Get Excited: Here's What's Inside Shanghai Disneyland
From exclusive attractions to massive waterfalls to the biggest-ever castle, Shanghai Disneyland, which opened to much fanfare this month, is truly one-of-a-kind.
What does a Disneyland in China look like? Well, it's filled with familiar attractions and characters, but in a lot of ways the park is distinctly Shanghai, too. There are lands and rides that are original to this park, and even familiar park regions, like Tomorrowland, have been totally reimagined.
Intrigued? Read on for all the ways Shanghai Disneyland may very well be Disney's most ambitious park yet. Oh, and if you get a hankering to book a flight to Shanghai, do make sure to read through our definitive guide to visiting Disney Shanghai first.
Everything about Shanghai Disneyland, from its castle to its cost—$5.5 billion US—is enormous. The resort, which took years to develop and over five to build, is a joint venture between The Walt Disney Company and Shanghai Shendi Group, a government-owned organization. Disney has touted that 330 million people live within a three-hour trip of Disneyland Shanghai; over 10,000 employees were hired for the resort, which opened its theme park gates on June 16th. One million people have already visited the park prior to opening, and between 10 and 12 million are expected within its first year.
A Castle For Them All
There aren’t enough trophies for the records Enchanted Storybook Castle has broken. It’s the largest, the tallest and the most interactive, as well as essentially the first royal dorm, since unlike other parks, multiple princesses call this one home. It is gigantic, housing a restaurant and princess makeover boutique like others, as well as an outdoor character meet-and-greet. An entire attraction lives in its upstairs, and boats on Voyage to the Crystal Grotto float through its base. It can be seen from all ends of the park, from the Shanghai Disneyland Hotel, and even from the distant Metro train.
The Park That Hollywood Built
Twelve of the 26 movies that have ever grossed over one billion dollars worldwide have a presence within Shanghai Disneyland Resort. Toy Story 3 characters are on display throughout their namesake hotel, Frozen and Pirates of the Caribbean each have a permanent stage show, and newer successes, like Zootopia, have Judy Hopps and Nick Wilde waving from the caboose of Mickey’s Storybook Express parade. The Star Wars and Marvel characters have ample opportunity for guest interaction as well, allowing them to “virtually suit up” as Iron Man within Marvel Universe and come face-to-face with Darth Vader at the Star Wars Launch Bay, a temporary attraction at stateside parts that is now a permanent offering at Shanghai Disneyland. When The Jungle Book eventually crosses over later this year, it’ll be represented as well—its characters already have a meet-and-greet location within Adventure Isle.
The Shanghai park is nothing short of stunning. Whether it’s the new paint jobs or simply high-level design, the colors prove to be transfixing. Even with Shanghai’s smoggy skies and rainy weather as a backdrop, Fantasyland rides are attention-grabbing in the day and Tomorrowland, when wholly bathed in light throughout the evening, turns the land into a glory of its own. The debut of Ignite The Dream, the nighttime firework-and-lighting show illuminating Enchanted Storybook Castle, does the same.
As one of Disneyland’s four new lands, Adventure Isle serves as the most nature-driven of them all. In its center is Roaring Mountain, the source of a local legend of a mysterious reptilian beast living inside it, which guests come face-to-face with on Roaring Rapids, the park’s water raft attraction. As a hybrid between the journeys within Adventureland and the authenticity of nature within Animal Kingdom park, there are physical challenges, accessible hikes, and faux archeological digs at Camp Discovery. Stories of human and animal interaction live on within the Tarzan stage show, and nature across the globe is highlighted in Soaring Over The Horizon's new film, which was brought to parks worldwide the day after Shanghai’s opening.
There are small touches of pirate life everywhere in this 17th century Caribbean town, from the glimmering treasure chests scattered throughout its waterfront land to the seafaring food served at its eateries. Seagulls crow and birds chirp while to-be swashbucklers explore Siren’s Revenge, a full-sized pirate ship with interactive touches, as well as paddle Explorer Canoes and wade inside Shipwreck Shore’s water play area. Bootleggers of all ages can engage with their own kind in the park’s updated take on Pirates of The Caribbean - Battle for the Sunken Treasure, which has overhauled the entire attraction to focus on the blockbuster movies of the same name, featuring multimedia screens, full-scale sunken ships, and boats that rotate to travel sideways and backwards.
While most of Disneyland and Magic Kingdom’s rides weren’t brought over for the new Shanghai park, some age-old characters still pop up in unexpected places. Fantasia has a surprisingly large presence, with a themed carousel, a restaurant and bar within Shanghai Disneyland Hotel, and merchandise for sale throughout. The fountain outside the gates pays homage to 1928’s Steamboat Willie, and because Walt’s original hit Snow White and The Seven Dwarfs had initial release in China in the ‘30s, it gets more looks than most other princesses throughout the park, including a walk-through attraction inside the castle telling its story.
Tron Lightcycle Power Run
Tron Lightcycle Power Run is undeniably one of the stand-out rides at Shanghai, as well as one of Disney parks’ fastest and most impressive coasters. Kinetic, quick and transformative, it is an undeniable force and an incredible addition to the park, even if it’s not clear why there’s a Tron-themed attraction in the first place. The original film is a bit lost on younger audiences, the 2010 sequel is based on didn’t set any box office records and Disney’s plans for Tron 3 were scrapped last spring. But, no one seems to care. When a ride is this perfect, it’s only important that park goers get to enjoy it.
