Details are limited, but from the looks of it, the resort is going to be a game-changer.

By Carlye Wisel
August 20, 2015

At long last, Disney has officially revealed a glimpse into their forthcoming Shanghai Disney Resort, the brand’s largest single foreign investment in China to date. According to intel gleaned at this weekend’s D23 expo, new rides and substantial improvements could have a leg up on iconic experiences stateside, and some nature-inspired features—like an enormous waterfall and expansive gardens—could make it the most impressive park to date.

The team behind the opening continues to tout the phrase “authentically Disney, distinctly Chinese,” and it’s true that Shanghai Disney Resort may in fact be way more exciting than the parks in Florida and California. And, in some ways, that’s because it’ll be nothing like them at all:

This park could actually be tranquil. (Seriously!)

If the phrase “Walt Disney World” drums up memories of sugar-high children running circles around their beaten-down parents, consider Shanghai Disney Resort, with its seven gardens, your zen palace. The ornate Wandering Moon Teahouse, for example, is a quick-service restaurant that will likely put turkey leg-serving outposts to shame.

Its castle will be a monument and architectural feat.

Not only is the Enchanted Storybook Castle the largest and most complex Disney has ever built, it’s dedicated to every princess instead of just one, making it much more ornate (peonies! lotuses! golden finials!) than usual. The castle is so big it even has an entire boat ride, Voyage To The Crystal Grotto, underneath.

Everything will be totally new.

Rides, shows and entire sections of the park are based not on Walt’s dreams from yesteryear, but fresh ideas based largely on the success of recent film franchises. By trading American nostalgia for stories that resonate most with Chinese audiences, Disney has been able to create some of their most technologically advanced rides and innovative performances. Take, for example, Pirates of the Caribbean. The animatronic boat journey has been expanded to an entire world within Shanghai Disney, complete with a stunt show, restaurant, live characters and a reimagining of the classic ride.

The mainstays are still improvements on the classics.

Peter Pan’s Flight will have an entirely new ride system. Buzz Lightyear Planet Rescue will feature tricked-out digital enhancements. Even Disneytown, the downtown area on the park’s outskirts, improves upon Florida’s Cirque du Soleil success with a dedicated theatre housing a Broadway-sized performance of The Lion King, entirely in Mandarin.

Shanghai will be home to the first-ever Toy Story Hotel.

You can live just like Andy in one of their cloud-wallpapered hotel. Not a fan of Buzz Lightyear and the gang? No problem—the Art Nouveau-inspired decadence of the Shanghai Disneyland Hotel should suit you just fine.


In one of Shanghai Disney Resort’s new lands, Adventure Island, a water ride will take visitors on an indoor and outdoor journey through a world filled with dinosaur animatronics.

It’s your only chance to ride the incredible Tron rollercoaster.

Despite its ingenuity, Tron Lightcycle Power Run will likely never make its way stateside. The ride was originally green-lit when Tron 3 was guaranteed to go into production, but considering that the movie was shut down three months back, odds are the brand won’t pull in enough traffic to offset its cost in the U.S., leaving it only in existence at the Shanghai park. Which, of course, is a shame, because the bike technology is unlike anything else that exists on earth.