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My thoughts on Shanghai Disneyland

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  • My thoughts on Shanghai Disneyland

    In November me and my wife had the pleasure of visiting SDL for two days and stay at the Shanghai Disneyland Hotel.
    I'd like to share with you a few of my observations and thoughts on the new themepark, hotel and China in general.
    If you are Chinese and read this, please feel free to comment, explain or correct. My intention is not to offend you.
    We arrived at Shanghai early in the morning on a Sunday and getting to the park by taxi from Pudong International Airport seemed to be a big problem at first. The taxi driver had no knowledge of the English language and could't understand what we were saying. Thank goodness I had the address of the Disneyland Hotel in Chinese letters on my iPhone, so I could show the driver, where we wanted to go. But it didn't seem that he knew where he needed to take us, so he started talking to other taxi drivers and Chinese passengers, until finally someone said in broken English, that we should enter the taxi and that the taxi driver would take us to the "Diz-a-nee" Resort - no problem at all. A little bit anxious we did as we were told and 25 minutes later - after passing several road signs with a Mickey head on them, that wanted us to leave the motorway, but that our taxi driver totally ignored - we arrived safe and sound at the Shanghai Disneyland Hotel. In the course of our Shanghai trip we later learned some facts about Chinese mannerisms, which explain the behavior of our taxi driver: First of all Chinese people often have different body language and gestures compared to Westerners, that are quite difficult to read and easy to misinterpret. For example: the Chinese gesture for "follow me" is exactly like our gesture for "go away". Secondly when you talk to someone in China they like to repeat the sentence or some words, which seems as if the other person couldn't understand, what you were saying. But that is not the case! Even when they talk in Chinese they like to repeat each others words and/or sentences.
    On the drive to the Disneyland Hotel we observed some other peculiarities: The road signs leading to the Disney Resort don't mention Disney. There is a Mickey Head and the sign reads "Shanghai International Tourism and Resorts Zone". In this "Zone" are a lot of non-Disney looking buildings, even right next to the Disneyland Hotel and around the Wishing Star Lake are buildings that don't seem to fit in a Disney Resort and look rather "backstage".
    Now lets move on to the Disneyland Hotel: We loved it! The staff was great and helpful, could speak good English. The lobby is gorgeous and the rooms very nice. We loved the pixie dust and fireworks effect on the headboard of our beds - even if the bellboy called it "fairy dust". The breakfast character buffet at Lumiere's Kitchen was a treat! The view from the hotel to the park - not so much. The view to the castle is very nice, but don't look to the sides!! On the right is the ugly back of the Soarin' and Roaring Rapids showbuildings, on the left you can see gigantic power lines! And the problem of sight lines unfortunately continues inside the bermless themepark. But more of that in my next post...
    power lines nice view - but don't look to the sides ugly show buildings

  • #2
    If you want for me to continue posting my thoughts, please let me know. Otherwise I won't bother writing more. Thank you.

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    • #3
      I'm interested. Very good so far. You already touched on one of its biggest planning errors and the breaking of a Walt Disney tenet. HKDL built a very big, tall and luxuriantly planted berm around the entire park and HKDL, with its great natural location, needed it the least. SDL, built in a flat, unattractive locale where a berm was most needed to insulate the park, lacks it.

      Sooner or later a resort hotel will be going in the area south of Roaring Raids and Soarin'... the question will be, what theme, how tall and how will that affect the Adventure Isle sightlines.
      Last edited by RandySavage; 11-27-2017, 11:05 PM.
      http://www.idealbuildout.blogspot.com/

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      • #4
        Okay, here we go: Let's start with Disney Town. This is an area outside the Main Entrance of the themepark that is accessible without a ticket and is comparable to Downtown Disney. It consists of two parallel running streets with shops and restaurants. The streets begin at a World of Disney store and end on the other side at the Walt Disney Grand Theatre, where they used to perform the Lion King Musical. Because of lack of interest they discontinued the show and are planning to bring Beauty and the Beast to that stage. On this side of the Disney Town area is also a second entrance to the park, where you enter SDL near Tomorrowland. I highly recommend using this entrance if you already have your tickets, because there is almost no line. We used this entrance on our second day and waited like 2 minutes to enter, compared to the day before, when we had to wait like 45 minutes in line. Keep in mind that Chinese people need a valid I.D. to purchase park tickets and upon entering the themepark - I assume to reduce ticket-fraud - park staff checks I.D.s and park tickets and if the I.D. was used to buy the ticket. And this procedure takes time! Sometimes there is also a discussion between park guests and cast members about bringing food into the themepark, that doesn't help the line problem either.
        Now back to Disney Town: We strolled through this area quite a view times on different times of day. And it was always deserted! As was the case inside the themepark's shops, no one seemed to be interested in buying merchandise. The World of Disney store - a rather small one compared to the American counterparts (I imagined it's the same size as the one in DLP, which I have only seen in pictures) - is really not very crowded, even when the park has closed and all people are rushing back home or to their hotels. This indifference to the shops by the costumers is mirrored in the lack of interesting and original merchandise. The World of Disney store is more comparable to a regular Disney Store, than to anything else: stuffed animals and toys anyone? All the other stores in Disney Town have even fewer costumers: There is a Lego store, a Sephora, a Pandora shop, just to name a few. Also the restaurants were always deserted. There is a Cheescake Factory, a Wolfgang Puck's, a Starbacks (which had the most costumers - Chinese seem to love Starbucks; in Shanghai there is a Starbacks literally around every corner) and a few Asian chains.
        The themeing of Disney Town is also an interesting design choice. Many buildings resemble Shikumen houses, traditional Shanghainese buildings, that you can see in the French Concession of Shanghai. Instead of transporting guests to another place or time, Imagineering opted to stay in Shanghai. A choice I can't really understand, though Imagineers included many nods to Disney history.
        I'm hoping to get a few comments, before a continue my review with Mickey Avenue...