The most significant difference at first glance comes from the replacement of Disneyland’s traditional Americana-themed entrance, which has been replaced by a Toontown-like take highlighting classic Disney characters such as Minnie Mouse and Donald Duck. It may not have the same decor or layout of Main Street, U.S.A., but with a large-scale shop, confectionery, bakery and multiple dining options, its intended purpose is still retained. It’s actually much bigger, too; unlike other Disneylands, this main strip is not just the pathway to the castle, as it pours over to the left and the right with additional shops and eateries.
Johnny Depp, King of Shanghai Disneyland
If Disneyland’s Star Wars and Indiana Jones attractions make Harrison Ford its de facto prince, then Shanghai Disneyland is the park Johnny Depp built. His presence is everywhere, from the success of Tim Burton’s Alice in Wonderland, which is given its own maze in this park, to the Audio-Animatronics within Pirates of The Caribbean - Battle For The Sunken Treasure sporting his exact face. His portrayal of the character is seen within character meet-and-greets in Treasure Cove, with even his hand gestures mimicked perfectly by the Chinese actor portraying Captain Jack Sparrow in its Eye of The Storm stunt show.
Gardens of Imagination
For the first time, a full-fledged garden has been embraced as an entire land within the park. Containing Dumbo and the new Fantasia Carousel, this front-of-the-castle expanse includes a massive variety of shrubs and plants, many of which are just now beginning to grow. The park’s Garden of Twelve Friends mixes familiar Disney characters with the animals of the Chinese zodiac in detailed murals, which correspond to exclusive merchandise sold within the parks. It’s actually the second of two outdoor expanses built within Shanghai Disney Resort—the 123-acre Wishing Star Park and its adjoined lake, located just outside the gates, is open to the public.
A Homage to Walt
Though the majority of rides and lands at Shanghai Disneyland are completely new, there are plenty of nods to the man who built the Anaheim park from the ground up. There’s a Club 33 tucked away inside Mickey Avenue, serving as a replica of the one created by Walt to entertain worthy VIPs, even if he never got to see it first-hand. A facade of Carthay Circle, which held the premiere of Walt’s Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, is repurposed on Mickey Avenue, and the quintessential Storytellers statue, which first debuted at Disney California Adventure, tips a cap to Walt on his first journey to Hollywood, unaware of what would come next.
Let's Get Physical
Theme park trips are generally synonymous with dietary debauchery, but Shanghai Disneyland is overall a rather physically demanding park. Camp Discovery’s Climbing Trails, an awe-inspiring triple path around and through a stunningly large waterfall, could easily double as an American Ninja Warrior competition round. The rides themselves require a certain degree of ability, as the Tron vehicle sizing—which is not for certain lengths or widths—requires some core strength for stability. (There is an upright accessible seat available at the end of select trains.) Roaring Rapids provided a phenomenal trip, too, though one that was rather herky-jerky for those with bad backs.
It's Disney, But It's Different
Projections, digital mapping, and multimedia are used more heavily in this resort than any other, with rides across the spectrum utilizing small additions or displays to aid in the magic. By doing so, the walls within Voyage to the Crystal Grotto appear to glimmer, pirate battles come to life, and Tinker Bell’s appearance within Peter Pan’s Flight is one even the most skeptical child could believe. While the Seven Dwarfs Mine Train’s first international appearance utilizes a nearly-identical version to Disney World’s within the park, complete with its technologically advance feelings of swaying, rest assured: you’ll never forget the first time you hear the crew sing hi-ho! in Mandarin.
Shanghai’s first park employs only some of what makes visiting Disney parks back home so efficient. MagicBands were not introduced here in China, but Single Rider Lines and Rider Switch are both available, as is a rather reliable Shanghai Disneyland Resort phone app. Fastpasses are paper and cannot be booked in advance or through its app, but throughout the park same-day from Guest Services locations.
High-Caliber Entertainment From Locals
Tarzan - Call of The Jungle, set to Phil Collins’ iconic score with lyrics in Mandarin, was directed by one of China’s most elite experts in acrobatics. Touches of the authentic artform can be seen throughout, with players in gorilla costumes jumping rope whilst in a pyramid formation and others spinning armfuls of plates in unison. Eye of The Storm - Captain Jack’s Stunt Spectacular is also a highlight, filling El Teatro Fandango with clouds of smoke hanging among its impressive battles and swordfights. There are multiple Mandarin experiences as well, from Elsa and Anna’s Frozen sing-a-long to the ticketed Broadway-style performance of The Lion King outside the park.
A Legitimate Dose of Culture
This isn’t an American park setting up shop within mainland China; it’s truly a Chinese take on a place beloved by American guests. It holds an actual Chinese influence, and not by simply plastering Mulan across the park. There are touches throughout the grounds, from character meet-and-greets to a restricted amount of Western food being served within the park. The Enchanted Storybook Castle is topped with a golden peony, China’s national flower, and filled with Chinese symbols like dragons and traditional patterns. Historical artistry, design touches, and architecture are incorporated throughout, perhaps most distinctly at the Wandering Moon Teahouse, an authentic outpost with outdoor gardens, transformative dining rooms and local delights like Shanghai pork belly rice and eight treasure duck.
What's Next for Shanghai Disneyland
Seems aggressive coming off the heels of a successful park opening, but there’s plenty to look forward to down the road. Shanghai Disneyland Resort is the first structure within the newly minted Shanghai International Tourism and Resorts Zone, and has long been said to grow to eventually include more hotels and two additional parks. Bob Iger himself, in speaking with the media prior to the opening, discussed investing more in front of Shanghai Disneyland’s opening, and alluded to expansion sooner rather than later. Both George Lucas and John Lasseter were in attendance at the celebration as well, despite their IP being used somewhat lightly within the park. From their visits and the rumors swirling, it’s worth wondering if Star Wars Land and Toy Story Land could eventually make their way to China as well.