How we love a Disney park. If we have exhausted the American version, many thrill seekers like to visit the brother and sister parks around the world. Asia has three parks to add to the family and they have been met with mixed reviews.
Hong Kong was the first to open and has welcomed tens of millions of visitors since. Shanghai and Tokyo followed. However, there have been some issues. The cultural differences are definitely there when compared to the American parks. Guests have complained about rude staff, long lines and even urinating during the wait!
However, other aspects of the parks have won rave reviews. There are unique exhibits at each park that offer a new experience to seasoned Disney fans. The animatronics and virtual reality features have been praised as groundbreaking. Disney is a tried and tested formula that should work wherever it is set. It seems that language barriers and influences from host countries can contravene that all-American Disney charm in some ways.
Ultimately, the test will be the number of visitors who experience the park. The local populations love the Disney theme and the parks, but compared to the American and European parks, there are lessons to be learned by the Asian counterparts.
25 Overrated: Shanghai – Fireworks
The firework display is billed as a finale to a great day. It is scheduled to start at 8 pm, but the park is so crowded that it is necessary to get in place at least an hour before. The best spot is in front of the castle, but you will be lucky to get space there unless you are prepared for a long wait.
Some visitors reported that it was not so many fireworks as light projections and fountains instead.
24 Overrated: All Three Parks – Carousels
All the Disney parks have a carousel, it is a standard feature that harks back to its heritage. However, nowadays we go to Disney for the thrills and excitement and high adrenaline rides. The carousels are a little boring for the modern Disney visitor.
The Asian Disney parks are no exception. Although there may be shorter lines for the carousels, they are not for the thrill seekers.
23 Overrated: Hong Kong – Slinky Dog Zigzag Spin
We love Slinky Dog from Toy Story and if you want to see a massive replica of the famous character, you won’t be disappointed. However, the ride goes around and around and up and down a bit, but that is it. It might be a good option for the little ones who don’t mind queuing for a thrill-less experience, but otherwise, it is eminently missable.
Although to be fair, Slinky does bark, and you do get a Bark Pass as you are about to embark the ride.
22 Overrated: Shanghai – Star Wars Launch Bay
If you have visited the Star Wars features at the Disney in the US, you will be very disappointed by Shanghai’s version. It seems as if the Chinese don’t want you to visit it as the signage to get to the launch bay isn’t great.
There are very poor props compared to the other Disney exhibits and hardly any staff around to take pictures or build up the excitement. There is a Poe’s X-Wing though, which is fairly impressive, but a sadly disappointing gift shop.
21 Overrated: Hong Kong – Staff
Considering there are apparently 7,000 full and part time staff, or cast members according to HK Corporate, at Hong Kong’s Disneyland, they appear not to enjoy being there.
Visitors have reported the staff as the worst thing about the park and said that they were the worst cast members of any Disneyland resorts across the world. According to some guests, the staff were rude, shouted, did not respond to requests for help and told children off! Hardly the image Disney wants to project.
20 Overrated: Tokyo – Popcorn
For some reason, popcorn is big business at Tokyo’s Disney resorts. There are 25 carts selling the stuff with 11 different flavors and new ones being introduced regularly.
However, the popularity of the snack leads to long lines and the Chinese are not neat, polite line members. So, the wait is long and the snack is great, but not really worth the interminable wait. The prices are high according to Blog.disneygeek, and despite the map displaying the carts in detail, it seems a bit of a fuss about nothing.
19 Overrated: Tokyo – It’s a Small World
It’s a Small World is in every Disney park and the song that accompanies the ride stays in the head far longer than is healthy or desirable! The Tokyo version is the worst, according to visitors. The lines to buy tickets are almost as long as the lines for the rides, on average 100 minutes!
As the ride is aimed at young children, who are notoriously bad at waiting, it may not be worth the wait, never mind the song staying in the subconscious for months to come.
18 Overrated: Shanghai – the People Smoking
In America and Europe, we are used to having to walk for miles to find a tiny, tucked away smoking area in public spaces, especially at child-friendly Disney parks. However, in Shanghai, the smoking areas are in full view and breathing distance, according to Travel and Leisure.
