A Toy Story theme parade inside Shanghai Disneyland. (Photo by Zhang Peijian/For China Daily)
Shanghai Disneyland will open a new themed area, the seventh at the park, by next summer as it strives to attract more visitors to its latest resort, which broke even in the first year of operation.
The newly added Toy Story Land marks the first expansion since the site's grand opening last June, demonstrating the company's confidence in China's growing demand for themed entertainment, Walt Disney Co announced on Thursday.
The new area will offer three main attractions, a meet and greet area, a boutique store and a restaurant, all of which feature characters from the long-running Disney Pixar franchise, said Jim Shull, executive creative director overseeing the company's parks and resorts segment.
The immersive land is designed to make guests feel being shrunk down to the size of their favorite Toy Story toys in the backyard of Andy, the boy from the movie, Shull told a media briefing in Shanghai.
Customers could then take a seat inside Slinky Dog's "springy spirals", enjoy a thrilling ride on a U-shaped track in Rex's Racer, and climb aboard pony carts at Woody's Roundup, a segment that is uniquely designed for the Shanghai park.
"What we bring here is a Toy Story Land 2.0 … it is one of the strongest stories we have yet to tell here (in Shanghai)," said Shull, adding it includes revamps that would set the new themed area apart from its previous presence in the Paris and Hong Kong parks.
A Chinese female singer will perform seven songs in Mandarin dedicated to the area, among other elements that aim to bring guests an experience that is "authentically Disney and distinctly Chinese", he added.
Disney did not disclose how big the new area would be. Chairman Robert Iger said at the park's official opening last June there was roughly additional 3 square kilometers available for expansion.
"It is a Disney tradition to introduce new items to its parks every year," said He Jianmin, a professor specializing in tourism management at Shanghai University of Finance and Economics. "With Toy Story being a tipping point, it will definitely lure both new visitors and recurring guests alike."
The Shanghai park attracted more than 11 million visitors in the first year of operation, putting it in the top seven theme parks worldwide and the most-visited site in China, according to data from the Themed Entertainment Association and consulting firm Aecom.
The entertainment giant is thrown into the race to dominate the country's 4 billion media and entertainment industry, according to professional service provider PwC, which has pulled in players from long-time rivals like Chimelong Ocean Kingdom to new entrants such as Shanghai Andersen Paradise.
"Disneyland banks on and benefits from its super intellectual property chain, from media to publishing to studios," He said. "Competitors have to expand their distribution channels in order to gain an edge."