Wednesday, August 22, 2018

If I Were Disney CEO Part 18 - Hong Kong Disneyland and the Hong Kong Disneyland Resort

"To all who come to this happy place, welcome."

Fifty years ago, Walt Disney introduced the world to enchanted realms of fantasy and adventure, yesterday and tomorrow, in a magical place called Disneyland.

Today that spirit of imagination and discovery comes to life in Hong Kong.

Hong Kong Disneyland is dedicated to the young and the young at heart - with the hope that it will be a source of joy and inspiration, and an enduring symbol of the cooperation, friendship and understanding between the people of Hong Kong and the United States of America.

Donald Tsang
Chief Executive
Hong Kong S.A.R.

Michael D. Eisner
Chief Executive Officer
The Walt Disney Company

Dedicated this 12th day of September, 2005

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Hong Kong Disneyland is the tenth Disney park to be built around the world, opening fifty years after the opening of Disneyland in Anaheim, California.  In many ways, it represents an interesting reaction to several events in the history of the Disney Company.  As a first entry into China, it is the first Disney castle park to be designed with at least some attention to the principles of feng shui, with wider open spaces and several garden attractions.  As the first castle park built after EuroDisneyland, it was purposefully built small, down to the replica of the castle in Anaheim, in recognition of the cost overruns experienced on the continent.  As a result, for the longest, Hong Kong Disneyland was seen as a half-day park, with an underwhelming attraction lineup.  Thanks to much needed investment and previously announced plans for the future, Hong Kong Disneyland is shaping up to be one of the more interesting castle parks in Disney's roster, with potentially a very unique feature that no other park will have.

Primary Goals:
  • Increased Attractions - While the attraction count has been improving over the years, it is still shy of where it needs to be to attract guests to the park.  A primary focus would be adding attractions to the expansion areas and to currently under-served locations.
  • Build Out Beyond the Berm - Hong Kong Disneyland is poised to achieve something that is not possible in any other Disney castle park: to have a ring of lands and attractions that allows guests to walk nearly completely around the park outside the berm.  Traditionally in Disney castle parks, guests have been bound by the railroad tracks, with small exceptions for single attractions or single lands.  With the construction of Grizzly Gulch, Mystic Point, Toy Story Land, and the upcoming locations of the Frozen and Marvel lands, as well as the placement of it's a small world and Mickey and the Wondrous Book, there will be distinct pathways both inside and outside the tracks to circumnavigate the park.  I would seek to continue and finalize this pathway with lands and attractions in the remaining expansion areas.
  • Keep it Unique - Particularly with the competition between Hong Kong and Shanghai, there is a need for unique attractions in both parks to draw guests to each.  Accordingly, while I may pull from something that is in the stateside parks or Disneyland Paris, I will not look to duplicate anything from Shanghai Disneyland or even from the Tokyo Disney Resort.
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 Main Street, heading through Adventureland first, out beyond the berm and working around to Tomorrowland.  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.

Main Street:
Main Street is largely a recreation of Main Street USA from Disneyland in Anaheim.  As such, it serves its purpose as a retail, dining, and performance corridor.  Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln has been appropriately exchanged for the Animation Academy.  There are definitely a few areas for potential expansion, including pathways for bypasses if needed, but I hesitate to touch them as I do not feel they are needed.  Plus, Hong Kong Disneyland really does Halloween right with temporary mazes and shows and I would hate to touch any of the locations used and block those from future use.

Main Street Possibilities
The castle is currently going under renovation, changing it from a direct copy of Sleeping Beauty Castle in Anaheim, to a tall, new castle inspired by all thirteen Disney princesses.  If Shanghai was bigger, this will be taller.  This new castle will also have a purpose built stage and seating area for entertainment.  This renovation promised to help balance the castle with the mountains of Lantau in the background, creating a unique and stunning view.

