Although property preparation has been underway for a few months now, no official deal had been signed with the governments of China and Shanghai. That changed after the Shanghai Expo finished. A deal has now been signed for a new 8 square mile resort area with a 1.5 square mile theme park zone.
A few details have begun to leak out about the development. It will be a tourism destination (duh), feature low carbon impact construction, and will be a “Magic Kingdom-style” park. That style is the keyword there. I think they’re deliberately leaving themselves a lot of leeway to make some changes to the concept of what we know as a Magic Kingdom park. I hear we could see some of the first concept art in the next few months.
While I understand why the Disney company is working on growing a relationship with China, they’re the biggest dog on the block, having Disney, so long an icon of Americana, working so close with the authoritarian, democracy movement suppressing, and human right violating regime still gives me the willies. I know the goal is to get in with the people of China and hope that the regime changes slowly over time. Yet, there are giant democracies with huge and growing middle classes without Disney development (Brazil, India spring to mind) that would welcome a Disney themepark, and Disney wouldn’t have to get their hands dirty with China. It’s particularly ironic given Walt’s strong anti-communism position.
Shanghai Disneyland is currently scheduled to open in 2014.