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Mystery Shopper
Disney Delights

Among the frenzy of the opening of Shanghai Disneyland, the president elect of the TEA, David Willrich, braved the crowds – and dodged umbrellas – to file this report

By David Willrich | Published in Attractions Management 2016 issue 3


As IAAPA’s Asian Attractions Expo took place during the same week as the opening of Disney’s new theme park in Shanghai, China, the majority of show attendees were determined to visit the new attraction during their time in China – and tickets were like gold dust.

Tickets for the park are only available via the website so we had gone online to get tickets. However, as the website was not working properly – probably overloaded – it took all day to buy four tickets individually.

Arriving in an Uber taxi also caused a problem. We were not allowed into the taxi drop-off zone and ended up getting out of the car on a traffic island just before the taxi filter. Disney needs to sort this out.

We set off to the turnstiles as directed by our confirmation email. The first logjam was security; no order at all and people pushing from all directions. In reality it was not as bad as it looked and we were soon through and lined up for the entrance turnstiles.

It had seemed like a good idea that all you had to do was present your email confirmation and ID at the turnstile to be admitted to the park. However, the process was very slow, not helped by the fact that the staff had to type in a 20-character order number, as there were no bar codes.

First impressions
After 45 minutes, we were finally in the park. As you enter, the view is different from the other parks many of us are familiar with, but there’s enough in common to know that you are indeed in a Disney property.

Disney has declared the park had to be “authentically Disney, distinctly Chinese”. While die-hard Disneyland and Magic Kingdom fans may not be so convinced, in my view the park does its best to bridge the cultural differences – though I’m not sure about all the changes.

The park represents a major rethink of its predecessors and takes advantage of the latest in technology and theming materials.

Entering, you’re aware that things have changed, seeing a very big and different castle ahead of you. Enchanted Storybook Castle, Disney’s largest to date, makes for impressive viewing. It’s well designed and themed and apparently a lot of research has been done to ensure it fits comfortably with Chinese culture, though I confess it’s not my favourite Disney castle.

Main Street does not exist. In fact, you’re in Mickey Avenue, a wide avenue with no pavements/sidewalks that’s much shorter than the familiar Main Street. There are enough hints that it’s a Disney park, but the façades here lean more towards Toontown than Main Street.

Mickey Avenue opens into wide plazas bordering Gardens of Imagination. This is a decision point for which rides you’re going to target and which direction you set off.

Treasure hunting
There’s no point relying on your knowledge of other Disney parks you’ve visited; this one has its own layout. We had done a bit of homework and listened to people that had worked on the project or already made a visit. Top of everyone’s list was Pirates of the Caribbean: Battle for the Sunken Treasure, followed by TRON Lightcycle Power Run and Soaring Over the Horizon, so our plan was to start with these three attractions, in that order.

Arriving in Treasure Cove, we were on the water-based Pirates dark ride within 10 minutes of entering the queue line. Two things strike you in the first few scenes of the heavily updated hi-tech ride: the scale of the attraction and the speed and movement of the boats. It’s an instant surprise that adds considerable excitement.

The ride is totally immersive and the shipwrecks you’re floating through feel full-size, matched in scale by the projection.

I’ve probably said too much and I have no wish to spoil the impact the attraction has the first time you ride it. We returned to the queue to experience the ride once more, and again only had a 10-minute wait.

The ride gets better each time, as is the case with many theme park rides at the top of the game, and it’s now replaced the Spiderman ride at Islands of Adventure, Universal Orlando as my favourite. Great use is made of projection and, pleasingly, it’s not 3D so there are no glasses to wear.

Exploring the zones
TRON was next. Tomorrowland is on the opposite side of the park and our walk via Adventure Isle and Gardens of Imagination confirmed the zones were themed to the very high quality expected of Disney. The queue for the ride was over an hour, our group threshold was 30 to 40 minutes, so we took a FastPass for early afternoon.

Tomorrowland is a complete and very necessary redesign that really works. Good architecture and use of level changes really make the zone come alive. Add the music track and you have a great feeling of suspense and optimism for the future.

Our focus moved to Soaring Over the Horizon. However, it was now over two hours wait and already having one active FastPass we could not add another. The queue peaked at almost four hours, so we didn’t get to see the new film which was shot for Shanghai and, I believe, will also be rolled out in the US parks.