(c) Disney
Adventureland:
Adventureland proper in Hong Kong Disneyland puts a unique spin on the concept.  Tarzan's Treehouse has been moved to an island in the center of a large river, similar to Tom Sawyer Island in Disneyland.  The Jungle Cruise, the areas signature attraction, circles the island much like the riverboats stateside, providing a similar but very different experience to the familiar attraction.  The area is rounded out with a water play area and two stage shows. Accordingly, Adventureland could use a couple of small attractions to help round out the land.

Adventureland thoughts
I would propose adding a version of the Enchanted Tiki Room close to the entrance of the land.  For guests in Hong Kong, this attraction would need to represent a significant upgrade in technology, but could provide a tested small-form attraction that would fit with the Moana stage show and Tahitian Terrace in the area.

Secondly, I would add a Jungle Book dark ride in an Angor Wat inspired temple facade.  The ride would be kin to the Fantasyland dark rides in scope, but would get the additional projection mapping and effects necessary to make it a fulfilling experience.

Indiana Jones Mini Land:
Starting now outside the berm, the first expansion plot that is reached is the one initially planned for a unique version of Pirates of the Caribbean.  That plan was rejected and while I would love to have pirates in the resort, I feel they are better suited for the second park.  For this section of land, I would look to a similar exotic location, South America, to add an Indiana Jones inspired pulp adventure mini land.  Full of Incan temples and ruins, the area would provide a nice transition from the Polynesian/African adventure land, to the North American wild west Grizzly Gulch.  Similar to Lost River Delta in Tokyo DisneySea, this area would house an Indiana Jones adventure ride, either the enhanced-motion vehicle from Disneyland/DisneySea or a version of the Pirates ride from Shanghai.  This grand dark-ride would serve as the area's E-Ticket attraction and could potentially interact with the railroad, as the initial Disneyland Anaheim plans called for.

Indy inspired sub-land
Grizzly Gulch, Mystic Point:
I have nothing to add to these lands.  They are wonderful additions and set the standard for additions to the park going forward.  Mystic Manor in particular is a game changing variation on the Haunted Mansion genre.

Toy Story Land:
If I really had my preference, I would remove Toy Story Land for the proposed Glacier Bay.  This adventurous exploration of the Artic would be a perfect transition area from the Adventureland themed sub-lands to the new Frozen expansion for Fantasyland.

However, in the interest of adding and not subtracting, I'm working from Toy Story Land and continuing to develop.  With that in mind, I would focus on adding Toy Story Mania and Andy's Lunchbox to the area working around toward Fantasyland.

Toy Story Expansion and a new version of a classic
Beyond this addition, as a new pathway is created to connect to the Frozen expansion, there is little room left for another sub-land.  Instead I would look to balance the Frozen addition with a classic Disney attraction updated for the new millennium: Journey Into Imagination.  I would focus on updating and recreating the original version of the classic attraction with Dreamfinder and Figment, adding in every trick that Imagineering has at its disposal.  This creates kind of a symmetry with the Frozen land bookended by Journey Into Imagination and it's a small world, and adds an attraction with an amazing hourly capacity.

Arendelle, Frozen sub-land:
For the large expansion pad on top of Fantasyland, Disney announced a Frozen themed land.  Originally this land was to include a version of Frozen Ever After from EPCOT in Elsa's castle and a dancing sleigh ride like Luigi's Rollickin' Roadsters from California Adventure.  The dancing sleigh ride has been replaced by a sleigh coaster similar to the Seven Dwarfs Mine Train.  This land looks to be an incredible addition, and while I'm not the largest fan of lands consisting on only two rides, as a part of the larger Fantasyland, this will be welcomed.

Expansion Pad

(c) Disney concept art
Fantasyland:
Beyond the Frozen land and Journey Into Imagination, there is not much else that could be added to Fantasyland proper.  The two garden areas seem redundant, but I'm not sure that there is much that could be added to replace them.  Of the two, I would most likely look to replace the Fantasy Gardens.  The newer Fairy Tale Forest seems more akin to a walkthrough Storybookland Canal Boats and as such has a little more value, to me at least.  The Fantasy Gardens, while pretty, largely houses meet and greet locations which can be moved to other locations.  If replaced, I could envision putting a Princess and the Frog dark ride, or a version of the Mater Whip ride themed to the Rite of Spring section of Fantasia.

