Monday 25 February 2013

Disney Castles - The problem with Shanghai's Enchanted Storybook Castle

Today on my blog I'm going to have a rant. This is entirely my own opinion. You have been warned.

Every Disney Theme Park resort that has been or is currently being constructed contains their own Magic Kingdom style park. Each of these parks are unique, even though they have distinct similarities. At the centre of each of these parks is a castle. These castles act as the centre piece and unofficial icon of their parks.

It is very well documented that when Walt designed Disneyland he wanted a 'Weenie' at the end of Main Street to pull crowds into the park. He chose Sleeping Beauty's Castle as that centre. When designing the Magic Kingdom at WDW they decided they wanted something bigger and more extravagant, and thus Cinderella's Castle was built.

So far so good. Two parks with two unique  beautiful centerpieces.

Then came Tokyo Disney. From what I understand of the planning of Tokyo Disneyland, they were very short on time and basically cut out what they saw as the best parts of the first 2 Magic Kingdoms and stuck then in one park. So Tokyo Disneyland got an exact copy of Cinderella Castle. This in my view was the first mistake.

When it was time to build Disneyland Paris, WDI made what I think was a half good decision. They recognized that the castles they had built in the US had been European in style and they would be less unique in Paris. So they built 'Le Ch√Ęteau de la Belle au Bois Dormant'. A new bigger version of Sleeping Beauty's Castle.

Hardly revolutionary thinking. I guess there must only be 2 Disney movies that have castles in them. That makes sense, you only ever see 2 Disney princesses. Right?

So Disney again got the chance to build a Magic Kingdom park in Honk Kong. And they built... a carbon copy of Sleeping Beauty's Castle from Disneyland. The claim was that it was cheap.

For those keeping score it's 3-2 Sleeping Beauty over Cinderella.

When I heard that Shanghai Disney was really going to happen I was over the moon. My first thought was, is it finally going to be 3-3? Then came the rumor that it would be a brand new center castle. Brilliant! A new iconic movie castle. Maybe from a Disney classic? Or a modern movie. Personally I was hoping for Princess Jasmine's palace from Aladdin. Sure it's not Chinese but how popular are the European castles in the two US Parks.

Imagine my disappointment at discovering that the new castle would be an Enchanted Storybook Castle and that all the princess would live there. What a failure. Talk about design by committee. Death by a thousand cuts. I can't believe that WDI couldn't come up with something better than that. I'm sure it will look cool, but it doesn't mean anything. It doesn't make me want to visit the park. It is the kind of generic bland theming that belongs in a steel coaster amusement park.

I'm sure there will be lots of amazing aspects to this new park. It makes me sad that with such a big investment that something so simple kills my excitement for it. It's too late for Shanghai. But next Magic Kingdom wherever it is built, let's hope we get a new iconic and specific center castle.

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