A video tour of Disney's new Shanghai Disneyland

June 14, 2016, 3:03 PM · The Walt Disney Company has kicked off its three-day opening celebration for Shanghai Disneyland with a performance of The Lion King musical, which is playing next door to the park in its own theater in the Disneytown shopping and dining district.

The Lion King opening at Shanghai Disneyland's DisneytownPhoto courtesy Disney

We will be covering Shanghai Disneyland's opening over the next three days, starting with an overview of the park and its attractions today, followed by more analysis and practical travel advice tomorrow.

Shanghai Disneyland is Disney's sixth "Disneyland/Magic Kingdom"-style park, but this latest installation varies more from that template than any of those five other parks. There's no Main Street USA here — the entrance plaza to Shanghai Disneyland is called Mickey Avenue, and it's really just the appetizer setting a visitor up for the Gardens of Inspiration that serves as the heart of the park. Here's a map:

Map of Shanghai Disneyland

Mickey Avenue is to the lower right, at the entrance of the park. Gardens of Imagination is the circle at the middle of the park, with the Enchanted Storybook Castle overlooking it, at the upper left of the circle.

Enchanted Storybook Castle
Enchanted Storybook Castle. Photo via Wikimedia Commons

Gardens of Inspiration might be the most explicitly Chinese section of the new park, with Chinese Zodiac "Garden of the Twelve Friends," employing Disney characters to represent the 12 signs of the Chinese lunar calendar. Fantasyland extends behind the castle. To the left of the Gardens on the map is Tomorrowland, and to the right are Adventure Isle (lower right) and the Pirates of the Caribbean-themed Treasure Cove (upper right).

Let's start there, in Disney's first land themed entirely to the Pirates franchise. Rather than build another clone of the Anaheim original for its first mainland China park, Disney has created an all-new Pirates ride, based upon the Johnny Depp films. Utilizing a new ride system and a mix of screens and practical effects, Pirates of the Caribbean: Battle of the Sunken Treasure is making a strong claim to be the best new theme park attraction in the world this year.

If that's not enough Captain Jack for you, Treasure Cove also features a live-action Pirates-themed stunt show, Eye of the Storm: Captain Jack's Stunt Spectacular:

Next door in Adventure Isle, the highlights are a new version of Disney's popular Soarin' film, as well as a river rapids ride. Adventure Isle's icon in Roaring Mountain, the home to Roaring Rapids, where a creature lurks in wait. However, the creature animatronic wasn't working during soft openings for the ride, so it's not particularly impressive in this preview video.

And you won't have to fly to China to see the new Soarin' Over the Horizon - it will play as Soarin' Around the World at Epcot and Disney California Adventure, starting Friday. (The ending will be different here in the United States, though.) The show video starts at 3:14. It's all queue before then.

Let's head back to the centerpiece of the park, Disney's largest castle — the Enchanted Storybook Castle. This castle isn't explicitly themed to a specific Disney princess, as are the other five Magic Kingdom castles around the world. (Trivia time: Anaheim, Paris and Hong Kong are themed to Sleeping Beauty. Orlando and Tokyo are Cinderella.) However, the storybook in this castle's Once Upon a Time Adventure walk-through is Snow White's giving Disney's original movie princess a claim on her first Disney theme park castle.

The castle also hosts a second attraction (at least, in part). The Voyage to the Crystal Grotto takes guests through gardens inspired by several Disney films before making a turn inside the castle itself.

Shanghai Disneyland's Fantasyland includes several familiar Disney attractions, including the Seven Dwarfs Mine Train from Orlando and a version of Paris' Alice in Wonderland maze. But it's the plussed version of Peter Pan's Flight that's attracted the most fan attention online.

Speaking of plussed versions of familiar Disney attractions, you'll find another one next door in Tomorrowland, on the Buzz Lightyear Planet Rescue.

But the big draw in Tomorrowland will be Disney's first theme park attraction dedicated to Tron. It's your chance to ride a Lightcycle on the TRON Lightcycle Power Run

Finally, we'll wrap up our video tour of Shanghai Disneyland back on Mickey Avenue, for a performance of the park's daily Mickey's Storybook Express parade.

Tomorrow: More about Shanghai Disneyland, including some practical travel advice.

Replies (6)

June 14, 2016 at 4:59 PM

Heading to the airport now. ;)

June 14, 2016 at 7:40 PM

Peter Pan looks amazing! Is this all of the rides? No Haunted Mansion variant?

June 14, 2016 at 10:22 PM

I never thought I would feel jealous of the Shanghai rides. But, after watching the video of the new Pirates ride, I have to wonder why the best new stuff seems to go overseas. Why do we have to fly halfway around the world to experience the most amazing attractions??
P.S: I LOVE that castle!!

June 15, 2016 at 5:37 AM

Tthey still do Constructions. May Haunted Mansion comes later...
Great Pirate Ride and nice Raft Ride.

Would love to perform in the Parade on a daily Base but that will be a life long dream as I never would be invited also I wouldn't need Payment, just free Wifi in times I not work, free food, energy and a place to rest...


June 15, 2016 at 10:04 AM

@Sylvain Comeau

"I have to wonder why the best new stuff seems to go overseas. Why do we have to fly halfway around the world to experience the most amazing attractions??"

This sounds like entitlement. Welcome to what everyone else has had to do. Brazilians have been traveling to Flordia to go to WDW and Universal. People living in Shanghai haven't had access to world-class theme parks until more recently. There aren't any famous theme parks in Africa.

June 15, 2016 at 2:17 PM

$6 billion for that? Did someone hire his brother's construction company?

Pirates and Peter Pan look good, but the rest of the park is a disaster.

Soarin' Over California is light years better than Soarin' Around the World. The California locations were beautiful, the new destinations not so much. Why does the new version still use California's soundtrack? Was Bob Iger too cheap to give Soarin' Around the World its own soundtrack?

Grizzly River Run looks way better than Roaring Rapids. The place just opened and the animatronic dragon is already broken? Get that lizard a strobe light! Does Disney even know how to build animatronics anymore?

The castle should be renamed Franken-Cinderella Castle. It's the ugliest castle I've seen in my entire life.

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