There are also numerous No Smoking signs, even featured in every stall in every bathroom. People seem to flout the signs though and people were even spotted smoking in lines and in full public view by some guests.
17 Overrated: Shanghai – Four Hour Lines
We expect to wait for rides at Disney, but apparently, Shanghai is beyond a joke. The FastPass opportunities are not clearly signed or explained according to some visitors, so even the option to pay to get to the rides quicker might not be obvious.
For a day at the park, visitors can expect to spend the majority of their time in lines, some even extending to as much as four hours. Even the estimated times for waiting in line are inaccurate and can be much longer than suggested.
16 Overrated: Shanghai – Little English Translation
Many Disney parks offer translations of shows, signs, and instructions in other languages. However, in Shanghai, where the language is Chinese, there is little English translation, so it is hard to follow what is going on in shows and to work out where things are.
It is not even possible to guess a translation from the Chinese language as might be possible in a letter-based language, so it can be a little confusing for the enormous amount of English-speaking tourists who visit the park.
15 Overrated: Shanghai – Crowds and Crowd Management
Shanghai Disneyland is very busy. There is a huge number of visitors, and according to guests, there is not enough entertainment to absorb the numbers. This leads to huge crowds and lines for every exhibit, and the management of the crowds is not great.
People jump the lines and push, which does not help the atmosphere for people who have queued for hours to get to the ride they want. There are issues in areas like Mickey Avenue, where a rope is put up to stem the crowds, and then let down, which causes a dangerous stampede.
14 Overrated: Shanghai – Lack of Disney Charm
Shanghai, although new, seems to lack the charm of the other Disney parks. There doesn’t seem to be the magic that other parks have. The park is obviously in China, but the Chinese influence seems a little overdone.
The park is partly owned by the Chinese government and there is a lot of pure Chinese culture that detracts from the Disney feel. The shopping mall, in particular, has no real Disney feel to it, it feels like a mall in a Chinese city. There is a bare, rather unfinished feel to some areas, but generally, the whole Disney ambiance is not there.
13 Overrated: Shanghai - Gardens of Imagination
The very Chinese inspired space that is the Garden of Imagination is meant to be the hub of the park, but feels like an entity within itself, according to Madness Kingdom. It feels somewhat barren and devoid of the Disney charm and Americana that Disney devotees are used to.
Of course, it is a relief to have an oasis of calm amidst the madness of an overcrowded Disney park, but we don’t go to a Disney park to sit and reflect and experience peace and quiet, we go for thrills and fun.
12 Worth It: Hong Kong Mystic Manor
Mystic Manor is the mythical home of Lord Henry Mystic and guests ride around his home in electric carriages. There are eight galleries to visit during the tour of the manor, including the room of Egyptian Antiquities and the room of Tribal Art.
Expect the unexpected as you maneuver around the manor with enough thrills and spills to remind you that you are in a Disney park, and this is the only Mystic Manor in any Disney park. Two tips for this ride are to go early in the morning, it’s a long way from the entrance and wait for carriages one and two, you get the best experience.
11 Worth It: Hong Kong Big Grizzly Mountain Runaway Mine Cars
This Wild West train ride has been chosen as a favorite by many visitors. Board your train to experience the rollercoaster around Big Grizzly Mountain and be prepared for a few surprises, according to Dejiki.
The ride changes direction and goes backward and forwards, but lacks that scary, face-covering moment that some roller coasters have, but it makes it suitable for all ages. The ride goes inside and outside and features grizzly bears of course, and looks stunning when it is lit up at night.
10 Worth It: Hong Kong Iron Man Experience
The Iron Man Experience was Hong Kong’s first Marvel-themed feature and sets a high standard for any future Marvel endeavors. The highlight of the exhibit is a 3D simulator experience with digital surround sound and 3D projectors report Geek Culture.
Visitors can actually fly alongside Iron Man, who saves you from deadly foes, just like in the movies. A visit to the Iron Man shop is a must, you can enter an interactive game where you design your own Iron Man suit and wear it in the motion picture game.
9 Worth It: Hong Kong Jungle River Cruise
According to 4 All Things Disney, the Jungle River Cruise is not to be missed. It has a similar feel to other river rides in Disney, but if it works, why change it! The ride is full of fire and water explosions, so expect surprises.