We visited the Star Wars Launch Bay, a walk-through exhibit housing models and props from the movies and offering character photo opportunities. The advantage of a short wait time on Buzz Lightyear was eagerly taken: we found the ride feels the same as its US predecessors.

Voyage of discovery
Moving on, we arrived in Fantasyland, which had enough hints from other parks to ensure you knew where you were. New for Shanghai are the castle-based attractions, but they had prohibitive wait times, so instead we joined the short queue for the Voyage of the Crystal Grotto boat ride.

The Grotto boats seem familiar because they’re basically a rework of the Jungle Cruise boats in the US parks. However, this ride doesn’t seem to come with a cheesy script and gags – this based on observation, not an ability to understand Chinese!

This is very much a ride for small children who are really into the Disney tales. It’s well done and brings a few of them to life within their own scenes, with the emphasis being on Asian stories like Mulan. The boats go inside the castle for a dark-ride element which makes effective use of projection-mapping effects.

Afterwards, we found somewhere to eat – and there was no shortage of choice. The food outlets serve predominantly Asian cuisine and the menus are themed to suit their respective lands. We ate in a self-service restaurant and the food was good quality. It was very clean and tables were cleared as fast as people finished, with good attention paid to floor areas too.

TRONwards and upwards
Our turn arrived to ride TRON and, whatever your views of the movie, the ride is a must. The new coaster effectively replaces Spaceship Earth at Epcot.

Sitting on a TRON-style motorbike in a proper riding position, the safety restraint comes down on your back and holds you in place. The acceleration is phenomenal at the start of the ride as you go into a climb followed by a typical rapid coaster ride, with dynamic theming in the indoor area.

The pre-ride experience is good too, in keeping with the work Disney has been doing on enhancing the waiting experience at all their rides and parks. TRON Lightcycle Power Run is dynamic, exciting and quite a step forward from Spaceship Earth.

It was time to ensure we had seen as much as we could, with a walk back through Fantasyland and into Treasure Cove. Another new attraction is the pirate stunt show, Eye of the Storm: Captain Jack’s Stunt Spectacular. In summary, it fully justified the use of the word spectacular.

Umbrella menace
Without exception, the park is themed to Disney’s high standards. Looking closely at the buildings and paved areas, you see the latest materials and techniques are used.

The general circulation areas and paths are far wider than in other parks. Despite it being rumoured that the park was above intended capacity for pressure testing, other than seeing crazy wait times for some of the rides, the park still felt comfortable. We weren’t standing shoulder to shoulder (or waist, in my case) with other guests.

On the subject of height differences, I must mention my biggest issue with Chinese crowds was the umbrellas. They went up as soon as there was direct sunshine, as many Chinese people aim to avoid tanning and to me they are as much of a menace as selfie sticks (which are, thankfully, not allowed in the park).

My expectations for general guest behaviour were quite low, using Disneyland Paris as the barometer, where some of the local youths have no concept of queueing at all and push their way through the lines.

In Shanghai, although we did have some people push past us, in all cases they were genuinely catching up with their group.

Happy faces
I was amused by the places that groups chose to sit down and explore their picnic bags or even play cards. Other than that, queues were orderly and it was nice seeing so many happy faces, even if most were glued to the mobile device in their hand.

Walking around the park, I kept thinking there was something missing. Eventually, the penny dropped: it was colour. In the US parks, the planting is always very colourful, reminiscent of the idealised country garden pictures you would see on a box of chocolates. The planting here seemed nowhere near as vibrant.

By evening we were exhausted and decided not to stay for the end of day show. When it comes to value for money, if the attendance level we witnessed is to be typical, a one-day visit is very limiting on what you can do, particularly if you’re not experienced at playing the theme park game. A two-day visit is definitely advisable and be tactical when using the FastPass and visiting the low throughput attractions.

My verdict? Spot on the money: authentically Disney, distinctly Chinese.

Shanghai Disneyland

LOCATION
Shanghai Disneyland is located at Shanghai Disney Resort in Pudong New Area, Shanghai, China. The park is accessible by the Shanghai Metro rail service (the park has a dedicated stop at the end of Line 11), by the local Pudong Bus Line numbers 50/51/52, by car and taxi.

