Shanghai Disneyland Preview & Analysis
The road to Shanghai Disneyland has been a turbulent one. Former CEO Michael Eisner began evaluating the viability of Shanghai in the 1990s, and got serious with a letter of intent in 2002 before Hong Kong Disneyland even opened. Getting a deal done with the Chinese government was no easy process, and it took his successor, Bob Iger, roughly two decades after the initial idea of entering the mainland to sign a deal to build Shanghai Disneyland, with partner Shendi owning a majority stake in the project. Construction started thereafter in 2011.
Since then, issues have abounded with the Shanghai Disney Resort project. Concerns over how it would fulfill its mission of being “authentically Disney, distinctly Chinese” have been raised, and also of what it might symbolize to have such a theme park in mainland China, as well as how park operations can keep the park up to Disney standards given cultural norms. An additional $800 million investment was announced last year that was purportedly for additional attractions–despite no differences appearing on attraction slates that leaked before the $800 million investment announcement and the official slate later released.
Rumblings of other problems, from concerns over brand awareness (an issue dating back to HKDL’s construction) to the health of the Westerners working on-site to talk of rebuilding certain elements due to shoddy construction, have been tied to the project. As a result of these issues or others, the opening date of Shanghai Disneyland was delayed by roughly a year.
Much of this has been rumor and supposition, and probably has in part arisen because the project and construction thereof have been so shrouded in secrecy. Pretty much the only concrete details that have been discussed since early on have concerned the Enchanted Storybook Castle, which is touted as the largest ever. Speculation has run rampant as to the reasons for the secrecy (the most logical explanation to me is to avoid copycat parks from quickly springing up in China), and whether the Chinese partners have attempted to exert unduly control over the Shanghai Disney Resort project, and made for a difficult working relationship as design plans have been argued back and forth.
I don’t know the veracity of any of the rumors regarding the project, and regardless of what’s true and false, I’m sure there’s an interesting story to be told. There likely are such stories when it comes to any project of this magnitude undertaken between an icon of Americana (and capitalism) and the Chinese government and its major businesses.
However, since I really have nothing to go on beyond the nuggets of rumors and the like that I’ve pieced together, that’s another story for another day–told by someone who actually knows what they’re talking about. Still, I felt it worth including some background to give some context to the real and potential challenges that have faced the development of Shanghai Disney Resort up until this point.
What I do know is that the curtain has been lifted on Shanghai Disneyland, with its lands shown in an incredible level of detail–right down to gift shop signage–at the D23 Expo. It’s almost as if Disney showcased an extraordinary amount of detail as a direct response to silence critics. I’m going to delve into some of the specifics that I find most interesting, but I’d rather offer my analysis on Shanghai Disneyland as we now know it, as opposed to just copying and pasting the descriptions of each land that can easily be found on the official Shanghai Disney Resort website. I’d highly recommend reading that before reading further, as this post assumes basic background covered there.
Up to speed on the lands and attractions coming to Shanghai Disneyland? Good. Let’s get going…
For starters, it’s pretty clear to me that Disney has learned a lot since its foray into Hong Kong. While that park has a certain beauty to it, prior to its recent expansion, there were a lot of uninspired attraction clones, and the overall design largely felt lifted from California.
Now, 99% of the local audience might have never stepped foot in Disneyland, but it’s difficult to wow the worldwide media and create buzz about a park that more or less exists–in far more robust form–elsewhere. Equally as important, for a company steeped in creativity, it was fairly insipid at opening. Imagine if Led Zeppelin had just used the guitar tab from “Whole Lotta Love” for every song thereafter because, hey, go with what works!
Fortunately, Shanghai Disneyland doesn’t use the same tab. Moreso than any other castle park that has been built since the original Disneyland, this park is unique. From the design foregoing a Main Street USA to lands that deviate from the castle park norm to attractions that do not exist elsewhere, Shanghai Disneyland pushes the creative envelope.
Another plus that Shanghai Disneyland has going for it is design lavishness. Not since Disneyland Paris has any castle park appeared so beautifully designed, at least in concept art. How this art translates to reality remains to be seen, but as of right now, my money is on this being the most beautiful or second most beautiful castle park. It might just be the “Stairway to Heaven” to Disneyland’s “Whole Lotta Love.” (Or maybe it’s “Kashmir” and Paris is “Stairway to Heaven”…we probably don’t need all these Led Zeppelin analogies.)
