June 16, 2016

Move Over Shanghai Disneyland- Disney's Park in Paris is Still the Fairest of Them All

The Grand Opening of a newly built Disney Magic Kingdom is always something wonderful for theme park lovers, and the new  Shanghai Disneyland is certainly no exception! There's much to look forward to: a state of the art, movie focused Pirates of the Caribbean found in a land all its own, with a thrilling Tron Lightcycles just across the way. These new attractions jump to the forefront of my mind, and they are strategically welcomed, one-of-a-kind designed centerpieces of the Chinese park.

The Walt Disney Company publicity machine is in full swing, and fans of Imagineering's latest creation are foaming at the mouth to visit. But is this a case of flash over substance? From what I can tell, the park will be a success, but it needs much more than holding the title of "biggest and largest (fill in the blank) to reign as the premier example of Magic Kingdom design. 

Sorry, folks, but that title still belongs to Disneyland Paris.

Frontierland may be the best take on the Wild West 
ever created by the Disney Imagineers.

As you consider the photos on this post, please take note this photographer is a 100% certified non-professional. Also take note these were taken in the dead of winter- and long before the park's much needed overhaul had begun. Regardless, this French Magic Kingdom is the most pleasing to the eye as its filled to the brim with many classic, iconic Disney attractions still missing in Shanghai.

Pirates- a smashing new version I'd love to see!

Shanghai Disneyland certainly has its exclusive, uniquely themed lands, Adventure Isle and Treasure Cove, but the very elegant Parisian renditions of Tomorrowland, FrontierlandAdventureland, and Main Street, certainly more than hold their own in comparison. In fact, they surpass the newly themed Disney lands found in Mainland China. Easily.

Pirates in Paris was the first to have its own themed village
as well as its own pirate ship.

Looking at an incredible number of photos of the new park- and a dozen or more video tours- the contrast between these European and Asian parks may be summed up this way: What Disney created at the urging of the government relies on its large size to effectively communicate its message and presence, "China has arrived!" And maybe to even subliminally say "We will not play well with others!" (There is no It's a Small World.) 

Shanghai's Alice maze- charming or creepy?

Conversely, what Disney did in Paris was build the most magical, beautiful, kingdom ever- accomplished with broad strokes of charm, elegance, and restraint. Two very different approaches. 

Photographer fail but Paris still the most beautiful castle ever.

Nowhere is this more apparent than in the creation and execution of the Chinese park's castle. Chunky, brazen, and extremely bold but filled with attractions, shops, and dining. However, the palace's two attractions, Voyage to the Crystal Grotto and the "Once Upon a Time" Adventure fall far short. 

More like a monument to Shanghai than a fantasy castle.

The poorly placed Fantasyland boat cruise uses very large amounts of garden acreage to familiarize Chinese guests with classic Disney animation but is executed using statuary and fountains in place of Audio-Animatronics. Even its finale is lackluster. The show inside the castle relies on film to tell its story, a definite notch or two below what was done 60 years ago at Walt's original theme park in California. 

Besting Shanghai's Hunny Pots.

To be sure, there are unique attractions and experiences to be found in China which will be coveted by park fans on the other side of the world. Still, it's not Tokyo Disney Sea.  

A Shanghai original area and an unqualified success.

France's gorgeous Discoveryland.

Camp Discovery trails and ropes course is a first for a Disney park as is Tomorrowland's Jet Packs.  Problem is, the two headliner attractions aside, Pirates and Tron, means the park is filled with lower level attractions which cannot compare to Big Thunder Mountain Railroad, Phantom Manor, or any number of additional crowd pleasers that premiered on opening day in France. 

Finally, Shanghai Disneyland also loses on one major point in which it can never compete: Disneyland Paris resides in the world's most beautiful city. Case closed.

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