Disney Pushes Ahead With New Project, Shifts Focus to International Parks

in Shanghai Disneyland

Mickey Mouse, Minnie Mouse, Donald Duck, Daisy Duck, Goofy, Pluto, Chip & Dale at shanghai disneyland

Credit: Disney

Disney just broke ground on a new project, once again proving that international Disneyland parks are increasingly commanding the company’s attention.

The media may have dubbed Disneyland “Walt’s Folly” in the 1950s, but building Disneyland Resort has proven to be one of the wisest decisions ever made in showbiz. What started as a single park in a then-empty corner of California has evolved into a global theme park empire, with 12 parks worldwide.

Walt Disney with characters at Disneyland in the 1960s
Credit: Disney

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These parks are split between six different locations. Two – Disneyland Park and California Adventure – reside at Disneyland Resort in Anaheim. Magic Kingdom, EPCOT, Hollywood Studios, and Animal Kingdom sit in Orlando, Florida, at Walt Disney World Resort, while Tokyo Disneyland and Tokyo DisneySea are (surprise, surprise) in Tokyo, Japan.

France is home to Disneyland Paris and its two parks, Disneyland Park and Walt Disney Studios Park. Hong Kong Disneyland sits alone in Hong Kong, while China boasts Shanghai Disneyland – the latest park from the Walt Disney Company.

Duffy and Friends topiaries at Shanghai Disneyland
Credit: Disney

Situated in Shanghai’s Pudong district, the park opened its doors on June 16, 2016. With 963 acres of attractions, the park was renowned for its unique fusion of Disney storytelling and Chinese culture in order to create something that, in Disney CEO Bob Iger’s words, was “distinctly Disney and authentically Chinese.”

Unlike most Disneyland-style parks, the majority of Shanghai Disneyland was unique to the park. That includes the Enchanted Storybook Castle – which holds the distinction of being the largest Disney castle ever built – and attractions such as Voyage to the Crystal Grotto, Pirates of the Caribbean: Battle for the Sunken Treasure, Roaring Rapids, and Soaring Over the Horizon.

Family enjoying a ride before Shanghai Disneyland bans wagons | Credit: Disney
Credit: Disney

In short, Shanghai Disneyland was the product of more unique innovation than Walt Disney World has experienced in the past few decades. While its four parks have received multiple new attractions and lands, the majority of these – including Toy Story Land, Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge, Mickey and Minnie’s Runaway Railway, and TRON Lightcycle / Run – can be found elsewhere, with its last truly original addition being Pandora – The World of Avatar.

Disney World and Disneyland have both also received criticism for their uninspiring hotel decisions in recent years. Interior theming has gone from creative and colorful to white and uniform, with many comparing the changes to hospital rooms.

Shanghai Disneyland Hotel
Credit: Disney

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Now, Shanghai Disneyland is proving once again that it receives the funding for creativity that Disney World doesn’t. The resort just broke ground on its third hotel, this time set to be inspired by Shanghai’s early-20th-century art nouveau architecture (which sounds endlessly more interesting than Disney World’s most recently planned, but thankfully scrapped, hotel, Reflections – A Disney Lakeside Lodge).

Located on Wishing Star Lake, the upcoming hotel will join the resort’s current lineup of the 795-room Toy Story Hotel and the 420-room Shanghai Disneyland Hotel.

Mickey Mouse, Minnie Mouse, Donald Duck, Daisy Duck, Goofy, Pluto, Chip & Dale at Shanghai Disneyland
Credit: Disney

Members of the Shanghai Shendi Group – the majority shareholder in Shanghai Disneyland – and The Walt Disney Company, executives of Shanghai Disney Resort, and leadership from the Administrative Commission of Shanghai International Resort gathered to mark the occasion with a commemorative ground-breaking ceremony.

Shanghai Disneyland is also set to receive an expansion inspired by Zootopia (2016) later this year and is sure to see further additions over the next few years. While it’s great to see a Disney Park receive this level of investment and unfettered creativity, it does serve as a reminder that this approach has been lacking from the American parks. Here’s hoping Disney World stops being the last favorite child sometime soon.

Which international Disney Park is on your bucket list? Let us know in the comments!

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