So far in my ongoing report on our trip to Shanghai we have taken a detailed look at the following (titles are clickable links that will take you to those entries):
Shanghai, September 2016 Trip Report on Two Lost Boys
I shared my experience travelling to Shanghai, arriving at the airport, getting to the resort, and then visiting the Disney Store in the city.
Shanghai Disney Resort, September 2016 Trip Report - Part One on Character Central
In part one of my main Disney report I shared with you all of our experiences at the two Shanghai Disney Resort hotels, Disneytown, and character dining at Lumiere's Kitchen.
Shanghai Disney Resort, September 2016 Trip Report - Part Two on Character Central
In this report I took an in-depth look at Mickey Avenue, with over 230 photos of all the details on the little entrance street to the park.
In this next part I am going to share with you my photos and thoughts on the Gardens of Imagination, Mickey's Storybook Express parade, the Golden Fairytale Fanfare castle show, and the Ignite the Dream nighttime spectacular.
The Gardens of Imagination at Shanghai Disneyland pretty much serve the role of Central Plaza, found at the other Disneyland-style parks around the world. However, the Gardens of Imagination are somewhat larger than Central Plaza at any of the other parks (including Tokyo), and contain several key attractions.
When you reach the end of Mickey Avenue, the first thing you're likely to see is the Storytellers Statue, which according to the guide map is part of the Gardens.
You will also find the park's dedication plaque, with that speech by Bob Iger - and that phrase he keeps using over and over again! "Authentically Disney and distinctly Chinese."
Wandering around the Gardens I have to say, I wasn't overly impressed. It isn't that it looks bad or anything, but perhaps it was a little overplayed, and the name makes it sound more inspiring than it really is. Of all six lands in the park, I personally feel that the Gardens of Imagination really lacked imagination, and it was the most disappointing area. That is an opinion that unfortunately didn't change from my first impression until now.
To start, let's take a look at the attractions in the Gardens.
Dumbo the Flying Elephant, for the first time, is not in Fantasyland, but has been relocated to the frontside of the castle. It actually doesn't feel too strange, and affords pretty good views over the Gardens. I do think the colour scheme seemed a little off though for some reason. They went with a paler look that doesn't quite sit as well with me. You might notice in one of the photos below the capacity of one elephant - four people?!
Fantasia Carousel also breaks tradition and resides here in the Gardens. It's a pretty carousel, and I like the pegasus that adorn it. The rather dark closeup of the one pegasus with grapes on it was the one I rode on, if you're interested to know!
One of the areas I was most looking forward to seeing was the Garden of the Twelve Friends. It is actually this that really disappointed me, and let the rest of the Gardens of Imagination drop in my opinion. You have to understand, the Gardens of Imagination is huge. There is enough space here to build a couple more attractions if they wanted to, and it wouldn't make a bit of difference to anyone. So why then is the one area that they kept advertising and playing up and showcasing over and over again so bland? It is really unfortunate because it could have been really pretty, and instead it's, well, a wall (albeit it with some pretty mosaics).
According to the guide map, "Melody Garden" is an attraction. The Melody Garden was just a flat open area that was home to a Chip 'n' Dale mini-show in which they perform tai chi. Sadly you cannot meet Chip 'n' Dale in Shanghai Disneyland (yes, you read that right!), and you can only see them in this show and in the main day parade (which we'll come to later in this report).
Meet Mickey is the home to, rather unsurprisingly, Mickey Mouse! While the outside has a rather temporary look to it, the inside is really amazing. Disney did a good job making the queue area colourful and fun, and adding in a few nods to other parks along the way. Your journey through the queue will take you past the other five Disney castles of the world, before arriving at Mickey who is hosting his greeting in front of the one just outside his tent, Enchanted Storybook Castle. It's a neat transition and well thought out. We also really love Mickey's outfit here! It is the only place in the resort that you can meet any of the characters in a unique outfit that cannot be seen anywhere else (even in the parade in fact Mickey and the gang all wear their standard attire - we'll come to that later!).
I don't know whether it was a space issue, but for some reason Marvel Universe falls within the Gardens of Imagination. Honestly though, it is so close to Tomorrowland that it could have been included within that boundary and it wouldn't have made a difference to anyone's perception, I don't think. While Marvel isn't necessarily futuristic, it would fit better in Tomorrowland than the Gardens, where we see things like Dumbo, the carousel and tai chi with the chipmunks. Nonetheless, it is where it is. Again, it has a rather temporary look about it, but that doesn't mean it isn't great! Again, Disney did a good job with the interior. You can meet Spider-Man and Captain America here, look at some of the small exhibits, learn how to draw a Marvel character, and visit the small shop.