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        • #5
          Thanks for continuing. I'm enjoying the review.

          Do you - or anyone - know what those thin, low, double rails that follow the rooflines (in the second pic) are for? I've noticed they appear alot in SDL.
          http://www.idealbuildout.blogspot.com/

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          • #6
            I'm really enjoying this review! It is really interesting hearing the differences in culture and crowds compared to here. Please post more including a review of the themepark!

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            • #7
              Very interesting post. It's interesting to compare the reality of a trip report with the PR spin. Never knew the park had two entrances can't wait to see what we learn next!

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              • #8
                Thank you for your comments!
                Now let's continue with Shanghai Disneyland's Main Entrance and Mickey Avenue. As Imagineering did successfully with the Main Entrance of Hong Kong Disneyland, they also opted to build a fountain with Disney characters in front of the Main Gates. And while the Hong Kong version seems grander with it's whale at the center that next to Mickey also includes the fab five, the Shanghainese Steamboat Mickey fountain is quite okay. After passing the ticket and security booths - the waiting time to enter the park can seem quite long, as I've elaborated before - you arrive at the obligatory floral Mickey, that you can circle as a whole. On the right side one will find Guest Relations, on the back is a building, that looks like a railroad station. You enter Mickey Avenue - Shanghai's take on the classic Main Street - under this building. It functions a little bit as a berm at the front of the park. Everywhere else there is no such barrier! The "railroad station" has no other function beyond that, you can't enter it, and there is certainly no railroad in this park!
                Many describe Mickey Avenue as a cross between Main Street USA and Toontown. I don't think this is accurate. How many of you have visited Tokyo DisneySea and know the New York Section of the American Waterfront area of that themepark? I think that Mickey Avenue is much more comparable to that area of the park or Buena Vista Street in DCA, if classical Disney characters were shop and restaurant owners. We liked that area of the park very much with it's abundance of details and nods to classical Disney animation (I think that the Silly Symphonies never had a greater presence in the parks before) with an odd Pixar character scattered in between. Yes, the street is really short - about half the size of Main Street USA in Disneyland, Anaheim. But there is a decent sized sidestreet/backalley to explore on the right side of Mickey Avenue, which makes the area seem a little bit large. Take your time to explore, there is a surprising detail around every corner and take your time to check the shop windows! The left side of Mickey Avenue proper only contains Avenue M Arcade, the Emporium of SDL. As I've explained before, the merchandise available was okay but nothing special; and the Chinese weren't really into shopping, so Avenue M was almost always deserted. A proof that they make less money on merchandise than they expacted is - in our opinion - the fact that you get your purchase in a bag with the Grand Opening Logo on it - 1,5 years later! On the other hand: Disney seemed to know that merchandise is not that big of a deal in China, because the squarefeet allocated to merchandise in this themepark seem less than in all other parks we've visited.
                On the right side of Mickey Avenue is a camera shop and a confectionary, followed by a snack stand and Remy's Patisserie - comparable to DL's Market House before it was a Starbucks, with a Ratatouille theme. At the end of Mickey Avenue, you arrive at the Gardens of Imagination, but the Mickey Avenue building continue on a little bit on both sides. On the left is an ice cream shop and the entrance to SDL's Club 33. On the right you have Mickey & Pal's Market Café and the Whistle Stop Shop, where they try to push Duffy merchandise and have a meet-and-greet with that bear. The Mickey & Pal's Market Café is one of the biggest restaurants in the park. All seating areas are themed differently: there is a room reminiscent of the Hollywood Brown Derby with Disney character caricatures made by Eric Goldberg on the walls, a room themed to Little Toot and one to a 50's diner - just to name a few. The restaurant itself is self-service (only the restaurant in the castle is a table-service restaurant); the procedure to get your food is the same in every one of the self-service restaurants: there are several stations (open kitchens) available, where they sell different items - mostly Asian or western food with an Asian twist (Peking duck pizza anyone?). You choose one of the stations, get in line, arrive at the counter, order at the first person and you get your tray with your food and drinks from the next person. Then you leave the station and go to one of the cash registers, that are off to one side of the restaurant, where you can pay before you enter the seating areas. Be prepared for some line cutting and pushing, when waiting for your food! Some cut the line to get additional drinks or white rice they have forgotten to order (the cast members unfortinately don't mind that behaviour at all!), others hint that their relatives/friends are in front and they would like to join them, which is most of the time just a lie. And don't expect anyone to apologize when he/she bumps into you. I'm European and we are used to a certain degree of rude behaviour while waiting in line. But also for us this was nerve-wrecking and annoying. And I understand that when Americans experience this kind of behaviour it must be extra hard for them to cope with it, as two extremes collide: one of the most disciplined people - when waiting in line is concerned - meet one of the most un-disciplined!
                But don't let that hinder you from visiting China! Just be prepared and aware, that you visit a different culture, where some of the things that are rude for us are probably not so much a problem for the Chinese people.
                Last edited by csab7145; 12-08-2017, 05:52 AM.

