Disney's $5.5 Billion Shanghai Disneyland to Open In Spring 2016

Courtesy of Disney
The Shanghai Disneyland Hotel under construction is one of two new planned hotels at the resort

CEO Robert Iger said that major construction will be done by the end of this year.

Disney CEO Robert Iger said Tuesday during an earnings call that Shanghai Disney will open in the spring of 2016, and that major construction will be completed by the end of this year.

This is an update on what Iger said last year, when he predicted the park would open in 2015.

One reason for the delay may be timing. It is likely Disney wants to open its sixth theme park in the spring, when the weather is good (possibly as early as around the Chinese new year in February), rather than late in the year heading into winter.

"I was in China the week before last and saw amazing progress," Iger told stock market analysts on the call. "We just topped off our signature Shanghai Disneyland Hotel, and we're nearing completion on iconic features throughout the park, including the largest castle we've ever built, and we're getting ready to start casting the hundreds of performers we'll need to entertain our guests. It's thrilling to see Shanghai Disney Resort rapidly coming to life. The artistry, complexity, the magnitude, and the detail — it's all quite astonishing.

"As you'll recall," continued Iger, "after we broke ground on this incredible resort, we announced an $800 million expansion, significantly increasing both the size of the park and the number of attractions available to our guests on opening day. Even with that expansion, we will complete major construction by the end of this calendar year, and we're planning a spectacular grand opening in spring of 2016, which we believe is the optimal time to showcase the full grandeur of this world-class destination."

The mayor of Shanghai said this week that he is unsure when the park will be ready to open.

The theme park is a joint venture of Shanghai Shendi Group, a state owned enterprise that will hold 57 percent, and Disney, which will own the rest.

After the problems in the months following Disney park openings in Paris (1992) and Hong Kong (2005), the delay is expected to be used to ensure the huge park will be ready for the extraordinary number of visitors expected each year.

The first phase of the $5.5 billion project expected to open includes two hotels and a Downtown Disney shopping center.

A centerpiece of the new theme park will be the largest Disney castle in the world. Known as the Enchanted Storybook Castle, it will be technologically advanced and interactive, featuring a winding staircase that will take visitors on a "Once Upon a Time" adventure, a boat ride and into an underground chamber.

"The park will take full advantage of advances in technology," Disney said in a promo, "that will fully immerse our guests in our stories and attractions so that they will have happy experiences like never before."

One of the major attractions will be Treasure Cove, the first Pirates of the Caribbean themed park in the world. It will be one of the six themed parks.

To interweave the Chinese perspective, there will be an 11-acre park called the Garden of the Twelve Friends, a green space with 12 massive mosaics that depict the 12 signs of the Chinese Zodiac using Disney characters. It is described as having "lush cherry blossom" groves.

The extra time may also be needed to complete the extensive transportation upgrades needed to get huge numbers of ticket buyers to and from the attraction. That includes the construction of a high-speed rail system.

An estimated 330 million potential guests live within a three-hour travel period of the park.

Shanghai Disneyland is the largest theme park being built in China but far from the only one. There has been a building boom in the wake of the growth of a strong middle class in China as the economy there has improved.

Universal Studios is also building a theme park in China. The planned $3.3 billion development in Beijing is scheduled to open in 2018.

Paul Bond contributed to this article.