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  • News article Disney opens HK theme park

    Disney opens HK theme park
    12/09/2005



    Hong Kong - Hong Kong Disneyland held its opening ceremony on Monday, marking Mickey Mouse's biggest thrust into China - a market the US company hopes will flood the theme park with splurging tourists from the world's most populous nation.

    Chinese Vice President Zeng Qinghong, Hong Kong leader Donald Tsang and top Disney executives Michael Eisner and Robert Iger officiated at the park's opening, with performances including traditional Chinese lion dances and children singing.

    The attraction and its two resort hotels are surrounded by mountains on lush Lantau Island, just 30 minutes away by subway from bustling central Hong Kong.

    It looks much like the first Disneyland in California, with a Space Mountain thrill ride, a classic Cinderella Carousel and a pink Sleeping Beauty Castle - which Disney predicts will be one of the most photographed buildings in Asia.

    A tourist magnet

    Hong Kong's government - the biggest investor in the $3.5bn park (about R22.19bn) - says the attraction will help turn this global financial capital into Asia's best family holiday spot.

    Disney hopes the park - the 11th in its global empire - will be a magnet for increasingly wealthy Chinese tourists, who have a reputation for being big-spenders.

    Earlier, Iger, president of Walt Disney Co, said the Hong Kong park is a "first big step" in expanding the company's reach into China, where generations have grown up with little or no familiarity with Mickey Mouse.

    Iger said the park would create a media buzz and word-of-mouth excitement that would ignite interest in Disney films, TV shows and other products. He said that state-owned China Central Television was doing a special about the park.

    "It's going to be seen by, I'm told, as many as a billion people, which is tremendous," Iger said.

    Eisner, Disney's chief executive officer, said China and Disneyland will be a perfect match because they both value families.

    "You go to the park and you see mothers, daughters and kids and grandparents. The family unit in China is unbelievably strong. It's not just Hong Kong, it's mainland China," Eisner said.

    Anti-Disney

    An hour before Monday's opening ceremony, a small crowd of labour, human rights and anti-Disney activists gathered outside the park's front gate, chanting "No Conscience" and "Evil Mickey." They were protesting alleged labour abuses at factories making Disney products in China. Disney has said it's investigating the claims.

    Hong Kong and Disney struck a deal to build the park in 1999 - just two years after the former British colony returned to Chinese rule. The city had been battered by the Asian financial crisis, and desperately needed a new project to boost its spirits and troubled economy.

    Disneyland says it employs 5 000 people and will draw 5.6 million visitors in its first year.

    The public has generally embraced the park, which began construction in 2003. But environmentalists protested the park's now-aborted plan to serve shark-fin soup at banquets. Neighbours have complained about the noise and smoke from nightly fireworks shows. And social critics have been worried about the influence of American culture.

    But the biggest complaint among some of the thousands who got a sneak peak at the park during a soft opening period in the past month has been that Hong Kong Disneyland is too small. It's Disney's smallest park at 40ha.

    The entire attraction - including the two hotels - is 121ha - and there's room to expand to 200ha.

    When asked what he didn't like about the park, Chinese tourist Zhang Wei said, "It's way too small." But Zhang predicted it would be a big hit with the mainland Chinese.




    :crazylegs

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