I know many people might point to Enchanted Storybook Castle as evidence of this. I’m not so sure I would, at least right now. This castle is really large, but size should not be conflated with grandiosity. The models in part make it appear almost like a ‘big box’ take on a castle, like the Tower of Terror and Cinderella Castle had a weird love child. Part of me questions whether this was the best design choice, or more about Shendi wanting to be able to tout ‘the largest castle anywhere’, as a statement to project national power akin to the Beijing Olympics. Irrespective of the rationale, I’m willing to withhold judgment on Enchanted Storybook Castle until I see it in person, but even in the case of castles, bigger isn’t always better.
Rather, I find support for the idea that Shanghai Disneyland could be the most beautiful castle park in the fluidity of the design choices in Tomorrowland, in the rockwork throughout Adventure Isle, in the detailed forts and landings in Treasure Cove, in the ornate & colorful look of Mickey Avenue, and so on. Every land is really interesting from a visual perspective, and it’s going to be a joy to photograph so long as China gets those smog vacuums up and running soon. I get the feeling that Shanghai Disneyland might be the park the Imagineers dreamt up without being constricted by the format of Walt Disney’s original magic kingdom.
Using the words “constricted by” and “Walt Disney” in the same sentence probably doesn’t sit well with a lot of Disney fans, and understandably so given the significance of Disneyland. I know many fans have been apprehensive about Shanghai Disneyland because of just how much it deviates from Walt’s original vision in terms of general design, and also in the iconic attractions absent from the park.
I don’t think I have to preface the following statements with gushing over Walt Disney, to avoid sounding irreverent. Of course I’m a fan of the man. However, countless Disney theme parks–a couple of them on par with the original–have been built without his guidance, and to say that a castle park in the style of Disneyland needs X Y or Z because that’s how Walt Disney built his seems creatively stifling. I’ll also spare you some fluffy Walt quote about progress or moving forward, but it seems contrary to the core principles that define Disney. I’d have a hard time criticizing Toy Story Land as lacking ambition and then turning around and saying every castle park needs to follow a set formula.
More important to me than following any specific formula or blueprint for what is required to make a castle park is that the park is imbued with the general tone and evokes the same emotions of a castle park (in other words, such a park is defined by more than just having a castle, but less than having a specific set of lands or attraction roster).
The specifics are wholly immaterial. I like the creative liberties Shanghai Disneyland is taking, rather than it just going back to the same ‘tried and true’ well. Even if it all falls flat on its face, at least they took a chance. To me at least, that’s what The Walt Disney Company is all about, at its best.
Moving on to the specific lands and attractions, one thing I really enjoyed seeing at the Expo is how Disney isn’t just showcasing its hot-in-China intellectual property in Shanghai Disneyland. It made me absolutely giddy to see a favorite of mine, Ludwig Von Drake, has his own shop, and I’m assuming the vast majority of the local audience has no clue who he is. I think it would be hilariously ironic if Sam the Eagle had a gift shop, but perhaps that’s a tad on the nose.
There are several little details present in the art that assuaged some of my fears that this would be a “locals only” park that is not welcoming to foreigners. I still have some concerns, perhaps unfounded, but from English signage to details clearly thrown in for the sake of a global audience, my fears have been lessened. I guess I won’t know for certain until I show up at the turnstiles next April.
I hinted on this above, but there have been concerns that Shanghai Disneyland will have an over-reliance on franchises. Given that the only big attractions that doesn’t somehow incorporate a franchise are Roaring Rapids (hopefully Q’arÃ¡q isn’t Shanghai’s Yeti: costs tens of millions of dollars, is only visible for a millisecond, and eventually goes into disco mode) and Soaring Over the Horizon, at first blush, this concerns might appear well-founded.
I think it’s necessary to look past that and actually consider what’s being built. I mean, is anyone who is complaining about franchises honestly up in arms about Tron Lightcycle Power Run? Does Voyage to the Crystal Grotto not look like a (dare I say) enchanting boat ride? Does the concept art for Pirates of the Caribbean: Battle for the Sunken Treasure not have you drooling? There are certainly a lot of franchises, but in most cases, it seems like these franchises are being used in a way that benefits the attraction rather than to serve the almighty synergy gods. Personally, I cannot envision the Lightcycle Power Run being better without Tron attached to it.
