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EDITOR’S NOTE - August 2016

The Power of a New Theme Park

It’s easy to be wowed by the flashy parts of Shanghai Disney Resort. The largest Disney castle in the world. The latest (and greatest) version of “Pirates of the Caribbean.” The fact that it sits on seven square kilometers of land—much of that undeveloped.

But to focus on facts and figures is to miss the true promise of this place. The Walt Disney Company’s first theme-park resort in mainland China holds the potential to change the lives of literally millions upon millions of people—there are some 300 million of them, alone, living within an easy commute to the property.

To understand the transformative power of Shanghai Disneyland, all you need to do is ride an attraction full of locals who have obviously never experienced a Disney park before. Take the new “Soaring Over the Horizon,” for example; we in the attractions industry might take for granted that everyone at some point must have ridden “Soarin’” by now.

That is not the case for the majority of people who will flock to Shanghai Disneyland in the coming months and years. To hear the cacophony of true wonder and joy escape their mouths at what they’re seeing on that huge dome screen is a potent reminder of what this business is truly about. It was unlike anything I’ve experienced before in a theme park.

Think back to your earliest memories relating to our industry—the first time you clicked through the turnstiles, the first time you pulled the lapbar down on a roller coaster, the first time you bought a stick of cotton candy or a funnel cake. It’s likely those moments, in one way or another, that led you to this business. We don’t think of them at the time, but these formative experiences are actually life-altering events.

“It’s not about whether or not this castle is the biggest,” Walt Disney Parks and Resorts Chairman Bob Chapek told me when we met in China during the resort’s grand-opening celebration. “The real marvel of this place is that all our guests here have no preconceived notions—they come in not knowing what to expect.”

Shanghai Disneyland’s attractions are tremendous, its hotels are gorgeous, its food scrumptious. But its potential to impact an entirely new region of our planet is even more exciting. Who knows what future designers, engineers, artists, chefs, performers, or operators are taking their first fateful rides on “Soaring Over the Horizon” this year? It’s staggering to ponder, and it’s absolutely moving to experience first-hand.   

Jeremy Schoolfield is Editor-in-Chief of Funworld.