×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Walt Disney Imagineering President Bob Weis Welcomes More China Theme Parks

Bob Weis, the president of Walt Disney Imagineering and creative executive of the Shanghai Disney Resort, has outlined a cooperative rather than competitive view of newcomers to China’s theme park industry.

“A rising tide raises all boats,” Weis told Variety on the sidelines of the Asia Society’s U.S.-Asia Entertainment Summit in Los Angeles. “The more there is a theme park industry here, the more we can all work together to make it safer for rides and for the public. We welcome the quality of everything coming up.”

His remarks Tuesday came a day before the U.K.’s Merlin Entertainments and China Media Capital announced plans to launch a Legoland Resort by 2023 near Shanghai, encroaching on the local catchment area of Disney’s first mainland park. About 55 million people live within two hours’ travel time of Shanghai Disney. The regions of metropolitan Shanghai and the provinces of Jiangsu, Zhejiang and Anhui have an estimated population of 220 million.

Universal has plans to open its biggest park in the world, in Beijing, in 2021, which will mark its third resort in Asia and will feature a world-first “Kung Fu Panda” land and a localized “Transformers” section.

Weis recapped some of Disney’s recent park expansion activities around the world. His team has just finished two “Star Wars” projects almost simultaneously in Florida and California. Tokyo’s DisneySeas has broken ground on its new “Fantasy Spring” expansion, the largest since that park was established in 2001, which is set to open in 2022. Meanwhile, the first-ever expansion based on “Zootopia” is under way at Shanghai Disneyland, Weis said.

“These projects never sit still. You get to where it feels like it’s working, and then you say, OK, what’s the next thing?” said Weis.

Weis reminisced about the process of creating Shanghai Disneyland in a speech at the summit.

“Bob Iger told us that China was so important to the future of the Disney company that we should be ambitious. We shouldn’t build something small or easy; we should build something that’s big,” he said.

This became literal when it came to the castle. Weis put up photos of differently shaped castles from around the world and asked Chinese consultants to mark the ones that felt most appropriate to them. “The one thing they all agreed on was, it has to be the biggest. So we went through a lot of effort to make sure it was the biggest,” he said.

One challenge of getting the park off the ground was finding the right local staff.

“In the early days, it was difficult because you kind of think, ‘Oh, everyone’s going to want to work for Disney.’ It turns out people have jobs; they’re not that interested,” Weis said with a laugh. “But once the dam starts to break and word gets around, you suddenly get a flood of amazing talent.”

Despite all the preparation that goes into a park opening, it’s always hard to predict what will actually strike a chord with visitors – like the cooked turkey legs in Shanghai, which have been a hit.

He expressed his gratitude for all that he’d learned in the process. “We don’t build these very often, so the opportunity to do one of these from the ground up with new ideas in it is amazing…It was a huge golden ticket to be able to have that.”

More Film

  • Film director and scriptwriter Vojtech Jasny

    Vojtech Jasny, Award-Winning Czech Filmmaker, Dies at 93

    Czech filmmaker Vojtech Jasny, director of “All My Good Countrymen,” which won the best director prize at Cannes in 1969, has died. He was 93. According to the Associated Press, Slovacke divadlo, a theatre he frequently visited, said that Jasny died Friday, and a family representative confirmed his death to the CTK news agency. Jasny [...]

  • Noelle Anna Kendrick

    Film Review: 'Noelle' on Disney Plus

    What do you get when you toss together Christmas cheer, Christmas kitsch, a fish-out-of-the-North-Pole setup swiped from “Elf,” and a plot that turns on whether Kris Kringle’s daughter, played as a perky naïf by Anna Kendrick, has what it takes to step into her dad’s snow boots? You get a plastic icicle like “Noelle,” Long [...]

  • Scandalous

    Film Review: 'Scandalous: The Untold Story of the National Enquirer'

    When grocery store shoppers snag a copy of Weekly World News (the rag responsible for the refuses-to-die “Bat Child” hoax), they know they’re getting fake news. But when they pick up the National Enquirer, it’s a far more ambiguous prospect. Enquirer headlines are deliberately provocative, shouting details of the private lives of real people — [...]

  • Cynthia Erivo

    Cynthia Erivo Almost Gave Up Singing to Become a Spinal Surgeon

    Before Cynthia Erivo went on to become a Tony and Grammy winner, she nearly gave up singing to be a spinal surgeon. In her “Variety Studio: Actors on Actors” conversation with Alfre Woodard, the “Harriet” star said she had been singing since she was toddler. Her mother noticed she’d hum while eating her food when [...]

  • Alfre Woodard Cynthia Erivo Variety Actors

    How Cynthia Erivo and Alfre Woodard Found Deeper Meaning in ‘Harriet’ and ‘Clemency’

    Cynthia Erivo (“Harriet”) and Alfre Woodard (“Clemency”) sat down for a chat for “Variety Studio: Actors on Actors.” For more, click here. Cynthia Erivo and Alfre Woodard are at the forefront of this year’s awards conversation for two prestige films directed by black women. In Chinonye Chukwu’s “Clemency,” a movie that won the Sundance Grand [...]

  • Rocketman Taron Egerton

    'Rocketman' Hair and Make-Up Artist Talks Transforming Taron Egerton

    Hair and make-up artist Lizzie Yianni-Georgiou sums up “Rocketman” as the story “of a great icon who hits rock bottom. You see the great things happen and he hits rock bottom. By the end, he’s pulled himself together and he’s still standing.” For the viewer, it’s a rollercoaster ride of emotion, but as Yianni-Georgiou says, [...]

  • FORD V. FERRARI

    Box Office: 'Ford v Ferrari' Dashing to No. 1 While 'Charlie's Angels' Flounders

    Christian Bale and Matt Damon’s racing drama “Ford v Ferrari” is set to win the weekend box office by a long shot with an esimated $29 million from 3,528 domestic locations. Elizabeth Banks’ “Charlie’s Angels” reboot could land in a distant second in its debut weekend with about $8.2 million, but the second frame of [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content