It also seems like many standard attractions are going the extra mile creatively. Peter Pan’s Flight, Buzz Lightyear Planet Rescue, Jetpacks, and Once Upon a Time Adventure all look like advanced iterations of tried and true favorites. Then there are the shows, which we don’t know much about, other random walk-throughs, and the like.
Finally, there are the generic clones or basic attractions: Hunny Pot Spin, The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh (presumably), Dumbo, Stitch Encounter, and Explorer Canoes. That’s not many attractions that I’d put on the “boring, been there done that” list. I think it’s fair to say there are too few attractions–a complaint that could be levied against every park on opening day following EPCOT Center–but not that the ones on the lineup are in any other way lacking.
There’s only so much you can glean from concept art, and what’s built isn’t always totally faithful to it. More importantly, the enjoyableness of a park isn’t predicated wholly on its lands and attractions (just ask Disneyland Paris). There are still many questions I have about Shanghai Disneyland, and it is doubtlessly too early to judge this castle park. It will be too early on opening day–even if every attraction does manage to open with the park–and it will even be too early to evaluate its “success” a year after the park opens.
With that said, I think now is an appropriate time to say that Shanghai Disneyland is on the right course. A lot of the fears I had about Shanghai Disneyland based on rumors I had read have been vanquished, and I’m now cautiously optimistic. For me, some of the decisions that sounded questionable on paper have at least been partially vindicated by the concept art, videos, and seeing how it all is coming together. It is still way too early to call the park a success, but I don’t think it’s too early to say I’m really excited to see it in person, and my enthusiasm has really increased based upon what I saw at the D23 Expo.
If you are planning a Shanghai Disneyland trip, check out our Disney Parks Vacation Planning Guides! Not because we have one for Shanghai (yet), but because we do for Tokyo and Hong Kong, and it only makes sense to hit at least one of those two if you visit Shanghai Disneyland.
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What’s your take on Shanghai Disneyland? Are you excited, apprehensive, uninterested, etc.? Are you thinking of visiting the park? If you have other ideas, questions, or thoughts, please share in the comments!
Yes, I’m excited to take a tour of Shanghai Disneyland. Please Tell some details about its Entry fees and timings??
The answer is no. It’s not worth the money and time. Most of the major attractions “TRON” and “Roaring Rapids” were down when we were there for 2 days. Queuing for one and a half hour, then all of a sudden some problem and had to abandon queue. grrrr… What a disappointment. We’ve already asked for a refund but Disney Shanghai only wants to give us fast pass and wants us to spend money again for the ticket. And all shows and disney songs are all in Chinese.. not worth to go. Disney HK though smaller is far much better! But nothing beats our Disney experience in Orlando.
Is the disneyland suitable for non-chinese tourists? We are going to Shanghai for a conference and are wondering if it’s worth visiting it with our 4year old son who had never been to any disney park
The shanghai Disney park opening on June 16th, 2016 was a huge disappointment mainly on how it was run and controlled or uncontrolled. The rides were not the problem but the line wait for a lot of the rides were around 3 hours. It may have delayed longer as a lot of people cut in line without the Disney staff stopping it. Disney should not sell more tickets than they can handle. Waiting for 3 hours for a ride is unacceptable.
To get into the park, the wait was over an hour and people were placed outside without any coverage in the rain. There was artificial grass that people had to stand on which was uneven and had dips of water puddles that a lot of people stepped into on accident. A lot of people were trying to cut in line and people continued to scream at those people. Where were the Disney staff to control this? There were a lot of Disney staff standing nearby but did absolutely nothing to stop people from cutting in line. People were waiting in a very squished line like cattle. Rather than Disney preparing for rain and putting some kind of roof or protection for the rain, there was none and Disney staff were trying to sell raincoats to make extra money. People were very tired waiting in line but Disney did not allow people to bring fold up chairs so there was no option but to stand in muddy water in the rain.
