8 Things That Surprised Me About Shanghai Disneyland

It's been about three months now since Conor and I visited Shanghai Disneyland, and honestly I'm still a little bit overwhelmed and in awe of the place. It's just...so much. I kind of can't really believe that we've even been still so it's just crazy to me that I'm sat here now writing a blog about the place! If you've listened to any of my recent podcast appearances you'll know that our time at Shanghai Disneyland was...interesting to say the least. The park is full of surprises - most of them positive but unfortunately some of them negative too which is a little sad to say. Either way - I wanted to chat through so of the more prominent ones with you guys today!

This was probably the biggest surprise for me. You also hear horror stories and vicious rumours about this park, some of them so horrendous that you think they can't possibly be true. But they were true. Every. Single. One. And then some. The pissing in queuelines. The horrendous litter. The black market Fastpassing. The knock-off merch sold in queue lines. The general lack of consideration for personal space and just not-being-a-dick etiquette. We experienced every single one of them and more.

I think the biggest disappointing surprise for us was the lack of crowd control of the second day. It took us three hours to get into the park because of poor organisation and control on Disney's part. At many points it felt scary and unsafe, and a theme park guest should never be in that position, especially not on Disney property. So sad.

It's the kind of park I loved building on in custom mode on RollerCoaster Tycoon. Just a big ol' flat playbox as far as the eye can see. It's kind of weird going from the gorgeous textured mountainscape that frames Hong Kong Disneyland to this vast flatness. And because it's so flat...a lot of it feels kind of wide and open and exposed. It's something I criticised Tokyo Disneyland for a lot. One thing I absolutely adore about theme parks is having mysterious nooks and crannies and levels to get lost in and explore. Look at Adventureland in Disneyland Paris - it's the perfect example of what I'm talking about.

Shanghai Disneyland feels almost formulaic in comparison, which is kind of ironic when you consider the lengths taken to ensure that this Disneyland would go against the grain of those that came before it. I think the worst offender for me is the mountain that juts out of Adventure Isle. It's just flat...flat...flat..MOUNTAIN AND WATERFALL...flat...flat..flat. It feels odd and unnatural, and when you consider this is the company that created Animal Kingdom you can understand why I'd feel a little cheated.

Holy balls this ride is good. Nobody talks about it, at all really. I guess when you've been on the other iterations of the attraction you go in with a certain level of expectations - it's gonna be green, it's gonna be neon'd to the hilt and there's going to be aliens oohing at you for the most part. NOPE. Buzz got an upgrade for his China version and holy crap it's amazing. State of the art screens that react to the slightest touch of your blaster. So much action taking place in every corner that you don't even know where to look. Some of the most impressive holographs I've ever seen in a ride.

Conor and I spent the whole ride with our jaws dropped and couldn't wait to run around for a second ride. What a hidden gem!

I'd obviously heard good things about this coaster but never really heard anybody properly rave about it. Again, I'm kind of grateful for that because it meant I boarded my light cycle with minimal expectations and therefore was absolutely blown away. Let's break it down.

The launch is everything. Y'all know I love me a launch, but honestly the old Booster Bike launches have never really done it for me, I've always found them a bit flaccid to be honest with you. Tron's launch really does pack a punch, it feels like it's really trying to do something and is the perfect little thrill to kick you off on your adventure. Plus the build-up to taking off with the mirrors and the lights and such is just bad ass.

Next, the attention to detail. The cast members' uniforms GLOW. The bikes 'power up' when you lock your restraint into place. Every little thing has been considered to create a holistic and seriously impressive experience. It's honestly probably the most immersive coaster I've ever ridden.

Finally - THE INSIDE. I'm not going to spoil this with details but flying into the digital darkness was a real life WOW moment for me. I just couldn't believe how absolutely fucking cool it looked - from the lighting to the sound to the SFX to just...everything. It's just so so amazing!

I'm 1000% going to get some hate for this, but overall I found Pirates to be an overrated ride. Maybe it was just too hyped up for me, I'm not sure, but I definitely didn't come off of it with the same level of awe and wonder as Mystic Manor a few days before or even the likes of Tower of Terror.

Don't get me wrong - it's a fucking good ride. It really is excellent - please don't think I'm not saying that by any means, but people I know who have ridden told me it was the best attraction in the world and I simply disagree. And this is all down to taste of course and what we prefer in an attraction. I've defended screens in attractions before, and some of the scenes in Pirates have the best integration of screens in any theme park ride in the world. It's the big screened sections that I didn't get on with, I found they really took me out of the action and broke the immersion for me.

It's a solid 9.5/10 attraction.

I'd always solidly been of the opinion that either Disneyland Paris or Tokyo DisneySea would be the most stunning Disney parks in the world. And to an extent they still are. The exquisite stylised European fairytale theming take of Disneyland Paris still pleases me to my core and the jaw-dropping scale and detail of the steam punk inspired Tokyo DisneySea will likely never be topped by any theme park in the world, but damn if Shanghai Disneyland doesn't try. It is truly, truly beautiful.

I think most of this comes from the landscaping around the castle. The castle itself is truly magnificent - a towering structure of fantastical pink brick with wooden and tiled detailing all over. I could have stood and gawped at it for hours. Then there's the mosaics and little nods to lesser known Disney properties all around. Then there's the fact that it's set in front of a lake so you get this incredible reflection of the castle on a clear day (particularly amazing for watching the fireworks in front of as we did). Because I'd heard so many negative things I don't think anybody had really ever taken the time to discuss the beauty of this park, hence it caught me a little off guard.

Another weird thing to say I know but hear me out. Disney went on and on during construction about how this wasn't going to be like any other Disney park that had come before it. The staples are nowhere to be found. There's no Haunted Mansion, no It's A Small World, no Space Mountain and no Main Street USA. Tomorrowland is on the LEFT. What the fuck. Sure, on paper it has some audacity calling itself a Disney park, but what we found surprised us a lot.

You don't have the classic E-ticket rides, that's for sure. But what you do have is modern versions of those. No Space Mountain, but instead we have Tron. No Small World but instead we have Crystal Grotto. Pirates and Pan and Buzz are upgraded and incredible. Even the lack of Main Street isn't really that noticeable because the plaza in front of the castle is just so stunning. And despite these differences and lack of classic Disney park tropes, the whole place just feels so undeniably Disney.

The above said, there were some things that stuck out like a sore thumb to me in a Disney park and had me muttering '...random' under my breath. Toy Story Land...inside a castle park. Random. (Yes I know Hong Kong Disneyland has one and I felt the same way about it too). The big ugly boxy arena buildings around the back of Fantasyland. Random. Tim Burton Alice instead of classic Disney Alice. Random (but I secretly loved it). GIANT CLASSIC CHINESE RESTAURANT IN FRONT OF THE DISNEY CASTLE?! Extremely fuck random!

For every part of the park that made us go ohhh yh we're in a Disney park alright, there was something waiting for us around a corner that made us go what the actual fuck?

If there's one thing Shanghai Disneyland ain't it's predictable. I truly hope that I get to visit the park many times throughout my life to grow accustomed to it's weird and wonderful ways, but above all what I hope the most is that this most unique of Disney parks never loses its ability to surprise me.

Talk later xoxo,