Now officially open to the public, Shanghai Disneyland – at an estimated construction cost of $3.7b – is the latest venture by Walt Disney Parks & Resorts to tap into the economically-strong Asian market, after their successful opening of Tokyo Disneyland in the 1980s, and their less than successful attempt with Hong Kong Disneyland in 2005. So is Shanghai Disneyland worth visiting, or is it just another theme park that will get lost in the smog?
Shanghai Disney Resort is only owned 43% by the Walt Disney Company; the remaining 57% is owned by the Shanghai government. Despite this, Disney still exercises full creative control over the park and the use of its intellectual property within. Its location is the Pudong district of Shanghai, not far from the glorious skyscrapers along the Hu River. The resort is also located at the end of the line of the Shanghai Metro Line 11, which makes getting here from Pudong Airport very easy indeed! Taxis arrive and depart from the West Public Transportation Hub, and by bus just hop on the Pudong Bus Line numbers 50/51/52 in downtown Shanghai for just 2RMB each way and you will find yourself just a short stroll away from all the magic!
When in Shanghai Disneyland, you will see that there are multiple ‘lands’ for visitors to enjoy: Mickey Avenue, Gardens of Imagination, Fantasyland, Treasure Cove, Adventure Isle, and Tomorrowland. Unlike with the opening of Hong Kong Disneyland, where there were only a few major attractions open to the public initially, it seems Disney has learnt its lesson and this time has made sure the park is larger and with more things to do. Almost every one of these themed ‘lands’ has a major attraction and a highly-themed restaurant or two.
The major icon of Shanghai Disneyland is the Enchanted Storybook Castle, which is situated in the Fantasyland area of the park. This castle can be seen from most areas of the park and looks spectacular, especially in twilight. It is said to be the largest castle of any Disneyland park anywhere in the world. There are character meets and greets for the kids inside the castle, and there is also a boat ride – Voyage to the Crystal Grotto – that winds its way around the castle (and beneath it) to keep guests occupied.
Let’s take a little look at some of the major attractions you will find during your visit to Shanghai Disneyland:
Tomorrowland is where you will find the highly-regarded Tron launched rollercoaster. This has a similar kind of atmosphere to the famous Space Mountain rides that Disney have in their other parks, but this one in Shanghai has been modernised, and much of the ride takes place outside.
Pirates of the Caribbean: Battle for the Sunken Treasure is another classic Disney attraction that has been updated and modernised for the Shanghai park, and many people regard this as the best attraction in the whole park. It is predominantly a family boat ride, but where Davy Jones and Jack Sparrow are concerned, nothing ever goes to plan, so be prepared for some fireworks! There are well-used screens to project interactive elements onto the passengers throughout the ride, and there is really no other ride like it at any Disney park anywhere else (despite its classic Pirates theme).
Soarin’ Over the Horizon takes yet another loved Disney attraction from the US and gives it a more polished touch – and updates it for the Chinese audience. Now, guests board special air vehicles that “soar” around the world, taking in some of the famous sights such as the Taj Mahal, and of course the Great Wall of China.
In recent years, the Magic Kingdom is Florida has received the Seven Dwarfs Mine Train ride and it has proven so popular with Americans, that when construction was started here in Shanghai, it was essential to build a clone and capitalise on the ride’s good word of mouth Stateside. There are some subtle differences to the finale of the ride here in Shanghai, but riders will love to be swept around in a fast-paced train as they try to spot the mischievous dwarfs in the mines.
Although I have already taken a look at some of the major attractions, there are some others that need mentioning. However, these are not MUST-SEE attractions, just ride them if you have the time. For example, the Alice in Wonderland Maze is a nice attraction to walk through, but unless you have small kids then I’d probably just skip it anyway. Roaring Rapids in Adventure Isle is a strange attraction to be included in a Disneyland park, but it is an action-packed white water rafting ride in boats that can fit up to 8 people. YOU WILL GET WET!
For younger adventurers, Buzz Lightyear’s Planet Rescue is an indoor shoot ’em up attraction that is based on the character from the Toy Story films. This is surely going to be popular with the kids. Also for the kids is Voyage to the Crystal Grotto, which is a slow boat ride that snakes its way around and underneath the Enchanted Storybook Castle in Fantasyland. You can see musical scenes from many of Disney’s favourite animated films, such as Mulan, Aladdin, and Tangled. Finally, we must not forget one of the original classic Disney theme park attractions, Peter Pan’s Flight. The theming for this indoor ride is incredible as guests fly around above the city of London with all manner of trouble ensuing below…
It is great that theme park aficionados in Asia now have 4 amazing Disney parks close by (2 in Tokyo, 1 in Hong Kong, plus this one in Shanghai), but time will tell if Shanghai Disneyland can excite and enthral guests just the way that Walt Disney himself would have wanted!