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Day 1: 16,000 visitors, $2.58 million; Hong Kong welcomes Disneyland

MUMBAI: The Hong Kong Disneyland opened yesterday (12 September, 2005) to a swarm of Disney lovers. Close to 16,000 people flocked at the $3.5 billion park on Day one as a result of which, Hong Kong Disneyland has been reported to have earned $2.58 million (HK$20 million) on its opening day.

Against the dream-come-true backdrop of Sleeping Beauty Castle and the natural grandeur of the green Lantau Island mountains, Hong Kong Disneyland officially brought the fun and excitement of a Disney theme park to Hong Kong with a spectacular Grand Opening.

 
 
 

The Hong Kong Disneyland is the second in Asia after Tokyo and is being touted as a major watershed for Hong Kong tourism. Hong Kong's Disneyland is the eleventh in the world that include parks in Paris, Tokyo and Anaheim, California.

According to a media report, the Hong Kong government forecasts that the theme park will bring economic benefits of HK$148 billion in revenue over the next four decades.

The Walt Disney Company has invested HK$3.1 billion in the theme park and has 43 per cent share of equity in the project, while the Hong Kong government has invested HK$29 billion and has a 57 per cent share in the project.

On the day before Hong Kong Disneyland officially opened to the public, an invited audience of political and business leaders and media were special guests for a Preview Day on 11 September, enjoying an advance look at some of the spectacular shows and attractions in the first Disney theme park in the region. The highlights of the day included preview ceremonies for several of the park's most eagerly anticipated shows and rides.

The Walt Disney Company president, COO and CEO-elect Robert A Iger welcomed the special guests to the majestic Theater in the Wild in Adventureland for a preview performance of "Festival of the Lion King," a unique live theatrical experience created especially for Hong Kong Disneyland.

The second live show at Hong Kong Disneyland is "The Golden Mickeys," in the Storybook Theater in Fantasyland. Modeled on a Hollywood awards show, "The Golden Mickeys" brings favorite Disney stories to life with song, dance and special effects.

The latest Disney theme park innovation -- Nine-foot-tall Lucky the Dinosaur -- roamed at large in Hong Kong Disneyland on 11 September. Lucky the Dinosaur walks freely and interacts with children and families, even signing his own distinctive four-leaf-clover "autograph."

"Hong Kong Disneyland stands before us as a living symbol of the creativity and imagination that are the heart and soul of Disney. With a spirit of goodwill and friendship, we invite the people of Hong Kong, China and all of Asia to share in the magic, imagination and soaring spirit of Disney," said Walt Disney Company CEO Michael D Eisner.

"We hope Hong Kong Disneyland will be a beacon reminding us that no matter the language of borders, humankind can accomplish great things when we work together, especially when we can show the world that imagination is alive, that fantasy can be reality and that magic happens," said Iger.

In welcoming Disney, Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (HKSAR Government) chief executive of the Government Donald Tsang said,"The arrival of the world's most widely recognized and best-loved theme park in Hong Kong will allow us to provide visitors from all over the region with a fun-filled and diversified experience. We warmly and wholeheartedly welcome the Disney family to Hong Kong."

The vacation resort on Hong Kong's Lantau Island is a joint venture of The Walt Disney Company and the Hong Kong SAR Government. It includes two intricately detailed hotels -- the Hong Kong Disneyland Hotel and Disney's Hollywood Hotel -- with breathtaking views of the theme park and the South China Sea, along with a public recreation area with a sparkling lake and arboretum.

Following the ceremony, Hong Kong Disneyland Resort opened its gates for thousands of waiting guests. The Opening Day crowd enjoyed a full day of entertainment including encounters with such famous Disney characters as Mickey Mouse, Winnie the Pooh and Cinderella, as well as adventures on such classic Disney attractions as Jungle River Cruise, Mad Hatter Tea Cups and Space Mountain.

Other highlights in Hong Kong Disneyland include live Broadway-quality entertainment, distinctive Disneyland gifts and souvenirs, and flavorful Asian and Western cuisine in a variety of restaurants and cafes. Walt Disney's philosophy that Disneyland would "never be completed as long as there is imagination left in the world," extends to Hong Kong Disneyland, where work is already underway on Autopia, a new Tomorrowland attraction where guests of all ages can drive electric cars along the highways of tomorrow. The new adventure is scheduled to open in 2006.

However, the company will be not be opening a similar park in China unless the Chinese government relaxed the stringent media ownership regulations that were issued on 1 August.

Iger said that unless Disney shows were allowed on Chinese television, there won't be any plans of building Disneyland there. "In order for us to even consider a park there, we need to be sure we have access to television," Iger was quoted in various media reports as saying.

Also interesting is the fact that Shanghai has been actively seeking a Disney theme park for several years, with strong support from Beijing's leaders.

According to reports, Iger was also planning to pay a visit to Beijing after the Hong Kong Disneyland opening ceremony "to discuss Disney business initiatives in China in general."

The new media rules on the Mainland and the possibility of a delay in setting up a Disney theme park in Shanghai are likely to cement Hong Kong's role as a media hub for China in particular and for Asia over all.

One of the other media conglomerates apart from Disney, which has been troubled by the strict Chinese media laws is Rupert Murdoch's News Corp.

However, Iger is confident that he would be able to gain access to the Mainland sooner or later. He also said that Disney may open a theme park in Shanghai after 2010.

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