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Shanghai Disneyland concept art

Disney has broken ground on its ambitious Shanghai Disneyland project, releasing new concept art that shows off the theme park's central castle for the first time.

The company and its Chinese government partners announced new details of the planned resort on Friday, April 8, as well as launching its official website. Disney has promised that the new resort will combine features of its existing theme parks and movies with new elements designed to reflect Chinese culture.

Disney Parks chairman Tom Staggs said of the Shanghai Disneyland project: "Scheduled to open in about five years, our new resort in Shanghai will include things that you know and love about a Disney theme park such as Disney characters, attractions and storytelling - but it will also feature all-new experiences and stories that were inspired by and created for the people of China."

Staggs confirmed previous reports that the Shangai Disneyland resort would feature a single theme park when it opens, along with two themed hotels, a retail district and a huge central lake. This can be seen in the concept art below:

Shanghai Disneyland concept art 1

Image © Disney

Shanghai Disneyland is set to be the first "Magic Kingdom-style" Disney park not to feature a Main Street, USA at its entrance. Instead, it looks set to feature an 11 acre entry area featuring water elements, trees and costumed characters. However, some traditional features such as a Dumbo The Flying Elephant ride and a carousel do appear in the artwork. Disney claims the space will be a "place where family and friends can enjoy local cultural celebrations and customs together".

Shanghai Disneyland concept art 3

Image © Disney

The park's central Storybook Castle is set to be closer in design to the castle at Walt Disney World's Magic Kingdom and Tokyo Disneyland, rather than the castles seen at California's Disneyland and Hong Kong Disneyland. Disney claims that it will be the largest castle yet built at any of its parks, and will feature entertainment, dining and performance spaces.

Shanghai Disneyland concept art 2
Image © Disney

Outside of the theme park, the resort's shopping, dining and entertainment district will stretch along the lagoon's shore. The resort will feature two hotels - one deluxe hotel and one value hotel - with a total of 1,220 rooms.

A video of the groundbreaking ceremony, posted to YouTube by Disney Imagineer Bob Weis, is embedded below. It features Disney CEO Bob Iger alongside Staggs:

Hong Kong Disneyland pre-empted the publicity surrounding the Shanghai Disneyland groundbreaking ceremony by restating that it plans to complete its expansion plans by 2013. Analysts have raised fears about the impact that the opening of a second Disney resort in Chinese terrirory will have on the performance of the Hong Kong park, but the resort's Managing Director responded on its Facebook page today by saying "Asia, including China, is a growing market with a population of several billion, large enough to have more than one Disney."

As with its previous overseas resorts in Tokyo, Paris and Hong Kong, Disney has secured a local partner to help fund the Shanghai resort. It is set to be majority-owned by the Chinese government, which will take a 57% stake. The resort will be Disney's fourth outside of the US, after Disneyland Paris, Tokyo Disneyland and Hong Kong Disneyland. The Shanghai Disneyland park is expected to attract 7.3 million visitors a year.

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