Wednesday, August 29, 2018

If I Were Disney CEO Part 19 - Shanghai Disneyland and the Shanghai Disneyland Resort

To all who come to this happy place, welcome!
Shanghai Disneyland is your land.

Here you leave today and discover imaginative worlds of fantasy, romance, and adventure that ignite the magical dreams within all of us.

Shanghai Disneyland is authentically Disney and distinctly Chinese.  It was created for everyone, bringing to life timeless characters and stories in a magical place that will be a source of joy, inspiration and memories for generations to come.

Robert A. Iger
Chairman and Chief Executive Officer
The Walt Disney Company
Dedicated June 16, 2016


Shanghai Disneyland is the newest Disney resort.  Opened in June 16, 2016, it is the twelfth Disney theme park and one of the most interesting and unique versions of a castle park from initial build.  As indicated in the dedication plaque and speech above, the guiding principle for the park was and is "authentically Disney and distinctly Chinese."  This translated into several unique features in the park like the Garden of Twelve Friends, dedicated to the Chinese Zodiac, a large garden between Mickey Avenue (replacing Main Street) and the castle, unique attractions, and a challenging ropes course.  Once full buildout is completed, it will have one of the oddest layouts of any castle park. This leads to new possibilities and new challenges in the park design.

Primary Goals:
  • Close the Gaps - Shanghai Disneyland has been built for crowds with massive walkways and large remaining expansion pads.  This is great for crowding, but currently means there are large, open vistas of land that make the park feel a little empty or underbuilt.  Additions need to be focused on creating a fuller feel to the park and then moving to some of the more crowded locations.
  • Stay Authentically Chinese - This should continue to be a guiding principle.  To focus on what is attractive to the Chinese audience.  This may lead to surprising results like not looking to build anything connected to Star Wars, as that has not ever really taken off as expected, but instead building Avatar or Burton's Alice in Wonderland, etc.
  • Try Out New Technology - Since the Chinese are not as tied to Disney nostalgia, the connection to certain ride types like the dark ride or omnimover is not there.  There is a desire for more cutting edge technology rides, so those should be a focus.  Again, Flights of Passage, Mission: Breakout, etc. would be desirable.
With these goals in mind, I'll walk through each land in the park and discuss the updates.  I'll be walking through the park clockwise from Mickey Avenue, to the Gardens of Imagination, through Tomorrowland, and on around to Adventure Isle.  This is generally the approach we take in visiting castle parks, so it makes the most sense to me to approach it this way in addressing the parks needs and changes.

Mickey Avenue:
One of the first noticeable changes is that instead of a very American Main Street, Shanghai Disneyland has Mickey Avenue, a Toon Town inspired entry.  Or at least half an entry.  From entry through the turnstiles to the beginning of the Gardens of Imagination hub, Mickey Avenue is nearly exactly half the distance of a traditional Main Street.  It's also an odd mix of buildings, with a train station entrance, with no train, and several different architectural styles combined to reflect the variety of films in the Disney library.  Beyond adding a couple of planters to the very wide entry way leading into the Gardens of Imagination, there is little that I could suggest to add.

Gardens of Imagination:
What would be the traditional back half of Main Street and the Hub is taken up by the large Gardens of Imagination in front of the castle.  This area includes the Carousel and Dumbo, in addition to the Garden of the Twelve Friends, with Disney characters representing the traditional Chinese Zodiac and a very traditional Teahouse of the Wandering Moon.

This area also includes character encounters and a viewing area for the castle shows.

There are so many open pockets in this section, but I would focus on one in particular for an addition.  A little triangle of land leading into Treasure Cove.  In this area, I would add a swings ride.  If the area is desirable for Treasure Cove, it could be a "wooden" swings fitting in the Pirates motif.  If not and the entry sign could be pushed back, this could be a traditional Victorian swing ride.  The vantage point would offer great views of the castle and the lake around Treasure Cove and Adventure Isle.

