The World of Chinese - - Contents - BY DAVID WIL­LIAM KAY

To mark the first an­niver­sary of Dis­ney's main­land amuse­ment park de­but, we take a stroll down Main Street in search of Chi­nese el­e­ments and child­hood mem­o­ries...


0pened to the pub­lic in June 2016, Shang­hai Dis­ney Re­sort is a hulk­ing, 5.5 bil­lion-usd de­vel­op­ment sit­u­ated in the dis­tant hin­ter­lands of Shang­hai’s Pudong dis­trict. De­spite some rather mean-spir­ited press mar­ring its grand open­ing (in­clud­ing re­ports of Chi­nese tourists mis­be­hav­ing, and bullish vows by Dalian Wanda CEO Wang Jian­lin to make the park “un­prof­itable in the com­ing two decades”), Dis­ney wel­comed an es­ti­mated four mil­lion thrill-seek­ers, day-trip­pers, and mid­dleaged women car­ry­ing bags of fruit dur­ing its first four months of op­er­a­tions alone. This sum­mer will mark Mickey’s first birth­day in the “Pearl of the Ori­ent.”

Ac­ces­si­ble via Shang­hai Metro Line 11, car, taxi, or magic car­pet ride, the re­sort in­cludes the usual themed sec­tions in­clud­ing Fan­ta­sy­land, To­mor­row­land, and Ad­ven­ture Isle. How­ever, it dis­penses with a num­ber of Dis­ney sta­ples, in­clud­ing fan fa­vorites It’s A Small World, Space Moun­tain, and— most con­tro­ver­sially—main Street, USA, in an at­tempt to re­cal­i­brate the re­sort’s over­all cul­tural mi­lieu. In­stead, Shang­hai Dis­ney Re­sort de­buts a num­ber of at­trac­tions and el­e­ments with a Chi­nese cul­tural slant. Still, even as you ap­proach the re­sort from the city’s pul­sat­ing core, the spires of Dis­ney’s iconic En­chanted Sto­ry­book Castle loom large.

En­ter in­stead the new zo­di­ac­themed “Gar­dens of Imag­i­na­tion” and “Mickey Av­enue,” a toned-down ver­sion of Main Street, Usa—mi­nus the jin­go­ism, star-span­gled ban­ners, and sea of neon fanny packs. While Mickey Av­enue is the first sec­tion of the park proper, be­fore you reach that, you’ll have to en­dure the first of many soul-sap­ping so­journs in line, pe­ri­ods of in­ac­tiv­ity that may make you ques­tion why you set foot in Mickey’s gaudy king­dom in the first place.

While it’s true that most of the at­trac­tions you inch to­ward in Shang­hai Dis­ney Re­sort will prob­a­bly be over in less time (90 sec­onds, say) than it takes for your child to empty the con­tents of a packet of chips down their shirt (one sec­ond), queue times vary, and nat­u­rally ex­pect larger lines dur­ing week­end and pub­lic hol­i­days. Queu­ing is af­ter all part of the Dis­ney “ex­pe­ri­ence,” so to en­sure that you and your fam­ily have the best pos­si­ble time, visit on a week­day, and plan your as­sault on the park’s at­trac­tions with ruth­less mil­i­tary pre­ci­sion.

Th­ese woes aside, Mickey Av­enue is a fine in­tro­duc­tion to the Dis­ney brand for main­land tourists per­haps un­fa­mil­iar with its of­fer­ings. For the rest, it’s a mecca of com­mer­cial­ism, over­priced plush toys, and sickly sweet chur­ros. As you stroll down the boule­vard, ex­pertly weav­ing your way be­tween selfie-tak­ing tourists and grand­mas delv­ing through their bags for tis­sues, the En­chanted Sto­ry­book Castle twin­kles mag­i­cally in the sun­lit

dis­tance. This is text­book Dis­ney, and an im­age seared into the brain of any­one raised on a diet of movies, TV, and Amer­i­can cul­ture. And, sure enough, it wasn’t long be­fore I too was stop­ping to take self­ies and fish around for tis­sue pa­per. That’s the great thing about places like this, you see—they’re one of life’s great lev­el­ers; they make ab­so­lute mo­rons out of us all.

