My Day at the Shanghai Disneyland Grand Re-Opening
I saw first hand what Shanghai Disneyland has changed in the name of health
Today was the day that all Disney enthusiasts have been looking forward to for a very long time.
After months of closure, the very first Disney park to re-open after the coronavirus pandemic was Shanghai Disneyland, paving the way for all other parks to follow.
This re-opening has given hope to everyone that perhaps soon their own local Disney park will re-open in grand style.
I was very excited to be part of this historic moment, so I booked my ticket within an hour of the online box office going live and secured myself a front row seat to the action.
For the sake of everyone who is morbidly curious of the precautions arranged for guests before they entered the park, I will now detail them below.
Entering the park meant going through a lot of checkpoints, but luckily they were well organised so we had no trouble getting through them quickly.
The first checkpoint was a walk-through tent that somehow checked our temperature as we walked through it. When we arrived outside the tent, we were ushered to the second checkpoint where we were asked to show our health codes.
In case you don’t know, here in China, we all have either green or red QR codes that display our risk of having contracted coronavirus.
If we’ve travelled to an infected area or done anything deemed “risky” our green codes would turn red.
My brother and I have done nothing risky nor travelled, so after we showed off our green codes it was time to move to the third checkpoint.
At this one we were asked to show screenshots from the registration website that would prove we had reserved a spot for entry, and that we were entering at the time allocated to us.
After proving our reservations, we were allowed to go to the regular Disney park security point.
Here our bags were checked, then we were allowed to go to the turnstile where our annual passes and passports were checked. (Passports are the only valid form of ID for foreigners in China).
So after 10 minutes and several stops, we were in! We soaked in the music, breathed in the Disney air, then looked around at all the nothing.
Because of the health limitations set by the government, there was a lot stripped away from the regular Disney experience.
No parades, no indoor shows, no fireworks, and no character meet and greets.
There was one character experience that was clearly well intended, but was cringy to say the least.
Unlike the other parks, Shanghai Disneyland has a Pirates of the Caribbean land called Shipwreck Cove that is designed to look like the fictional island of Tortuga from the film franchise.
From one of the Tortuga rooftops in Shipwreck Cove, Captain Jack Sparrow could be seen performing a seemingly improvised show that felt a lot like the kids shows you can spot at the Oceaneers Lab on a Disney Cruise.
Captain Jack was in some kind of trouble and needed the audience to help him find some things that he’d lost.
They were presumably sprinkled around the adjacent rooftops, and it was our job to point them out. But the audience was no help to poor Jack at all.
I’ll admit that I don’t really know if this was actually the premise of the show, my brother and I spent the entire time bitching about his lack of… shall we say… Depp-ness.
The only people in the crowd (besides us) who could understand him were the littlest kids who are forced to take English classes at school, and they had no interest in yelling anything other than YO HOOOOOO!
So Jack had to find his own missing nick-nacks and continue to clown around in front of a crowd of hot and uninterested guests.
Far more exciting than the Captain Jack performance was the one show that was scheduled for today, the regular outdoor castle show ‘Mickey’s Fairytale Fanfare’ which had two scheduled performances for the day.
What struck me as strange was the fact that they kept the regular amount of performers in the show (an enormous amount), and kept all the very physically intimate choreography.
Dozens of dancers were strutting their stuff in very close proximity, so all I could think was if even one dancer has the virus, they’re all screwed.
We were much safer from the pavement where we were standing for the show.
The audience was arranged by the Disney staff (or cast-members in Disney speak) and instructed to stand on markings on the ground.
There were more than enough markings on the ground for everyone because… and I can’t stress this enough… there was almost no-one at the park today.
Probably the reason why the grand opening felt a lot less grand than it could have otherwise felt is because of attendance.
They sold out every ticket for the day, and according to news outlets, the limit set by authorities was for one third of regular capacity.
However, while this capacity was probably the limit set by the government, it was not the limit decided upon by Disney itself. Disney slashed attendance to near zero.
I’m not at all surprised that tickets have sold out all week long, because as far as I could tell, there was only a few hundred other people in the park all day.
If the daily limit is bloody 400 people, then it’s not surprising why so many people were unable to get their way in today.
Even the most popular rides had almost no wait time, and those that did have a queue had very short wait times.
Of all the precautions Disney took before opening the park, none were more prevalent than the widely ignored floor markings.
They were in all the ride queues, anywhere outside that could have a show or something interesting to see, and in restaurants as well.
The hundreds of markings on the ground usually came with a couple of cast members who’s job it was to enforce them.
In some places the cast-members were very diligent in forcing guests to comply, but not everywhere.
On the Pirates of the Caribbean ride (it’s a sequel to the U.S version and better in every way), there are three queue lines; but today the middle one was closed.
Inside the middle queue line were cast-members walking up and down policing the two adjacent lines.
They’d eye the floor and make sure we were all standing in the correct places, if we stood in the wrong spot, they kindly remind us to move in either Chinese or English language.
The cast-members did a really good job staying calm and friendly as they reminded people for the millionth time to stand on the clearly marked places on the ground.
The system wasn’t perfect though, and there were lots of locations where people crowded together and there was no way of policing it.
In stores and restaurants there were people everywhere pushing past each other, pulling their masks down to drink Coke, and touching absolutely everything.
While enforced restrictions and very low attendance made it possible to keep a good distance from people, I have a feeling that guests who are used to being in crowded places found a way to huddle together in spaces where keeping a distance would have been possible.
Judging from what I saw today, I don’t think that American parks will want to replicate the system engineered by Shanghai Disneyland.
I think the virus could easily be passed along with this system, because it was still too easy for people to bunch together and touch each other and the things around them.
While I saw lots of hand sanitiser, it wasn’t everywhere, and it wasn’t being used.
I think for the US parks to feel safe, they’d have to think of more innovative ways of keeping their guests away from each other.
Also, I hope they’ll find a way to keep the parades and shows going, even during times of restriction; because it’s these touches that make a Disney park what it is.
Disney can’t compete with other parks if it’s only offering rides, because none of Disney’s rides are the fastest, funnest, or most extreme.
It’s the characters, the memories, the atmosphere, the theming and most of all the shows and parades that make the Disney difference.
So while the rides were fun today, just walking around and listening to the music and enjoying the theming was definitely the high point of my day.
Is that worth the price of admission? Certainly not, but since I have an annual pass, it was well worth my time.