Negotiation for Shanghai Disney Resort began around 2001, and the park was first envisaged in the early 2000s. Location scouting in Pudong began in 1999 with Bob Iger. However, in order to help Hong Kong Disneyland grow, the Chinese national government deliberately slowed down the development of Shanghai Disney. The Hong Kong resort opened in 2005, two years after the SARS epidemic devastated Hong Kong's economy, and it was hoped that Hong Kong Disneyland would help the city's tourism industry recover. On November 4, 2009, the Shanghai Municipal Government announced that the Shanghai Disney project had been approved by the national government, with an estimated total investment of CN¥ 24,400,000,000. Land near the proposed production site increased in value dramatically after the announcement was made. In January 2011, a government official confirmed that Shanghai Disneyland would be 2–3 times the size of Hong Kong Disneyland and would eventually contain three theme parks.
On 7 April 2011, groundbreaking began at the Shanghai Disneyland Resort site. On 28 April 2014, Disney CEO Bob Iger announced an extra US$800,000,000 investment to add additional rides and entertainment by opening day, bringing the total budget to US$5,500,000,000. In February 2016, it was rumored that the resort was still behind schedule and over budget, causing the United States-based resorts (Disneyland Resort and Walt Disney World Resort) to make budget cuts. That same month, Disney announced that Hong Kong Disneyland Resort reported its first loss in four years, losing HK$148,000,000, and falling 9.3% in annual attendance, to 6.8 million visitors. Analysts attributed this to fewer mainland Chinese tourists visit, hurt by a combination of China’s slowdown, political unrest, and a weak yuan relative to the Hong Kong dollar, as well as the upcoming opening of the Shanghai Resort.
Major construction work started in April 8, 2011, targeting a 2016 spring opening. The resort is planned to cover an area of 4 km2 (1.5 sq mi) and it is expected to cost CN¥ 25,000,000,000 (US$3,660,000,000). The project is financed by several large Chinese state-owned enterprises in Shanghai forming a joint venture with the Walt Disney Company. The Oriental Land Company has not confirmed any connection to this venture with Disney on the Shanghai Disneyland project. "The first-phase of the project will be to the South of Huanglou Area, an area in Chuansha Town, the southeast suburbs of Shanghai's Pudong area; the second phase will extend further southwest," an urban developer from Shanghai stated. DeSimone Consulting Engineers were the structural engineers behind the construction work.
Like most other Disney Resorts around the world, Shanghai Disneyland Resort features a flagship park called Shanghai Disneyland. The park is similar in style to Disney's other Disneyland-style parks, containing traditional and newly-created themed lands. One of the aims of the park is the combination of Disney stories and characters with attractions that are specifically designed for Chinese guests. An interactive castle called Enchanted Storybook Castle lies at the center of the park. Other large-scale performance venues are found across the park.