Disney Goes to Shanghai

Mainland China is starting to get its Mickey on.

Disney (NYSE: DIS  ) broke ground on Shanghai Disneyland this morning, setting the stage for a presence in a financially potent city in the world's most populous nation.

Hong Kong Disneyland got off to a slow start a few years ago, but it should be different this time. The family entertainment giant has learned from its earlier hiccups. The new park is also at a more compelling site.

Shanghai Disneyland will be within a 3-hour drive of 330 million people. Yes, a larger population than the entirety of the United States will be a day trip away. This is also a generally affluent region in China, so paying up for admissions, concessions, and stays at the pair of adjacent hotel resorts won't be a problem when the $3.7 billion attraction opens in 2014. 

Disney has also had time to break in its characters. It's been five years since it struck a deal with Shanda Interactive (Nasdaq: SNDA  ) to put out Disney online games in China. It has also moved ahead on a much needed expansion at Hong Kong Disneyland to increase the amusement park's brand appeal.

Running a global theme park chain isn't easy, but Disney's not going it alone. A conglomerate of government-owned companies will hold a majority stake in the endeavor and co-manage the park.

Most of the domestic park operators prefer to stay closer to home. Cedar Fair (NYSE: FUN  ) does have a park in Canada. Six Flags (NYSE: SIX  ) only kept one park apiece in Canada and Mexico when it sold off its international properties.

Blackstone's (NYSE: BX  ) Merlin Entertainments has had success growing its Legoland chain globally. There are a couple of overseas parks branded by what is now Comcast's (Nasdaq: CMCSA  ) majority-owned Universal Studios. However, Disney's parks have historically ranked at the top in terms of annual attendance.

In short, this is a big deal -- even if we'll have to wait another three years or so to see it.

Have you ever been to a Disney park outside of the United States? Share your thoughts in the comment box below.

Walt Disney is a Motley Fool Stock Advisor pick. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. Longtime Fool contributor Rick Munarriz practically grew up in Disney's Florida theme parks. He owns shares of Disney. He is also part of the Rule Breakers newsletter research team, seeking out tomorrow's ultimate growth stocks a day early. The Fool has a disclosure policy.


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