Walt Disney Co has opened the gates to its first theme park in China, prompting a rush from thousands of gathered Mickey Mouse enthusiasts to be the first to storm Treasure Cove, ride the Roaring Rapids or visit Disney’s tallest castle.
Disney’s largest overseas investment at $5.5 billion, the park is a bet on China’s middle class and booming domestic tourism. The U.S. firm hopes it will offset an otherwise lackluster international theme park business, better known for cash-burning sites such as Euro Disney.
Disney, though, sees China as its biggest opportunity since Walt Disney bought land in Florida in the 1960s for what is now Walt Disney World – the world’s most-visited theme park. Disney estimates 330 million people within a three-hour radius of Shanghai will be able to afford to come to the park.