It is a shame on Disney to open at 12pm and when ordering tickets online, it didn’t seem to show the hours. But if you looked for it, you could see it written somewhere in very light grey small print. Disney earlier said it was sold out but decided to sell tickets a few days before the opening perhaps to try to get more revenues. But Disney should have thought about the safety risk of being over crowded.
Pirates of the Caribbean ride broke down too! Disney staff told people who were waiting for about an hour that the ride wasn’t working.
The water ride called Roaring rapids has drain holes that spurts up water into and between your legs. These drain holes are supposed to drain out water and not let water in. But in contrary, when the boat gets moved around in the rapids, water will spurt upward between people’s legs. That’s why people got very wet. One guy put a rain coat on with his SLR zoom camera between his legs thinking he would save his camera from getting wet. At the end of the ride, his face was frozen in disappointment with his camera dripping wet.
The staff told us that the fast pass was not available on June 16th opening but we were told the wrong information as we saw people using it. Then when we asked another staff, we were told it was closed early.
The Canoe ride closed early around 5pm.
The food is very expensive for what it is. A hamburger set, for example, will cost about 70 rmb.
In the end, most people could only go on two to five rides depending on their luck and see not much more. What a rip off and it’s very unfair because Disney should not have over sold tickets where you have to wait in line for 3 hours. We have made a complaint to Disney but they have you contact their customer service staff who try to keep delaying by telling you they will reply in 4-5 days. After 4-5 days, they will delay again. Nothing gets resolved with them. But their hope is that people buy more tickets since they didn’t see even a small portion of the park due to the over crowded long line. Is that really fair?
By the way, Lion King tickets are sold for half the price near the door. For example, for tickets that normally cost 590 rmb, there are people selling it for 300 rmb near the door. These people are not working for Disney but it is a big question on how they can sell legitimate tickets for 300 rmb. This means Disney sold tickets for less to them in order for them to sell for 300rmb. Is this fair for people who followed all the rules and paid for their tickets on the Disney website? There is no Disney staff stopping these people from selling the tickets for low prices. Maybe they hope to fill up their theatre no matter how it’s done. Disney will act surprised if you tell them that tickets are being sold for half price near the door. But again, for these people selling tickets at half price, means Disney had sold tickets for under their selling price. If Disney stuck with their prices, then there would be no way anyone to be able to sell it lower.
The overall conclusion is that Disney may have some really good rides, but the way it’s organized is just poorly done. For tickets to be sold half the price people bought on the website makes one question the corruption behind all this. I would not recommend anyone going to Shanghai Disneyland park until they get their act together. If you go, you will feel like a sucker and ripped off waiting in line for hours. If you bought tickets for Lion King on their website to later find out you could have bought it for half the price near the door, you will feel like a big sucker and regret buying on the Disney website.
The answer is no. It’s not worth the money and time. Most of the major attractions “TRON” and “Roaring Rapids” were down when we were there for 2 days. Queuing for one and a half hour, then all of a sudden some problem and had to abandon queue. grrrr… What a disappointment. We’ve already asked for a refund but Disney Shanghai only wants to give us fastpass and wants us to spend money again. And all shows and disney songs are all in Chinese.. not worth to go. Disney HK though smaller is far much better! But nothing beats our Disney experience in Orlando.
I think the opening of this park will be likened to Disney World opening — colossal news story, with magazine covers, and huge discussion. Disney in terrain China is enormous.
There is no doubt this will be to a great degree very much executed. Each time an outline point of interest is changed, it appears in the model and the renderings (I work in amusement park plan). What was at D23 is the thing that the recreation center will be. The themeing will be well beyond, it must be. Disney is tending to the Harry Potter risk, and increasing present expectations to meet it. I generally consider when I was growing up, the parks has slurry on the ground. Presently the ground has leaf prints, foot prints, and creatively made splits.
I think this park, trailed by Star Wars Land, will be a colossal win for Disney.
I concur about the mansion — it looks somewhat squat.
never been here,…but love to come… with my kids… as going through to your article it seems very excited & would be a fun for my family… !!
Since no dates are attached to the above comments, I’m wondering how old they are. Have you heard any updates as to when SDL will open?
There have been no updates. Assume Summer 2016 at this point. Maybe even fall.
It’s not care for our administration’s hands are so unadulterated, either.
