Shanghai Disney is Opening This Summer—and Will Put Other Disney Parks to Shame
Watch out, Orlando: Shanghai Disneyland is almost here. The Walt Disney Company announced yesterday that the much-anticipated Shanghai Disney Resort will host its first guests on June 16, 2016, nearly seven months later than previously rumored.
For the mild Disney fan, a new opening may not seem like a huge deal, but Shanghai Disney Resort isn’t just a new location. The Chinese iteration of the beloved theme park will have the princesses, classic rides, and ages-old nostalgia that come with all Disney experiences, but unlike other foreign and domestic parks, this Chinese entity will take Disneyland and Magic Kingdom favorites to an entirely new level.
The Walt Disney Company has been striving to make Shanghai bigger and better than any other location, and in 2014, even invested additional money into the park with Chinese partner Shanghai Shendi Group as part of an accelerated expansion plan to make opening day that much more massive. Translation: this park was already conceptualized to be super-special, and will now wind up being even more so.
Here’s how everything you’ve come to know and love about Disney parks, from rides to restaurants to retail, will be different come June:
Pirates of The Caribbean
Though the stateside versions have undergone refurbishments to more closely reflect the world of Johnny Depp’s Captain Jack Sparrow, Shanghai Disneyland will be taking the attraction-turned-movie franchise to a new level when Pirates of the Caribbean: Battle for the Sunken Treasure opens. This technologically advanced riff on the slow ride of yesteryear is on an entirely different scale, placing visitors directly between ships’ battle fire and face-to-face with Jack and Davy Jones. If that’s not enough booty for the internationally beloved film, the ride will be housed in a brand new land called Treasure Cove, where pirates will reign supreme.
Enchanted Storybook Castle
While most Disney park castles are dedicated to an individual princess — Sleeping Beauty Castle resides in Disneyland, while Cinderella’s home is in Walt Disney World’s Magic Kingdom — the Shanghai Enchanted Storybook Castle represents all princesses and will be bigger, taller and more interactive than any other Disney castle because of it. Topped with a massive golden peony, which is the national flower of China, the enormous pink-and-grey structure will host shops, dining, a salon, entertainment, and princess meet-and-greets on its multiple levels. Don’t expect a traditional moat, either—it’s so large that an entire princess-themed boat ride will operate beneath it.
Though Walt Disney World is known for an immersive hotel experience—staying at a branded hotel is often referred to as residing “within the Disney bubble”—Shanghai Disneyland’s offerings will take that up a notch. When the 800-room Toy Story Hotel opens in June, guests are said to enjoy a water-play area with little green aliens, a Lotso-inspired gift shop, rooms inside Sheriff Woody or Buzz Lightyear wings, interactions with oversized figurines, and even character greetings within the elevators. As Disney’s first hotel themed to a single movie, they spared no detail—the exterior of the building even features Andy’s iconic cloud wallpaper, an absolute first for Disney properties.
It’s been 10 years since Disney has introduced a high-stakes thrill ride in one of its US parks — Expedition Everest at Animal Kingdom opened back in 2006—but TRON Lightcycle Power Run, complete with state-of-the-art bike vehicles, is an unparalleled ride experience that will exist only in Shanghai. With its forward-thinking building design and color-shifting canopy, it’ll help create a Tomorrowland that actually feels futuristic, unlike the Jules Verne and metallic-inspired ones American guests are used to.
Main Street, USA
Instead of lining the park’s main entrance with turn-of-the-century shops and Americana-themed dining, Shanghai Disneyland will utilize its most popular characters to welcome Chinese visitors from the front gates. The new area, dubbed Mickey Avenue, will feature meet-and-greets, themed shopping experiences, and character-specific dining with a Donald Duck gelato shop and Minnie Mouse confectionary, among others. It seems like this would already exist in the states, but it doesn’t—this area compared to Disneyland’s Toontown is more like a fully functioning urban city. The entrance area will be so big that it’ll actually incorporate four different neighborhoods, operating as a land in and of itself. We’ll put it this way: In the US, you can grab a Starbucks or a hot dog while walking towards the castle; in China, you can dine at an entire Ratatouille-themed Parisian bakery. Just like everything else at this park, it’ll be a bit more massive and a whole lot more magical.