Not want­ing to blow my cover and ma­neu­ver my fam­ily to To­mor­row­land right away (we’re here for my daugh­ter’s birth­day, af­ter all), we first rode the Dumbo the Fly­ing Ele­phant carousel (a tame but pleas­ant ride) be­fore hot­foot­ing it to the nearby En­chanted Sto­ry­book Castle to watch the in-no-way-emas­cu­lat­ing “Golden Fairytale Fan­fare,” which is pre­sum­ably Shang­hai’s an­swer to the ab­sent Dis­ney­land pa­rade, a fea­ture com­mon to most Dis­ney parks around the globe.

Con­gre­gat­ing around the castle’s base with 30 or so other fam­i­lies for the thrice-daily show, we watched a re­splen­dent host stride out onto the el­e­vated stage, look­ing as pleased as punch and gaudy as hell (pic­ture a very happy, Chi­nese Liberace). He then gave way to a pro­ces­sion of bom­bas­tic set pieces cen­tered around a suc­ces­sion of Dis­ney princesses from the stu­dio’s glo­ri­ous past and highly prof­itable present.


Out came The Lit­tle Mer­maid’s Ariel perched on a fake rock, Snow White, the Frozen gang, and other fa­mous fig­ures, all ac­com­pa­nied by var­i­ous hap­less side­kicks, cute crit­ters, and re­spec­tive sound­tracks. It’s a good show, no doubt; cer­tainly, the chil­dren were trans­fixed by its heady mix of song, dance, and ear-split­ting vol­ume, while I ap­pre­ci­ated the com­plete lack of queu­ing.

Still, af­ter Mickey and Min­nie Mouse slowly emerged from the castle to wave at their sub­jects in an al­most cult­like dis­play of power and car­toon pres­tige, I felt I’d paid my dues. Balk­ing at the Mickey bal­loon ped­dler’s 70 RMB prices along the way, I ush­ered my young fam­ily over for a lit­tle Star Wars/tron time.

En route we passed a Mar­vel Uni­verse area that of­fers as­pir­ing su­per­heroes the chance to don Iron Man’s red­gold ex­oskele­ton, meet Spi­der-man and Cap­tain Amer­ica, and learn how to draw your very own comic, Stan Leestyle. But I was sav­ing all my self­ish chips for the cu­ri­ous- look­ing metallic blue dome and utopian themed area ahead: To­mor­row­land!

Even fans of the orig­i­nal Tron (1982) and its 2010 re­boot Tron: Legacy may be sur­prised to learn that Shang­hai’s To­mor­row­land is ef­fec­tively built around the Tron Light­cy­cle Power Run. The movie is hardly one of Dis­ney’s most beloved in­tel­lec­tual prop­er­ties, and is scarcely known in the East, but I’m not com­plain­ing. A fan­tas­tic, neon-chrome ride that’s per­haps Shang­hai Dis­ney Re­sort’s only true roller­coaster, the Tron Light­cy­cle Power Run is fast, high-tech, and thrilling.

Housed in a fu­tur­is­tic, bul­bous blue dome, the ride sees pun­ters strad­dle a “light­cy­cle” (es­sen­tially a lean mo­tor­cy­cle with fu­tur­is­tic neon stripes) and ac­cel­er­ate into a glow­ing abyss of in­door tun­nels, glow­ing cir­cuitry, and out­door loops, be­fore zoom­ing back where they be­gan, dazed and with hearts pump­ing like there’s no To­mor­row­land. And, thanks to the handy “sin­gle rid­ers” line (a sep­a­rate,

sig­nif­i­cantly quicker queue for peo­ple with no friends), the wait­ing time wasn’t bad at all—al­though I can imag­ine that’s not nec­es­sar­ily the case on pub­lic hol­i­days. Windswept and ex­hil­a­rated, I led my fam­ily to­wards the nearby Star Wars Launch Bay like a man pos­sessed.