OPENING HOURS
June to August: Monday to Thursday 9:00 to 21:00, Friday to Sunday 8:00 to 22:00.

September: Monday to Friday 10:00 to 19:00, weekends 9:00 to 21:00

ADMISSION PRICES
Off peak one-day tickets cost RMB370 ($55) for an adult and RMB280 ($42) for a child or senior (over 65). Two-day tickets cost RMB700 ($105) for an adult and RMB530 ($79) for a child or senior.

Peak day tickets cost RMB499 ($75) for an adult and RMB375 ($56) for a child or senior. Two-day tickets cost RMB950 ($142) for an adult and RMB710 ($106) for a child or senior.

 



With its Toontown-style façades, Mickey Avenue is far wider than the traditional Main Street to hold larger crowds

what’s the score?
Staff
8/10
Cleanliness 10/10
Experience 8/10
Value for money 7/10
Overall experience 8/10


David Willrich established global AV firm DJW in 1986 and has worked on some of the most exciting projects in the industry. He is president elect of the Themed Entertainment Association (TEA)
Visitors take a selfie on Mickey Avenue
The Storytellers Statue, depicting Walt Disney and Mickey, is a lift from Buena Vista Street at Disneyland California
Shipwreck Shore is an interactive waterplay area at Treasure Cove
The Pirates of the Caribbean ride is in the same zone
Ignite the Dream – A Nighttime Spectacular of Magic and Light, the evening show that transforms the castle
fantasyland, Cinderella
A character parade in Shanghai Disneyland
the clock tower near the entrance
Adventure Isle
The Alice in Wonderland Maze, part of Fantasyland, is themed to director Tim Burton’s interpretation of the classic story Credit: PHOTO: Kent Phillips
Ignite the Dream
Riding on two-wheeled TRON Lightcycles, guests enter into a game world of lights, projection and effects
Riding on two-wheeled TRON Lightcycles, guests enter into a game world of lights, projection and effects
Umbrellas go up as the sun comes out as visitors enjoy the first Disney park in mainland China
 


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SELECTED ISSUE
Attractions Management
2016 issue 3

View issue contents

Leisure Management - Disney Delights

Mystery Shopper

Disney Delights


Among the frenzy of the opening of Shanghai Disneyland, the president elect of the TEA, David Willrich, braved the crowds – and dodged umbrellas – to file this report

David Willrich, D J Willrich Ltd
Visitors take a selfie on Mickey Avenue
The Shanghai Disneyland Band performs multiple times every day PHOTO: Todd Anderson
The Storytellers Statue, depicting Walt Disney and Mickey, is a lift from Buena Vista Street at Disneyland California
Shipwreck Shore is an interactive waterplay area at Treasure Cove
The Pirates of the Caribbean ride is in the same zone
Ignite the Dream – A Nighttime Spectacular of Magic and Light, the evening show that transforms the castle
fantasyland, Cinderella
A character parade in Shanghai Disneyland
the clock tower near the entrance
Adventure Isle
The Alice in Wonderland Maze, part of Fantasyland, is themed to director Tim Burton’s interpretation of the classic story PHOTO: Kent Phillips
Ignite the Dream
Riding on two-wheeled TRON Lightcycles, guests enter into a game world of lights, projection and effects
Riding on two-wheeled TRON Lightcycles, guests enter into a game world of lights, projection and effects
Umbrellas go up as the sun comes out as visitors enjoy the first Disney park in mainland China

As IAAPA’s Asian Attractions Expo took place during the same week as the opening of Disney’s new theme park in Shanghai, China, the majority of show attendees were determined to visit the new attraction during their time in China – and tickets were like gold dust.

Tickets for the park are only available via the website so we had gone online to get tickets. However, as the website was not working properly – probably overloaded – it took all day to buy four tickets individually.

Arriving in an Uber taxi also caused a problem. We were not allowed into the taxi drop-off zone and ended up getting out of the car on a traffic island just before the taxi filter. Disney needs to sort this out.

We set off to the turnstiles as directed by our confirmation email. The first logjam was security; no order at all and people pushing from all directions. In reality it was not as bad as it looked and we were soon through and lined up for the entrance turnstiles.

It had seemed like a good idea that all you had to do was present your email confirmation and ID at the turnstile to be admitted to the park. However, the process was very slow, not helped by the fact that the staff had to type in a 20-character order number, as there were no bar codes.

