Disney CEO and Chairman Bob Iger came up with the perfect description of the company's new theme park in China: "Authentically Disney but distinctly Chinese."
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Shanghai Disney Resort, which officially opens to the public Thursday, lives up to its slogan.
Die-hard fans of Disney theme parks in Florida and California will feel right at home in the Shanghai park, too. Most of it will be easily recognizable to fans; the characters, of course, are the same. Many of the rides will be just as enjoyable in China as they are in the U.S.
But visitors to the new theme park will also have a markedly different experience. Here are 5 ways Disney Shanghai is unlike any other Disney park in the world.
No Main Street, U.S.A.
Shanghai Disney won't feature the iconic Main Street, U.S.A. that's so prominent in both Florida and California. Instead, it will feature the Garden of the Twelve Friends, where 12 signs of the Chinese zodiac are depicted by popular Disney and Disney Pixar characters. For example, the Year of the Rat features Remy from the movie "Ratatouille" while the Year of the Dog is represented by Pluto. (in Tokyo Disney, there is no Main Street, U.S.A.; instead, it's called World Bazaar.)
If you thought princesses were popular in the U.S., their street cred is at an all-time high at Disney Shanghai Resort. The park's main attraction is Enchanted Storybook Castle, the largest castle in Disney history and the "crowning jewel" of the park. It's the only theme park castle dedicated to all the princesses, differing from say, Cinderella Castle or Beast's Castle at Walt Disney World, which are dedicated to one character or storyline.
It also houses the first-ever Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique princess makeover experience inside a castle and Once Upon a Time Adventure, a large-scale experience focused on the story of Snow White.
You won't see people walking around gnawing on a giant turkey leg at Disney Shanghai. But if you're looking for something close, the tea-smoked duck leg at the quick-service restaurant Picnic Basket is probably the closest option. Other Chinese delicacies visitors won't find in the states: braised minced pork and puffballs at Fairy Godmother’s cupboard and rice bowls at Pinocchio’s Village Kitchen.
Rest assured, however, that character dining is alive and well at Disney Shanghai, with meet-and-greets at Royal Banquet Hall and Lumiere's Kitchen.
If you can't imagine a trip to a Disney park without a turn on It's a Small World, you're out of luck at Disney Shanghai. That ride, plus Space Mountain, are two notable attractions without a presence in the new park.
If there's one thing Disney does very well, it's the details. One of the special Chinese features at Shanghai Disneyland Hotel will be a fountain with a large, unique centerpiece: a glass peony blossom with classic Disney fairies. The peony is the flower of China, and this piece, produced in Shanghai, is one of the largest sculpted solid-glass flowers in all of China.
The theme of the Toy Story Hotel is inspired by Disney's "Toy Story" animated films. The design of the hotel’s figure-eight “infinity” layout draws strongly from Chinese symbolism and myth. In China, the number eight is considered very lucky, and clouds represent the coming of good fortune.
The Enchanted Storybook Castle was "designed specifically for the people of China, with input from many collaborative partnerships with international and local experts," according to Disney. A golden finial, made locally, tops one of the castle's eight spires, and a peony is placed atop a cascade of Disney stars.
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