You start the ride at Tarzan’s Treehouse and can watch him swinging through the trees as you ride past. You also enter a room filled with fog and you are surrounded, so that you can hardly see the person in front of you.
8 Worth It: Shanghai – Tron Lightcycle Power Run
Trip Savvy calls this Disney’s best coaster, and there are plenty who agree. It’s a dark ride and immerses guests in the Tron video game and combines the traditional thrills of a rollercoaster with themed stories along the way.
The light technology showcases the latest LED and includes an amazing roof canopy that mirrors the Grid in the Tron movies. It’s all blue lights and mirrors, experienced from a forward leaning position on a ‘scooter.’ Unique, thrilling and well worth the wait.
7 Worth It: Hong Kong Hyperspace Mountain
Hong Kong’s original Space Mountain is now Hyperspace Mountain. Explorers embark on a spaceship journey and take on a space battle, starting in hyperspace and then entering the depths of space itself.
You dodge laser blasts, fire your own shots and end up saving the galaxy, of course. The whole ride is epic, from the lighting to the soundtrack and all the way through, it’s a full-on Star Wars experience. You even get a personal thank you from Admiral Ackbar at the end.
6 Worth It: Shanghai – Pirates of the Caribbean
This boat-based ride surpasses its California counterpart according to Disney superfans. Firstly, guests enter a grotto, and despite the soundtrack being in Mandarin, the words of Jack Sparrow are unmistakable.
Around a corner you see the man himself, he emerges from a skeleton pirate thanks to Disney’s amazing animatronics. Thanks to magnets, the boats can turn, speed up and move backward as those on board watch the antics of the pirates all around. Watch out for the Kraken monster that emerges from the sea as the boats ‘sink’ to the bottom of the ocean.
5 Worth It: Hong Kong Mickey and the Wondrous Book Show
Visit the Storybook theatre to see this fantastic stage show. Although the dialogue is in Chinese, there are subtitles on a screen next to the stage, so you can follow what is going on.
The half-hour long show features Mickey and Goofy and a magic book that can bring stories to life. Olaf from Frozen pops out of the book and Mickey manages to fall into the book himself. We follow the journey through several well-known Disney stories before ending up in Frozen where Olaf is restored to his chilly home.
4 Worth It: Tokyo – Tower of Terror
You can’t miss this tower at Waterfront’s entrance, it is the tallest and grandest structure in the park. The mythical hotel is owned by Harrison Hightower III who aims to build bigger and better hotels in a fusion of architectures
However, this hotel has been abandoned and is now the Tower of Terror. Guests are invited to tour the tower to help ‘raise funds’ for its restoration and encounter all sorts of scary surprises along the way. The storytelling and shocks and thrills make this a must-see attraction.
3 Worth It: Tokyo – Journey to the Center of the Earth
On this ride, you will enter Captain Nemo’s undiscovered land under the earth in a thrilling ride that includes erupting volcanoes as you hurtle through caverns to find lands that Captain Nemo has never encountered before.
Be prepared for rugged terrain and sudden drops and changes in pace as you discover the underground tunnels. You’ll encounter bright crystals, a mushroom forest and gory creatures on your journey that is short but very, very sweet. Finally, you reach the Mysterious Island and you’re safe on dry land again.
2 Worth It: Tokyo – Big Thunder Mountain
Almost identical to the Florida sister ride, this indoor and outdoor ride meets all our expectations according to Disney parks. The Wild West-themed rollercoaster gives visitors a train ride where they will encounter scenes that depict the post-gold rush landscape.
Speed through the abandoned mine at great speed and enjoy the thrills along the way, including geyser pools that aren’t a feature of the American version. You will careen down the rocky mountain experiencing drops and turns along the way.
1 Worth It: Tokyo – Pooh’s Hunny Hunt
A must for any Winnie the Pooh fans, this ride takes you right through the world of this loveable bear and his loyal friends. This ride is well worth splashing out for a Fast Pass as you will really feel as if you are in the 100 Acre Wood with the loveable bunch.
You can bounce along with Tigger and join Pooh in his dream full of Heffalumps. It is easy to see why this is Fantasyland’s most popular spot.