A slice of the happiest place on earth is now open in China. After years of planning, Shanghai Disneyland opened to visitors Thursday.
Take Two spoke with Keith Sharon, reporter for the Orange County Register, who is in Shanghai covering the opening.
On what's in the park:
"It's, I believe, four times bigger than the park in Anaheim, but the resort is 963 acres and that includes two hotels, a lake, a park, a Downtown Disney-type area, and the park itself so it is a huge, vast, expansive development here in Shanghai."
On the mood of Opening Day:
"It was amazing. We saw all kinds of emotions. The first guy they let in was really great. He sprinted down the middle of Mickey Avenue, which is their equivalent of Main Street USA. He was jumping up and down, thrusting his finger "number one!" into the air, and then he made a left turn quickly because he wanted to get on the TRON ride first. His name may never be recorded for history but he was the first. We saw people crying because they were so happy. We saw kids dancing in the street because it was open. It was truly an amazing event."
Does it feel like Disneyland?
"It feels like the evolution of Disneyland. It feels like Disneyland took what they had learned over their history and put it all here. When you walk in this park, the first thing you see is that giant castle, which is the biggest in ...the Disney universe, the Enchanted Storybook Castle, it includes a restaurant, a walking tour where you go up a spiral staircase, and a ride that goes underneath it that features all the princesses in the Disney pantheon."
On the areas that are more Chinese:
"In the areas between the lands, it looks like gardens. The middle of the park is called Gardens of Imagination. Also what they've done is they've taken the characters from the Chinese zodiac calendar—the rat, the dragon—and they've used Disney characters to show those characters in Chinese—and so we saw the Chinese people gravitating toward those areas because they were familiar with those characters."
On the business relationship between Disney and the Chinese government and cooperating on piracy:
"What they're trying to do is do it better. That's what we've heard from talking to people—that the knock-off amusement parks and merchandise just can't live up to what Disney can do when they put their minds to it, so they're trying to make bigger, better, wider, higher events and instances than the knock-offs."
On the significance of the Shanghai Disneyland opening to Southern California:
"What they're trying to do here is what Walt Disney tried to do in Anaheim in 1955: He found the perfect middle-class community to train to become amusement park-goers and amusement park enthusiasts, and what they're trying to do here is take the most populated city in the most populated country in the world and try to do the same thing.
To listen to the full interview, click the blue audio player above.