Shanghai Disneyland and the End of Civilization: Welcome to Thunderdome.

Society has collapsed. Mob rule, bedlam and anarchy are the norm. Unnamed vandals and costumed thugs roam the lawless streets; unruly clans devour every inch of space squeezing the life out of the remaining panicked innocents. The once pristine land has been laid to waste, water is in short supply and the unflinching heat shows no mercy as the polluted skies are ablaze

Welcome to Shanghai Disneyland!

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If you did not purchase your tickets online in advance you may be out of luck.

It may sound like “Mad Max: Hell Takes a Vacation” but if we are to believe the early reports from the soft opening of Shanghai Disneyland anyone foolish enough to venture within a five mile radius of the place better be well equipped with zombie busting chainsaws, spiked shoulder pads and enough face paint to scare off any post apocalypse survivors (I’m already bald so I have that going for me). Only the bravest of the brave or perhaps the most foolish of the foolhardy would even consider visiting Shanghai Disneyland at this early stage; yes folks Parkeology is going to take a field trip!

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The Happiest Place on Earth!

Long before the opening date for Shanghai Disneyland was announced Shane, myself and our families had independently planned trips to Tokyo and of course the Tokyo Disney Resort (which I generally consider to be the best in the world). Once we realized that we were going at nearly the same time our schedules were adjusted and coordinated so that we would be visiting at the same time.

Cool, wonderful, a dream come true and then Disney announced the June 16th opening date for the Shanghai resort, this overlaps when we will be in Tokyo, a mere 3 hour flight away. Plans were changed again. While Shane will luxuriate in the splendor of the Japanese parks for the duration of his trip my half of the Parkeology team will depart early and head to Shanghai.

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Shanghai Disneyland has many specific Chinese touches such as this tea house.

All was well and good until the park’s soft opening began and we got reports of hundreds of thousands of excited and confused Chinese tourists overwhelming the park’s infrastructure. Photos of huge snaking lines extending for hours simply to get a glimpse of a Disney Store emerged. We saw images of trampled flowerbeds and toddlers relieving themselves in the bushes. I started to think that perhaps we have made a mistake. Going from hyper organized Tokyo to reportedly chaotic Shanghai was not sounding like too much fun. There is no doubt that I have some trepidation about our new itinerary but then I remembered a few things.

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Yes, garbage was left in the grass… but it was hardly the “trashing” we read so much about.

This is continuing a long tradition of attending the grand opening periods of new parks for me. I was at Epcot in 1982, I was at Disney-MGM Studios in 1989, we were at the grand opening of Animal Kingdom in 1998, and we visited Disney’s California Adventure and Tokyo Disney Sea during the Grand Openings as well. We coincidentally were in Hong Kong in 2005 and were able to visit Hong Kong Disneyland within days of the gates swinging open. The opening of a new Disney park is a big deal, things change quickly and there is always a sort of electric excitement during the early goings. They are seldom smooth and they always have bumps to work out but considering how much hype the Shanghai park has and the larger than average scale they have built it on it is worth continuing the Grand Opening streak.

Disneyland Opening

Disenyland had perhaps the worst opening a park coudl imagine.

Unlike Disney-MGM Studios, Animal Kingdom, California Adventure and Hong Kong Disneyland Shanghai Disneyland appears to have enough to do to fill a couple days (even without the unavoidable massive lines). Sure, Tokyo Disney Sea opened with a full slate of fantastic attractions and has added more in it’s first decade and a half but after the debacle of Euro-Disney Disney started building tiny parks void of major attractions.

Disney-MGM Studios had 6 attractions on opening day with exactly ONE ride and a tram-tour; the other 4 attractions were relatively small-scale shows.

Animal Kingdom had 12 attractions (not bad) but Other than Countdown to Extinction (Dinosaur) and Kilimanjaro Safari the rest were shows, walking tours or forms of transportation.

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Shanghai Disneyland not only has a decent mix of attractions but some of them look like this…

California Adventure took a new approach and opened with an impressive sounding 24 attractions, more than most parks have even after decades of operation. However a closer examination reveals that tortilla shops, bakeries and a slew of off-the-shelf stock carnival rides counted towards the total. Once again and perhaps more obvious then ever (after all the previous parks had wonderful environments while this park was more or less a barren wasteland) this was a park with perhaps 2-4 legit attractions depending on how generous one wants to be.

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…Instead of this.

Hong Kong Disneyland hit the scene with a great atmosphere nestled in a valley and surrounded by mountains but boasting only 15 attractions made up of a couple larger scale rides and filled in with shows and smaller scale attractions such as the Tea Cups. Furthermore none of them were new or unique to this park and many of the repeats were done on a smaller scale than previous renditions. The park itself was also tiny.

I’m not even going to mention Disney Studios Paris that was and remains such a deeply embarrassing effort by Disney that it is truly best forgotten altogether.

I enjoyed the opening of each of these parks despite the dearth of legitimate E-Ticket rides. Even California Adventure (by far the weakest of these at opening) held it’s fair share of fun for me.