New ride location
Pandora:
For the expansion pad between Mickey and the Wondrous Book and Tomorrowland, I would look to add Pandora.  Avatar is the highest grossing film in Hong Kong and the theme park area in Animal Kingdom has one of the most cutting edge attractions that Disney has created in Flight of Passage.  This is exactly the type of addition that would bring locals to the park.  There may be logistics issues with the particular location and the back of house buildings that could not be moved.  If necessary, the floating mountain look could be replaced for a different Avatar themed land, while still housing the specific rides.

Pandora addition
This would be a priority, especially if Avatar 2 and beyond continue to do as well in the international markets.

Tomorrowland:
A large part of Tomorrowland is already undergoing a transformation into a Marvel based land.  Buzz Lightyear is being replaced by an Ant-Man and the Wasp Nano Battle ride.  The Iron Man Experience is already in the park.  And the last connecting parcel outside the berm is rumored for an Avengers mega E-ticket.  The concept art is amazing.

(c) Disney
I am all for this change, but would also seek to help beef up the remaining Tomorrowland portion.  Hyperspace Mountain would be replaced by the traditional Space Mountain.  Stitch Live would return to the theater just off the side.  Comet Cafe would be reworked so as to include a smaller set of windows for Comet Cafe and to build an Alien Encounter attraction like the one from the Magic Kingdom.  This could house either the original WDW Skippy or could house a xenomorph from Alien now that the Fox deal is most likely going through.  With the Hong Kong audience already accustomed to a scarier Halloween celebration, a scarier attraction like the original Alien Encounter should not be as big of an issue as it was in Florida.


Seasonal Overlays:
While I cannot envision many Christmas overlays, I can see the value of expanding upon Hong Kong Disneyland's Halloween offerings.  Hong Kong Disneyland is already the only Disney park that does traditional haunted mazes, ranging from macabre to a little scary.   I would continue to develop those, particularly the Graves Academy and Revenge of the Headless Horseman themes that have proven so popular in the past.  I would bring back and plus the haunted version of the Jungle Cruise, as well continue to develop Space Mountain Ghost Galaxy.  Perhaps the new enhancements to the Mad Tea Party at the Magic Kingdom could be utilized here as well.  They've also added a new Halloweentown area and experience which I think will prove to be a much welcomed addition.

Parades and Nighttime Spectaculars:
Hong Kong Disneyland currently has the Flights of Fantasy daytime parade and Paint the Night for its nighttime parade.  Both are excellent parades and I would focus on plussing them in the coming years.

With the castle under renovation, the nighttime spectacular is a projection show in Main Street entitled We Love Mickey! It's very good for a temporary show and it would be exciting to see the technology incorporated into what ever nighttime show is staged when the castle is finished.  With the fountains and the projection mapping technology on Main Street, Hong Kong Disneyland could stage something like a combination of Ignite the Dream and Disneyland Forever, which would be exciting.
Magical Guardian and Cartoon Mascot:
For the magical guardian, I would propose the Genie from Aladdin.  Apart from Tinker Bell who was already so tied to Disneyland, the other guardians have really been assigned in order of release.  It thankfully worked out where there was some kind of tie to the resort.  This is the first where there is no specific tie, but believe it could be played up if need be.  Perhaps a Magic Lamp Theater in Fantasyland. Plus, though Disney's version is not, there is some basis for the traditional Aladdin being Chinese.

For the cartoon mascot, I would pick Goofy.  Goofy is a character that has been dressed in traditional attire and has been played up along with Pluto in Year of the Dog celebrations.  Goofy would make a good key figure for the resort.

Hotels:
There are currently three hotels in the Hong Kong Disneyland resort.  The Disneyland Hotel, The Hollywood Hotel (an Art Deco themed, slight budget hotel), and the newer Explorer's Hotel.  There is a expansion pad that was skipped that can be used for a fourth hotel and an entire strip that can be used to expand with the second.

