Alright, time for the final installment of our Hong Kong Disneyland Trip Report. I wanted to start with some overall thoughts about Hong Kong Disneyland in what will otherwise be a photo-heavy installment.
Hong Kong Disneyland has been criticized by Disney fans since even before it opened, with the park justifiably–at least to a degree–having a reputation as being a cheap Disneyland clone when it opened. While Tokyo DisneySea was my holy grail even before we were able to make the trip there, for a while Hong Kong Disneyland didn’t much interest me, and this was in large part due to that reputation.
A lot of this criticism remains valid today, as there are too many cloned attractions in Hong Kong Disneyland, and a lot of the park looks very similar to Disneyland. To Hong Kong Disneyland’s detriment, it doesn’t have that same charm and character that Disneyland has attained by virtue of nearly 60 years in operation. Hong Kong Disneyland also, in some places, feels slightly hollow as compared to Disneyland. This is somewhat difficult to fully articulate, but think of modern reproductions of antiques. The reproductions often look the same, but there’s something missing–a certain je ne sais quoi. In the case of Hong Kong Disneyland, this can be things as little as marquees on Main Street that don’t have the same depth and dimensionality, or as big as a Fantasyland that simply lacking in substance and that inviting feeling.
However, a lot of that criticism is no longer valid–or never was valid. Hong Kong Disneyland’s setting, surrounded by mountains, is incredibly unique and gives the park its own personality. Its Tomorrowland is more of a sci-fi land with an eye-catching aesthetic. Adventureland there feels like an extension of the subtropical environment outside the park. As a whole, the resort was well-designed and is beautifully maintained. The fountain out front is stunning, as are the paths to the two (soon to be three) on-site hotels.
All of this is before even mentioning the three new lands, each of which bring something unique to the table, and further distance Hong Kong Disneyland from the reputation of being “Disneyland-lite.” Toy Story Land isn’t everyone’s cup of tea, but it fits the environment really well, and is a big draw for the bulk of guests visiting the park. Grizzly Gulch is a new twist on the Frontierland concept, with its own wrinkles and a top tier attraction in Big Grizzly Mountain Runaway Mine Cars. Then there’s Mystic Point and its flagship attraction, Mystic Manor.
What can I say about Mystic Manor that I haven’t already said? Not a whole lot. It is the pinnacle achievement of Walt Disney Imagineering in at least the last decade, perhaps longer. It is arguably the best modern attraction in any Disney theme park. It, alone, catapults Hong Kong Disneyland into the realm of “bucket list” places for crazed Disney fans like myself. Mystic Manor is the gamechanger that Hong Kong Disneyland needed, and with it, the remaining valid critiques of the park don’t seem so important.
To be sure, Hong Kong Disneyland still has some growing up to do… (more…)