Disney launches world’s first Zootopia-themed land in China

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WALT DISNEY CO. is set to open the world’s first Zootopia land at Shanghai Disneyland Resort as the entertainment giant expands its global theme park footprint and taps into surging demand in China for domestic travel.

The new attraction, based on the popular animated comedy-adventure of the same name, will open on Dec. 20 and feature iconic landmarks from the film and themed restaurants. One of the top draw cards is the “Hot Pursuit” ride, which sees visitors join Officer Judy Hopps and her partner, Nick Wilde, on a police chase to track down kidnapped pop star Gazelle.

It’s the second major themed land launched in quick succession by Disney, following the world’s first Frozen attraction that opened in Hong Kong in November. They’re part of a push to make more of the firm’s theme park and resorts business, with plans to nearly double spending on the segment to $60 billion over 10 years amid major changes in the film and TV industry as well as challenges for its streaming business.

It’s also a sign of the enduring strength of domestic travel demand in China. Facing a raft of economic headwinds, many Chinese are steering clear of expensive overseas trips in favor of vacations at home. Experiential activities have been the big winner and activities like surfing, going to theme parks and touring rural areas have surged in popularity this year, according to travel provider Ctrip.

Shanghai Disneyland Resort has been a major beneficiary, particularly during key holiday periods. During the peak summer travel season, some visitors arrived at 5 a.m. to queue to get in and some of the most popular attractions had wait times of more than three hours.

The $5.5-billion theme park opened in 2016 and Disney owns  43% of the project, with the rest held by state-owned consortium Shanghai Shendi Group Co. A regular one-day ticket costs 475 yuan, though that rises to as much as 799 yuan on certain days like public holidays.

Released in 2016,  Zootopia earned more than $1 billion worldwide and is China’s highest-grossing imported animated feature film ever. Disney announced earlier this year that a sequel is in the works. — Bloomberg

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