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                • #9
                  Really great detailed post. Interesting how it’s similar to Buena Vista Street. I wonder if culturally the line cutting there is more acceptable. As someone considering visiting this absolutely is the kind of detailed information I want.

                  That’s insane how the grand opening bags have not run out. In your opinion, do you believe the prices are high for the area? Is it similar to US Prices for merchandise? If this is the case Disney is foolish to have high priced merchandise in a location like China full of cheap bootleg merchandise.

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                  • #10
                    Yes, the prices for food and merchandise are close to the ones in the U.S.!

                    Now let's move on to the Gardens of Imagination. When Disney announced the themepark, they proclaimed that SDL would be distinctly Chinese. Gardens of Imagination is the place where that is achieved: As they have successfully done with Mickey Avenue as the new Main Street Disney Imagineering also opted to change the concept of the central hub area and with this created a complete new land (to be honest, it doesn't really feel like a land on it's own - rather like an extension of Mickey Avenue or Fantasyland). Gardens of Imagination is a huge circular landscaped area at the center of SDL - in front of the castle - with flowerbeds, flowering trees, waterways and bridges. This is the place to watch the fireworks over the castle or the afternoon parade. There are mosaics depicting the Chinese zodiac signs - with a Disney touch: all the animals are Disney characters! All in all it's a very nice area. You can also find the Storytellers statue from DCA's Buena Vista Street here. Two attractions that are usually in Fantasyland have found their new home in these gardens: Dumbo and the carousel. Dumbo has the same design as in Disneyland, the carousel is called Fantasia Carousel and instead of horses you ride on pegasi from the Pastoral Symphony sequence of Fantasia. We were a little bit disappointed by this attraction. While the carousels at other Disney parks are all old, historical attractions that were redesigned and renovated, this one seems brand new, has a plasticky feel to it and looks rather "cheap".
                    On the left side of the Gardens is also a place to meet Mickey and a Marvels Showplace - which seems to be an afterthought and was put in just to boost capacity. On the right side is a Chinese teahouse (called Wandering Moon Restaurant), which unfortunately was closed the two days we visited the park. When I first read that Disney was planning to build a teahouse I thought it would be distracting to have such a structure quite literally in front of the castle. But I was wrong. It really fits in rather unobtrusively. All in all we think that the chances Disney has made with the hub area and the Mickey Avenue work and are very well executed! It's great that all the kingdom parks have their uniqueness to them and are not carbon copies of each another.
                    The afternoon parade at SDL is called Mickey's Storybook Express and is quite enjoyable. The Mulan float is especially impressive. Also - be prepared for some bumping and pushing when standing on the side of the street to watch the parade! People will try to get in front of you! So being early for the parade to get a good spot is useless. Visitors to the park seem to know that and up until 15 minutes before showtime nobody bothers to claim a spot.
                    Gardens of Imagination is also the place to watch the show on the castle forecourt stage. It's called Golden Fairytale Fanfare and is one of the better castle shows Disney has produced. The show combines Disney Princesses, fountains, music and some impressive stage trickery - for example: Aladdin and Jasime appear on stage in an hot air ballon shaped like an elephant head. We were also surprised to see Merida as part of the production.
                    Once night falls, Ignite the Dreams is presented. It's a projection show with limited fireworks and follows Mickey through different Disney movies - including Pirates and Star Wars. We think that because of air pollution, Disney limits the use of fireworks in that show. Nevertheless we liked it very much. Contrary to the afternoon parade, people claim their spot as early as one hour before showtime! So be there early. When they dim the lights, they ask people to stay where they are, until the lights are turned on again after the show. Nobody listens to that. During the show be prepared that many people will try to pass on all sides, even families with strollers try to squeeze through. When the show is over and everybody leaves the themepark we were shocked how the place looked: There was trash everywhere! During the show everybody just dumps their trash on the ground!
                    Last edited by csab7145; 12-08-2017, 10:52 AM.

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