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The Shanghai Disneyland concept art looks great… but concept art often lies…

Now lets look at Shanghai Disneyland. On opening day they are claiming the same number of attractions as California Adventure, 24. Of those 4-6 appear to be legit E-Tickets with two of them (Tron and Pirates) setting new benchmarks in their respective categories. Others are expanded and improved versions of classics (such as Peter Pan). The remaining attractions hold a solid mix of medium level rides such as a new version of Buzz Lightyear or an all-new boat ride launching from the castle. Add to that a mix of new shows and the very grand scale of the park and it appears on paper that this will be the best park at launch since Tokyo Disney Sea. In fact one could make a very sound argument that there wil be more legitimate things to do at Shanghai Disneyland than there is to do right now at Animal Kingdom, Disney Hollywood Studios, Disney Studios Paris, Hong Kong Disneyland and even Disneyland Paris; all of which have been opened for many years.There may be maddening lines and even unruly crowds who are not familiar with theme park etiquette but at least there will be stuff for them to see and do!

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…Though in this case perhaps not.

Additionally some of these early chaotic reports smack a bit of racism painting the Chinese to be uneducated and undisciplined savages set loose to ravage Disneyland with ignorant abandon. The truth is that Shanghai is one of the most international and cosmopolitan cities on earth. The infrastructure of Shanghai will put to shame any and all cities in the United States and most of the world for that matter.

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The mag-lev train in Shanghai goes 267 MPH… how long was your train ride to work?

China is the second wealthiest country in the world and it’s growth rate far, far exceeds that of the United States. This is not a country of barbaric fools but rather one of the oldest cultures on earth extending thousands of years beyond that of our own and filled with a lot of excited fans with an unprecedented pent up demand for the product Disney has to offer.

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Yea, this is a real dump.

In Disneyland Paris I have seen toddlers roaming naked in stores as parents change diapers in full view of other park guests. I’m not talking about in or even near a bathroom or other private location. I mean literally in the middle of a jam crowded store with hundreds and hundreds of people streaming about. I have also seen people climb trees, trample flowers and generally destroy their surroundings at Disneyland Paris in attempts to get a better view of a parade.

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Crowds are nothing new…

In the U.S. parks I have seen hundreds of examples of slovenly and flat out dangerous guest behavior ranging from blatantly throwing copious amounts of garbage on walkways to vomiting in public to drunken brawls and worse. In fact the worst guest behaviors I have ever seen can all be attributed to various American guests (USA! USA! USA! We’re #1!!!!!!!). Ignorance, foolishness and unawareness are not unique to China.

And so as we inch towards the grand opening and our synchronized trips I do have my concerns but I also have a lot of excitement and anticipation. I know that Tokyo Disney will be great, it always is, but I wonder what exactly I am getting us into with Shanghai.

At the worst we will get to say that we were there for the grand opening (in this case we go two weeks after the actual first day but still within what Disney is considering the Grand Opening period). At best the park and the population will surprise and delight us with their ability to both handle the crowds and themselves. In either case it will be an experience unlike any we have had before.

50 Greatest Park Characters: Animal Instincts

Although todays cards are awesome if you missed the previous 5 click here or of you are new to these classic trading cards click here to start from the beginning.

This set of the 50 Greatest Park Characters of All Time trading cards has featured teenage infatuations, sidekicks, Disneylanders and many more. Today I chose five cards that hit Disney’s sweet spot: non-human characters.

Disney is best known for its animal characters; mice, ducks, lions or dogs they run the gamut of the animal kingdom. But the parks are no strangers to other creatures as well, some of our favorites (many already listed) are feathered, furry or from a galaxy far, far away.

Up first is a character who is lesser-known in the United States but who is a verified star in Japan:

Chandu 50 greatest Park Characters

Chandu (an almost obnoxiously cute tiger cub) co-stars with Sinbad at his eponymously named Tokyo Disney Sea attraction. It wasn’t always this way. When the park first opened the Sinbad attraction was much more sinister causing kawaii loving Tokyoites to stay away in droves. A few years later Chandu was brought in, the tone of the attraction was lightened and a contagious (some would say that not in a good way) theme song was added.

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Today Chandu can be found featured on everything from popcorn buckets to household cleaning devices (a sort of feather duster featuring Chandu’s tail as a handle). Speaking of his tail, it can be purchased as a snack! The “Chandu Tail” is an elaborate steamed bun that is very popular and has a following all it’s own.

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Catch the tiger by his tail… and eat it.

The next characters are no strangers to having loyal fans. The designers of these cards appear to have cheated just a little bit by lumping all three of the taxidermy heads from the Country Bear Jamboree into one mega-card.

Melvin, Max, Buff 50 greatest Park Characters

Melvin, Max and Buff may share one card but they each have distinct personalities and are a beloved part of the show. These three were so popular that at one time they were featured outside the attraction at the Mile Long Bar next door. Their removal from that fast service location is one of the earliest and best (or is it worst?) example of Disney deteriorating the in park experience.

