Today is Hong Kong Disneyland’s 11th Anniversary, so we’re a bit late to the punch with this one…but HKDL has been celebrating its 10th Anniversary for the last year, with the festivities now winding down and the park currently transitioning over to its ever-popular Haunted Halloween at Hong Kong Disneyland festivities.
Still, with everything new for the Happily Ever After 10th Anniversary Celebration (aside from the decorations) sticking around even after the festivities have ended, we figured a quick update to take a look at what’s new/next for Hong Kong Disneyland is in order.
Hong Kong Disneyland is the park U.S. Disney fans forgot. While numerous English language sites exist for Tokyo Disney Resort and Disneyland Paris (and Shanghai Disneyland is the ‘new car’ of the parks that everyone–even the mainstream media–is talking about), there seems to be very little info about Hong Kong. Even we are guilty of this. Heck, I didn’t even know there’s a Hong Kong Disneyland 10K coming up in a couple of weeks!
>So, what has Hong Kong Disneyland been up to while we’ve all been sleeping? Let’s take a quick tour of the resort…
The most significant addition since our previous visit was the all-new stage show, “Mickey and the Wondrous Book.” It replaced “Golden Mickeys” at Disney’s Storybook Theater late last year. This 28-minute concert-style stage show features musical vignettes from Disney stories, and is a lot like “Mickey and the Magical Map” at Disneyland.
The narrative thread here is better: Mickey Mouse and Goofy discover a magical book that can bring stories to life. When Mickey opens the book, Olaf falls out. While trying to get Olaf back inside, Mickey is drawn into the book. Yep, it’s like a modern-day Trading Places! As the trio embark upon a comical journey (featuring a lot of utterances of the word “butt”) inside an enchanted book, 7 stories jump to life from the book: “Jungle Book,” “The Little Mermaid,” “Tangled,” “Brave,” “Aladdin,” “The Princess and the Frog” and finally, “Frozen.”
The grand finale of “Mickey and the Wondrous Book” is an original song entitled “Happily Ever After,” which is also Hong Kong Disneyland’s 10th Anniversary theme song. We thought this show was solid, and enjoyed it quite a bit more than “Mickey and the Magical Map” (which has strong moments, but overall is so-so). It was drawing huge crowds during our visit, with the queue for performances filling up and guests being turned away before the theater doors even opened to seat audiences.
Another new attraction is Fairy Tale Forest, which is a walk-through attraction that allows guests to explore a winding, living storybook realm based on Disney fairy tales. The whimsical passages feature miniature scenes from “Tangled,” “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs,” “Beauty and the Beast,” “Cinderella,” and “The Little Mermaid.” The forest is also be home to Tinker Bell where she greets guests in Pixie Hollow.
The experience is part Storybook Land Canal Boats, part Sleeping Beauty Castle walk-through, and part hedge maze, with the result being a charming little addition to Hong Kong Disneyland’s Fantasyland. It was about 1882382% humidity the day we visited, which was less than ideal for an outdoor walk-through, so we didn’t exactly take our time wandering through.
We meant to revisit at night…but forgot; still, I liked the experience for what it is. Definitely not an E-Ticket, but not everything is or needs to be. (This does nothing to solve Hong Kong Disneyland’s Fantasyland ride shortage, though.)
Then there’s the Star Wars: Tomorrowland Takeover. Realizing “Season of the Force” wouldn’t be so seasonal, Disney pivoted and came up with a better name for this one.
The main draw of Star Wars: Tomorrowland Takeover is Hyperspace Mountain. This is like the Disneyland version, but with a greater feeling of permanence. Entering the queue, guests walk past a gigantic X-wing Starfighter, flight suits, pilot helmets, and other props. The premise here is that guests are testing their skills as rebel pilots.
After a mission briefing from Admiral Ackbar, they prepare to fly to outer space on a reconnaissance mission to survey an Imperial Star Destroyer spotted near Jakku, featured in Star Wars: The Force Awakens, which turns out to be (surprise, surprise) a trap! The coaster then does its thing, dodging the the dogfight between Imperial TIE fighters and Rebel X-wing Starfighters. The ride experience is very similar to Disneyland’s, with minor differences.
There’s other stuff, too. The Star Wars: Command Post (think Launch Bay), is a meet & greet with Chewbacca and R2-D2. Captain Phasma leads a line of Stormtroopers on a First Order patrol in Tomorrowland, searching for guests who are part of the Resistance.
It wasn’t open yet when we visited (it is now), but Jedi Training Academy: Trials of the Temple is also part of the Tomorrowland Takeover, making its home, however inexplicably, in the Autopia queue. All told, the Tomorrowland Takeover is about what you’d expect if you’ve seen Disneyland’s version of the same. There’s a little better decor here, but it’s still not all that noteworthy.
The bigger story was what’s not open yet. Iron Man Experience was still behind construction walls as of our visit, but with the attraction already cycling, it seems like only a matter of time before it opens. This will be the first major (major-ish?) Marvel attraction at any Disney park, and it’s been a long time coming.
Then there’s Explorer’s Lodge, the third hotel at Hong Kong Disneyland, slated to open in early 2017. We saw progress (and road work) during our visit, and here’s a photo update from roughly the same time. This 750-room hotel will increase HKDL’s hotel room inventory from 1,000 to 1,750 rooms. Pretty bold move with Shanghai Disneyland having just opened and (presumably) siphoning off some tourists, but HKDL’s current hotels operate above 90% occupancy, so maybe it’s not that bold?
I guess we shall see. Personally, I love the way Hong Kong Disneyland is masterplanned, and I think the sooner they start on a second gate to turn it into more of a ‘destination resort,’ the better. While there’s something to be said for the park’s quaint charm, I think it would benefit quite a bit from a second park.
I think that’s it for now. Hong Kong Disneyland has already grown tremendously in its first decade, and I only hope that it continues its trajectory of the last several years and smart expansion is undertaken to turn this into a world-class destination. It would be a shame to see HKDL languish now that Shanghai Disneyland has opened.
For the rest of your planning needs, consult our Hong Kong Disneyland Trip Planning Guide. It covers everything you need to know for a visit to HKDL, including reviews, strategy, packing, traveling in the city, and more! If you want to read about our first visit to the park, check out our Hong Kong Disneyland Trip Report.
What do you think of the changes at Hong Kong Disneyland? Anything you’re looking forward to at HKDL? Does visiting this park interest you? If you have any questions or thoughts to share, please post them in the comments. We love hearing from readers!