The Walt Disney Company’s smallest theme park resort, Hong Kong Disneyland, which lost money amid declining attendance last year, will get $1.4 billion in enhancements as part of a colossal six-year growth plan.
The upgrades, announced on Tuesday afternoon in Hong Kong, will include an entire section themed around the animated movie “Frozen,” a first for any Disney park. Plans also call for a hugely amped-up castle, multiple rides based on Marvel superheroes, a new nighttime show with fireworks and fountains, and a performance venue based on “Moana,” an animated musical that arrives in American theaters on Wednesday.
Construction will begin in 2018 and conclude in 2023, with new offerings coming online almost every year during that period. The plans are subject to final approval by the Hong Kong Legislative Council and the Disney board.
The expansion highlights Disney’s belief in Hong Kong Disneyland as a potential profit machine — not just as a theme park but as a creator of demand in China and Southeast Asia for the company’s movies, toys, clothes, video games, books, cruise vacations and TV programs.
“We are more excited than ever about the future of Hong Kong Disneyland,” Bob Chapek, Disney’s theme park chairman, said in a news release.
But the scope of the enhancements also reflects the difficult spot in which Hong Kong Disneyland finds itself. Despite more than $600 million in added attractions in recent years, including three new themed areas and a nighttime parade, the park lost about $20 million last year, according to financial filings.
But Hong Kong Disneyland has also been vexed by its relatively small size. In particular, the park’s 77-foot-tall castle (a replica of the original at Disneyland in California) has been a sore point among locals. Not helping: Shanghai made a to-do about its 197-foot castle being the largest in the Disney empire.
The renewed focus on Hong Kong Disneyland, with its lush gardens and collection of classic Disney rides, comes just six months after the opening of the Shanghai resort, which generated global headlines for its opulence. Disney has suggested that the Shanghai park will attract 10 million visitors in its first year; four million people visited in the peak summer months alone.
Hong Kong leaders, already feeling insecure about the ascension of Shanghai as a financial capital, do not want their Disneyland to be viewed as a lesser property.
“There seems to be an interesting growth in pride locally in Hong Kong in that park,” Robert A. Iger, Disney’s chief executive, told analysts on a Nov. 10 conference call. “I guess their competitive spirits have somehow or another been stimulated.”
The Hong Kong government owns 53 percent of the park, with Disney controlling the balance. Funding for the $1.4 billion expansion will be split in corresponding proportion.
The rides and shows announced on Tuesday come on top of additions already in the works. Hong Kong Disneyland will unveil an “Iron Man”-themed flight simulator on Jan. 11, and a new 750-room hotel will open its doors in the months thereafter.
Starting in 2018, a new Marvel-themed ride (taking the spot of a Buzz Lightyear attraction) and the “Moana” complex will arrive. The supersize castle will open the next year. The snow-dusted Arendelle from “Frozen” — replete with a lake, an ice mountain, two rides, shops and restaurants — is the 2020 offering. More Marvel attractions are planned in the years after that, with one based on “The Avengers.”
Source: New York Times
Banner Photo Credit: Disney