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July 13, 2016

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Disney chief claims a million people visited park

DISNEY Chief Executive Robert Iger said that nearly a million people had visited the entertainment giant’s theme park opened less than a month ago in Shanghai.

“It would be safe to assume almost a million people have experienced the park,” Iger said during an on-stage chat at a Fortune Brainstorm Tech conference in Aspen, Colorado.

Visitors to the park are staying longer than expected each day and showing fondness for Chinese barbecued pork with rice, cheeseburgers and turkey legs, according to Iger.

“We are introducing turkey legs to China,” Iger quipped. “Which I thought was a mistake, but we are selling 3,000 a day.”

Each turkey leg, sourced from Poland, costs more than US$8.

Disney set the entrance fee at 499 yuan (US$76) during peak periods and 370 yuan for other times, in a country where the average monthly disposable income is just US$278.

Disney opened the massive Shanghai resort in mid-June, hoping to win over China’s growing middle class with the ultimate American cultural export. The Shanghai resort is the US company’s sixth in the world and the first in Chinese mainland.

Disney tailored park attractions for China and left out some American trademark features, such as Main Street USA.

“I very much wanted to avoid being called a cultural imperialist,” Iger said.

Disney said its philosophy is to integrate local elements throughout, from the Chinese food on the menu to the attractions — even the Disney castle is topped with a traditional peony flower.

Iger referred to the Shanghai project as a lesson in patience and perseverance, saying nearly 18 years elapsed from when he first stepped on the site for a survey to the day of the ribbon-cutting ceremony.

The park is the most technologically advanced ever constructed by Disney, he said.

Workers broke ground on the project in 2011 and the Shanghai Disney Resort now sprawls over 3.9 square kilometers on the city’s outskirts, with a fairy-tale castle soaring over the horizon. But the launch of the US$5.5 billion resort, representing one of the biggest foreign investments ever in China, comes as growth in the world’s second largest economy slumps to its lowest level in a quarter century.

Still, Disney deemed the world’s most populous country too big to ignore.


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