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The Oriental Disney Dream

by Ludi Wang

Photography by Jean Li

On June 26, 2016, fireworks in the night sky of Shanghai marked the grand opening of the first Disneyland in mainland China. During the month after its opening, the park welcomed over 500,000 visitors from around the world. Even as early as in May, the term “Shanghai Disney” had set the new record of being searched for online 89,000,000 times over the course of one month. For reference, this number is 45 times of the monthly searches of “The Oriental Pearl,” which is, perhaps without any objection, the most renowned landmark of Shanghai. Disneyland Shanghai will join the other two Disney theme parks in Asia—Tokyo Disney Resort and Hong Kong Disneyland Resort.

Located in the Pudong New District, Shanghai Disneyland Park is a part of the Shanghai Disney Resort, among six Disney resorts worldwide. In addition to the park, the resort also features two Disney-themed hotels, recreational facilities, retail and dining centers and a Disney subway station purposely designed for tourists. The park alone covers seven square kilometers, featuring six uniquely themed lands for visitors of all ages.

Disneyland, the place “where dreams come true”, has finally become the reality of hundreds of millions of Chinese Disney fans. Let’s discuss what sets apart this Disneyland from the others.

Creativity: The “Firsts” in Shanghai Disney

1) Adventure Isle

The mystifying storylines and original characters on the Adventure Isle make it a unique and popular attraction in Shanghai Disney. Adventure Isle includes ferocious beasts and challenging rope courses; ancient artifacts along the scenic trails; hidden treasures in the deep jungles and a breathtaking rafting trip down the Roaring Rapids. Through these explorations, visitors unfold the memory of this isle and leave with an unforgettable thrill.

2) Disney’s Largest Castle

The Shanghai Disney Castle is the home of all 13 Disney princesses instead of any specific ones as in other Disney parks. As you look for Cinderella, Rapunzel and other princesses that show up from time to time to pose for a picture with you, do not miss the precious chance to have the Snow White greet you as you dine at the fairytale Royal Banquet Hall.

3) Fly with Stitch on the Suspended Looping Coaster

For the first time Shanghai Disneyland uses the technology of suspended looping roller coasters to upgrade the flight experience with Stitch by adjusting the speed and angles of the flight. While roaming the galaxy, visitors can more vividly interact with the scene and indulge themselves in a feeling close to flying.

4) TRON Lightcycle Power Run

Inspired by the science fiction film TRON (1982), one of the most thrilling rides in Shanghai Disney is found in Tomorrowland. Shanghai Disney has the globe’s first TRON Lightcycle that allows visitors to essentially experience riding on a high-speed roller coaster and pretend to be in the cyber-fi world of TRON.

“Disney’s authenticity, China’s originality” has been chanted ever since the first day of the construction of Shanghai Disneyland started. The efforts to achieve this harmonious blend are not only visible on the exteriors of the Disney Castle and other buildings inside the park designed in Chinese architectural style; they have also enriched every aspect of the Shanghai Disney journey from rides to food to live entertainment.

Originality: The Chinese Elements in Shanghai Disney

1) Soaring Over the Great Wall

In the Adventure Isle, a ride called “Soaring Over the Horizon” appears especially attractive to curious visitors passionate about traveling. This exhilarating flight takes you from Niagara Falls to the Sydney Opera House to the Great Wall in Beijing, China. It also uses the advanced VR technology to let riders feel surrounded by these vivid scenes.

2) Disney Icons & Chinese Zodiacs: Garden of The Twelve Friends

The Garden of the Twelve Friends is a perfect embodiment of traditional Chinese culture in this wonderful world of fairytales. On both sides of the isles are pictures of classic Disney characters becoming incarnations of the 12 signs of Chinese zodiac. For example, Tigger from Winnie the Pooh represents the year of the tiger; dreaming to become a French chef, Remy from Ratatouille represents the year of the mouse; the heroic Maximus comes to represent the year of the horse.

3) Chinese Cuisine Culture

An unmissable step toward realizing your oriental Disney dream is to experience the authentic Chinese cuisines in Shanghai Disney. Wandering Moon Teahouse—the landmark restaurant in the park—can accommodate 600 customers at a time and is built using classic Chinese architecture styles. This restaurant is broken down into five dining zones themed as China’s mountains, rivers, forests, deserts and the ocean. You can order dishes like Shanghai pork belly rice, Wagyu beef noodle soup, Disney shumai and many other signature dishes that you would find in ordinary family homes in China.

4) The Lion King in Mandarin Chinese

The Lion King comes to life in a Mandarin-language live production where kids, adults and senior visitors are now all invited to entertain themselves while viewing one of the most classic and timeless Disney productions.

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