CHINA / Regional

Disney theme park awaiting gov't nod
By Jamie Thomson (China Daily)
Updated: 2006-06-24 08:30

The boss of Disney has confirmed the firm is awaiting approval from the Chinese Government to build a theme park in Shanghai after successful talks with city leaders.

Group Chairman George Mitchell said the company had been in discussions with Shanghai officials for "a long period of time" to build a new Disneyland in the metropolis.

He added talks were now under way between the Shanghai municipal government and the State Council, which has the final say over the project.

"Our discussions have been with Shanghai officials, and now they are engaging with the national officials," said Mitchell.

"We have an interest in proceeding and we hope that satisfactory terms can be worked out and we can proceed."

Mitchell made the comments to China Daily while in Beijing to attend the official opening of a branch of DLA Piper, a global law firm of which he is also the chairman.

Speculation over Disney's plan to open a theme park in Shanghai intensified after the opening of Disneyland Hong Kong last September.

Mitchell insisted there was a market for both attractions, and that a new park in Shanghai would not be detrimental to the long-term success of the Hong Kong site.

"There has been very careful analysis from us and Chinese Government officials," he said.

"There are a very large number of people in the Shanghai area and we don't think that this (a new park) will have any more of a negative effect on Hong Kong than say having a park both in California and Orlando, Florida.

"We are looking forward to a long and what we hope will be a productive relationship in Hong Kong and Shanghai."

While Mitchell said he was "very pleased" with the operation in Hong Kong, he admitted there had been some problems.

During the Chinese New Year holidays in February, the park had to close its gates to hundreds of visitors holding pre-purchased tickets after it reached the maximum accommodation capability soon after opening.

"These kinds of issues always occur at every new park in different contexts, but we try to work them out and we try to be sensitive to what local people want," said Mitchell.

"We always make very careful plans over how we are going to operate, but things can never turn out exactly as you predict.

"There is always a period of adaptation."

As previously reported, it is believed an area of land in Pudong's Chuansha area has already been earmarked for the Shanghai park.

Mitchell said it was impossible to put a timeframe on the project.

"We try to proceed as quickly as possible after the execution of the contract, but until we execute a contract we don't get into when we are going to start," he said.

(China Daily 06/24/2006 page1)