Shanghai Disneyland is Open – Will It Be the Overseas Disney to Visit?

Shanghai Disneyland opened today to rain and excited crowds.

Soft opening trials got negative press of Chinese tourists behaving badly, similar to Hong Kong Disneyland’s opening. Park management will challenge Disney, though I am optimistic. Unlike Hong Kong, which Disney has had a half-hearted approach, the Shanghai park has been front and center of Disney CEO Robert Iger’s efforts for over a decade.

Tron Lightcycle

Will Shanghai Disneyland become the top overseas Disney park to visit?

I believe it has the potential to be Disney’s overseas jewel.

I have been to Disneyland Tokyo and Hong Kong, though not Paris. Tokyo is an immaculate Disney experience, which makes sense for a country that at times feels like Disney. Is it a near replica of Disneyland in California, the odd octopus dish aside, so for a US visitor, the experience is more to see a buttoned up version of the familiar California park than a new experience. Hong Kong, too, lacks significant differentiation from California and remains small. Both are fun to visit if already there rather than make a special trip.

How China Won the Keys to Disney’s Magic Kingdom (NYT) recounts Disney’s efforts to open in Shanghai under Mr. Iger’s mantra of ‘authentically Disney and distinctly Chinese.’

  • “The Shanghai resort, which will ultimately be four times as big as Disneyland, has a supersize castle, a longer parade than any of the other five Disney resorts around the world, and a vast central garden aimed at older visitors.”
  • 80 percent of the rides are new, such as the Tron Lightcycle.
  • Chinese elements such as trees from around the country and attractions such as the Wandering Moon Teahouse with rooms representing regions of China. China’s provinces have distinct identities, think in nearly European country terms, so showcasing them should be fun for visitors.

I can’t abide the absence of ‘It’s a Small World,’ otherwise I am happy to see new attractions rather the same old, same old, however endearing the originals are in their homes.

If it was yet another homage to California I wouldn’t make the effort. Now I am interested to go on my next visit to Shanghai.

Planning a visit? Avoid Chinese holidays, which is not so easy as it sounds. Every year the Chinese government announces holidays in mid-December. When I worked in China we would wait for news in December of upcoming solar and lunar New Year holidays, then rush to book when announced. Even when holidays are stable year-to-year, the convoluted way of switching some weekend days to work days and vice versa is confusing for everyone. The 2016 calendar is here.

Readers, are you interested to give Shanghai Disneyland a try?

Rapid Travel Chai newsletter ¦ Twitter ¦ Facebook ¦ Instagram

  • Joey

    I really enjoyed Tokyo DisneySea when I visited it a few years ago. Very different from the other Disney parks.
    Since I live in the USA, I’m quite happy going to Florida to get my Disney fix. If I’m in China, I’m more interested in visiting that fake Disney park (is it still open?) rather than Shanghai Disneyland.

  • Ian

    I understand from my wife who is from Shanghai that the ban on fireworks due to smog levels in the city which came into effect at New Year (to the disappointment of millions) is still in effect and will affect Disney – worth checking as that’s a show that makes Disney special!

  • Shannon

    I think Tokyo will still be the bes out there . What is the point to comment tourist behavior of Shanghai and then said Hong Kong is equal bad? Is it a denfensive strategy? It seems very unfair.

  • @Shannon – I am ackonwledging the bad press around the soft opening and expressing confidence the park will run well. Part of that is based on a similar situation with Hong Kong, if you recall the press at the time even showed pictures of people tossing children over the fences, now as far as I know, it runs smoothly.

  • I will be there in October and am very excited to see how it differs from all of the other resorts. I agree that in the long term this resort has the potential to be among the best, especially considering the Central Government’s majority ownership. Time will tell, but for now it is a great start!

  • Joey

    Not sure if you’ve read this yet but apparently some tourists there have been trashing the new Disney resort in Shanghai, both during opening weekend and during test weekends.
    http://nextshark.com/guests-trash-new-shanghai-disneyland-first-weekend/ :/

  • @Joey – I alluded to it in the post, this news was inevitable and I didn’t want to over-hype it, part and parcel of what you get in China tourist sites, if HK Disney is any example (remember child tossing over the fences?), Disney will get a better handle on it. It is not going to be the Japan experience, though!