A plan for expansion
For the fourth hotel plot, I would go for an ultra-modern themed hotel like the Contemporary Resort.  To tie into the Tomorrowland section of the park.  This would help further the modern image the city of Hong Kong maintains.

The fifth and sixth hotels I would propose are tied to the second parks and beyond.  The fifth hotel location is directly across from the Disneyland Hotel.  It would be the location for a similar signature hotel.  I would carry on the Disney Grand hotel theme with something potentially like Disney's Grand Oriental, something like the Regal Oriental, the Mandarin Oriental, etc. in Hong Kong.  It would be a grand celebration of China, tied to the Republic period.

The sixth hotel plot would be used for an expansion to the rest of the beach front.  This hotel would be a Boardwalk Hotel, either as Disney's Boardwalk or the Pleasure Island Hotel or the Paradise Pier Hotel, etc.  Perfect for a beachfront hotel and recreation center.

Second Park:
As indicated in the image above, there is room for a second park directly across from the Hong Kong Disneyland park, almost as an exact mirror image.

There are a couple of different ways this park could go.  To appeal to the bleeding edge desire, I could envision a Disney Space park.  This park would have a base camp "Main Street" entrance leading to a rocket tower.  An icon to blast off to the other worlds of the park, like a Sakaar based Marvel Studios section with Guardians of the Galaxy Mission: Breakout and Thor: Ragnarok based attractions, Pandora (which would need to be moved to this park instead), Star Wars land perhaps based on Endor, Naboo, or Tatooine, a Buzz Lightyear Space Ranger base with Buzz Lightyear Space Ranger Sping and Alien Spinning Saucers, and other attractions like Mission: Space, Alien Encounter, etc.

This could be a great park.  My only issue with it is that it could be placed anywhere.  In fact, it would make a great park to round out the Land, Sea, and Sky approach Tokyo is taking.  There is no specific reason to build it in Hong Kong.

I would rather go for a park that reflects a true Chinese approach to a Disney park.  Hong Kong Disneyland truly reflects a western (Disney) park with light eastern influences.  For the second park, I would like to see an eastern park with light western (Disney) influences.  A Middle Kingdom park to the Magic Kingdom park.

For that, I would work with Chinese artists, sociologists, and historians to determine what the themes of the park would look like.  If Walt Disney had been Chinese, what broad categories would he select for his park.  In building Disneyland, he looked to the genres were most popular in America at the time.  What would that look like in China.  A Republic era "Main Street" entry?  Would a Pirates of the South China Sea area be more appropriate here?  A wuxia inspired medieval China with Mulan darkride?  What exotic locations inspired dreams for Adventureland - South America? Africa?

This would be an inspired park.

Beyond:
The walkway from the hotels to the park entrances should be lined with retail and dining opportunities.  This should be the Downtown Disney or Disney Springs area.  Perhaps Disney Market for the particular location.

Disney Market
The area from the entrances to the train station provides a great location for guest services and other retail and dining.

The land is prepped and this would be a great step in transforming the area into a great resort.

Further, beyond the second park, I can envision a mini-park based on a historic pleasure pier or boardwalk along the beach.  This is a great location to make use of something that Disney does not always have access to - natural setting.  Here the true beach front location would give Disney the opportunity to recreate a classic park like Luna Park, Coney Island, etc.

I could envision an integrated Boardwalk hotel acting as the entrance and continuing into a Victorian Toyville Trolley Park inspired third gate.  This park would include a roller coaster like California Screamin, a carousel, Silly Symphony Swings, Jumpin' Jellyfish, mad mouse coaster like Primeval Whirl or Goofy Sky School, bumper cars, Disney Princess Tunnel of Love like Voyage to the Crystal Cove.  If Toy Story Land could be replaced, this third gate could even be fully Toy Story Pier incorporating all the rides from Toy Story Land.  Or it could be a combination of different IPs within the Victorian traditional pier theme.

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As always, thanks for reading.  Next in the series is the final Disney resort - Shanghai Disneyland.

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