I would also push DisneyTown to connect more with this central hub.  This will be discussed more in the DisneyTown section, but could also involve dual purpose buildings, like a building with one end functioning as the "end" of DisneyTown (the part that does not require theme park admission), with the other side having a counter service window servicing guests in the park.  This would help build out the edge of the Gardens and incorporate the very visible DisneyTown into the park better.
Ideas for the much bigger central hub

Not only did Tomorrowland take the polar opposite location in the park, but with the Tron Lightcycle Power Run, it took on a completely new aesthetic. Instead of a skyline dominated by the traditional Space Mountain, Shanghai's Tomorrowland now has sweeping, curved neon as the central visual weenie.

I would focus on two proposed additions to this area.  First, in the current area where the Marvel tent exists and the empty plot across from it, I would install a Tron inspired Speedway/Raceway.  This would include a bridge going over the walkway that would serve as an entry portal to the land.  I feel this attraction is important for the visual appeal.  It would give a visually interesting entrance to the land, which could be particularly pleasing at night. The cars driving by the Jet Packs would also be a very appealing combination.  This is also desirable as the speedway could be easily replaced as the need arises.

Two proposed additions
I would further seek to add Mission: Breakout where the current Star Wars Launch Bay tent area is.  As stated before, Star Wars has yet to prove sufficiently appealing in China.  Marvel on the other hand has been very lucrative.  An assault the tower drop ride like Mission Breakout could complement the Tron coaster canopy and add a further visual draw to the back of the land.

Toy Story Land:
Toy Story Land is the most recent addition to the park, built after park opening.  And surprisingly, for a park that sought unique additions, this is a very copied land.

There is one prime expansion pad in the land, in which I would build Toy Story Mania.  Again, a heavy technology ride that could be updated with new ride variations, drawing people back to the park.

A Toy Story Land addition
Unlike other Fantasylands, this version is a very large and somewhat sparse Fantasyland, lacking many of the traditional anchors.  The only recognizable rides from other parks are an updated Peter Pan's Flight, the Seven Dwarfs Mine Train, and perhaps most surprisingly the Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh.

While there is potentially a lot of  expansion behind Fantasyland, I would focus on adding in places that would make the land feel more complete.  First, between the Frozen theater and the Tangled Tavern, I would add an entrance to a grand boat dark ride, potentially the Burton Alice film or perhaps one of the newer films if they hit, like the upcoming Nutcracker.  On the other side of the Tangled Tavern, I would add a Coco dark ride.  Coco was a big hit in China and has beautiful vistas that would be great for a ride.  Perhaps this could be paired with a redo of the Mexico pavilion.
Fantasyland additions
Across from the Tangled Tavern, there is a little outgrowth, where I would add a Chinese dragon caterpillar ride.  A small form attraction with a low height that will not block the view of the Voyage of the Crystal Cove.

There is one expansion pad that I would access, the section behind Seven Dwarfs Mine Train.  This section had already been designed for a clone of Expedition Everest.  This would be a perfect addition for the Chinese park, tapping into a Chinese location and the mythology around it.  A great location for a roller coaster on the opposite side of the park from Tron, this area could be built out with a base camp restaurant on the large picnic ground plot neighboring Treasure Cove.  I would further build this section out with a Himalayan themed Haunted Mansion, continuing the tradition of moving the location of Haunted Mansion in every park.

Expansion pad with Treasure Cove small additions

Treasure Cove:
Treasure Cove is one of the lands that was truly nearly fully realized at the parks opening.  Shanghai split Adventureland in two with a land dedicated to pirates in Treasure Cove and Adventure Isle for the rest.  Treasure Cove has the most technologically advanced version of the Pirates of the Caribbean, a wonderful stage stunt show, and great places to explore.  

The only thing I would add is a market/gallery on the backside of the proposed base camp restaurant, with a shooting gallery for a little additional interactive component to the land.

Current rumors place an addition for Pandora: The World of Avatar behind Adventure Isle.  This makes sense as Avatar was a very high grossing film in China and Flights of Passage in particular represents one of the most cutting edge rides that Disney has built.