I’m dying to visit this park!!!
Does anyone have an educated guess as to what “Spring 2016” might end up translating into?
I have my hopes set on being there next August… However, the park would need to first open, for that to happen…
Thanks so much!
The date I have heard is April 16, 2016, but that’s just a rumor…and subject to change until anything is officially announced.
That would be awesome, but, like you said: we’ll have to wait and see…
I’m in agreement with your assessment of the concepts teased thus far. I think Disney has a knack at almost downplaying concepts that end up exceeding expectations once the actual experience is up and running. It’s almost opposite of car manufacturers showing off this drool worthy concept vehicle at autoshows and then by the time the production vehicle is marketed, the sizzle has all been engineered out. Imagineers on the other hand, seem to only enhance and add to the conceptual drawings. Shanghai may not be a viable destination for my family right now, but the technological application gives me great optomism for the next D23 (s) as further details emerge for our Kingdom.
Nothing, and i mean *nothing*, could make me set foot on Chinese soil. Disney forms a partnership with a state-owned Chinese company, and nobody seems to have the slightest problem with that. Has the whole world gone crazy? People, itÂ´s the Chinese government, for ChristÂ´s sake!
It’s not like our government’s hands are so clean, either.
Crazy why? Because it is China? Because it is a state-owned company? Because China has a socialist-market economy?
Well, this is certainly not the place for a political discussion, and maybe my post was not quite appropriate – but IÂ´d say that the while the Chinese government without a doubt see theselves as bringers of happiness (just like the Walt Disney company), their notion of happiness and mine are not entirely identical (and I am pretty sure that it also differs from that of the Tibetan people…)
I am not saying that Disney should not build Shanghai Disneyland – I am just surprised that there is absolutely no discussion at all, when usually, Disney can do *nothing* without being attacked – Lily James as Cinderella? ThatÂ´s racist! We need an African-American Cinderella! Lino DiSalvo says that animating women can de difficult – a shitstorm breaks lose on the Internet, demanding the head of the sexist, mysogenic pig. Walt Disney himself was an anti-semite, a racist, a sexist, a nazi – no claim is too ridiculous when it comes to attacking the WD company. So I am a bit surprised that absolutely nobody has a problem with DisneyÂ´s partnership with a company who is owned by an entity (the Chinese government) whose beliefs are fundamentally at odds with anything in the Declaration of Independence and the Bill of Rights. Heck, if I were Chinese, I could not even type this without fear of being arrested…
thanks for this awesome review of your thoughts on the new concept art released at D23 for Shanghai Disneyland! I personally am super excited to see it (we are planning g to visit in Jan 2017 along with our second trip to Tokyo Disney and very first visit to Hong King Disney).. I was mostly worried about accessing the park as a westerner who doesn’t speak mandarin and working out how to navigate which will likely be a crazy busy park (with so many people in Shanghai and China in general I reckon it could be as crazy as Tokyo Disney) .. Still the fact that there will be so many new and technologically advanced attractions excites me and I can’t wait to see how it comes together – may I put in a request that if you do visit next year you write one of our fabulous and informative trip reports and planning guides ! Thanks for your perspectives – brilliant as always
Oh yes, there will definitely be a trip report and planning guide when we visit Shanghai Disneyland!
If there were a “like” button here, I’d be pressing it furiously right now. Your guide to HKDL was super helpful, and I am glad so many people are providing helpful advice for the international parks as well.
I think the opening of this park will be akin to Disney World opening – huge news story, with magazine covers, and tremendous conversation. Disney in mainland China is big.
There is no question that this will be extremely well executed. Every time a design detail is altered, it shows up in the model and the renderings (I work in theme park design). What was at D23 is what the park will be. The themeing will be above and beyond, it has to be. Disney is addressing the Harry Potter threat, and raising the bar to meet it. I always think about when I was growing up, the parks has slurry on the ground. Now the ground has leaf prints, hoof prints, and artistically created cracks.
I think this park, followed by Star Wars Land, is going to be a huge win for Disney.
I agree about the castle – it looks a little squat.
I agree, and I think Bob Iger does, too, which is why he is sticking around so he can be the one to open the park.
This is also part of the reason I think going right at opening might be a good move. If the park is being displayed on the worldwide stage, I would think they’d want to be hospitable to Westerners…at least until the initial buzz wears off.