Back outside in the Gardens, and you can find two additional retail locations that are no bigger than the Marvel one. Casey Jr Trinket Train (again with the train theme - see Mickey Ave. in part 2 for more about that) is a small cart near Dumbo, and Scuttle's Shiny Things is another cart in a far flung corner that pretty much is in Treasure Cove.
Dining locations are also mostly cart based, with no less than five carts/kiosks scattered around the Gardens. These are; Timothy's Treats, near Dumbo; Picnic Basket, near the Garden of the Twelve Friends; Wandering Moon Tea Cart, outside the Wandering Moon Teahouse (which I'll discuss in a moment); a churro cart and a popcorn cart.
The Wandering Moon Teahouse is a large indoor counter service restaurant that has that "distinctly Chinese" feel that Bob Iger loves to tout so much. I have to admit, over usage of that phrase aside, it is a beautiful location with some stunning details, and really good food. I highly recommend it. For my fellow vegetarians, it has a really good veggie option.
So, that is everything in the Gardens of Imagination, except one thing - the Golden Fairytale Fanfare castle show.
Golden Fairytale Fanfare is a stunning production that showcases some of Disney's most popular characters, past and present, alongside dozens of performers, fountains and fireworks. Mickey and Minnie do not feature prominently at all, and only come on stage at the very end. While it's pretty spectacular to watch, it does lack a little in several departments. The different characters come on stage very separately, and seem very isolated. Ariel rolls in on her giant shell, only accompanied by puppets of Flounder and Sebastian, which looks a little odd and lonely; Anna and Elsa appear on a giant snowflake with nobody else at all; and Aladdin and Jasmine seem a thousand miles away high up on the castle while all the performers dance below them (they are pretty hard to photograph through all the banner waving, too). I'm not really criticising as much as it would seem, because it is a great show. The music is good, the costumes are amazing and of course the performers give it their all. I just feel that perhaps it could have a little more connectivity between the characters and scenes.
Before I move on to the next thing, I wanted to add something about viewing the castle show(s) (daytime and nighttime alike). For some reason, even though this is a brand new park, Disney still seem to want to make it difficult for people to see their shows! After all the recent work they did on Central Plaza in the Magic Kingdom to make it more accessible and visible, they then build Shanghai Disneyland with large trees and light pole in the most inconvenient places! Yes, I know, to some degree those things cannot be helped, but I really felt that wherever we stood, we had some sort of obstacle in our way - why?! The park is brand new! It is odd to say the least (it's a pretty view, though).
Next let's take a look at the main day parade, Mickey's Storybook Express. I'll say it one more time - for a park that has no train running around the perimeter, they certainly make a big deal about trains! I know trains play an important part in connecting Disney history with Walt, but boy does this park love to roll out the train references!
Anyway, the parade is nice, but that's as far as I'll go with it. It isn't spectacular or even special really, in any way. It features the same characters you can find world-over, and they don't even have any special costumes for this park. The most disappointing thing of all for us was that Mulan's float was missing for our entire trip! When we asked about it (several times, to be sure), and we always got the same reply - it is broken! Yes, this three month old parade already had to ditch a float because it broke. Apparently they are awaiting a part from Florida, but we were also told that could take an indeterminable amount of time. It was disappointing not to see Mulan while in China, especially since she doesn't appear in parades anywhere else.
Finally we come to the nighttime spectacular, "Ignite the Dream: A Nighttime Spectacular of Magic and Light." But we'll just call it Ignite the Dream for short.
Ignite the Dream was pretty cool, but was really a rehash of World of Color and Disney Dreams!, which was somewhat underwhelming. Yes, it has unique elements to it, yes it was cool, but I would have liked to have seen some truly different material. In some parts you can virtually see where they replace Shadow (from Dreams!) with Mickey; they practically dump Mickey right over the top of him! I'm glad I saw it once, and we waited a while for a fairly decent spot, but I wouldn't make as much effort again.
While I might come across as a little critical in this part of my report, don't underestimate how much fun I had experiencing any of what I have talked about above. The park is so different, so refreshing, so modern and so clean, that every experience we had was just as thrilling as doing it all for the very first time as a young child. The Gardens didn't meet my expectations, but they are pretty, and do contain some neat things to do. We always love parades and shows, and again, while they aren't my favourite ones ever, the shows and parades here were something fresh and different, and I enjoyed them immensely.
In the next part of my report, we will venture into Tomorrowland! Look out for that in the coming days.
Have a great day everyone,