Shanghai Disney opens amid tragedy in Orlando

Featuring local singers and dancers, the performance was distinctly Chinese part of Disney’s strategy

(CNN) – Despite tragedy at Disney world in Florida. Disney’s newest theme park proceeded with its grand opening in shanghai. Iconic characters gathered for a grand opening ceremony at the park’s traditional centerpiece, the castle. Disney has been looking forward to this day for years. It’s talked about building a shanghai park since the mid 2000’s.

The very first guest to enter shanghai Disneyland wasn’t shy about how he felt about it.

Thousands arrived at the 5.5 billion dollar park opened on a rainy Thursday among the throngs sporting umbrellas and ear, mom Gao Peipei and her daughter. We are most looking forward to all the characters she likes, she says, Mickey, Minnie, Frozen, and of course the castle. We want to see them all.

Just after the interview we saw that little girl up on stage dancing…proud mom with iphone in hand.  It’s a happy, fun scene. Though the joy of this opening was dampened by tragedy connected to Disney in Orlando, a two year old boy killed by an alligator Tuesday.

Ceo Bob Iger, in shanghai for the opening, issued a statement on the 2 year olds death, saying in part “as a parent and grandparent, my heart goes out to the graves family during this time of devastating loss.”

Iger released his statement shortly before he presided over the opening ceremony of shanghai Disneyland.

Joined by Chinese officials and VIP’s, it was the culmination of decades of work that ended with the gates finally opening. Despite dealing with tragedy back in Florida, this is Disney’s largest foreign investment ever, and the grand opening went ahead as planned.

Featuring local singers and dancers, the performance was distinctly Chinese part of Disney’s strategy for a park that is incredibly important for Disney’s future in the world’s second largest economy.

Every sign has Chinese characters, famous Disney songs are sung in mandarin. Plus, brand new technologies like the Tron roller coaster promise tourists the ride of a lifetime.  It’s all to appeal people just like Wang Jing and son Wang Yitong, they bought tickets back in march.

We know we’re already coming back, she says.  “My kid loves it and so do I.  Such a happy place.” Here’s joy in shanghai, and grief in Orlando and one company at the center of it all.

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