Since Dis­ney bought the Star Wars fran­chise a few years ago, the brand’s stock has sky­rock­eted in my opin­ion, and one can only imag­ine what Star Wars- themed at­trac­tions our Dis­ney over­lords are cur­rently dream­ing up. For now how­ever, the clos­est that fans of the fran­chise based in a galaxy far, far away can get is this: Not an at­trac­tion per se, but rather a hangar full of sweet, sweet Star Wars mem­o­ra­bilia, replica sets you can pose in (in­clud­ing the Mil­len­nium Fal­con’s cock­pit), and a grumpy guy dressed as Kylo Ren. Other than co­in­cid­ing with last year’s The Force Awak­ens, it al­most seems the Star Wars Launch Bay has been placed here—at the park’s rear, in the shadow of the Tron Light­cy­cle Power Run, near some toi­lets—es­pe­cially for guys like me: fa­thers in their 30s and 40s who feel in­creas­ingly cut adrift from this strange kawaii world we find our­selves in, a world that no longer bears any re­sem­blance to Stranger Things- meets- Kes child­hoods of yore. Per­haps fu­ture seeds of fan­dom and in­ter­ga­lac­tic ad­ven­tur­ing can be sown.

Shang­hai Dis­ney Re­sort is a huge place, and to ex­plore ev­ery nook and cranny you need at least two days, maybe more, such is the un­re­lent­ing, soul-crush­ing vast­ness. We only had a sin­gle day—mi­nus per­haps an hour for a mind-numb­ingly bland and over­priced lunch—the rest of which we de­cided to com­mit to Trea­sure Cove, home of Pi­rates of the Caribbean: Bat­tle for the Sunken Trea­sure, un­ex­pect­edly one of the best rides I’ve ever have had the plea­sure of park­ing my pos­te­rior upon.

The them­ing here is world-class—an au­then­tic, ram­shackle fish­ing vil­lage, docked galleons, Ship­wreck Shore (a chil­dren’s play area based on a boat­ing dis­as­ter), and a beau­ti­ful “olde worlde” the­atre named El Teatro Fan­dango, where a swash­buck­ling live show awaits—all of which co-ex­ists along­side the usual pha­lanx of ven­dors hawk­ing chur­ros, out­ra­geously ex­pen­sive bal­loons, and luke­warm Coke.

Dodg­ing them is worth it for Bat­tle for the Sunken Trea­sure, how­ever, which is a surely the jewel in Shang­hai Dis­ney’s crown. A boat nav­i­gates you and two dozen other land­lub­bers around a vast, cov­ered area con­tain­ing an in­ter­ac­tive show that has some­thing to do with trea­sure, a minc­ing me­chan­i­cal Cap­tain Jack Spar­row and the oc­to­pus-faced Davy Jones guy (the plot is as con­fus­ing as the movies in­spired by the orig­i­nal ride—which are now them­selves a ride. Con­fused? Me too). Uti­liz­ing state-ofthe-art, mon­strously huge pro­jec­tions, crys­tal-clear images of burn­ing galleons and gi­ant kraken are mixed to­gether with the ride’s props to cre­ate a stun­ningly im­mer­sive world. The ride places you in the thick of the ac­tion and prompted my fam­ily to jump straight back on for an­other spin, cry­ing out “shiver me tim­bers!” and “Polly wants a cracker” like it was go­ing out of style.

But, alas, me hearties, our time in Mickey’s do­main was near­ing an end (and af­ter seven straight hours main­lin­ing Dis­ney, so were our wits), and al­though aware that we had only cov­ered a third of the park dur­ing our trip, we have made an un­spo­ken pact (com­mu­ni­cated by a se­ries of quick, flus­tered glances) to come back one day to drink in yet more well-main­tained lawns, wa­ter fea­tures, top-notch rides, fam­ily-friendly thrills, and word-class brand­ing.

Tak­ing the Tron ride, Shang­hai's most ad­vanced roller­coaster

Dis­ney's fa­mous daily pa­rades in­clude cel­e­brated Chi­nese leg­endary fig­ures such as Mu­lan

Dis­ney has in­serted its new­est park with Chi­nese el­e­ments, such as th­ese Mickey-shaped lanterns

Clock­wise from far left: The Mil­len­nium Fal­con cock­pit, an im­pe­rial stormtrooper model, dragon im­agery near a gift shop and (in­set) face to face with Kylo Ren

abound at Trea­sure Cove Pi­rat­ing cliches

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