A mere few hours ago, my adventures in Shanghai Disneyland sadly came to an end. After two days of exploring the park as part of their grand opening, it’s now time to think back and reflect on everything I saw. While I’m still processing my thoughts on the park overall and where it ranks on Disney’s resume, I thought I’d share some thoughts on each of their rides. (Note: while I was able to accomplish more than I thought I would, there were some rides I just didn’t get to. If I don’t mention them, then I didn’t experience them.)
Pirates of the Caribbean — Battle for the Sunken Treasure
Depending on who you talk to, this or the Tron coaster is the headliner of the park. For me, this is it. It was the only attraction that I got to do twice and I actually enjoyed it even more the second time.
When videos of this ride shot during trial operations went viral, there were mostly two camps of people: those who thought it was amazing and those who criticized what they deemed an excessive use of screens. While I didn’t watch the videos (why spoil it for myself?), I can imagine they might give you the impression that screens are a bigger part of the ride than they really are. Yes, they are an important aspect, but they are blended perfectly and aren’t relied upon solely.
To say that this is just a screens-based ride is to say nothing of the impressively massive set pieces, the enhanced motions and moves the ride vehicles make (rotating to the side and, eventually, backwards), the top-of-the-line Audio-Animatronics, or the convincing effects that accompany those projections. Believe me when I tell you they all work perfectly together to make this an outstanding attraction I could ride over and over. That’s why this was my favorite ride in the park.
TRON Lightcycle Power-Run
If Pirates isn’t your top pick, then this probably is. In place of Space Mountain, Shanghai Disneyland’s Tomorrowland allows you to straddle a lightcycle and blast off into the world of Tron. This high-speed coaster is not only thrilling and dazzling but also not as uncomfortable or awkward to ride as you might think.
The ride vehicles for Tron are creative, fun and actually not that hard to get into. Sure, as you wait behind the yellow line, they may seem a bit intimidating at first, but somehow as soon as you climb on it just makes sense. Next, be sure to hold on tight and this launches off pretty quickly.
As for the scenery, it’s amazing how effective some blue neon can be as this ride looks awesome. After a quick loop outside, you head in for what could be compared to Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster. But you’re not there long as this ride is surprisingly (and perhaps mercilessly, for some) short. As a result, I didn’t even feel a touch of the headache I normally get from coasters of this caliber. I only wish I got to ride it at night as well, but watching others ride while standing in Tomorrowland was the next best thing.
Before you ever board this attraction, it feels familiar. If you’ve ever done Grizzly River Run or Kali River Rapid, you’ve more or less experienced about 75% of this ride. However, what makes this unique is the large (apparently somewhat-stubborn) Audio-Animatronic that greets you on your journey. Another major difference is that I don’t think anyone in our raft got more than a few errant drops of water on them. While I enjoyed this ride and I’m glad I got to experience it, it was far from making the top of my list.
Soaring Over the Horizon
Let’s face it — it would be hard to screw up this attraction. The original proved to be a perfect idea that is only improved upon by widening its scope. Best of all, this is one that those in America can now experience as well… without the strange Adventure Isle theming that gives the queue more of an Indiana Jones feel than anything else.
The only controversy that surrounded this ride in my party was the use of transitions between scenes. Some enjoyed them to the hard cuts of the original while others (like me) found them to be a bit annoying and even distracting at times. Still, with fantastic new sights to see and more motion than the original, this was a no-brainer hit.
Buzz Lightyear Planet Rescue
While we could talk all day about how this ride keeps popping up in Tomorrowland even if it doesn’t quite belong there, it’s more fun to talk about how it compares to those previous attractions. For me, the increase in technology that includes new target, vibrating blasters, and some cool set-pieces make this an easy #1. With Space Ranger Spin and Astro Blasters growing a little long in the tooth, this is a fantastic upgrade that could and should be rolled out to the domestic parks. Of course, in time, this will likely experience some of the same issues those other versions do, but for now it’s great fun and a great improvement.
Peter Pan’s Flight
This was a must-do for me seeing as the Disneyland version ranks as my favorite attraction. However, after riding this, the original is safe in my book. I did appreciate that their Neverland fly-over room was similar to the classic one, but it seemed to have less stars than Anaheim’s, making it somewhat underwhelming. The rest of the attraction was different but not to a shocking or truly notable degree. Overall, it’s a great version of a great attraction but nothing essential for visitors.
Seven Dwarfs Mine Train
Having only been on Magic Kingdom’s version once, it’s hard to say if this was actually different or not. While it felt longer (the coaster part), I suspect it’s probably just a clone and I’m crazy. Either way, it’s a fun attraction but not one Floridians or WDW regulars should feel a need to do while overseas.
Voyage to the Crystal Grotto
Before hitting the big E-tickets Shanghai Disneyland had to offer, my friends and I decided to do this small boat ride to prime us for our adventures. This Storybookland Canal Boat-esque rides takes you past scenes from some Disney classics complete with music and water effects as you make your way to the Crystal Grotto located under the massive castle. It was cute, fun, and perfect for a first ride, but wasn’t quite as charming as I would have hoped. In fact, I think I actually enjoyed the Fairy Tale Forrest walk-through at Hong Kong Disneyland. Still, getting to go under the castle is a unique experience that I did get absolutely giddy about.
That’s it for now, but stay tuned for plenty more from Shanghai Disneyland including reviews of some of the shows and other attractions as well as an in-depth review of the park overall.
Kyle is a writer living in Springfield, MO. His deep love of Disney and other pop culture finds its way into his stories, scripts, and tweets. His first book “The E-Ticket Life: Stories, Essays, and Lessons Learned from My Decidedly Disney Travels” is available in paperback and for Kindle. http://amzn.to/1CStAhV