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The Shanghai Disneyland Rorschach Test

Tell me, what do YOU see?

Disney has just completed their 2011 Investor’s Conference, wining and dining the analysts who will be setting arbitrary goals for the company in the upcoming year and punishing or rewarding them accordingly. Part of the presentation involved the still-officially-unannounced Shanghai Disneyland, and we now have another frustratingly vague piece of concept art to obsess over.

Alain Littaye has given a nice summary of why Disney is keeping their cards so close to their vest, but hopefully we can actually get some concrete details about the park’s makeup if its official unveiling occurs as rumored in early April. I’m practically about to go berserk waiting for this, both because of what we don’t know and what we do know.

This is going to be a “Magic Kingdom”, but a different kind of Magic Kingdom. The layout will differ greatly from all of the other Disneyland-class parks, and from everything I hear from people working on the project they really want to do something unique and special and very high-quality. Unfortunately, while what I hear is good it’s also maddeningly vague. I hear about how everyone wants to do this right, with a classic WED-era ethos, but (obviously!) I hear no details. These are evil, evil people, folks, and they’re obviously conspiring to make me snap from trying to divine meaningful detail from cloudy, hazy, distant renderings. Maybe there isn’t even a Shanghai project at all! It’s a conspiracy.

But, just for fun, let’s look at this rendering and list what we do know about the new park:

  • It will not have a traditional hub-and-spoke layout, and will not incorporate the traditional lands in a traditional way. There might also be some innovation in the way the park is integrated with areas outside the berm.
  • Water will play a large role.
  • There will be no Main Street area.
  • The resort will have two hotels.

If you look closely at the rendering, you will see that the entrance appears to be a large, circular plaza with Mickey’s face in the center. After lots of water and greenery, a path reaches a castle – just whose castle, we don’t know. There’s also a brightly-lit area to the left of the entrance, which many believe to be the local equivalent of Downtown Disney.

It appears that Adventureland or its equivalent is located to the right of the park, where Tomorrowland would usually be. The one attraction we do know is going in the park, the pirate-themed flume ride originally designed for Hong Kong, can be seen looming over the area where Space Mountain might typically be sited.

Tim Delaney's concept art for a proposed Hong Kong Disneyland project shows the attraction that will be built in Shanghai - all the excitement of Splash Mountain combined with the franchisability of Pirates of the Caribbean!

The only other attraction widely discussed for the park is based on TRON, but we don’t yet know the nature or location of this ride.

One random thought that occurred to me is that with the water taxis and fountains on the lake, this will be the only other Disney park aside from those in Walt Disney World to be located adjacent to a navigable, Disney-owned body of water. Will this be Shanghai’s version of the Seven Seas Lagoon? Will it actually be able to, for once, match the ambiance of the approach to the Magic Kingdom? Wouldn’t that be nice? Here’s hoping that the details on the hotels and the resort itself live up to that challenge.

So, the long, long wait for details continues. I can be patient, right? Right?

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