Walking through the gates of Shanghai Disneyland, or 上海迪士呢乐园(Shànghǎi Díshìní lèyuán), it is immediately obvious that something is very different from its western counterparts. From the neon red Chinese Mickey decals to the enthusiastic announcer and staff greeting guests in Mandarin, you are thrown into an odd fusion of familiar Disney magic and East Asian culture.
The shops that line Mickey Avenue sell your standard shirts, cups and other mass produced Disney corporation money traps as well as stuffed animals garbed in Chinese qipaos and Minnie ears with Chinese hairpieces and chopsticks sewn into the headband. Standing in line for the Winnie-the-Pooh honeypot attraction, the waiting area is decorated with large pages from the titular character’s storybook, all in Mandarin of course, and if you head to the Pirates of the Caribbean ride, you can sail the seven seas with a Jack Sparrow spewing out catch phrases in Chinese.
For lunchtime, Shanghai Disneyland hosts a decent amount of dining options, from Rémy’s Patisserie where you can purchase French baked goods, to Stargazer Grill, which offers Western and Asian style burgers for every visitor’s palette. Other more typical Chinese flavors within Shanghai Disneyland include Wandering Moon Teahouse which boasts an array of traditional Chinese regional dishes and Spiral Snacks food carts, selling Shanghai’s trademark snacks of small dumplings (xiǎo lóng bāo (小笼包)) and fried dough sticks (yóu tiáo (油条)).
After lunchtime, head over to the Pesi E-Stage and catch a show featuring Baymax and Hiro from “Big Hero 6.” Warning, if you are above the ages of eight to ten and foreign, you may get a lot of suspicious looks from small Chinese children and their parents which make up about 90 percent of this audience. But don’t worry, if your Mandarin is not quite up to par, most of the show just consists of copying what Hiro and Baymax are doing on stage.
Conveniently located near the Pepsi E-Stage is one of the highlights of Shanghai Disneyland: the TRON Lightcycle Power Run. A fast-tracked neon spectacle, this coaster replicates the world of TRON to a T (pun intended). Waiting in line is part of the fun with this attraction, amusing guests with cool visuals and TRON lightcycle and lightcar statues as well as videos displayed on flat screens depicting your mission as test drivers of the new lightcycle models. Once getting onto the ride, cast members will strap you into an actual lightcycle and give you fast directions in Mandarin that are impossible to hear because of the blaring music and announcements. Afterwards, as you walk out of the attraction there is a screen displaying everyone’s photo in mid-scream.
As the day comes to a close, hit up the Frozen Sing-Along, sung almost entirely in Chinese (captions both in Mandarin and English) or visit the Star Wars Launch Bay for interactive fun with Chinese Kylo Ren, Darth Vader and C3PO. Then, be sure to find an ideal viewing spot of the Storybook Castle’s Light and Fireworks Spectacle. Featuring the Chinese renditions of some of Disney’s most famous tunes like “Let It Go” and “Part of Your World” while accompanied by scenes of the films projected onto the castle with fireworks lighting up the sky, this is truly worth putting up with the swarming crowds and perfect close to a magical day in the East.