, which took 10 years of negotiations to get to the starting point.
Britain's Daily Telegraph reported the mouse of the hour, Mickey, made an appearance wearing Chinese robes.
Disney Chief Executive Officer Robert Iger called the groundbreaking "a defining moment in our company's history."
The project is a joint venture with a company controlled by the Chinese government.
It plants Disney's flag in China, where a huge audience and a growing middle class is waiting in the wings.
Disney said there were 330 million potential customers within 3 hours of travel time -- by train or car -- of the 963-acre site.
Disney said the park will include 11 acres of green space and the largest Storybook Castle yet constructed.
The park will be "both authentically Disney and distinctly Chinese," Iger said.