Shanghai Disney Resort opens – the brand’s biggest international park

CNN  — 

Ni hao, Mickey Mouse!

Following just over five years of construction and multiple delays, the long-awaited Shanghai Disney Resort opened its gates to the public on June 16.

Celebrations were overshadowed by events at Disney’s Orlando theme park – first security concerns in the wake of Sunday’s attack on the Pulse Nightclub in downtown Orlando, then the death of a 2-year-old boy in an alligator attack at Disney’s Grand Floridian resort on Tuesday night.

The official dedication of Shanghai Disney Resort went forward as planned on Thursday morning local time, but an outdoor gala on Wednesday night was scrapped, with a smaller-scale event held inside instead. Disney said the change was due to rainy weather conditions.

Made up of Disneyland, Disneytown, Wishing Star Park and two hotels, the entire project covers 3.9 square kilometers.

According to Disney officials, it’s the brand’s biggest international park and takes full advantage of all the technological advances that have arrived since Disney’s last park opening – Hong Kong Disneyland – in 2005.

This means that rides you might have experienced at other parks – though many fan favorites are missing – have been given a complete revamp.

The best example of this is Pirates of the Caribbean: Battle for the Sunken Treasure.

A far cry from the original Pirates ride created by Walt himself back in the 1960s, this hi-tech version is the largest attraction in Shanghai Disneyland, taking up 16,340 square meters.

Boats are controlled magnetically so they can spin or go backwards to maximize views of all the scenes, which feature the latest animatronics technology.

“Even if you’ve been on all the rides in the world this is going to blow you away,” says theme park expert Stefan Zwanzger – aka the Theme Park Guy.

“I think every Disney fan will be crazy about it. It’s actually worth flying to Shanghai just for this particular ride.”

shanghai disneyland opens china rivers cnni nr lklv_00011118.jpg
Shanghai Disneyland officially opens
02:11 - Source: CNN

What differentiates it from other Disney parks?

In the run-up to the park’s opening, Disney execs have been parroting just how different this park is, whether it be the promise of an “authentically Disney and distinctly Chinese” experience or the impressive size of the castle.

Let’s start there.

Shanghai Disneyland’s Enchanted Storybook Castle is reportedly the tallest and most interactive castle in any Disney park, say park developers.

It has a table-service restaurant and a Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique princess salon for kids.

The highest ornament is a cascade of stars topped by a golden peony – another nod to China.

TRON Lightcycle Power Run coaster.

Meanwhile, there are several rides you won’t find in any other Disney parks.

For instance, Alice in Wonderland Maze is the first attraction at a Disney park to focus on Tim Burton’s “Alice in Wonderland” film.

Guests have to make their way through sculpted hedges, stone garden walls, giant flowers and sculptures to get to the Mad Hatter’s Tea Party.

The Voyage to the Crystal Grotto boat ride travels though Fantasyland and the Enchanted Storybook Castle.

But the most anticipated ride is the TRON Lightcycle Power Run coaster.

Based on the TRON films, this coaster – said to be one of Disney’s fastest – places riders atop individual two-wheeled “lightcycles” that are launched into a giant space filled with lights, projections and sound effects.

Just how big is Disney’s new Shanghai resort?

Seats are set up for the opening ceremony in front of the Enchanted Storybook Castle at Shanghai Disney Resort in Shanghai on June 15, 2016.
First look at Shanghai Disneyland
06:11 - Source: CNN

Six themed areas

Like its five counterparts in Anaheim, Orlando, Tokyo, Paris and Hong Kong, Shanghai Disneyland is sectioned into themed areas.

There’s Adventure Isle, Fantasyland, Gardens of Imagination, Tomorrowland, Treasure Cove and Mickey’s Avenue.

Adventure Isle highlights include Roaring Rapids and Soaring over the Horizon, which uses giant screen projection technology to offer an aerial view of the world.

As at other Disney parks, Fantasyland is targeted at the younger crowd. Attractions include the aforementioned Alice in Wonderland Maze, the Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh, Peter Pan’s Flight, Seven Dwarfs Mine Train and Voyage to the Crystal Grotto.

Gardens of Imagination is where you’ll find Marvel Universe, Fantasia Carousel and Dumbo the Flying Elephant. There’s also a Garden of the Twelve Friends featuring Disney and Pixar characters in Chinese Zodiac style.

Shanghai Disneyland's pirate-themed Treasure Cove.

Tomorrowland features five different attractions.

Time to bust out the sad face emoji – Space Mountain ain’t one of them. Disappointing, certainly, but the TRON Lightcycle Power Run coaster might just be a worthy replacement.

Other Tomorrowland attractions include the shoot-em-up Buzz Lightyear Planet Rescue ride, Stitch Encounter, Jet Packs and a Star Wars Launch Bay featuring props and set pieces from the most recent film.

The pirate-themed Treasure Cove has the Pirates of the Caribbean ride, Explorer Canoes and a Shipwreck Shore water play area.

Lastly, there’s Mickey Avenue, which takes the place of the classic Main Street USA found in all of Disney’s other parks.

Located just inside the entrance and filled with gift shops and restaurants, it replaces the classic turn-of-the-century small town experience with a Toon Town-esque neighborhood inhabited by Mickey Mouse and his buddies.

Disneytown and Wishing Star Park

Located beside the main Disneyland theme park, Disneytown has 50 shops and restaurants. That includes the first World of Disney store in Asia and the largest Lego store in the world.

It’s also where you’ll find the Walt Disney Grand Theatre, home to the first-ever Mandarin stage production of Broadway musical “The Lion King.”

The nearby lakeside Wishing Star Park is a recreational area with a walking path that snakes through wetlands, forests and meadows.

Shanghai Disney Resort’s hotels

One of the 800 rooms inside Shanghai Disney Resort's Toy Story Hotel.

Shanghai Disney Resort has two hotels.

The swankier of the two is the Art Nouveau-inspired Shanghai Disneyland Hotel, located on Wishing Star Lake.

The three-story property has 420 guest rooms, including seven suites, and four themed restaurants.

Character breakfasts take place at Lumiere’s Kitchen. There’s a pool, Lion King-themed water play area and Mickey Mouse Playhouse activity center.

For a more laid back stay there’s the Toy Story Hotel, which has 800 guest rooms. It’s got two themed wings – Sheriff Woody Wing and Buzz Lightyear Wing.

As expected, its decor was inspired by the films and its characters. There’s a food court, water-play area and family activity center.

Fun fact: The hotel’s figure-eight “infinity” layout is a nod to Buzz Lightyear’s mantra “To infinity and beyond!”

Shanghai: Insider Travel Guide

Shanghai is the city that changes the way you see the future