First impressions
After 45 minutes, we were finally in the park. As you enter, the view is different from the other parks many of us are familiar with, but there’s enough in common to know that you are indeed in a Disney property.

Disney has declared the park had to be “authentically Disney, distinctly Chinese”. While die-hard Disneyland and Magic Kingdom fans may not be so convinced, in my view the park does its best to bridge the cultural differences – though I’m not sure about all the changes.

The park represents a major rethink of its predecessors and takes advantage of the latest in technology and theming materials.

Entering, you’re aware that things have changed, seeing a very big and different castle ahead of you. Enchanted Storybook Castle, Disney’s largest to date, makes for impressive viewing. It’s well designed and themed and apparently a lot of research has been done to ensure it fits comfortably with Chinese culture, though I confess it’s not my favourite Disney castle.

Main Street does not exist. In fact, you’re in Mickey Avenue, a wide avenue with no pavements/sidewalks that’s much shorter than the familiar Main Street. There are enough hints that it’s a Disney park, but the façades here lean more towards Toontown than Main Street.

Mickey Avenue opens into wide plazas bordering Gardens of Imagination. This is a decision point for which rides you’re going to target and which direction you set off.

Treasure hunting
There’s no point relying on your knowledge of other Disney parks you’ve visited; this one has its own layout. We had done a bit of homework and listened to people that had worked on the project or already made a visit. Top of everyone’s list was Pirates of the Caribbean: Battle for the Sunken Treasure, followed by TRON Lightcycle Power Run and Soaring Over the Horizon, so our plan was to start with these three attractions, in that order.

Arriving in Treasure Cove, we were on the water-based Pirates dark ride within 10 minutes of entering the queue line. Two things strike you in the first few scenes of the heavily updated hi-tech ride: the scale of the attraction and the speed and movement of the boats. It’s an instant surprise that adds considerable excitement.

The ride is totally immersive and the shipwrecks you’re floating through feel full-size, matched in scale by the projection.

I’ve probably said too much and I have no wish to spoil the impact the attraction has the first time you ride it. We returned to the queue to experience the ride once more, and again only had a 10-minute wait.

The ride gets better each time, as is the case with many theme park rides at the top of the game, and it’s now replaced the Spiderman ride at Islands of Adventure, Universal Orlando as my favourite. Great use is made of projection and, pleasingly, it’s not 3D so there are no glasses to wear.

Exploring the zones
TRON was next. Tomorrowland is on the opposite side of the park and our walk via Adventure Isle and Gardens of Imagination confirmed the zones were themed to the very high quality expected of Disney. The queue for the ride was over an hour, our group threshold was 30 to 40 minutes, so we took a FastPass for early afternoon.

Tomorrowland is a complete and very necessary redesign that really works. Good architecture and use of level changes really make the zone come alive. Add the music track and you have a great feeling of suspense and optimism for the future.

Our focus moved to Soaring Over the Horizon. However, it was now over two hours wait and already having one active FastPass we could not add another. The queue peaked at almost four hours, so we didn’t get to see the new film which was shot for Shanghai and, I believe, will also be rolled out in the US parks.

We visited the Star Wars Launch Bay, a walk-through exhibit housing models and props from the movies and offering character photo opportunities. The advantage of a short wait time on Buzz Lightyear was eagerly taken: we found the ride feels the same as its US predecessors.

Voyage of discovery
Moving on, we arrived in Fantasyland, which had enough hints from other parks to ensure you knew where you were. New for Shanghai are the castle-based attractions, but they had prohibitive wait times, so instead we joined the short queue for the Voyage of the Crystal Grotto boat ride.

The Grotto boats seem familiar because they’re basically a rework of the Jungle Cruise boats in the US parks. However, this ride doesn’t seem to come with a cheesy script and gags – this based on observation, not an ability to understand Chinese!

This is very much a ride for small children who are really into the Disney tales. It’s well done and brings a few of them to life within their own scenes, with the emphasis being on Asian stories like Mulan. The boats go inside the castle for a dark-ride element which makes effective use of projection-mapping effects.

Afterwards, we found somewhere to eat – and there was no shortage of choice. The food outlets serve predominantly Asian cuisine and the menus are themed to suit their respective lands. We ate in a self-service restaurant and the food was good quality. It was very clean and tables were cleared as fast as people finished, with good attention paid to floor areas too.

