Disney eyes Shanghai theme park

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SHANGHAI -- U.S. visitors here will be able to experience Disney Chinese-style.

The Walt Disney Co. signed a "nonbinding framework agreement" to build a theme park in Shanghai, China's most populous city, according to a Disney spokeswoman.

The proposed Shanghai park, to be located in the city's Pudong district, is slated for a 2008 opening.

It will be Disney's third park in Asia. Disney's first, Tokyo Disneyland, has been wildly successful since its opening in 1983 and is the most popular Disney theme park in the world, according to the company.

The company also is set to open a $4 billion complex with a $700 million theme park in Hong Kong in 2005 or 2006.

Although still a long way off, a Disney park in Shanghai should mean a boon to the city's tourism, which last year generated nearly 1.5 million visitors.

Although the company's Asia theme parks are primarily targeted to the Asia market, Ashley Isaacs, director of marketing and business development at Absolute Asia in New York, said the Tokyo park has proven that a Disneyland in Asia also can attract U.S. visitors seeking a different Disney experience.

"We get families requesting [Tokyo Disneyland] all the time," Isaacs said. "We include it in our family vacation for Japan."

Absolute Asia's package includes admission fees and all necessary transfers for a day at the theme park.

And although Disney is a U.S. company, visitors to the Tokyo park will receive a Japanese cultural experience, Isaacs said.

"Everyone loves it," he said, "because you see familiar characters but they are speaking Japanese. And it's pretty neat to be ordering udon noodles instead of a hot dog."

"I took my 6-year-old there and it was, for her, the highlight of the trip," said a spokeswoman for the Japan National Tourist Organization. "You see Minnie Mouse walking around in a kimono."

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