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Speaking of needless removals we come to out next card:

Pirate Parrot 50 greatest Park Characters

The Pirate Parrot was best known for being perched outside of The Pirates of the Caribbean at Walt Disney World for several decades before Johnny Depp had him booted out. He actually started his career inside the attraction at the unload station before being relocated for the first time. After he was removed from the pirate ride altogether he made an appearance at the World of Disney for a few years, now he is sadly lost in time.

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Our next card showcases a character that not only has eluded removal but has actually expanded his park presence.

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Harold, The Abominable Snowman 50 greatest Park Characters

Harold is the unofficial name of the yeti that has been stalking guests on Disneyland’s Matterhorn attraction for many years. He may be humanoid but he is no human!

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Harold has gone through several permutations since his arrival but currently looks better than ever.

The same can probably not be said for our final card of the day.

Skippy 50 greatest Park Characters

Skippy was one of the highlights of the original Alien Encounter pre-show. Once Stitch took control of the attraction Skippy was diminished to bit player. Still he left a big impression with park visitors and deserves a spot on this list (though I wonder why the actual Alien of the same attraction was oddly left off).

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Come to think about it I bet there are more non-human park characters of note then there are humans. Animals, aliens, monsters, mythological creatures and more make up a rich tapestry of original creations that have come to shape the parks for generations.

We only have ten characters to go! Stay tuned next week when Shane posts 5 more cards to see if your favorite made the cut.

50 Greatest Park Characters: Aztec Heat

Last week Shane showcased another five of his favorite cards RIGHT HERE.

As I have discussed in the past I was around 14 when EPCOT Center opened. As an adolescent boy my hormones were raging like bulls in Pamplona, out of control and seeking something to gore. Unfortunately I was also a Disney fan and the parks offered precious little in the way of tantalizing and enticing images that a teen boy may be longing to see.

There was however one exception, one magical moment housed in the most unlikely of places that, shall we say, always got a rise out of me.

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It was only a movie that played in my dreams but what is inside that pyramid certainly was HOT.

Within the Mexico Pavilion of World Showcase was the otherwise unremarkable “Rio Del Tiempo” boat ride. It never knew quite what it wanted to be; a little bit “It’s a Small World”, a touch of “Pirates of the Caribbean” and a dash of “If You Had Wings”, it is debatable how well those disparate elements blended together. Regardless, after cruising past a lovely Mayan pyramid perpetually backlit by a purple setting sun guests entered a chamber showcasing Mexico’s “ancient times”. As they rounded the turn screens featured recreations of ceremonies and rituals… and then on the main screen, there she was!

A beautifully exotic women with tanned skin, bare feet, a perfect smile and an exposed midriff. She gyrated and pulsated with the power of a thousand suns. She was stunning; the highlight of any trip to World Showcase, hell she may have been the highlight of any trip to Walt Disney World!

Therefore you can imagine just how excited I was to find out that The Aztec Dancer actually made the list of the Top 50 Greatest Park Characters of all time, well of course she did! Despite my best efforts I could never find her card “in the wild” forcing me to pay up for it on Ebay, I’m not going to tell you how much I dropped for her but it was worth every penny!

50 greatest park characters trading cards Aztec Dancer

The stuff of a teen boys dreams. You can have Figment, I’ll take her any day.

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I love the massive amount if in depth trivia this card has.

The rest of today’s cards cannot possibly compete with the first one but I do love this next one as well. Harrison Hightower is part of the fantastic Tokyo Disney Sea version of Tower of Terror. He is seen throughout the attraction including the pre-show and the queue and was the first over-seas character we saw featured on the cards.

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I’m not sure who the model for Hightower was but rest assured that he must have a very small ego.

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I have also written about these next two characters, you should check that out HERE. They may seem like an odd choice (and like the Aztec Dancer don’t have official names, or even species) but they have been featured in three different parks and a world’s fair… I love them.

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They chose to use an older photo of the dueling pair. I appreciate that. There is no reaosn to tart them up like prehistoric street walkers.

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Trader Sam also holds a soft spot in my heart since I used to work on the Jungle Cruise years ago. Of course I worked at WDW where (at that time) Trader Sam was called Trader Namé, but that’s a whole different story. At least he has an actual name and now bars as well!

50 greatest park characters trading cards Trader Sam

I prefer when he is pouring rum drinks.

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Finally is Dr. Grant Seeker, a character I always found somewhat annoying but that is probably the result of being trapped in a pre-show and forced to watch his spiel over and over and over again. He is memorable though and I appreciate that Disney wanted to spread the love around to characters from all the parks.

50 greatest park characters trading cards Dr Grant Seeker

Ok the first time you meet him, annoying by the third, excruciating thereafter.

50 greatest park characters trading cards Dr Grant Seeker Back

So that’s it for today’s update. Shane will be back next week with five more; believe it or not we are not even half way through the list of cards yet.

if you have missed any you can get back to the start of our list of the 50 Greatest Park Characters of all Time right HERE.