I’m extremely excited to visit this park, especially since we’ve only been to the parks here in the US. We plan on visiting February 2017. My biggest concern is fitting Hong Kong, Shanghai and Tokyo in a two week trip, am I crazy to even think this can be done? In references to the parks we will spend 1 day at HKDL, 2 days at SDL, and 3 days at TDL/TDS.
Hey, green monster Kayla. It’s blue monster Kayla. 😀
Hello blue monster Kayla!
No, I think that’s doable. HKDL and SDL are both right by their respective airports, so I suspect it’ll be pretty easy to visit 1 of those 2 without going to the city itself. The “problem” is that each of those cities has a lot to offer, as does Japan.
I’d focus most of my non-Disney attention on Japan, but that’s personal preference.
We are limiting ourselves in Honk Kong and Shanghai to the only the parks (maybe 1/2 day or 1 day to explore) and spending the rest of our time in Tokyo. I would hate to spend so much on flights to not see these cities but I don’t know when we’d be able to return and check off visiting all the Disney Parks from our bucket list.
Thank you for all the great information, I love reading about your adventures
I am not sure how much of Shanghai you will want to see when you see Shanghai Disneyland, but a good thing to know is that Shanghai is massively spread out. While Disneyland will be located close to Pudong International Airport (most flights to and from Japan or Hong Kong will go through this port, but definitely confirm. Hongqiao Airport is farther away), it isn’t necessarily convenient to the core of the city. A metro trip from Disney to People’s Square, which is fairly conveniently located to the core parts of Shanghai most tourists like to see, will be at least 45 minutes (time estimated since they are still working on the Metro extension). I would consider switching hotels to accommodate if you hope to do both. Tom recommends the same in Hong Kong and, while I see the merit, I think it is easier to commute in from the central parts of Hong Kong to HKDL than it will be in Shanghai.
I’m thrilled to see how Disney is deviating from the norm with Shanghai Disneyland. I love the way they appear to be re-imagining Pirates and going all out with the Tron coaster. I doubt that I’ll ever get there (one can dream), but I’ll be watching very closely when it opens.
I’d read how everyone was going bonkers over Star Wars Land (rightly so, of course), but now even I’m going absolutely silly over Shanghai Disney! A new spin on Disney parks with a Chinese twist? I can’t wait, it has such potential. And China, despite any imperfections or cultural differences it may have (as all countries do), is still undeniably breathtaking and a thrill to visit. Thanks so much for sharing this post! Hope to see all you guys there (and in WDW, and in Disneyland, and in Paris and Tokyo and Hong Kong… ouchie, my poor wallet)!
I’m by no means a cultural relativist, but I think you hit the nail on the head with the “as all countries” do parenthetical. This isn’t a political blog, but you could levy criticism on just about any country…and some large corporations (ahem) in the United States.
Shanghai Disney looks like it will be amazing. The two things I’m most excited to see are Pirates and the Voyage to the Crystal Grotto ride. The one thing that puzzles me about it is that the Dumbo ride appears to be a single spinner. They have just spent an awful lot of time and money making Dumbo in Magic Kingdom a double-spinner, because it had ridiculously long queues (which are usually full of the most impatient guests!). And that was when it was located towards the back of the park. In Shanghai, it’s in the centre, in front of the castle, sort of where the hub would be in other parks. Surely they will have the same problem, or even worse?
Which brings me to my second point – I wonder how the Magic Bands, Fastpass+, interactive queues etc. will manifest themselves in this park, when they can build it all from scratch without retro-fitting it to existing facilities, and without having to make it palatable to millions of guests who are already pre-programmed to do things a certain way.
I echo the points above about the architecture of Tomorrowland – it looks cool, but in a ‘city-centre-office-development’ or ‘mall’ kind of way. Tron looks amazing, although I wonder whether the seating will put a lot of guests off. I think the park needs another, more conventional rollercoaster (Big Thunder, Grizzly Gulch etc.) to provide a more rounded offering.
It really is an interesting time to be a Disney parks fan.
