In Shanghai, tomorrow has already arrived and so Disney has finally and officially announced the Shanghai Disneyland project. Disney released the first renderings for the park on its blog, and Imagineer Bob Weis, who has been Tweeting pictures from the construction site, posted this brief video of the groundbreaking:
So what have we learned from the announcement and first official renderings? Well, aside from the fact that it looks like Thomas Kinkade has picked up some work moonlighting at WDI, not a whole lot. After years of whispers that the park would be something truly striking and new, the first thing that springs to eye is that, once more, Disney has decided to build an imitation of Florida’s Cinderella Castle. Unlike the direct clone in Tokyo, though, this is a beefy, plus-sized castle, which Disney says will be its largest yet. As this is the first new park of the interactive meet-and-greet focused era, we can no doubt expect Cinderella’s new double-wide to be full of restaurant space and meet-and-greet opportunities. Disney wants to make sure that billions of Chinese consumers get full princess exposure.
There are obvious departures in the park layout from the traditional model; as we had heard, there is no Main Street. Instead the area between the turnstiles and castle is filled with an 11 acre park which, according to Disney, will feature yet more meet-and-greets. According to these renderings, this area will also feature the traditional Carousel and Dumbo spinner.
The rest of the park is more mysterious. You can make out a smudgy, blurry Pirate mountain, originally designed for Hong Kong, in the digital rendering, but everything else is fairly indecipherable. Disney CEO Bob Iger has said that the park will be “authentically Disney but distinctly Chinese,” and according to the New York Times the Chinese government has insisted that the park be “sharply different” from Disneyland and that it heavily incorporate Chinese culture. It will be interesting to see how Disney intends to do this, especially when the castle and other elements seem surprisingly boilerplate.
As uninspiring as I find these images, this isn’t a cheap-out project like in Michael Eisner’s waning years. The large 225-acre park represents a $3.7 billion investment, while the entire resort will clock in at $4.4 billion. As long as all that cash doesn’t go into interactive character shenanigans and flat-screen TVs, WDI should be able to do something really impressive. Let’s just hope it’s not all franchise overload.
According to Disney, the rest of the resort area outside the park will contain “two themed hotels, a venue for retail, dining and entertainment, a wonderful sparkling lagoon and some outdoor recreation areas.” They are aiming for a completion date of 2015, which is extremely impressive considering that it’s going to take almost that long for them to build the single new Snow White ride in Florida’s Fantasyland.
It’s hard to say when we’ll find out more about this project; Disney wants to keep other fly-by-night Chinese theme parks from cobbling together cheap rip-offs of its planned attractions, so it’s playing its cards close to the vest. We also don’t know how finalized the park’s design is, but with construction beginning and the 2015 looming (and the fact that they’ve had 20 years to plan this) one expects that things should be pretty far along. I would have chalked up the vague nature of these renderings to the typical and expected fluctuations in the design process, and I wonder how much of even these concepts has been settled on, but they don’t have a whole lot of time to spare messing about. Hong Kong Disneyland’s makeup changed considerably in the time following its announcement, but this project is the subject of much greater scrutiny. Hopefully they have a good idea of what’s coming, and hopefully we’ll find out more soon.
Although I would prefer more of this:
And less of this: