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A Spirited Dirty Dozen ...

AEfx

Well-Known Member
WDW already advertise in the UK as having 6 parks - I thought they did this in the US too, maybe it's just for us gullible Brits!

It's the same reason that folks from the UK tend to view a lot of things differently at Disney - because folks from the UK generally have two-week holidays versus the US where very few folks stay for more than a week. Disney obviously knows this - which is why you guys get different ticket options than we do, and more consistent free dining, etc. In this case, they want you to know that you can spend two weeks with them and not have to go anywhere else because they have "6 parks".
 

Nubs70

Premium Member
I'm not saying out the source... I'm saying vet the content. How far people's horizons actually reach... people seem to forget.

And for as much as the public has demonstrated stupidity in what alligators actually do... I just can't get over how people in one breath argue people can't be expected to know anything about gators... then in the next they take the complete lay's accounts of sightings and reactions as if it was the freaking FWC itself on site making the judgements.
Another way to look at the situation is did WDW have a policy in regards to alligators and was the policy followed. If a policy is in place, where and with whom did said policy fail or is the the policy a failure as a whole?
 

PhotoDave219

Well-Known Member
Tropicana?

slow_clap_citizen_kane.gif
 

WDWFigment

Well-Known Member
Here, since I know you've been waiting (I have anyway) is @WDWFigment's views on SDL after spending its first three days there:

http://www.disneytouristblog.com/shanghai-disneyland-opening-day-impressions/

Hint: they are largely positive, but there are small criticisms. Don't have time to add more and would rather discuss if Tom ever returns here (they are in HKDL now). He needs to be given some fanboi cred award as it would appear he is going to be the First Lifestyler in the History of Lifestylers (that must date back over a decade by now) to visit every Disney park in the world in a single calendar year IF he makes it to Paris (and I believe he is planning on running their half marathon in the fall). It takes a lot to be able to do that. Only one time did I make it to four of five. Now six of six is saying something ... but maybe he should have to visit Aulani, Vero Beach, Hilton Head and take at least one cruise to wear the tiara? :devilish::greedy::D

You're right that my take on SDL was largely positive, but I wouldn't call my criticisms minor. The layout, size, and views within the park are all major issues for me. I hope they are addressable ones with expansion, but that will take years. I think the foundation for a great park is there, but it's far from perfect right now.

If there are any specific questions anyone has, I'm happy to answer here...

Also: depending upon your definition of "Lifestyler," I highly doubt I'm the first one to visit every park in a single year. There's a pretty well-off crowd I've encountered at various D23 events that, to my knowledge, is off the grid in terms of social media. Since they don't blog, I'm not sure you'd consider them lifestylers, but I'd be shocked if some of them hadn't already accomplished the feat (possibly even including DCL, AbD, Aulani, etc.--none of which I will do this year).
 

PhotoDave219

Well-Known Member
You're right that my take on SDL was largely positive, but I wouldn't call my criticisms minor. The layout, size, and views within the park are all major issues for me. I hope they are addressable ones with expansion, but that will take years. I think the foundation for a great park is there, but it's far from perfect right now.

If there are any specific questions anyone has, I'm happy to answer here...

Also: depending upon your definition of "Lifestyler," I highly doubt I'm the first one to visit every park in a single year. There's a pretty well-off crowd I've encountered at various D23 events that, to my knowledge, is off the grid in terms of social media. Since they don't blog, I'm not sure you'd consider them lifestylers, but I'd be shocked if some of them hadn't already accomplished the feat (possibly even including DCL, AbD, Aulani, etc.--none of which I will do this year).

I would not put you in that category, no. Hope you enjoyed the trip.

Any photo difficulties?
 

WDWFigment

Well-Known Member
Our pal Tom Bricker had two beautiful pics on the Tweeter from HKDL today that made me long for that park. But I also saw the park is open from 10:30-8:45. More #thanksBobIger ?

There were noticeable cutbacks (closed restaurants, other attractions that opened after--and closed before--the rest of the park, etc.) but to my surprise, the park was still reasonably busy.

The humidity was absolutely killer; I was not prepared for just how bad that would be. Still worth the stopover, both to see the park and qualify for a visa exemption to China. Plus, I think we both can agree that HKDL is under-appreciated.

Any insight into what's happening with HKDL going forward? Outside of the Star Wars Tomorrowland Takeover, Iron Man Experience (that seems like it's taking forever to build), and Explorer's Lodge, it doesn't seem like much has been announced or even rumored. I really hope Disney and China don't "forget" about HKDL now that SDL is open.
 

WDWFigment

Well-Known Member
I would not put you in that category, no. Hope you enjoyed the trip.

Any photo difficulties?

Difficulties? I guess you could say sweating through my shirt due to humidity as I carried around my camera bag?

Also, being in more than one place at once. The second two nights we were there had insane sunsets. We have a friend who has been in Shanghai for the last ~4 months, and he said the second night was by far the best sunset he had witnessed while he was there.

No issues as far as rules whatsoever (and I didn't have any special access).
 

PhotoDave219

Well-Known Member
Difficulties? I guess you could say sweating through my shirt due to humidity as I carried around my camera bag?

Also, being in more than one place at once. The second two nights we were there had insane sunsets. We have a friend who has been in Shanghai for the last ~4 months, and he said the second night was by far the best sunset he had witnessed while he was there.

No issues as far as rules whatsoever (and I didn't have any special access).

Yeah humidity is not my friend either.

Glad to hear they weren't concerned with what you took pictures of.
 

WDWFigment

Well-Known Member
Alright, I’ve been delaying giving my thoughts about SDL. Not for lack of things to say, but simply because I probably have too many. The longer I wait the more daunting it is getting. I’ll talk about organization and generalities, go through the lands, food and merch a bit and end with the best part… things I didn’t like!

Apparently this is over 5000 words… I’ll forgive you all if you read none of them.


Operations

So you’ve probably heard bits and pieces of the opening already. I still have not and cannot watch the opening day ceremony in China, so I weirdly cannot comment on any of that. I took a taxi in with another family who happened to be headed from my hotel as well. I did the 45ish minutes of subway riding all the other times, but I wanted to maximize sleeping and minimize frustration on day one.

Shockingly, nothing really went wrong. At all. Yes it was smoggy (bonus – smog acts as a berm). More importantly it was overcast though. As a tradeoff the temperatures were quite reasonable and it only rained with any significance for about 20-30 minutes in the afternoon. Friday-Sunday were mostly clear blue skies. The heat wasn’t unbearable and it was certainly nice for pictures. Monday down poured all day long and Tuesday has been smoggy and got. All in all the smog/overcast was a bit of a good thing for kicking things off and the weather could have been worse.

I must have some really dumb luck as I don’t know how I perfectly timed getting into the first corral. It sounds like people who were there earlier got held up at certain points and ended up slightly behind me. I was in no rush and got Starbucks first before making my way over to ticketing. Since they started letting us in so early I really only spent about 90 minutes in the corral after having my ticket scanned and issued.

Really, this was one of the only three noticeably different things of going on opening day. We were handed some freebie buttons and lots of various things with grand opening scrawled on them. Entering Mickey Avenue with hundreds and hundreds of cast and suits lining the walkway was a cool experience. Apart from a noticeable uptick in suits and the general vibe, the fireworks tag at the end of Ignite the dreams was about all that was outrageously unique.

I did mention that I got to meet John Lasseter. Was making my way for Soaring FP during the first parade and him and his handler were by themselves on the pathway out to Disney Town. So now I have a bit of affection for that entrance in what people otherwise severely dislike the visual encroachment of Disneytown into the park.


The day was fantastic operationally. They definitely capped capacity for the shortened hours. I mentioned I got swept back to Fantasyland fairly quickly and really had the entire place to myself for those first two hours. The crowds did eventually all get in the gates and spread out, but it was a fairly light-medium day in terms of other parks I’ve been to. Tokyo ironically has been some of the lightest crowds I’ve ever experienced. One was post Earthquake and the other in July, which seemed to just be a markedly slow time. Paris in summer 2013 was the worst I’ve ever done. I was expecting Paris and got far closer to Tokyo. Even on the Saturday when the fully capacity was clearly let into the parks it was still manageable. I find food can really be the big indicator, apart from a turkey leg the waits were very, very reasonable for a park I knew to be at capacity.

Guests were generally ok. It’s still very much early days and likely a slightly nicer chunk of the population to deal with. Saturday had very, very few foreigners sticking around (most did Thursday/Friday). None of the worst-case scenarios (washrooms in bushes, destroying things, uncivilized behaviour) that were predicted came to pass. I do despise middle-aged Chinese woman though. As long as you let them have their marginal victories of butting in front of you at every possible opportunity, maybe even make a game out of it; you can generally avoid the urge to punch one of them.

The park was clearly built to handle crowds, obviously to the detriment of many design aspects. There are many sacrifices they made with walkways, spacing attractions apart, the hub, Mickey Avenue etc. However, I think generally the sacrifices at least translated well. Crowd management is an absolute dream. A few attractions and fast pass distribution will have crowds spilled out into walkways however.

The thing that wasn’t as pleasant is ticketing on the Saturday. For some reason they scan your ticket at the gate and then issue you a new paper one. It is slow… very slow. A 7:30 arrival for an 8 am opening had people already being let into the park. It however took about 40 minutes to get through the line. My general advice here for anyone going anytime soon is that you need to arrive 45 minutes before park opening or an hour after park opening. 30 ahead was barely tolerable. The size of the crowds arriving near park opening probably weren’t getting into the park until 9am anyways.

I like the concept of the guest services for each land with a land specific wait board. Especially because the park is so huge it is nice to have more centralized options. They had tons of fastpass banks, but still you could wind up waiting a while. This is reminiscent of Radiator Springs Racers FP distribution.

FP was not distributed for Roaring Rapids while I was there. Too many issues they are having with the attraction seemingly. Soaring is definitely the first thing to go, followed by Tron and SDMT. Roaring, Soaring.

The Hub and Mickey’s avenue work well for post-fireworks crowds. Better than any other park they have built. I will talk about the things that don’t work with them later.

The other slight operational issue is the subway. That’s the bottleneck at the end of the day. It wasn’t the worst, but it wasn’t pleasant. I couldn’t help but think how it will hold up to post-fireworks crowds years from now, when the park has a bigger capacity. Or even worse, when they build a second gate.


Lands, Entertainment and Attractions

One of the big questions, does it actually have enough to do? I’ll say it’s a better than average start. I’ll also say it is worth the one day price of admission. I don’t imagine, unless guests have a serious restriction, they’ll be leaving at the end of the day feeling like they ran out of things to do. That’s not just because of crowds either. They did a very good job hitting the right balance of variety. There is a good amount of fluff too, but very few aspects of a good menu are blatantly missing – outside of transit that is.

The park is pretty much in the same wheelhouse as DCA 2.0, just a heck of a lot more spread out. DCA has the advantage of being saddled with Disneyland though.

I feel like I’m going to pick a bit on USH here. Fortunately or unfortunately for it, I went to USH for the first time the week prior. There is always a bit of posturing whenever prices go up and we talk about the one-day pricing. Realistically though, you are hardly ever going to buy a one-day ticket at a multi-park resort. USH is the major North American exception. There is enough to do, but at the end of the day I did leave feeling like I was done. We left a bit early actually, by 6 or so. It is the park you will pay 100+ USD for. It lacks variety, operations also are a bit of a nightmare thanks to legacy space issues. SDL felt like the opposite. Even if it doesn’t offer a whole lot more in terms of rides, the luxury of space and large crowd pleasers like fireworks and parades cannot be understated.

So no, while it’s not near the amazing value you are getting from Tokyo, Shanghai falls somewhere middle-of the road.


I’ll go counter-clockwise starting with Adventure Isle.

I am really happy to hear a lot of reports from others about Camp Discovery. Totally something I wrote off as just another kids play area that wasn’t for my demographic. The surprise kicker is this is the first and only gated play area I can think of that finally appeals to all the demos. Tons of digging around in the sand and excavating for the wee ones. The walking trails are fairly gorgeous. The rope structure is actually fun and at times thrilling.

As you may have seen elsewhere once you are in the structure there are many, many opportunities to cross tracks. Essentially at the start you will pick one of three main paths. If you had the time and the wait time was low enough I think each would be worth doing. I polled the CM’s quickly for their favourite, unsurprisingly the path that goes through the three waterfalls was the winner. Along each path you then have three side-by-side options. Easiest going from a wooden bridge way to the more difficult narrow obstacles. You can very easily use the guide beams to switch back and forth at will, or even more importantly, pass others. However, due to the meager loading and quick division in three main directions, you will be surprised about how alone you can be. It’s something so incredibly un-theme park like once you are up there. Standing on a narrow ledge under a waterfall, by yourself, with zero supervision. I hope this is something that survives.

Roaring Rapids doesn’t break the mold. It’s nothing more and nothing less than Grizzly River Run with an additional maybe 30 seconds spent indoors in a build up to an AA. I was very impressed with the AA. I cannot speak to what people are seeing on videos, but it was skinned and the lighting worked perfectly in real life. A tad more cartoony than the concept art in the end, but the feeling he was going to bite the entire raft was not lost. I’m giving the attraction some leeway because it is still having technical issues. The foliage is not great in its current state. This will be an attraction that will become a lot better years down the line.

To the surprise of no one, Soaring is incredibly popular. I enjoy the new ride and the queue is much more appropriate since its become one of the headliners. I only FP’d it, but the direction generally worked for me, even if the pre-show was incredibly cheesy.

In a park that feels so big, Adventure Isle surprisingly doesn’t feel as big as it is. Camp Discovery is through its own turnstyle. Tarzan and especially Soaring are tucked away and Roaring Rapids doesn’t have a very marked entrance. I’d eventually hope something goes in between Tarzan and Teatro Fandango, but I imagine that’s way off in the future.


Treasure Cove is the other bright spot for obvious reasons. It commands the most number of details even over Adventure Isle, which relies more on rockwork and foliage. There is a standard water play area and another turn-style pirate ship walkthrough. Unlike Camp Discovery, I would not expect to have that area to yourself. The best-designed quick serve is here, the best show and the best ride.


Moving onto the next land…

Ok, fine. PoTC is probably the best ride in the world. It’s a decidedly Disney meets Universal type ride, but it understands so many elements that Gringott’s did not. Please give the team responsible for pirates billions of dollars to fix WDW. Is it my favourite ride ever? Kind of depends on what mood I’m in. If you require a visceral thrill then maybe not, JTTCOE might be it. However, since I previously placed that number two on my list it’s a toss up with Mystic Manor. The one thing Pirates can be described as that I wouldn’t give to Mystic Manor is epic. So again, depends on my mood. It’s kind of refreshing having at least one thing in this park no one really has anything to complain about.

Since the word on the street is that the Star Wars Battle attraction falls into the same wheelhouse, I’d say WDW fans finally have something in the pipeline that it deserves. I’m incredibly excited for Flight of Passage, but I’m sure its not going to be as uncontested.


Fantasyland is where things start to come off the rails a bit. At least its not Hong Kong’s fantasyland. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not terrible, it is just the start of where you really start to notice the vast expansion pads that need to be filled. The line from SDMT to Pan is pretty good and populated with things to do, but there is a ton of empty space along the outer ring. The kinetics take a hit from pulling out the carousel and Dumbo. Tom Bricker mentioned how you really can’t see the Voyage of the Crystal Grotto and that’s true.

Even if it lacks a headliner, it packs lots of charming attractions in. First time I’ve done SDMT and I really like it for what it is. Once it doesn’t have the weight of being a headliner for a park waiting decades for something of significance to be added, I think it was cute, fun and charming. Florida has the better end scene though.

Pan is the other ride I’ve yet to hear anyone say anything bad about. It feels like they took the story boarding and ride layout and basically re-engineered the entire thing with 20th century level tech. This is what I expect to see from clones of old attractions. They didn’t break what worked about the attraction in the first place and updated it to what we’d expect. If we are considering Pooh’s Hunny Hunt a classic Fantasyland style attraction, this gets the honour of being the second best in the world.

Into the more middling range – Alice’s maze and the castle walkthrough are both charming and help fill out importance menu checkmarks. I don’t really have much to say about them. They are pretty much what you’d expect. I thought the walkthrough was well done with new tech and the maze was more extensive than I would have anticipated. Neither are worth queuing for, but since I’d recommend rope dropping Fantasyland I don’t think you ever would.

I have mixed feelings about voyage of the crystal grotto. It’s not an E-ticket. For the longest time I thought it was supposed to be. I heard a lot of chatter about it with the trial opening and maybe because I had low expectations I enjoyed it well enough. A cousin of Jungle Cruise and Storybookland canal boats seems apt. It’s charming, the music adds quite a bit to the experience. Some of the vignettes, especially Aladdin, were rather impressive. The indoor section could have done a bit more, but then that’s me trying to turn it back into an E-ticket. I don’t know what their original intention with the ride was. If it’s supposed to be the headliner I think it kind of fails. If it’s just one of a series of charming fantasyland attractions, then it succeeds. I think the Mulan vignette is incredibly underwhelming compared to every other one. No one is going to ask for this to be cloned, but I also don’t think it ever needs to be ripped out and redone. So in that sense it succeeds. Small World would have been a better attraction, but at least its unique.

Pooh… there is a reason they ignored it during marketing of Shanghai last year. I guess it’s an added attraction, so yay? I think this must have been slotted in pretty late in the process. In a park that seems to avoid clones it’s really out of place. I should have saved this for the section of things I dislike about the park, but I’ll follow their lead and not give it the dignity of being talked about anymore.

Fantasyland really needs a headliner still. Maybe Alice will eventually be it? Can’t help but second-guess whether Tangled, Frozen or Zootopia would have been better choices based on what the Chinese seem to like.


Finally Tomorowland. Again mixed feelings. It’s fortunately not as sterile in person as pictures purport it to be. I like the multi-level angel even if the pathways truly are a bit meandering and confusing. Since I always found myself entering from Gardens of Imagination it preferences you to stay on the top level versus Fantasyland approach pushes you to the bottom level. I think the path to Tron really needs to eventually continue behind the Pepsi stage and dump out towards fantasyland (or Toy story I guess) in the future. Still a little awkwardly congested as they are building that Chevrolet thing. Whatever that is.

I really like Tron. Maybe Tron Track has more exciting show scenes, maybe the standby queue is boring (wouldn’t know, only did it with FP), maybe it’s a bit short. It just all worked for me despite those complaints. From the thumping Tron music, the slick coordinated but understated lighting, the gorgeous ride vehicles, the pre-show reveal of the launch station and the sheer fun factor. I had lots of fun. I got off and really wanted to go again. It’s really just another roller coaster in a box, but it’s probably one of the best roller coasters in a box they’ve done. I thought it was comfortable enough (more comfortable when it was moving) and punches a good launch. A nighttime ride wasn’t meant to be, but I could imagine it would elevate the experience somewhat.

I give credit to Buzz for being different, that doesn’t mean it is better. Somewhere between both concepts a really good Buzz ride might exist. This wasn’t really it. Chalk this up as a filler attraction.

No stitch for me (once in HK was enough, thank you). Jetpacks were also skipped. I would have tried them if they ever posted 15 minutes or less wait, but they were nowhere close to that.

The Pepsi stage hosts a weird Baymax exercise fest during the day. A DJ and dancers take up residence at night. Uptake on both weren’t that stellar, but at least the night DJ provided energy to the land and lighting was well coordinated.

If Tomorrowland feels sterile during the day, it actually does the opposite at night. With the sun set and you no longer feeling the lack of shade, the lighting package in the land really shines. It is not just the Tron cover, the lighting in railings are stairwells even matches the slow pulsating change. Once every 15 minutes or so the colour palate completely switches over in the entire land, the transition is cool.

I won’t put the Star Wars launch bay equivalent as a complete miss on my list. It probably isn’t all that long for this world, it is slightly better executed than Florida or Anaheim. They show that Path of the Force video apparently and seem to have quite a few M&G bays. Not a whole lot more to it than that really.

The Marvel thing is much better executed than the incredibly short-lived Marvel HQ. Similar setup and it features the art academy thing, which I didn’t bother with, but peaked into. Seemed a popular enough venue even the pathway to get to it is oddly off the gardens of imagination. Again, since it was just a last minute thing thrown in for capacity sake I give it a pass.


I’m running out of good things to talk about. Mickey’s Avenue gets a pass from me. It actually contains the same amount of content as a typical Main Street, you just don’t realize it with how it splays out pretty quickly. It’s really just Main street widened and unzipped. I get why they made the changes. I like it well enough and operationally the park is much, much improved as a result. It follows the mish-mash “the more architectural styles we can throw together, the better” that seems to be a WDI MO. I know some people despise that, but it was at least fairly vibrant with lots of hidden detailing. The one thing I will say is that I wish Toontown followed this style instead of the plastic look they adopted.


Food & Merch

For all the talking points about how uniquely Chinese the park would be, it’s just an American Disney park most of the time. The only things that really stood out to me from something like Tokyo, was the food. 90% of the options are Chinese. Not the Manchu Wok (is that only Canadian…?), Panda Express form of Chinese food either. I have a very adventurous palate, so I generally enjoyed the food in SDL.

Waits at restaurants were reasonable, in and out with my food in about 5-10 minutes or so considering the parks were to capacity. They were busy, but I have a feeling there was a very late freak out that there was no enough food capacity in the park as last minute additions tended to be food venues. I’d say they seemed to hit just the perfect amount of capacity. There was still a table search, but the way the quick serves are setup here forces the whole party to get the food before a table. I still reasonably found seating.

Barbossa’s Bounty quick serve is the highlight of the bunch. I felt the food was ok, the corn on the cob side they gave me was particularly chewy. I’m not sure if it was just undercooked or there is some Corn variant in China I am not particularly used to. The setting is stellar. You are getting a Blue Bayou experience for quick serve prices.

Wandering Moon Teahouse was the next one I’d recommend. Food was better than Barbossa’s for what I had, pretty much only Chinese options here.

I walked around the Adventure Isle one, which seems on par with the Mickey Avenue one up from and Tangled Tavern. I actually never went into the Pinocchio one. The Dim Sum at Mickey’s Avenue was probably the best food I had in the park.

I also did Star Gazers – mostly because I happened to be at the end of the park and you are pretty much in a food desert otherwise. The parade was blocking my escape, I swear. Honestly, reasonably good quick serve burgers, considering the Tomorrowland eateries are nearly universally terrible.

The gates by Disneytown had zero people waiting at them in the afternoon when I happened by on Friday (the day I used to basically walk the resort). If you really need to do a table service restaurant, it is actually easy to leave the park and go to Disneytown. There are a ton of really interesting options. Unlike Disneyland (and well pretty much everything in SDL) it is actually a very short walk. The majority of the restaurants abut the park. Disneyland has a fairly long walk to leave the gates and head over to DTD, then you have to compete with APers and park hoppers to get back into the gates. None of those are the case here and with a direct vestibule, I get what they are going for. It will be interesting to see if people catch on and start planning meals in Disneytown.


Merch is much, much better than Tokyo. I don’t really know how it will ultimately compare to the North American Parks. A lot of the stuff feels the same as NA parks, but lacks the Disney Parks branding. Everything is “Authentic Shanghai Disneyland merchandise”. There is a lot of attraction specific stuff for PoTC, RR and Tron. Frankly, I really didn’t buy a whole lot. I don’t tend to buy much on vacations anymore. A Marvel shirt, a couple mugs were my big spoils. I think whatever Disney line of merch people are into though; you can find lots of unique stuff here.


Entertainment

Honestly, it’s all good but standard stuff at play here.

Tarzan I was initially worried that I was in for a very, very mediocre Cirque. I saw La Reve and Ka just the week prior in Vegas was was prepared to be under-whelmed. Tarzan is not a 100ish dollar hard ticketed acrobatic performance. It was however decent and honestly a pretty good acrobatic show compared to most other theme park shows I can think of.

Pirates is very talky, but also filled with a lot of over the top performance for the kids. I generally picked up most of the themes and could follow along with their callbacks to the audience. Very smartly the show takes place in two stages, with a huge AC’d pre-show that lasts about 15 minutes with most of the actors on a balcony above. Lots of sound effects and some practical lighting and smog. It transitions inside with the pirates putting on kitschy play for you until the British general shows up. There are two very big ‘wow’ moments in the show. The first is the transformation of the theatre when they blow it up and the whole seating area fills with a smoke cannons (like Mystic Rhythms did). The second is the wind tunnel they use when a tornado rolls through the theatre. That’s something I’ve never seen before in a stage show and I was impressed. Very good show, it’s definitely an E-ticket show even if I barely followed the 75% dialogue that made it up.

I had no plans to do Frozen, but wound up there at the end of my second day as they were letting in the last few stragglers. I had low expectations when I saw it in DL and thought it was actually ok for how quickly they whipped it together. I again expected an identical experience, but was pleased to see they did add things throughout the show. The theatre is way bigger, there is a lot more involvement with projection mapping, which the audience loved. I think they added 6 dancers that I don’t recall being at DCA. Elsa has a balcony as well that rises from the stage. The background tracks smartly made it sound like people were singing around you. I’m honestly still not sure if everyone was singing along or dead silent, so I give them props to at least making it seem like they were. This sounds incredibly stupid, but they added beach balls to the summer segment and the audience LOVED it. I’m not going to say it’s a masterpiece, but the Saturday audience, which was pretty much all Chinese, were really into the whole thing. So I guess it’s more of a success than I thought it would be. Having not done it, I’m sure the DCA musical is a better show, but I have a feeling this would still play better to the Chinese audience.

Good parade and much more movement from the floats than I expected. It is only 7 units (I still feel like there must be one coming), but did not feel as short as I thought it would. Great mix dancers and well choreographed. The longest parade route EVAR sounds like another stupid talking point… That is until I watched the parade near tomorrowland entrance (not quite the start of the route), slowly meandered to Fantasyland, took pictures, decided to double back by Frozen for the faster castle route and was shocked when I stumbled into the first float. I think you could easily do the entire parade twice, from opening music to close, if you slightly hustled. So ya… I guess it is a long route.

Ignite the dreams I honestly didn’t love. Very heavy on projection mapping, I’m not sure if the pyro was restricted since they did the tag on the opening night. I’ve just seen better versions of this. I’m not even sure what the story is supposed to be? Mickey just wanders around pastel colours for a while and occasionally falls between musical segments. It’s not terrible by any means, it’s just not remotely the best castle spectacular I’ve seen.


Things that suck

Alright, the best part!

This is not a charming park. It trades charm for operational efficiency. At least it worked and it operates well. As WDW is to DL, SDL is to HKDL.

I don’t think SDL meaningfully moves the envelope with how to build a theme park. That’s not to say it doesn’t learn a lot of elements that other castle parks would have benefited from, but it merely meets a lot of bars instead of greatly shooting past any. Tokyo Disney Sea significantly moved the meter, SDL does not.

I did not forget about a “land”, I just saved it for this section. The Gardens of Imagination are mediocre to awful. Having spent the last several days touring gardens etc. around Suzhou, Tongli and Hangzhou, it’s laughable that they call it a garden. It’s actually a good idea, the walled gardens common in neighbouring cities would be an awesome inspiration for a hub. Unfortunately, I’ve come to realize that was never the “plan”. This was always an expansive hub that likely late in the planning process had some marketing whiz toss the gardens bit onto it. There are almost slight hints at what they could and should have done. Wandering Moon Teahouse works, then you stretch out to an ok section with the zodiac mosaics. There is even an elevated rock outcropping that is ok. Then? Fantasia. Ok, not terrible, I see they are fusing some American park feel into it. But beyond that you have a terribly uninspired barren hub. Then the Dumbo circus where the entire concept is now miles beyond where it should have started. Wait, weren’t there supposed to be 6 gardens? Why are there stagnant pools of water you cross? Has anyone heard of a water feature, or maybe even some lily pads and koi if you don’t want to break the bank? The castle is so massively large that this is the one time they could have actually gotten away with planting things taller than a few inches off the ground without obscuring the view. They didn’t. I’ve been so aggravated about this the past few days, this was totally within the Imagineering wheelhouse. Pagodas, ponds, fake rock work, a true walled garden. Don’t expect that. The new MK hub is infinitely better and I know the general feelings on that.


Moving on from that rant…

Oh look, here’s another massive expanse of land called the well-springs by tomorrowland. Why are there three stagnant ponds missing water features? Why does Disneytown loom over it? Why do they have zero lighting on the whole thing at night? It’s 100% a pitch-black field of space in front of tomorrowland.


They also went too big with park layout from the start. Pretty much the full park boundaries have been drawn and included in the current layout with some vast expansion pads on the East side. Tomorrowland suffers thanks to the empty space on its left… the empty space on its right… the empty space across from it… And oh yes that big empty space you can stare out of the bermless park currently occupied by a 1-storey Star Wars tent.

*Fortunately* it sounds like phase 2 stuff is coming and coming soon. Thank goodness. The absolute worst parts of the park are where Toy Story is going, followed by where Star Wars currently is and finally the emptiness that is the top of Fantasyland between Frozen and Tangled. I have a feeling I know where Marvel and Alice are going. The empty plots between Treasure Cove and SDMT, plus what is currently occupied by the Marvel tent did not bug me nearly as much as those other three.

One last thing I’ll throw down in the idiotic move column. Two theatres for Soaring… really?


Final Wrap Up

So as not to end on a complete sour note, I’ll say I generally loved SDL. Opening day was extremely well run. I am so thankful they went for a unique park, even if it didn’t always pay off in every respect. As someone who has bounced around the international parks, I am grateful that Disney generally has an attitude towards trying different things. The increasingly homogenized Universal parks really bother me as a fan. PoTC is the out and out success the park needed. The West side lands of the park are pretty spectacular and there is just sooo much potential the park has in its future. I’m just hopeful that potential doesn’t go the way of EPCOT. SDL occupies a DCA/HKDL like slice of things to do. Both of which received significant investments to get to their state. I’m happy with the start, I won’t call it the boldest, but I think they did manage to pull off just barely enough for a good opening day menu. It’s a good benchmark for what I expect all parks to open with and the type of variety I’d hope for.

Operationally, the park seems like it will be a dream. It just needs capacity. If I were to randomly pick three attractions I think it could use I’d say another family dark ride for Fantasyland. Something thrilling like another coaster. Then I’d want an E-ticket to knock my socks off. I don’t know if Alice, Everest and Marvel fit the bill, but they do sound pretty close.

For the WDW frequent flyers, you should always pay respects to DLR first. If you are considering venturing beyond NA, Tokyo should be your first choice, not SDL. However in the grand scheme of SDL/HKDL and today’s Paris I would happily say I wouldn’t hold it against you if you made it your fourth choice.

It’s only my opinion, but I’m getting Tokyo like vibes from the locals. Still early days to call definitively, but I think this park will generally be embraced and eventually SDL will be a big engine to prop up the International Parks. Was it worth it? You’d be kidding yourself if you thought Disney would have invested billions in WDW instead of stock buybacks. I had tons of fun and got to do more new attractions in one day than WDW has seen over years and years. So for me at least, it was worth it. #ThanksShanghai

First, I'm surprised we didn't cross paths at some point! Mostly agree with all of your thoughts here. Nice, thoughtful commentary.

One thing that I think is worth underscoring is the 'guest behavior' dimension that I think has been dramatically overblown online (particularly by one particular site that I won't name here...). I did notice a couple of kids peeing in public and the hub had a lot of trash in it after Ignite the Dream, but I've seen the latter at every park with a night show, and a few isolated instances of the former hardly make SDL stick out to me as somehow worse than any of the stateside parks. If anything, I've noticed more boorish behavior from tourists in WDW than I did in SDL.
 

BrianLo

Well-Known Member
First, I'm surprised we didn't cross paths at some point! Mostly agree with all of your thoughts here. Nice, thoughtful commentary.

One thing that I think is worth underscoring is the 'guest behavior' dimension that I think has been dramatically overblown online (particularly by one particular site that I won't name here...). I did notice a couple of kids peeing in public and the hub had a lot of trash in it after Ignite the Dream, but I've seen the latter at every park with a night show, and a few isolated instances of the former hardly make SDL stick out to me as somehow worse than any of the stateside parks. If anything, I've noticed more boorish behavior from tourists in WDW than I did in SDL.

I know, I kept an eye out, but after seeing you guys in a different corale I never spotted you again. Would have waved, but only your wife (?fiancé) was ever looking my direction.

I agree, guest behavior was never a concern. Outside of the typical line butting. However I found whenever it happened they were usually chastised by someone else. Self regulation seems to be improving amongst their citizenry.
 

BrianLo

Well-Known Member
Wow, thank you! I read every word. But from that, I have two burning questions.

First, what is the Chevrolet thing you speak of? Is it being built right now? Bob Iger said there was a Chevrolet-sponsored attraction coming later in the year, which is confusing, because Chevrolet sponsors the Tron ride. If you know anything more about that, could you let us know? Thanks.

Also, and it sounds like you've never been in MK's SDMT queue for comparison, but did SDL's SDMT queue have the interactive stuff? Was there a gem game, a thing with real water, and then spinning barrels? Or did they noy include all of that? I'm really hoping they didn't get rid of the interactive stuff.

Those are my two burning questions. Otherwise, glad you enjoyed it, and thank you for the detailed review. Oh, and I'm disappointed to hear that Soarin' has only two theaters. I thought it had four.

The Chevrolet thing is on the second floor (same level as the entrance) and kind of takes up the front level behind the lockers. I'd have to dig, but you can see the structure going in late in some of the older construction photos. It's all behind a construction wall so I don't have a great vantage of it to share, but looks to be a big glass front.

I *assume* it's going to be an interactive design a car type experience. I actually have no idea outside of an educated guess. There were coming soon signs on the construction wall.

SDMT has no interactive elements. The queue seemed fairly simple and quaint. Most SDL queues aren't over the top. The best ones just have stuff to look at in cages or cordoned off areas. Really the only queue element that is worth talking about is the screen that turns from opaque to clear in Tron.

I did actually take some queue photos for you. You'll see them someday when I'm outside of the great firewall!
 

WDWFigment

Well-Known Member
I know, I kept an eye out, but after seeing you guys in a different corale I never spotted you again. Would have waved, but only your wife (?fiancé) was ever looking my direction.

I agree, guest behavior was never a concern. Outside of the typical line butting. However I found whenever it happened they were usually chastised by someone else. Self regulation seems to be improving amongst their citizenry.

Oh wow, so we were close at some point, at least?

We experienced one instance of line cutting, and an elderly man in front of us made his displeasure known as they passed. The cutters were ultimately stopped by people further up.

My guess (and this is a guess) is that there's still a chasm between cultural norms in the city versus rural areas, and those in the major cities don't want their reputations sullied, so they are being proactive on the 'manners' front. China has been thrust onto the world stage and changed considerably in the last 30 years, so it's no surprise that some growing pains would be felt along the way.

Also, behind the Great Firewall? ExpressVPN, for the win. Worked flawlessly for me. ;)
 

BrianLo

Well-Known Member
You're right that my take on SDL was largely positive, but I wouldn't call my criticisms minor. The layout, size, and views within the park are all major issues for me. I hope they are addressable ones with expansion, but that will take years. I think the foundation for a great park is there, but it's far from perfect right now.

If there are any specific questions anyone has, I'm happy to answer here...

Also: depending upon your definition of "Lifestyler," I highly doubt I'm the first one to visit every park in a single year. There's a pretty well-off crowd I've encountered at various D23 events that, to my knowledge, is off the grid in terms of social media. Since they don't blog, I'm not sure you'd consider them lifestylers, but I'd be shocked if some of them hadn't already accomplished the feat (possibly even including DCL, AbD, Aulani, etc.--none of which I will do this year).

@WDW1974

I swear that I read something recently of a guy who did all 11 in a weekend. It might have been on Twitter, but must have been cross posted on one of the forums here. 'Did' is subjective, but he went into each park and did one thing.

He wins - no thank you.
 

BrianLo

Well-Known Member
Oh wow, so we were close at some point, at least?

We experienced one instance of line cutting, and an elderly man in front of us made his displeasure known as they passed. The cutters were ultimately stopped by people further up.

My guess (and this is a guess) is that there's still a chasm between cultural norms in the city versus rural areas, and those in the major cities don't want their reputations sullied, so they are being proactive on the 'manners' front. China has been thrust onto the world stage and changed considerably in the last 30 years, so it's no surprise that some growing pains would be felt along the way.

Also, behind the Great Firewall? ExpressVPN, for the win. Worked flawlessly for me. ;)

Yup, you were at the start of 1D or 1C and I was at the back of 1A. Figured I'd see you in the parks, but no luck.

I think we all forgot to mention the point in the wait when the sod started to liquefy. That was an amusing opening day gaff at least.
 

Cesar R M

Well-Known Member
Alright, I’ve been delaying giving my thoughts about SDL. Not for lack of things to say, but simply because I probably have too many. The longer I wait the more daunting it is getting. I’ll talk about organization and generalities, go through the lands, food and merch a bit and end with the best part… things I didn’t like!

Apparently this is over 5000 words… I’ll forgive you all if you read none of them.


Operations

So you’ve probably heard bits and pieces of the opening already. I still have not and cannot watch the opening day ceremony in China, so I weirdly cannot comment on any of that. I took a taxi in with another family who happened to be headed from my hotel as well. I did the 45ish minutes of subway riding all the other times, but I wanted to maximize sleeping and minimize frustration on day one.

Shockingly, nothing really went wrong. At all. Yes it was smoggy (bonus – smog acts as a berm). More importantly it was overcast though. As a tradeoff the temperatures were quite reasonable and it only rained with any significance for about 20-30 minutes in the afternoon. Friday-Sunday were mostly clear blue skies. The heat wasn’t unbearable and it was certainly nice for pictures. Monday down poured all day long and Tuesday has been smoggy and got. All in all the smog/overcast was a bit of a good thing for kicking things off and the weather could have been worse.

I must have some really dumb luck as I don’t know how I perfectly timed getting into the first corral. It sounds like people who were there earlier got held up at certain points and ended up slightly behind me. I was in no rush and got Starbucks first before making my way over to ticketing. Since they started letting us in so early I really only spent about 90 minutes in the corral after having my ticket scanned and issued.

Really, this was one of the only three noticeably different things of going on opening day. We were handed some freebie buttons and lots of various things with grand opening scrawled on them. Entering Mickey Avenue with hundreds and hundreds of cast and suits lining the walkway was a cool experience. Apart from a noticeable uptick in suits and the general vibe, the fireworks tag at the end of Ignite the dreams was about all that was outrageously unique.

I did mention that I got to meet John Lasseter. Was making my way for Soaring FP during the first parade and him and his handler were by themselves on the pathway out to Disney Town. So now I have a bit of affection for that entrance in what people otherwise severely dislike the visual encroachment of Disneytown into the park.


The day was fantastic operationally. They definitely capped capacity for the shortened hours. I mentioned I got swept back to Fantasyland fairly quickly and really had the entire place to myself for those first two hours. The crowds did eventually all get in the gates and spread out, but it was a fairly light-medium day in terms of other parks I’ve been to. Tokyo ironically has been some of the lightest crowds I’ve ever experienced. One was post Earthquake and the other in July, which seemed to just be a markedly slow time. Paris in summer 2013 was the worst I’ve ever done. I was expecting Paris and got far closer to Tokyo. Even on the Saturday when the fully capacity was clearly let into the parks it was still manageable. I find food can really be the big indicator, apart from a turkey leg the waits were very, very reasonable for a park I knew to be at capacity.

Guests were generally ok. It’s still very much early days and likely a slightly nicer chunk of the population to deal with. Saturday had very, very few foreigners sticking around (most did Thursday/Friday). None of the worst-case scenarios (washrooms in bushes, destroying things, uncivilized behaviour) that were predicted came to pass. I do despise middle-aged Chinese woman though. As long as you let them have their marginal victories of butting in front of you at every possible opportunity, maybe even make a game out of it; you can generally avoid the urge to punch one of them.

The park was clearly built to handle crowds, obviously to the detriment of many design aspects. There are many sacrifices they made with walkways, spacing attractions apart, the hub, Mickey Avenue etc. However, I think generally the sacrifices at least translated well. Crowd management is an absolute dream. A few attractions and fast pass distribution will have crowds spilled out into walkways however.

The thing that wasn’t as pleasant is ticketing on the Saturday. For some reason they scan your ticket at the gate and then issue you a new paper one. It is slow… very slow. A 7:30 arrival for an 8 am opening had people already being let into the park. It however took about 40 minutes to get through the line. My general advice here for anyone going anytime soon is that you need to arrive 45 minutes before park opening or an hour after park opening. 30 ahead was barely tolerable. The size of the crowds arriving near park opening probably weren’t getting into the park until 9am anyways.

I like the concept of the guest services for each land with a land specific wait board. Especially because the park is so huge it is nice to have more centralized options. They had tons of fastpass banks, but still you could wind up waiting a while. This is reminiscent of Radiator Springs Racers FP distribution.

FP was not distributed for Roaring Rapids while I was there. Too many issues they are having with the attraction seemingly. Soaring is definitely the first thing to go, followed by Tron and SDMT. Roaring, Soaring.

The Hub and Mickey’s avenue work well for post-fireworks crowds. Better than any other park they have built. I will talk about the things that don’t work with them later.

The other slight operational issue is the subway. That’s the bottleneck at the end of the day. It wasn’t the worst, but it wasn’t pleasant. I couldn’t help but think how it will hold up to post-fireworks crowds years from now, when the park has a bigger capacity. Or even worse, when they build a second gate.


Lands, Entertainment and Attractions

One of the big questions, does it actually have enough to do? I’ll say it’s a better than average start. I’ll also say it is worth the one day price of admission. I don’t imagine, unless guests have a serious restriction, they’ll be leaving at the end of the day feeling like they ran out of things to do. That’s not just because of crowds either. They did a very good job hitting the right balance of variety. There is a good amount of fluff too, but very few aspects of a good menu are blatantly missing – outside of transit that is.

The park is pretty much in the same wheelhouse as DCA 2.0, just a heck of a lot more spread out. DCA has the advantage of being saddled with Disneyland though.

I feel like I’m going to pick a bit on USH here. Fortunately or unfortunately for it, I went to USH for the first time the week prior. There is always a bit of posturing whenever prices go up and we talk about the one-day pricing. Realistically though, you are hardly ever going to buy a one-day ticket at a multi-park resort. USH is the major North American exception. There is enough to do, but at the end of the day I did leave feeling like I was done. We left a bit early actually, by 6 or so. It is the park you will pay 100+ USD for. It lacks variety, operations also are a bit of a nightmare thanks to legacy space issues. SDL felt like the opposite. Even if it doesn’t offer a whole lot more in terms of rides, the luxury of space and large crowd pleasers like fireworks and parades cannot be understated.

So no, while it’s not near the amazing value you are getting from Tokyo, Shanghai falls somewhere middle-of the road.


I’ll go counter-clockwise starting with Adventure Isle.

I am really happy to hear a lot of reports from others about Camp Discovery. Totally something I wrote off as just another kids play area that wasn’t for my demographic. The surprise kicker is this is the first and only gated play area I can think of that finally appeals to all the demos. Tons of digging around in the sand and excavating for the wee ones. The walking trails are fairly gorgeous. The rope structure is actually fun and at times thrilling.

As you may have seen elsewhere once you are in the structure there are many, many opportunities to cross tracks. Essentially at the start you will pick one of three main paths. If you had the time and the wait time was low enough I think each would be worth doing. I polled the CM’s quickly for their favourite, unsurprisingly the path that goes through the three waterfalls was the winner. Along each path you then have three side-by-side options. Easiest going from a wooden bridge way to the more difficult narrow obstacles. You can very easily use the guide beams to switch back and forth at will, or even more importantly, pass others. However, due to the meager loading and quick division in three main directions, you will be surprised about how alone you can be. It’s something so incredibly un-theme park like once you are up there. Standing on a narrow ledge under a waterfall, by yourself, with zero supervision. I hope this is something that survives.

Roaring Rapids doesn’t break the mold. It’s nothing more and nothing less than Grizzly River Run with an additional maybe 30 seconds spent indoors in a build up to an AA. I was very impressed with the AA. I cannot speak to what people are seeing on videos, but it was skinned and the lighting worked perfectly in real life. A tad more cartoony than the concept art in the end, but the feeling he was going to bite the entire raft was not lost. I’m giving the attraction some leeway because it is still having technical issues. The foliage is not great in its current state. This will be an attraction that will become a lot better years down the line.

To the surprise of no one, Soaring is incredibly popular. I enjoy the new ride and the queue is much more appropriate since its become one of the headliners. I only FP’d it, but the direction generally worked for me, even if the pre-show was incredibly cheesy.

In a park that feels so big, Adventure Isle surprisingly doesn’t feel as big as it is. Camp Discovery is through its own turnstyle. Tarzan and especially Soaring are tucked away and Roaring Rapids doesn’t have a very marked entrance. I’d eventually hope something goes in between Tarzan and Teatro Fandango, but I imagine that’s way off in the future.


Treasure Cove is the other bright spot for obvious reasons. It commands the most number of details even over Adventure Isle, which relies more on rockwork and foliage. There is a standard water play area and another turn-style pirate ship walkthrough. Unlike Camp Discovery, I would not expect to have that area to yourself. The best-designed quick serve is here, the best show and the best ride.


Moving onto the next land…

Ok, fine. PoTC is probably the best ride in the world. It’s a decidedly Disney meets Universal type ride, but it understands so many elements that Gringott’s did not. Please give the team responsible for pirates billions of dollars to fix WDW. Is it my favourite ride ever? Kind of depends on what mood I’m in. If you require a visceral thrill then maybe not, JTTCOE might be it. However, since I previously placed that number two on my list it’s a toss up with Mystic Manor. The one thing Pirates can be described as that I wouldn’t give to Mystic Manor is epic. So again, depends on my mood. It’s kind of refreshing having at least one thing in this park no one really has anything to complain about.

Since the word on the street is that the Star Wars Battle attraction falls into the same wheelhouse, I’d say WDW fans finally have something in the pipeline that it deserves. I’m incredibly excited for Flight of Passage, but I’m sure its not going to be as uncontested.


Fantasyland is where things start to come off the rails a bit. At least its not Hong Kong’s fantasyland. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not terrible, it is just the start of where you really start to notice the vast expansion pads that need to be filled. The line from SDMT to Pan is pretty good and populated with things to do, but there is a ton of empty space along the outer ring. The kinetics take a hit from pulling out the carousel and Dumbo. Tom Bricker mentioned how you really can’t see the Voyage of the Crystal Grotto and that’s true.

Even if it lacks a headliner, it packs lots of charming attractions in. First time I’ve done SDMT and I really like it for what it is. Once it doesn’t have the weight of being a headliner for a park waiting decades for something of significance to be added, I think it was cute, fun and charming. Florida has the better end scene though.

Pan is the other ride I’ve yet to hear anyone say anything bad about. It feels like they took the story boarding and ride layout and basically re-engineered the entire thing with 20th century level tech. This is what I expect to see from clones of old attractions. They didn’t break what worked about the attraction in the first place and updated it to what we’d expect. If we are considering Pooh’s Hunny Hunt a classic Fantasyland style attraction, this gets the honour of being the second best in the world.

Into the more middling range – Alice’s maze and the castle walkthrough are both charming and help fill out importance menu checkmarks. I don’t really have much to say about them. They are pretty much what you’d expect. I thought the walkthrough was well done with new tech and the maze was more extensive than I would have anticipated. Neither are worth queuing for, but since I’d recommend rope dropping Fantasyland I don’t think you ever would.

I have mixed feelings about voyage of the crystal grotto. It’s not an E-ticket. For the longest time I thought it was supposed to be. I heard a lot of chatter about it with the trial opening and maybe because I had low expectations I enjoyed it well enough. A cousin of Jungle Cruise and Storybookland canal boats seems apt. It’s charming, the music adds quite a bit to the experience. Some of the vignettes, especially Aladdin, were rather impressive. The indoor section could have done a bit more, but then that’s me trying to turn it back into an E-ticket. I don’t know what their original intention with the ride was. If it’s supposed to be the headliner I think it kind of fails. If it’s just one of a series of charming fantasyland attractions, then it succeeds. I think the Mulan vignette is incredibly underwhelming compared to every other one. No one is going to ask for this to be cloned, but I also don’t think it ever needs to be ripped out and redone. So in that sense it succeeds. Small World would have been a better attraction, but at least its unique.

Pooh… there is a reason they ignored it during marketing of Shanghai last year. I guess it’s an added attraction, so yay? I think this must have been slotted in pretty late in the process. In a park that seems to avoid clones it’s really out of place. I should have saved this for the section of things I dislike about the park, but I’ll follow their lead and not give it the dignity of being talked about anymore.

Fantasyland really needs a headliner still. Maybe Alice will eventually be it? Can’t help but second-guess whether Tangled, Frozen or Zootopia would have been better choices based on what the Chinese seem to like.


Finally Tomorowland. Again mixed feelings. It’s fortunately not as sterile in person as pictures purport it to be. I like the multi-level angel even if the pathways truly are a bit meandering and confusing. Since I always found myself entering from Gardens of Imagination it preferences you to stay on the top level versus Fantasyland approach pushes you to the bottom level. I think the path to Tron really needs to eventually continue behind the Pepsi stage and dump out towards fantasyland (or Toy story I guess) in the future. Still a little awkwardly congested as they are building that Chevrolet thing. Whatever that is.

I really like Tron. Maybe Tron Track has more exciting show scenes, maybe the standby queue is boring (wouldn’t know, only did it with FP), maybe it’s a bit short. It just all worked for me despite those complaints. From the thumping Tron music, the slick coordinated but understated lighting, the gorgeous ride vehicles, the pre-show reveal of the launch station and the sheer fun factor. I had lots of fun. I got off and really wanted to go again. It’s really just another roller coaster in a box, but it’s probably one of the best roller coasters in a box they’ve done. I thought it was comfortable enough (more comfortable when it was moving) and punches a good launch. A nighttime ride wasn’t meant to be, but I could imagine it would elevate the experience somewhat.

I give credit to Buzz for being different, that doesn’t mean it is better. Somewhere between both concepts a really good Buzz ride might exist. This wasn’t really it. Chalk this up as a filler attraction.

No stitch for me (once in HK was enough, thank you). Jetpacks were also skipped. I would have tried them if they ever posted 15 minutes or less wait, but they were nowhere close to that.

The Pepsi stage hosts a weird Baymax exercise fest during the day. A DJ and dancers take up residence at night. Uptake on both weren’t that stellar, but at least the night DJ provided energy to the land and lighting was well coordinated.

If Tomorrowland feels sterile during the day, it actually does the opposite at night. With the sun set and you no longer feeling the lack of shade, the lighting package in the land really shines. It is not just the Tron cover, the lighting in railings are stairwells even matches the slow pulsating change. Once every 15 minutes or so the colour palate completely switches over in the entire land, the transition is cool.

I won’t put the Star Wars launch bay equivalent as a complete miss on my list. It probably isn’t all that long for this world, it is slightly better executed than Florida or Anaheim. They show that Path of the Force video apparently and seem to have quite a few M&G bays. Not a whole lot more to it than that really.

The Marvel thing is much better executed than the incredibly short-lived Marvel HQ. Similar setup and it features the art academy thing, which I didn’t bother with, but peaked into. Seemed a popular enough venue even the pathway to get to it is oddly off the gardens of imagination. Again, since it was just a last minute thing thrown in for capacity sake I give it a pass.


I’m running out of good things to talk about. Mickey’s Avenue gets a pass from me. It actually contains the same amount of content as a typical Main Street, you just don’t realize it with how it splays out pretty quickly. It’s really just Main street widened and unzipped. I get why they made the changes. I like it well enough and operationally the park is much, much improved as a result. It follows the mish-mash “the more architectural styles we can throw together, the better” that seems to be a WDI MO. I know some people despise that, but it was at least fairly vibrant with lots of hidden detailing. The one thing I will say is that I wish Toontown followed this style instead of the plastic look they adopted.


Food & Merch

For all the talking points about how uniquely Chinese the park would be, it’s just an American Disney park most of the time. The only things that really stood out to me from something like Tokyo, was the food. 90% of the options are Chinese. Not the Manchu Wok (is that only Canadian…?), Panda Express form of Chinese food either. I have a very adventurous palate, so I generally enjoyed the food in SDL.

Waits at restaurants were reasonable, in and out with my food in about 5-10 minutes or so considering the parks were to capacity. They were busy, but I have a feeling there was a very late freak out that there was no enough food capacity in the park as last minute additions tended to be food venues. I’d say they seemed to hit just the perfect amount of capacity. There was still a table search, but the way the quick serves are setup here forces the whole party to get the food before a table. I still reasonably found seating.

Barbossa’s Bounty quick serve is the highlight of the bunch. I felt the food was ok, the corn on the cob side they gave me was particularly chewy. I’m not sure if it was just undercooked or there is some Corn variant in China I am not particularly used to. The setting is stellar. You are getting a Blue Bayou experience for quick serve prices.

Wandering Moon Teahouse was the next one I’d recommend. Food was better than Barbossa’s for what I had, pretty much only Chinese options here.

I walked around the Adventure Isle one, which seems on par with the Mickey Avenue one up from and Tangled Tavern. I actually never went into the Pinocchio one. The Dim Sum at Mickey’s Avenue was probably the best food I had in the park.

I also did Star Gazers – mostly because I happened to be at the end of the park and you are pretty much in a food desert otherwise. The parade was blocking my escape, I swear. Honestly, reasonably good quick serve burgers, considering the Tomorrowland eateries are nearly universally terrible.

The gates by Disneytown had zero people waiting at them in the afternoon when I happened by on Friday (the day I used to basically walk the resort). If you really need to do a table service restaurant, it is actually easy to leave the park and go to Disneytown. There are a ton of really interesting options. Unlike Disneyland (and well pretty much everything in SDL) it is actually a very short walk. The majority of the restaurants abut the park. Disneyland has a fairly long walk to leave the gates and head over to DTD, then you have to compete with APers and park hoppers to get back into the gates. None of those are the case here and with a direct vestibule, I get what they are going for. It will be interesting to see if people catch on and start planning meals in Disneytown.


Merch is much, much better than Tokyo. I don’t really know how it will ultimately compare to the North American Parks. A lot of the stuff feels the same as NA parks, but lacks the Disney Parks branding. Everything is “Authentic Shanghai Disneyland merchandise”. There is a lot of attraction specific stuff for PoTC, RR and Tron. Frankly, I really didn’t buy a whole lot. I don’t tend to buy much on vacations anymore. A Marvel shirt, a couple mugs were my big spoils. I think whatever Disney line of merch people are into though; you can find lots of unique stuff here.


Entertainment

Honestly, it’s all good but standard stuff at play here.

Tarzan I was initially worried that I was in for a very, very mediocre Cirque. I saw La Reve and Ka just the week prior in Vegas was was prepared to be under-whelmed. Tarzan is not a 100ish dollar hard ticketed acrobatic performance. It was however decent and honestly a pretty good acrobatic show compared to most other theme park shows I can think of.

Pirates is very talky, but also filled with a lot of over the top performance for the kids. I generally picked up most of the themes and could follow along with their callbacks to the audience. Very smartly the show takes place in two stages, with a huge AC’d pre-show that lasts about 15 minutes with most of the actors on a balcony above. Lots of sound effects and some practical lighting and smog. It transitions inside with the pirates putting on kitschy play for you until the British general shows up. There are two very big ‘wow’ moments in the show. The first is the transformation of the theatre when they blow it up and the whole seating area fills with a smoke cannons (like Mystic Rhythms did). The second is the wind tunnel they use when a tornado rolls through the theatre. That’s something I’ve never seen before in a stage show and I was impressed. Very good show, it’s definitely an E-ticket show even if I barely followed the 75% dialogue that made it up.

I had no plans to do Frozen, but wound up there at the end of my second day as they were letting in the last few stragglers. I had low expectations when I saw it in DL and thought it was actually ok for how quickly they whipped it together. I again expected an identical experience, but was pleased to see they did add things throughout the show. The theatre is way bigger, there is a lot more involvement with projection mapping, which the audience loved. I think they added 6 dancers that I don’t recall being at DCA. Elsa has a balcony as well that rises from the stage. The background tracks smartly made it sound like people were singing around you. I’m honestly still not sure if everyone was singing along or dead silent, so I give them props to at least making it seem like they were. This sounds incredibly stupid, but they added beach balls to the summer segment and the audience LOVED it. I’m not going to say it’s a masterpiece, but the Saturday audience, which was pretty much all Chinese, were really into the whole thing. So I guess it’s more of a success than I thought it would be. Having not done it, I’m sure the DCA musical is a better show, but I have a feeling this would still play better to the Chinese audience.

Good parade and much more movement from the floats than I expected. It is only 7 units (I still feel like there must be one coming), but did not feel as short as I thought it would. Great mix dancers and well choreographed. The longest parade route EVAR sounds like another stupid talking point… That is until I watched the parade near tomorrowland entrance (not quite the start of the route), slowly meandered to Fantasyland, took pictures, decided to double back by Frozen for the faster castle route and was shocked when I stumbled into the first float. I think you could easily do the entire parade twice, from opening music to close, if you slightly hustled. So ya… I guess it is a long route.

Ignite the dreams I honestly didn’t love. Very heavy on projection mapping, I’m not sure if the pyro was restricted since they did the tag on the opening night. I’ve just seen better versions of this. I’m not even sure what the story is supposed to be? Mickey just wanders around pastel colours for a while and occasionally falls between musical segments. It’s not terrible by any means, it’s just not remotely the best castle spectacular I’ve seen.


Things that suck

Alright, the best part!

This is not a charming park. It trades charm for operational efficiency. At least it worked and it operates well. As WDW is to DL, SDL is to HKDL.

I don’t think SDL meaningfully moves the envelope with how to build a theme park. That’s not to say it doesn’t learn a lot of elements that other castle parks would have benefited from, but it merely meets a lot of bars instead of greatly shooting past any. Tokyo Disney Sea significantly moved the meter, SDL does not.

I did not forget about a “land”, I just saved it for this section. The Gardens of Imagination are mediocre to awful. Having spent the last several days touring gardens etc. around Suzhou, Tongli and Hangzhou, it’s laughable that they call it a garden. It’s actually a good idea, the walled gardens common in neighbouring cities would be an awesome inspiration for a hub. Unfortunately, I’ve come to realize that was never the “plan”. This was always an expansive hub that likely late in the planning process had some marketing whiz toss the gardens bit onto it. There are almost slight hints at what they could and should have done. Wandering Moon Teahouse works, then you stretch out to an ok section with the zodiac mosaics. There is even an elevated rock outcropping that is ok. Then? Fantasia. Ok, not terrible, I see they are fusing some American park feel into it. But beyond that you have a terribly uninspired barren hub. Then the Dumbo circus where the entire concept is now miles beyond where it should have started. Wait, weren’t there supposed to be 6 gardens? Why are there stagnant pools of water you cross? Has anyone heard of a water feature, or maybe even some lily pads and koi if you don’t want to break the bank? The castle is so massively large that this is the one time they could have actually gotten away with planting things taller than a few inches off the ground without obscuring the view. They didn’t. I’ve been so aggravated about this the past few days, this was totally within the Imagineering wheelhouse. Pagodas, ponds, fake rock work, a true walled garden. Don’t expect that. The new MK hub is infinitely better and I know the general feelings on that.


Moving on from that rant…

Oh look, here’s another massive expanse of land called the well-springs by tomorrowland. Why are there three stagnant ponds missing water features? Why does Disneytown loom over it? Why do they have zero lighting on the whole thing at night? It’s 100% a pitch-black field of space in front of tomorrowland.


They also went too big with park layout from the start. Pretty much the full park boundaries have been drawn and included in the current layout with some vast expansion pads on the East side. Tomorrowland suffers thanks to the empty space on its left… the empty space on its right… the empty space across from it… And oh yes that big empty space you can stare out of the bermless park currently occupied by a 1-storey Star Wars tent.

*Fortunately* it sounds like phase 2 stuff is coming and coming soon. Thank goodness. The absolute worst parts of the park are where Toy Story is going, followed by where Star Wars currently is and finally the emptiness that is the top of Fantasyland between Frozen and Tangled. I have a feeling I know where Marvel and Alice are going. The empty plots between Treasure Cove and SDMT, plus what is currently occupied by the Marvel tent did not bug me nearly as much as those other three.

One last thing I’ll throw down in the idiotic move column. Two theatres for Soaring… really?


Final Wrap Up

So as not to end on a complete sour note, I’ll say I generally loved SDL. Opening day was extremely well run. I am so thankful they went for a unique park, even if it didn’t always pay off in every respect. As someone who has bounced around the international parks, I am grateful that Disney generally has an attitude towards trying different things. The increasingly homogenized Universal parks really bother me as a fan. PoTC is the out and out success the park needed. The West side lands of the park are pretty spectacular and there is just sooo much potential the park has in its future. I’m just hopeful that potential doesn’t go the way of EPCOT. SDL occupies a DCA/HKDL like slice of things to do. Both of which received significant investments to get to their state. I’m happy with the start, I won’t call it the boldest, but I think they did manage to pull off just barely enough for a good opening day menu. It’s a good benchmark for what I expect all parks to open with and the type of variety I’d hope for.

Operationally, the park seems like it will be a dream. It just needs capacity. If I were to randomly pick three attractions I think it could use I’d say another family dark ride for Fantasyland. Something thrilling like another coaster. Then I’d want an E-ticket to knock my socks off. I don’t know if Alice, Everest and Marvel fit the bill, but they do sound pretty close.

For the WDW frequent flyers, you should always pay respects to DLR first. If you are considering venturing beyond NA, Tokyo should be your first choice, not SDL. However in the grand scheme of SDL/HKDL and today’s Paris I would happily say I wouldn’t hold it against you if you made it your fourth choice.

It’s only my opinion, but I’m getting Tokyo like vibes from the locals. Still early days to call definitively, but I think this park will generally be embraced and eventually SDL will be a big engine to prop up the International Parks. Was it worth it? You’d be kidding yourself if you thought Disney would have invested billions in WDW instead of stock buybacks. I had tons of fun and got to do more new attractions in one day than WDW has seen over years and years. So for me at least, it was worth it. #ThanksShanghai
Thanks a lot for the honest review!
 

Cesar R M

Well-Known Member
I know, right? I thought it (Shanghai Disneyland's) was bigger than that.
they probably are not taking into consideration the "mountain" "hill" the castle is in.
They are not displaying the lower "rings" where the show appears.

I asked the question about budget cuts in regards to the alligator issue and i was told that department did not face any cuts.
Then who did "dun goofed" ?
 

WDW1974

Well-Known Member
Original Poster
You're right that my take on SDL was largely positive, but I wouldn't call my criticisms minor. The layout, size, and views within the park are all major issues for me. I hope they are addressable ones with expansion, but that will take years. I think the foundation for a great park is there, but it's far from perfect right now.

If there are any specific questions anyone has, I'm happy to answer here...

I would say they weren't huge to use a word that is so in these days! I believe you ranked it seventh of all Disney parks, so that puts it right in the middle. I do hope you have it rated higher than the MK! I do want/intend/hope to come back more to the issue of layout. Because that is a criticism that others who have been there (@lazyboy97o as well) have brought to my attention. And that isn't one that is going to simply be fixed by adding attractions on some of those huge expansion pads, if/when they are filled.

And I've commented earlier in this thread that the Gardens of Imagination appears to be a giant mess of 'toss it in and we'll pretend it works' ... to be fair, this was the original plan for HKDL before they cut half (or more) of the park menu before it was built.

My specific questions for now would be: What were your five most favorite things (can be an attraction, a CM, a dessert, a plush ... an anything) from SDL and your five least favorites and why.

And did you stay at a Disney hotel and how would you rate it?

Also: depending upon your definition of "Lifestyler," I highly doubt I'm the first one to visit every park in a single year. There's a pretty well-off crowd I've encountered at various D23 events that, to my knowledge, is off the grid in terms of social media. Since they don't blog, I'm not sure you'd consider them lifestylers, but I'd be shocked if some of them hadn't already accomplished the feat (possibly even including DCL, AbD, Aulani, etc.--none of which I will do this year).

Oh, I am sure there are others. I mentioned you because you are a known and respected entity in the fan community, not some nobody that has 3,000 Twit followers (maybe 732 that are actual people). Indeed, big shots like Brigante and Mongello have not even visited most of the international parks as far as I know. And I was talking about now as in the age of SDL. As I said, I've done four of five before, but that is tough. Six of six in a calendar year is saying something. ... Part of me does think that the four ships and all the non-resort location DVCs should be included for the ultimate crown. The community does have plenty of people with plenty of time and seemingly an endless stream of cash or credit!
 

WDW1974

Well-Known Member
Original Poster
There were noticeable cutbacks (closed restaurants, other attractions that opened after--and closed before--the rest of the park, etc.) but to my surprise, the park was still reasonably busy.

Why the surprise? Disney does this at every resort they own at least a piece of. I think it's sad and bad show, but like that matters. Good to hear it was busy because your Twit Pic showed MSUSA rather devoid of people. I do wonder what WDW and DL lovers (the insane people who are at gates at 7 or 8 a.m.) would do with a park that doesn't open until 90 minutes before noon!

The humidity was absolutely killer; I was not prepared for just how bad that would be. Still worth the stopover, both to see the park and qualify for a visa exemption to China. Plus, I think we both can agree that HKDL is under-appreciated.

Oh, I know that humidity all too well. It is one reason why when the opening was put off so late I didn't feel quite so bad about waiting to visit. My first day at HKDL in 2008 was one of the hottest days I have ever spent outdoors ... it was mid or high 90s, plus humidity, no breeze and sunshine.

Yes, it is. But it had its charms when I first visited and has only gotten better. There is something to be said for a cozy MK experience. Why I loved @BrianLo 's comparison of SDL being to HKDL what MK is to DL.

Any insight into what's happening with HKDL going forward? Outside of the Star Wars Tomorrowland Takeover, Iron Man Experience (that seems like it's taking forever to build), and Explorer's Lodge, it doesn't seem like much has been announced or even rumored. I really hope Disney and China don't "forget" about HKDL now that SDL is open.

Nothing right now and that concerns me, although I know it won't stay that way. TSMM was supposed to be coming right after Iron Man and the SAR said they didn't want it (even though it would actually FIT there). ... But Disney's Asian priorities right now are Shanghai, Shanghai, Shanghai ... and Tokyo.
 

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