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Shanghai Disney Hits a Few Hiccups

By Rick Munarriz – Mar 28, 2016 at 8:15AM

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The leading theme-park operator starts selling tickets to its new theme park, but online glitches get in the way.

Image source: Disney.  

Tickets to Disney's (DIS 0.90%) newest theme park went on sale yesterday, and things didn't exactly go smoothly for Shanghai Disney and its online ordering interface. Cyberspace erupted with complaints of folks trying to line up tickets for Shanghai Disney ahead of its June 16 opening, only to find that securing admissions to the gated attraction and the signature Lion King show was not a task for the timid.

This obviously isn't the first time that a pre-sale platform has come up short under pressure. Most of the tech giants have suffered from glitches under the deluge of hot demand. However, it's still not the way that the world's largest theme park operator wants to get things started inside the world's most populous nation.

Shanghai, with its estimated population of more than 24 million and its growing flow of tourists, is a juicy addition to Disney's empire of theme parks. Disney's name graces nine of the 10 most visited theme parks in the world, according to industry tracker Themed Entertainment Association, and this park has all of the ingredients to be a top producer. 

Disney won't participate in all of the spoils. It only owns a 43% stake in the resort. A consortium of companies owned by the Shanghai government is on the hook for most of the costs and profits, but Disney still stands to make a lot of money if the park is a success. 

It may not happen overnight. The park has seen its opening date get bumped later into the calendar. It was originally slated to open last year. Now the rumblings suggest that Shanghai Disney may not be at full strength when it opens in less than three months.  

Len Testa -- co-author of The Unofficial Guide to Walt Disney World and The Unofficial Guide to Disneyland, as well as president of theme park-planning hub -- is hearing that Shanghai Disney won't be complete by the time that it opens in mid-June. It's merely a rumor at this point, but he's hearing that several sections of the park won't be ready to greet paying guests until late October. 

However, Disney fans know that it's more important to get it right than to get it on time. Disneyland's opening was marred by a lack of working drinking water fountains, and each park has signature attractions that opened long after the official grand opening.

Folks will come. The only question is if they will be able to get there after some of the tech glitches experienced by the Shanghai Disney website on Sunday.

History has been kind to Disney's initial missteps. No one remembers that Disney's Animal Kingdom opened without its only water ride -- a necessity for the sun-drenched park -- and that it had to do a major rewrite on the ending of its signature safari ride because a fake slaughtered elephant was too much for some guests to handle. 

The initial tech glitches will be forgotten. A potential delay in originally slated attractions will be overcome. It will be more important to Disney where Shanghai Disney is in a year or five years from now. Disney gets it right, even if it doesn't get it right right away.

Rick Munarriz owns shares of Walt Disney. The Motley Fool owns shares of and recommends Walt Disney. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

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