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Dark Skies Fail to Dampen Shanghai Disneyland Opening

Celebrities and business folk including Sheryl Sandberg, George Lucas and Jerry Bruckheimer were on hand Thursday in Shanghai at the official opening of the $5.5 billion Shanghai Disneyland in China.

A ribbon cutting ceremony featured messages from U.S. President Obama and China’s president Xi Jinping. Obama’s missive was read out by Disney chairman Bob Iger, Xi’s by Wang Yang, China’s Vice President.

“This is one of the most exciting and important moments in the history of the Walt Disney Company,” Iger said before cutting the ribbon with Wang and Han Zhang, Shanghai Communist Party secretary

Skies that were leaden and damp did nothing to dampen the spirits of the public who finally got their chance to enter the park at noon.

And, while the officials and dignitaries were tending to the ceremonial stuff, crowds had built up outside the park and the Shanghai Disney Resort’s two hotels. The Toy Story Hotel, which for the past two days had been an untidy camp for visiting media, was instead thronged from breakfast time onward by paying guests trying to get an early check-in and maximize their time in the park proper.

On Wednesday night an outdoor concert headed by composer Tan Dun and with a charming and creative light show projected onto the park’s centerpiece Magic Castle had to be cancelled due to drizzle. But Disney had pre-recorded the show on the two previous evenings and was able to screen an edited version of the concert in three of the park’s theater venues instead.

The park is a joint venture between Disney and a consortium of local Chinese companies. Built on reclaimed land, near the Pudong airport, the park features six themed areas and a mix of lands and attractions that are staples of other Disney parks and as well as ones new in Shanghai.

Certain to be a major hit is the Tron Light Cycle, a very high speed roller coaster for which riders must crouch forwards and be locked in. It features as part of the new Tomorrowland zone.

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