While Shanghai Disneyland offers a fantasy world for guests, it has also brought a new reality for those who work and live nearby.
During his Wednesday visit to the Shanghai International Tourism and Resorts Zone, where the Disney Resort is located, Shanghai mayor Ying Yong said Disneyland's influence will expand and industrial clusters will form in the zone.
Tourism facilities, transportation and dining will also be improved in the zone, located in Pudong New District, according to the mayor.
Shanghai Disneyland received some 8 million visitors in the first nine months since opening in mid-June 2016, said Bob Iger, Walt Disney chairman and CEO at the company's annual meeting of shareholders last month.
The figure is expected to reach 10 million by the park's first anniversary in June, according to Iger.
During this year's Spring Festival holiday, which lasted from Jan. 27 to Feb. 2, major tourist spots in Pudong received nearly 1.6 million tourists, up by 60 percent from the same period last year. Sales revenue of the district's commercial enterprises reached 642 million yuan (93 million U.S. dollars), up by over 32 percent annually.
Pudong's Chuansha area, where Disneyland is located, has been nicknamed "Chuan-lifornia" by Disney employees.
The park's opening has offered brand new opportunities to people in the area. Once a factory worker, 49-year-old Chuansha local Du Weiping is now a cleaner at the theme park. Besides her daily duty of keeping the main entrance clean, she often voluntarily helps and guides tourists in need. "The visitors, both Chinese and foreigners, have all kinds of questions about which programs are the most interesting, how to get a fast pass, and where the toilet is," she said.
With the help of her younger colleagues, Du, who previously didn't speak a word of English, can now freely communicate with foreign visitors in simple English.
Shanghai Disneyland has not only offered opportunities to locals but also to people from across the world. Ntsepa Pitjeng, from South Africa, is an actress in Disney's Chinese version of the "The Lion King" musical. Despite her experience performing in different countries in the English version of the musical, her new role posed a big challenge. Learning to deliver her lines in Chinese took her almost two months. She recalled that once she went blank and suddenly forgot her lines on stage, until her Chinese colleague kindly gave her a cue.
Dong Xiaoling, an official with the Shanghai International Tourism and Resorts Zone, said that besides the growth in tourism, Shanghai Disneyland has also brought business experience and innovation to China. Cooperation between China and the United States is bringing more benefits to the country, she said.