June 16, 2017

Shanghai Disneyland One Year Later

Can it really be one year? Yes- one year ago today, the first Disney park on the Chinese Mainland sprung up in Shanghai. Among much success (the park itself, and particularly the brand new shiny version of Pirates of the Caribbean), some big failures (crowds are clearly missing from Disneytown and the Lion King Theater), and what's to be seen (Toy Story Land), the resort as a whole looks to have succeeded in mostly being what the Walt Disney Company suits were planning.

The castle and its display of China's strength and power.

Shanghai Disneyland boasts a unique kingdom with its own roster of attractions never before seen- and never to be seen. Truly. Can you imagine the corporate lawyers allowing an attraction such as the ropes courses of Camp Discovery (seen above) to ever find the light of day in the States? Me, neither. Unfortunately. 

The Pirates' Battle for the Sunken Treasure and Tron Light Cycles Power Run are the clear home runs, favorites with locals and many international visitors alike.  Yet there's also the very strange Voyage to the Crystal Grotto. A Fantasyland newbie with its statuary based gardens and a less than stellar final scene, the attraction is unique to the kingdom, but it certainly won't be duplicated. 

Tim Burton- your queen is calling.

Neither will the Tim Burton inspired Alice in Wonderland maze be placed in another kingdom park. That ship has sailed. Thankfully. It may be trendy and edgy, but it wasn't a smart move as the animated  film is still the classic for generations to come. This misstep is  balanced out by Tangled restaurant (but no attraction- yet) and a pretty cool looking enhanced Peter Pan's Flight.  For all the other changes that were made to the design of this park, Fantasyland is still the place where the animated films are celebrated / exploited.

Speaking of films, Mickey's Film Festival has quietly opened around the corner from the end of Mickey Avenue, a pleasant diversion to soak up a small slice of the crowd. Kudos to the Imagineers for providing smaller, charming attractions among the blockbusters. I hope that trend continues as the big ticket items are added. It's attractions such as this that give the original Disneyland and Disneyland Paris much charm. 

Did you really think the Mainland would let Hong Kong
have the best Marvel themed area?

What does the future hold beyond Toy Story and it's quick and easy installation? Not to be outdone by the growing and beautiful little park that could, Hong Kong Disneyland, Marvel is certainly on the way. What that looks like, only few people know, and I'm not privy to that. But it's a sure thing.

One thing the park definitely needs on the Tomorrowland side of the park is a very big reliable-to-operate people eater. Soaring Over the Horizon and Roaring Rapids might be popular, but Rapids breaks down regularly and Soaring has impossibly long lines all day long. Will the park get another new and unique attraction or will the suits and very involved Chinese government opt for a cheaper to build slightly redesigned clone from one of the other parks? Will they cannibalize from Hong Kong or even Japan? It's yet to be seen. 

Regardless of its current success or the choices that are coming, Shanghai Disneyland is a great case study on corporate vision and board room ego, government domination, and sheer Imagineering brilliance under very strange circumstances. Stay tuned.

(Photographs copyright The Walt Disney Company.)

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