That’s interesting about Dumbo. There are 16 elephants on the Shanghai version…I’m not sure how many are at WDW. I think Disney overcompensated by both doubling the size AND moving it back in the park, but I agree with you that it’s location in Shanghai will make it a big draw. Maybe they are predicting it won’t have the same ‘iconic, rite of passage’ status there.
“I get the feeling that Shanghai Disneyland might be the park the Imagineers dreamt up without being constricted by the format of Walt Disney’s original magic kingdom.”
That park already exists: DisneySea. And honestly, I’m seriously doubting that SDL will come close to the beauty of that park, or to the beauty of DLP for that matter. The overall layout and big-picture design choices of the park have left me feeling uneasy.
But, honestly, the biggest problem I have with the park is the direction they’re going with in this Tomorrowland. This is something that most Disney fans have failed to notice, but it seriously bothers me that they’re using contemporary architecture at Tomorrowland once again. Have they forgotten what they learned from the pre-Discoveryland era? In Tomorrowland, architecture works best when it’s inspired by science fiction (be it Steampunk, Star Wars, Buck Rogers, Jetsons, or whatever), but what they’re building in SDL resembles the style of any number of contemporary starchitects like Zaha Hadid or Santiago Calatrava. This will hardly make us “leave today and enter the worlds of yesterday, TOMORROW, and fantasy.” I cringe to think that some wannabe architects at Imagineering used this opportunity as an excuse to design “real” architecture when they should be focusing on creating interesting and escapist environments.
It exists–or existed–in EPCOT Center, too. I was thinking more along the lines for the castle park concept, rather than second gates.
Interesting point about Tomorrowland. This is doubly true in Shanghai, which has fairly futuristic architecture. Will guests there really be impressed by a style that reminds them of their downtown.
I’m eagerly awaiting opening announcements as I need to know enough in advance to book my leave!
The only thing that concerns me about the park is guest atmosphere. There simply won’t be the love and palpable affection for the brand or characters that is infectious in most other resorts.
Based on what I’ve observed and heard elsewhere, I’m concerned about “guest atmosphere” for very different reasons. Some of the “training” for the Beijing Olympics is just the tip of the iceberg: http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/china/2007-12/20/content_6334530.htm
There have been several times I’ve been bowled over in Hong Kong by mainlanders unfortunately and so, yes, I feel similarly to you. I believe they’ve been working on lines being one person width to prevent pushing? To me that sounds just as dangerous for different reasons!
I had similar experiences to Mikey when at HKDL, though I think my biggest concern is restroom access. Public urination and defecation happens all the time and often in very conspicuous ways. I fear that, if facilities are deficient (or even if they aren’t), the park will have to deal with parents and grandparents encouraging their young children to go while holding them over trash cans.
I’m beyond excited for Shanghai. I’m most excited, I think, for Pirates. I thought they raised a good point: for most Chinese, they had no idea that it was a ride before it was a film franchise, so of course it makes sense to build the ride solely on the films. I imagine the same thought process went into making the Alice maze based on the horrible Tim Burton film.
Based on the art at D23, the Fantasia carousel is going to be a real jewel. I can’t wait to see that. The Tron coaster looks fantastic, too. I love Steeplechase at Coney Island, so it’s nice to see that ride vehicle being used to better effect in Shanghai. And I’m pretty sure it was a new announcement at D23 that there will be a boat ride through the underside of the castle, which I’m sure is what’s adding to its… girth? I agree that it looks a bit boxy and unrefined. But then, maybe that is how the Chinese view western style castles.
With somewhere between 25 — 30 attractions, I’m mostly worried that this park is going to be unbearably crowded, with 2 hour waits for the top 10 rides. The largest city in the world is just a few stops away. This will be the most easily accessible Disney park from an urban area, so I imagine it will jam packed all day every day. I’m imagining huge lines for food and restrooms–and without the politeness of the Japanese. This could be a very stressful park, so hopefully the “show” makes it worthwhile.
It’s a huge population that will have convenient access, no doubt, but how many will have the means to actually enter the gates? I think that’s the huge question at this point. I suspect DisneyTown will be miserable as people try to crowd in to get an experience for free, but I wonder how many will pay ~$100/day for tickets? I know the middle class there is growing, but is there enough upper middle class that care that much about Disney? It certainly won’t have the AP demo that Tokyo has.
