Disneyland Shanghai

The International Association of Amusement Parks and Attractions (IAAPA) hosts a series of valuable international conferences and expos. The IAAPA Asian Attractions Expo 2016 was held in Shanghai at the Shanghai New International Expo Centre (SNIEC) in mid-June, including a reception on the evening of opening day of Disneyland Shanghai, and a day visit to the park on Day 2.

This new Disney Park is the largest park in area, has the largest castle, and is distinctly Chinese (yes, including the majority of washroom facilities and many of the dining options). Like other parks with Downtown Disney and Disney Springs, Shanghai has Disneytown outside its gates. In addition to Mickey and his closest friends, and Asian favourite Duffy the Disney Bear, there are several merchandise ranges featuring Disney characters corresponding to the lunar calendar.

The park opened with a relatively limited number of rides, particularly given its massive area, but further expansion is already underway, and the opening day lineup included some game changers. The relatively new Seven Dwarfs Mine Train from the Magic Kingdom is repeated here. The classic Peter Pan’s Flight tells the same story with extensive new technologies for the effects. Carousel, spinner, boats present and accounted for. Parades, pyrotechnics, and castle projection show also well executed. But the real story for me is Pirates of the Caribbean and TRON Lightcycle Power Run.

POTC is a classic Disney ride that inspired a movie series, which inspired a reimagining of the park ride, and so on. The Shanghai POTC is otherworldly. This version is widely believed to be an implementation of underwater control of boats rather than water flow propulsion. Boats are positioned to direct the riders’ attention to scenery and screens at specific points of the ride, and even travel backwards. (The backwards travel was reminiscent of the former Maelstrom of Epcot Norway , and passing by the “night time” restaurant diners resembled Gran Fiesta Tour of Epcot Mexico). Like many new blockbuster attractions, POTC uses huge, vivid screens to immerse riders in scenes of the story. The Shanghai version seems to pick up where previous POTC story left off, with the jailed pirates and dog with the keys now skeletons, and takes the rider on a spectacular journey. For those without a visa or travel budget to China, or who don’t mind spoilers, enjoy it from a distance through POV videos on the internet.


The TRON Lightcycle Power Run is part of a completely reimagined Tomorrowland. Designed to work particularly at night, this land plays with contours, light, and motion to create an ambience of the future, or perhaps Space, or both. In addition to the TRON ride, the land includes themed quick service dining, a spinner with a jetpack seat design, and a disco with DJ. TRON is a Vekoma motorcycle roller coaster with kneeling seat position and restraint pressed against your back – a good human factors approach to making it thrilling as well as safe. Also clever that the Cycle wheels turn white when the restraint is closed, showing at a glance which riders are not yet secured. The Cycle even has a little bin for your glasses so you are not deprived of your prescription while you pass all the rider information video and awesome special effects in the queue (like the wall that is a window!) For accessibility, at least one train of Cycles has a little car that can accept riders transferring from wheelchairs, who are unable to adopt the kneeling position.


For a video clip of TRON Lightcycles passing under the outdoor show building overhang, see my tweet.

Both are stunning, but most give the edge to POTC. However, for same day re-ride, you cannot beat TRON.


Author: Kathryn Woodcock

Dr. Kathryn Woodcock is Professor at Toronto Metropolitan University, teaching, researching, and consulting in the area of human factors engineering / ergonomics particularly applied to amusement rides and attractions (https://thrilllab.blog.ryerson.ca), and to broader occupational and public safety issues of performance, error, investigation and inspection, and to disability and accessibility.