The blog with the news believes it would go into the hotel expansion pad truly behind it.  I think the land would more readily be added in between Treasure Cove and Adventure Isle.  Particularly as the Tarzan show that is currently blocking the space behind would seem to be most assuredly "temporary" in Disney terms.  The land is there, it would just likely require a little landfill and relocation of one backstage building, but this could be a very desirable location with easier access than the other pads.
Pandora possibility
Adventure Isle:
Adventure Isle is another land that is nearly completely built out.  A exciting rapids ride with giant animatronic.  A challenging ropes course.  And perhaps the most attended attraction in the park with Soarin.  There is not much need to add to this section.

Seasonal Overlays:
Like Hong Kong, I would not focus on seasonal overlays with the park, focusing more on opportunities to create multiple variations like Star Tours or Mission: Breakout.  This would seem to be a better investment in the park.

Parades and Nighttime Spectaculars:
Currently Shanghai Disneyland has no parade, neither daytime nor nighttime.  These would be great quicker additions.  In particular, a distinct night time parade (i.e. not Paint the Night).   In particular, a lighted Chinese dragon would seem to be a no-brainer for a "electric" light parade.

Shanghai has a current nighttime spectacular in Ignite the Dream.  This will continue to serve the park well for years to come.  

Magical Guardian and Cartoon Mascot:
For the magical guardian of this park, I would select Mushu from Mulan.  A Chinese dragon for an authentically Chinese park.  The time progression of Disney magical assistants has also been met.

For the cartoon mascot, I would choose Pluto.  This would complete the Fab Five/Six selection for the castle parks.

DisneyTown represents Shanghai Disneyland's separate shopping and dining district like Downtown Disney or Disney Springs, but with a twist.  DisneyTown essentially runs parallel to Mickey Avenue with its own entrance into the park for Shanghai Disneyland Hotel guests.

This creates a couple of unique challenges.  Essentially, this landlocks DisneyTown and preventing much if any expansion.  As discussed with the Gardens of Imagination section, I do believe you can push DisneyTown a little further beyond its current location, adding a handful of additional buildings.  This would allow for additional space in DisneyTown as well as allowing the "hub" of Gardens of Imagination to be build out further, potentially with things like counter service windows.

I think this would be desirable, as DisneyTown is fairly full.
Shanghai Disneyland currently has two resorts, the signature Shanghai Disneyland Hotel and the Toy Story Hotel.  Interestingly, the Shanghai Disneyland Hotel went for an Art Nouveau design opposed to the traditional Victorian Hotel del Coronado look.

There are at least four expansion pads for additional hotels.  One each on other side of the current Shanghai Disneyland Hotel location, one behind the Toy Story Hotel, and one at the gate of the resort, across from DisneyTown.

I would start with the location right at the gate.  Here I would place a distinctly Chinese hotel, using the Disney Grand brand.  The Disney Grand Mandarin Hotel.  This would seem to be the most desirable location.
Resort expansion possibilities
I would then focus on the two pads on each side of the Shanghai Disneyland Hotel, here adding an ultra-modern hotel and an adventure themed hotel.  I would leave the last pad behind the Toy Story Hotel for long term development.

Second Park and Beyond:
There is room for at least two additional theme parks, which have been identified in early planning documents.  There is one pad directly adjacent to the current park with another on the other side of the Shanghai Disneyland Hotel. Rumor has placed the second park as an EPCOT style park and the third as an Animal Kingdom style.  I think it is far too early to discuss additional parks here.  I would focus on building out the first park and the infrastructure instead.

There is a lot of additional land particularly around Wishing Star park and lake for other options, like concert venues.  I would look to build out this land with several distinct types of entertainment offerings.

There is a lot of opportunity for exciting development.

As always, thanks for reading.  That completes the existing parks in the Disney portfolio.  Next in the series, I'll discuss potential additional parks and locations beyond the existing resorts.

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