Think of it what you will, but Disney is a cultural formation that has traveled around the world, first in cartoons and associated merchandise, then live action films, and then theme parks. The latest and largest theme park has just opened in Shanghai (NYTimes):
The park — Disney’s first on the Chinese mainland — was held up as nothing less than a historic symbol of United States-China relations. Mr. Iger read aloud a letter sent by President Obama that heralded the resort as capturing “the promise of our bilateral relationship.” In a letter of his own, China’s president, Xi Jinping, called the project, which took nearly two years of bruising negotiations to realize, a sign of China’s “commitment to cross-cultural cooperation and our innovation mentality in the new era.”On a lighter note, Wang Yang, one of China’s vice premiers, stood onstage in front of the park’s lavish storybook castle and joked that the rain was a sign of good luck — the “rain of U.S. dollars and RMB,” he said, referring to China’s currency, the renminbi. Disney owns 43 percent of the resort, with the majority stake held by a Chinese state-controlled consortium.
Robert Iger, Disney's CEO, took a special interest in planning the park:
On his tour, Mr. Iger walked through a 15-acre garden in the center of the park designed for older visitors. In part because of China’s longtime one-child policy, Shanghai Disneyland must have strong intergenerational appeal. As “Let’s Go Fly a Kite” from “Mary Poppins” played on the Fantasia Carousel sound system, Mr. Iger pointed toward a grove of cherry trees where 12 mosaics depicted Disney characters in Chinese zodiac style.“We think this will be a very popular photo op,” he said. Disney learned at Hong Kong Disneyland, which opened in 2005, that the Chinese love to take pictures of themselves in front of whimsical facades. (Mr. Iger’s zodiac symbol — he was born in 1951 — is a rabbit, represented on the wall by Thumper from “Bambi.”)