TRONwards and upwards
Our turn arrived to ride TRON and, whatever your views of the movie, the ride is a must. The new coaster effectively replaces Spaceship Earth at Epcot.

Sitting on a TRON-style motorbike in a proper riding position, the safety restraint comes down on your back and holds you in place. The acceleration is phenomenal at the start of the ride as you go into a climb followed by a typical rapid coaster ride, with dynamic theming in the indoor area.

The pre-ride experience is good too, in keeping with the work Disney has been doing on enhancing the waiting experience at all their rides and parks. TRON Lightcycle Power Run is dynamic, exciting and quite a step forward from Spaceship Earth.

It was time to ensure we had seen as much as we could, with a walk back through Fantasyland and into Treasure Cove. Another new attraction is the pirate stunt show, Eye of the Storm: Captain Jack’s Stunt Spectacular. In summary, it fully justified the use of the word spectacular.

Umbrella menace
Without exception, the park is themed to Disney’s high standards. Looking closely at the buildings and paved areas, you see the latest materials and techniques are used.

The general circulation areas and paths are far wider than in other parks. Despite it being rumoured that the park was above intended capacity for pressure testing, other than seeing crazy wait times for some of the rides, the park still felt comfortable. We weren’t standing shoulder to shoulder (or waist, in my case) with other guests.

On the subject of height differences, I must mention my biggest issue with Chinese crowds was the umbrellas. They went up as soon as there was direct sunshine, as many Chinese people aim to avoid tanning and to me they are as much of a menace as selfie sticks (which are, thankfully, not allowed in the park).

My expectations for general guest behaviour were quite low, using Disneyland Paris as the barometer, where some of the local youths have no concept of queueing at all and push their way through the lines.

In Shanghai, although we did have some people push past us, in all cases they were genuinely catching up with their group.

Happy faces
I was amused by the places that groups chose to sit down and explore their picnic bags or even play cards. Other than that, queues were orderly and it was nice seeing so many happy faces, even if most were glued to the mobile device in their hand.

Walking around the park, I kept thinking there was something missing. Eventually, the penny dropped: it was colour. In the US parks, the planting is always very colourful, reminiscent of the idealised country garden pictures you would see on a box of chocolates. The planting here seemed nowhere near as vibrant.

By evening we were exhausted and decided not to stay for the end of day show. When it comes to value for money, if the attendance level we witnessed is to be typical, a one-day visit is very limiting on what you can do, particularly if you’re not experienced at playing the theme park game. A two-day visit is definitely advisable and be tactical when using the FastPass and visiting the low throughput attractions.

My verdict? Spot on the money: authentically Disney, distinctly Chinese.

Shanghai Disneyland

LOCATION
Shanghai Disneyland is located at Shanghai Disney Resort in Pudong New Area, Shanghai, China. The park is accessible by the Shanghai Metro rail service (the park has a dedicated stop at the end of Line 11), by the local Pudong Bus Line numbers 50/51/52, by car and taxi.

OPENING HOURS
June to August: Monday to Thursday 9:00 to 21:00, Friday to Sunday 8:00 to 22:00.

September: Monday to Friday 10:00 to 19:00, weekends 9:00 to 21:00

ADMISSION PRICES
Off peak one-day tickets cost RMB370 ($55) for an adult and RMB280 ($42) for a child or senior (over 65). Two-day tickets cost RMB700 ($105) for an adult and RMB530 ($79) for a child or senior.

Peak day tickets cost RMB499 ($75) for an adult and RMB375 ($56) for a child or senior. Two-day tickets cost RMB950 ($142) for an adult and RMB710 ($106) for a child or senior.

 



With its Toontown-style façades, Mickey Avenue is far wider than the traditional Main Street to hold larger crowds

what’s the score?
Staff
8/10
Cleanliness 10/10
Experience 8/10
Value for money 7/10
Overall experience 8/10


David Willrich established global AV firm DJW in 1986 and has worked on some of the most exciting projects in the industry. He is president elect of the Themed Entertainment Association (TEA)

Originally published in Attractions Management 2016 issue 3

Published by Leisure Media Tel: +44 (0)1462 431385 | Contact us | About us | © Cybertrek Ltd