Shanghai Disneyland has created quite the buzz with its opening. Sold out tickets and a multi-day grand opening have made this a Disney park to remember. But, it’s the attractions and the atmosphere that make this the memorable experience. Here is the first part of a series of looking at each area of the park from opening day.
A grand courtyard lets people spread out before entering the spacious park. As you face Disneyland to the left is Disneytown, a premier dining and shopping experience. But, in front of you is a whimsical Steamboat Willie sculpture atop a fountain. The notion of having a statue that is taken from the first Mickey Mouse cartoon almost says “we’re going back to the beginning.” What could that mean? I think it evokes some feelings of nostalgia. This park is not just about all the other Disney parks, but even the history of animation that has been the foundation for the Disney company. After all, it started with a mouse.
Past the fountain are security gates. Now, why would I mention security gates? What was interesting about them is they seem like regular entrance gates, but provide a fence for before the main entrance. It’s actually a nice gateway to search your bag at. Once inside this courtyard, ticket booths are to the right and left. These brick structures also have a nice Disney character motif on the top of them. These are not the usual off white small structures, but elegant buildings that are as inviting as the train station at some of the Disney parks. For me it felt like care and consideration was done to make every detail of the Resort be welcoming.
Once a ticket is obtained, it’s time to go through the turnstiles. Looking straight ahead gives view to the traditional Mickey topiary that signals that this is a Disneyland. Above it is a structure that looks like a train station, but only serves as an image of one. But, it does have an iconic clock tower with Mickey Mouse watch face to signal that guests are about to enter Mickey Avenue. Before getting to this land, does having the fake train station make one mad? I thought it was a nice touch to pay homage to Disneylands before, but say that this is an original. This is the only Disneyland park that does not have a train. For that matter, this doesn’t even have a Main Street to greet guests (although Tokyo Disneyland calls theirs World Bazaar). Having a new type of entrance experience was refreshing, yet nostalgia friendly.
This entrance street is the highly detailed area that leads everyone to the center of the park. Still having a Main Street, USA vibe, Mickey Avenue has Toontown themes with realistic buildings. The other remarkable feature is there are little side streets that pour out to other parts of the central hub area of the park (an actual land called Gardens of Imagination). It makes meandering a big part of the park from the get go.
The only attraction found here is Mickey’s Film Festival, which is actually at the Walt Disney Grand Theater – more a part of Disneytown than Shanghai Disneyland. Though there aren’t any real attractions, this land is an attraction itself. There are so many details to the Avenue that you could spend a day trying to find them all. If you know Disney animation very well there’s a smorgasbord of references. There’s even some reference to the comics, as Carl Barks is honored by name and by display of the Phantom Blot – a Mickey Mouse comic villain that was made famous by the comic producer.
Amid the history of Disney animation are some great shops and restaurants to appease the Disneyland guest. Avenue M Arcade is a large shop that is like the traditional Emporium. There are many “departments” marked by signs, which makes this a representation of the old department stores of Americana. Great souvenirs are to be had for every type of Disney fan. Departments are dedicated to the different branches of Disney, including Marvel and Star Wars. However, there are not many pins to be found here.
Carefree Corner is across the way of Avenue M towards the entrance of Mickey Avenue and the park itself. Here is where many of the collectible pins are found. But, it’s main purpose is for purchasing PhotoPass elements. Finally on the shopping stops is Whistle Stop Shop, which is more towards Gardens of Imagination. It has a selection of toy items, especially Duffy.
As far as eating goes, there is quite a selection here. Il Paperino is the ice cream stop. It has the unique feature of serving the cold treat in character shaped waffles. Remy’s Patisserie was a place I frequented as it is the easy access bakery for the whole park. The style is help yourself and that made it a great deal to stop in and get a snack or dessert. Themed to Ratatouille, it was a fun place to see little details from the Pixar favorite.
That reminds me of the interesting feature about Mickey Avenue – it isn’t just about the old Disney characters and animation, but Pixar as well. In fact, a mural is in the Mickey & Pals Market Cafe with characters from Feature Animation and Pixar films. It may be one of the first times where these two universes have truly collided.
Mickey & Pals is the main place to eat on Mickey Avenue. The walk up quick serve has an assortment of traditionally Asian dishes, but also some Western flare to them. The real attraction to eat here are the dining rooms. There are details all throughout here. Each room is themed to a particular film. The import/export warehouse is run by the Three Caballeros, and has appropriate props to signify this. On one of the walls plays cartoons from the more Latin flavored animated films by Walt Disney. The most amazing dining room is the Tony’s section. This Tony’s is the same Tony’s from Lady and the Tramp. It’s the first time the inside of the restaurant has been realized! With some Italian restaurant decor, the other theme idea is taken from the Brown Derby, where caricatures of celebrities that have eaten there adorn the walls. Tony’s has several portraits of Disney characters that show who’s frequented Tony’s.
Mickey Avenue is a Main Street entrance, with architecture style from Buena Vista Street of Disney California Adventure, but with a Toontown theme with great detail. It’s an amazing area that has people get lost in the bright color and whimsical placemaking. Again, the detail is so fine with references, it’s a day scavenger hunt to find them all! This land alone is worth the trip to Shanghai Disneyland.
But, it’s just the beginning! There are 5 more lands to explore, plus entertainment and a hotel! Just as Mickey Avenue serves as the beginning of the park, it’s also the beginning of this series. Come back again as we look at the rest of the park!