Don’t get me wrong, I think this park will do just fine and have no issues with drawing in crowds from day 1, but I wonder what attendance will actually look like. Annual numbers of 8 million wouldn’t surprise me…but neither would double that, or more. I think it’s a real wildcard at this point.
Prior to jumping in, I feel the need to put in a cultural disclaimer:
I live in Shanghai and have for the better part of a year. Among expat circles, there is a saying akin to, “Those who are in China a week write an article. Those who are in China a year write a book. Those who are in China for ten years shut their mouths.” I definitely have theories for such things, and the urge to jump in, but I am merely an expat with an outsider perspective. Nothing more.
That being said, crowding I think is definitely a concern. The flagship Disney Store shut down the same day it opened because lines hit a kilometer long and became unruly. The markup makes prices at said store higher than just about any other Disney Store in the world. This is notable when considering the sheer amount of Disney merchandise that can be found in Shanghai, from the legitimate (popular Japan-derived chain Family Mart has had Baymax themed merchandise in their stores since Big Hero 6 came out) to the bootleg (I have seen everything from a fake Pooh as the marquee of a restaurant to children’s shirts where Mickey Mouse is flipping you off). Money may be a concern, but prestige is as well. I think many will be willing to pay to say they have been to SDL, especially when it first opens. Plus, while families in China have fewer children, the more traditional ones are multi-generational, which means a family vacation could average seven people if both sets of grandparents are included.
Shanghai has the highest average salary in the country, and even then reports give a monthly wage equivalent to only about $1,200 a month. However, one million new millionaires were created in China in the last year alone. Stories of tuhao (think modern-day nouveau riche) buying gold-plated Apple Watches for their dogs or renting olympic-sized pools for their pet seal’s birthday are the kinds of things one can read about consistently in the news.
It seems the Chinese consumer market, in general, is very fickle, though. People I’ve talked to who know better (I’m not in the industry or anything) say that customers in China become bored very easily, even with popular items. I could see there being immense interest in SDL right when it opens and then it petering off if Disney et al can’t keep up with demand.
I’m very interested to see what the hotel rates and ticket prices will look like. Part of me really wants to go right when the park opens, but concerns with crowding (and potential concerns with guest behavior at the outset) give me pause. I’m a bit more excited than I was prior to D23 (oddly, I think Mickey Avenue may be my favorite concept so far), but I don’t know if that will inform when I go.
That’s really fascinating–thanks for the insight.
One of the things I read about the Disney Store there when it first opened is that they were allowing very few people inside at a time (significantly lower than capacity), and only 20 the cash registers were open. This was in an mainstream media article written shortly after opening, but I can’t find it now. Did you happen to experience this or hear about it? It almost seems like they artificially limited capacity to increase the “prestige” of the store (that would certainly go along with what you’re saying. It also might support the notion that Disney doesn’t have the same traction or emotional attachment among the Chinese as it does Americans.
Your comment does have me concerned, though, as I have some of these same fears and all of this is anyone’s guess until the park actually opens…
On a tangentially related note, I was watching this show this morning about Tibetan Mastiffs and how they are a big status symbol in China. They regularly sell for $100,000+, and one with lion blood sold for $1.9m! http://nypost.com/2014/03/19/tibetan-mastiff-with-lions-blood-sells-for-1-9m/
Interesting! I did not go on the first day it opened, assuming the crowds would, indeed, be extreme. I went back and took a look at the article I read in Shanghaiist, and it didn’t make mention of the cash registers or limited entry (though it, admittedly, is not the best news source). It did mention the line approached 1 km even before doors opened, so I wouldn’t be surprised if there was limited access once doors opened. This could have even been a police requirement in response to the trampling at the Bund around New Years. I’ll have to take a look and see if I can find some other articles about it (alas, I cannot read Chinese, so I have to rely on translations of local news sources, official English versions of state media, or international stories).
Ah, yes, the Tibetan mastiff craze. I had forgotten about this, and I am glad you brought it up. Where the Tibetan mastiff was once the hottest commodity one could have, they are now being banned, abandoned, and put down in greater and greater numbers: http://www.nytimes.com/2015/04/18/world/asia/once-prized-tibetan-mastiffs-are-discarded-as-fad-ends-in-china.html