: Construction of local identities for Shanghai Disneyland

Since the construction stage, Shanghai Disneyland has been promoted as “authentically Disney and distinctly Chinese,” a creative direction initiated by Disney’s then chief executive officer Robert Iger. On the day before the Shanghai Disneyland opening, Iger further emphasized that Shanghai Disneyland was not just Disneyland in China, but “China’s Disneyland” (Levine, 2016). Phillipe Gas, then general manager of Shanghai Disneyland added, “We want to be a citizen of Shanghai, and we have been” (Nunlist, 2016). Shanghai Disneyland is, so far, the only Disneyland for which Disney constructed local identities from the moment the project was approved (Table 4.1). Before further examining such identities, I will first turn to the other Disneyland outside of the United States: Tokyo Disneyland, Disneyland Paris, and Hong Kong Disneyland, to understand the differences of Shanghai Disneyland and how Disney built Shanghai Disneyland based on experiences generated from these earlier parks.

Identities of overseas Disneyland: Tokyo, Paris, Hong Kong, and Shanghai

As Disney’s former chief executive officer Robert Iger put it, Shanghai Disneyland is a learning outcome which “combines all the things we have learned over the years from all the other parks we have operated... In a way, it’s the smartest park we’ve ever built, based on our own learning” (Palmeri, 2016). Philippe Gas, former general manager of Shanghai Disneyland, also stated, “It is part of a journey of development, understanding what to do to succeed in different contexts and different markets. So we have taken all that to make this product” (Nunlist, 2016).

46 Construction of local identities for Shanghai Disneyland Table 4.1 Identity of Disneyland outside of the United States


General identity

Local identity

Tokyo Disneyland, Japan

Real Disneyland


Disneyland Paris, France

Magic Kingdom


Hong Kong

Wholesome family


Disneyland. China


Shanghai Disneyland,

Authentically Disney and

China’s Disneyland; a


distinctly Chinese

citizen of Shanghai