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Disney to open first resort in mainland China, but no Space Mountain

The Chinese Communist Party is to have a major operational role in the park that opens Thursday.

By Elizabeth Shim
Disney to open first resort in mainland China, but no Space Mountain
Disney is to open its first resort in mainland China on Thursday. File Photo by Laura Cavanaugh/UPI | License Photo

SHANGHAI, June 14 (UPI) -- Disney's executives may not have wished upon a star, but they are finally realizing a goal in China: the opening of a $5.5 billion Disney resort in Shanghai, the country's most populated city.

The Shanghai Disney Resort, which is scheduled to open Thursday, may help the company stimulate its international theme-park business, The Wall Street Journal reported Sunday.

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The park is strategically located in a region that's within a three-hour drive for 330 million people, according to The New York Times.

The massive project, which includes a Magic Kingdom-style park, a "Toy Story"-themed hotel and a Mickey Avenue shopping arcade, is designed to build maximum appeal for the Disney brand among China's growing middle class.

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But the project has been a challenge for Disney executives, who had sought other deals in the country, but ended up relinquishing some of its role in operations to the Chinese government.

The Chinese Communist Party, it was agreed, would have a major role in the park, including decisions on the cost of admission and the kinds of rides available for visitors.

Popular U.S. Disney rides such as Space Mountain, the Jungle Cruise and It's a Small World were left out of the plan, the Times reported.

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In their place, 80 percent of rides at Shanghai Disney are new concepts, such as the "Tron" lightcycle roller coaster.

Chinese culture has its place, too, in the new Disney resort. A restaurant on the premises is to have rooms representing different parts of the country.

Asia is home to two other Disney parks, including one in Tokyo and another resort in Hong Kong.

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But the Hong Kong park has long struggled due to its small size and lack of popular rides, and profits have remained flat at the resort in Tokyo.

In Disneyland Paris, a new ride based on the film Ratatouille did not succeed in raising the popularity of the U.S. resort.

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