It’s the first Disney theme park to be built in mainland China. Friday’s announcement from The Walt Disney Company and Shanghai Shendi Group, its joint venture partner in China, marked the start of construction at a groundbreaking ceremony held earlier in the day. It featured traditional Chinese drum music, a female soloist singing in Mandarin, a 50-voice Shanghai children’s choir, and Mickey Mouse dressed in a traditional Chinese costume. Following the entertainment and remarks, Walt Disney Co President/CEO Bob Iger and Walt Disney Parks and Resorts Chairman Tom Staggs were joined by Shanghai Party Secretary Yu Zhengsheng and Shanghai Mayor Han Zheng to officially break ground on the project. It follows approval from the Chinese central government in Beijing.

“Today marks a significant milestone in the history of The Walt Disney Company,” Iger said in a statement. “Our Shanghai resort will be a world-class family vacation destination that combines classic Disney characters and storytelling with the uniqueness and beauty of China. Working with our Chinese partners, the Shanghai Disney Resort will be both authentically Disney and distinctly Chinese.”

The new Shanghai Disney Resort is slated to open in approximately five years. By opening day, it will be located on a 963-acre (3.9 square kilometer) site in Pudong, Shanghai, with additional room to expand in the future. At opening, the resort will include Shanghai Disneyland, two themed hotels, a large retail, dining and entertainment venue, recreational facilities, a lake and associated parking and transportation hubs. The Magic Kingdom-style park tailored specifically for the people of China featuring several themed lands, an interactive Disney castle, and other large-scale entertainment venues indoor and out, and an 11-acre (46,130 square meter) green space at the center of the theme park.

There will be an initial investment in the project of approximately 24.5 billion yuan (US$3.7 billion) to build the theme park and an additional 4.5 billion yuan (US$0.7 billion) to build the other aspects of the resort, including the hotels and the retail, dining and entertainment area. The investment amounts will be split between Disney and the Shanghai Shendi Group, with Disney holding 43% of the shares of the owner companies and the Shanghai Shendi Group holding the remaining 57%. Financing will be proportional to ownership. In addition, a joint venture management company will be formed, with Disney having a 70% stake and Shanghai Shendi Group a 30% stake. The management company will be responsible for creating, developing and operating the resort.

Shanghai Shendi (Group) Co., Ltd. is a 100% state-owned, joint venture investment holding company formed by three sponsors — Shanghai Lujiazui (Group) Co., Ltd., Shanghai Radio, Film and Television Development Co., Ltd., and Jinjiang International Group Holding Company. Shanghai Shendi (Group) Co., Ltd. is involved in project investment, construction, and operation through two full subsidiaries: Shanghai Shendi Tourism and Resort Development Co., Ltd. and Shanghai Shendi Construction Co., Ltd.

Disney’s first animation screened in China in the 1930s and today it has offices in Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou with over 1,000 employees. Nearly 24 hours of Disney television programming is now available in China every week, reaching 300M-360M people each month. In September 2005, Disney opened its doors to its first theme park in China: Hong Kong Disneyland.