Disney rolls out first China store before theme park

People queue to enter China's first Disney store at Pudong financial district in Shanghai on May 20, 2015. -- PHOTO: REUTERS
People queue to enter China's first Disney store at Pudong financial district in Shanghai on May 20, 2015. -- PHOTO: REUTERS
People walk past China's first Disney store at Pudong financial district in Shanghai on May 18, 2015. -- PHOTO: REUTERS
People walk past China's first Disney store at Pudong financial district in Shanghai on May 18, 2015. -- PHOTO: REUTERS
Security guards stand in front of China's first Disney store at Pudong financial district in Shanghai on May 18, 2015. -- PHOTO: REUTERS
Security guards stand in front of China's first Disney store at Pudong financial district in Shanghai on May 18, 2015. -- PHOTO: REUTERS
A woman and a girl shop inside China's first Disney store at Pudong financial district in Shanghai on May 20, 2015. -- PHOTO: REUTERS
A woman and a girl shop inside China's first Disney store at Pudong financial district in Shanghai on May 20, 2015. -- PHOTO: REUTERS
People walk past a banner of Disney animated characters outside China's first Disney flagship store at the Lujiazui financial district in Shanghai on May 20, 2015. -- PHOTO: AFP
People walk past a banner of Disney animated characters outside China's first Disney flagship store at the Lujiazui financial district in Shanghai on May 20, 2015. -- PHOTO: AFP
People queue to enter China's first Disney flagship store at the Lujiazui financial district in Shanghai on May 20, 2015. -- PHOTO: AFP
People queue to enter China's first Disney flagship store at the Lujiazui financial district in Shanghai on May 20, 2015. -- PHOTO: AFP

SHANGHAI (AFP) - Disney opened its first Chinese store on Wednesday, before the launch of its first mainland theme park, as it seeks to sell Mickey Mouse and friends to the Asian giant's middle classes.

The 860 square-metre store opened in Shanghai, where the park - initially due to open this year but put back until next spring - is under construction.

The United States entertainment titan already has a theme park in Hong Kong, which opened in 2005.

According to media reports the firm first expressed interest in building one on the mainland in the 1990s. But the State Council, or cabinet, did not approve the project until 2009 over concerns about the invasion of American culture.

On Tuesday the park's central attraction - the Enchanted Storybook Castle - was topped out with a golden peony, China's national flower, installed on its highest point, the company said in a statement.

Shoppers queued outside the store for hours ahead of the opening.

"We have already been to the Disney park in Hong Kong," said Gong Kefei, a mother in her 30s waiting in line with her four-year-old daughter.

"But my daughter loves the princesses in all the Disney cartoons and insisted on coming when she heard the store opening."