Work on Shanghai Disneyland starts April 8

Construction of the world's sixth Disney amusement park will start in Shanghai Friday following years of negotiations between the US company and Chinese authorities, the Wall Street Journal said.

Walt Disney Co. and its local partners have issued invitations to "a special event in Shanghai" on April 8, the paper reported Saturday, quoting an anonymous source.

AFP could not immediately confirm the report with the Shanghai municipal authorities or Disney's Chinese partner, the Shanghai Shendi Group Co. Ltd., the consortium that will operate the project.

Shanghai's mayor has estimated the amusement park will cost 24.4 billion yuan ($3.7 billion), the Journal said, which would make it one of the largest foreign investments in China.

The park will cover 963 acres (390 hectares), which makes it just a 26th of the size of Walt Disney World in Orlando, Florida, the business paper said.

Work on the project, which was approved by Beijing in 2009, has fallen behind the schedule previously reported by the Chinese media, which had said construction would begin in November 2010.

The theme park site is expected to include two hotels, a commercial and restaurant complex and a lake, the paper said.

Tom Staggs, the head of Disney's parks and resorts division, recently said the project would take five years to complete, the Journal reported.

The Shanghai Disneyland would be the US entertainment giant's third theme park in Asia, after those in Tokyo and Hong Kong. It also has two parks in the United States and one in Paris.

Hong Kong Disneyland has had a bumpy ride since opening its gates in 2005, with local lawmakers saying low attendance has not justified the huge public investment.

The mainland is the main source of visitors for the Hong Kong park, last year accounting for 2.2 million visitors, or 42 percent of the total, according to the latest park figures.

In mainland China, Disney employs more than 600 people and markets its products in over 25 cities.

Last year it launched an English teaching centre in Shanghai for children aged between two and 10.

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