April 15, 2011

Reflections on Shanghai Disneyland

It was more than just last week's announcement of a new Disney resort in Shanghai that excited me. Actually, it was the artwork! All this provided a very nice but temporary diversion from the loss of our aunt. I guess that is just the way life and death works at times. We are impacted by the loss, and yes, how quickly our minds can move on to the next thing. But back to the art. (See, point proven!)

Shanghai Disneyland has much riding on its success. Not only is it the first theme park announced and to be built under Robert Iger's reign, it is also the first one to be done with a decidedly different approach than the three that came before it. The resort and park seem to be on the old model of Imagineering: substance with the goal to please guests first with great content.

The park itself looks to be designed on the grand scale of Epcot versus what was found in Hong Kong Disneyland at opening. With some tweaking. Imagine a Magic Kingdom without a Main Street. A Tron-inspired Tomorrowland, actually making it the first forward looking Tomorrowland since Disneyland's disastrous Tomorrowland '98. More water- everywhere. How refreshing compared to the concrete vision of Disney's Hollywood Studios! Who couldn't wait to explore an Adventureland where Caribbean Plaza from Walt Disney World gets the full blown World Showcase treatment. What else lies in store once the park debuts?

Bottom line: This is Disney Imagineering's (and the budgeteers) chance to successfully reinvent the Magic Kingdom product, making it relevant for future generations. Or risk going the way of older, staler diversions. If they succeed, it will be to great reward. If the Walt Disney Company fails in this endeavor, all the terrific concept art in the world won't make up for the second mistake in China.

(Art copyright The Walt Disney Company.)

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