“Um…is this Disneyland?” our reporter asks a construction worker. “Sure is!” he replies.

She looks around. The first Disney park in mainland China, Shanghai Disneyland is scheduled to open next year. But all our reporter, a writer from our Japanese sister site, can see is a dirty river and barren land. No rides, no hotel, no lake, no scaffolding for Cinderella’s castle … Can this really be Shanghai Disneyland?

Join us after the jump as we go on a photographic journey to Shanghai’s version of The Happiest Place on Earth (If They Ever Finish It).

Plans for the new park were announced in 2007 and construction (well, the groundbreaking at least) began in 2011. It’s scheduled to open in late 2015, and the budget currently stands at US$5.5 billion. So how’s that construction work coming along? our reporter had wondered. Three years into the four-year building process, things must be looking pretty exciting, right? Disneyland must be taking shape!! Right?

Our story begins as most adventures do these days – with Google Maps.

Our reporter scours the publicity material for the new resort. Shanghai Disney Resort is a 963-acre site (that’s 2-3 times the size of its Hong Kong equivalent) and is located in the snappily titled Shanghai International Tourism and Resorts Zone, in the Pudong district.

df75615a-f23d-43b1-9200-d3b63efc6037Shanghai International Tourism and Resorts Zone

The main problem was, with the park not yet open, she couldn’t find much in the way of specific information, or even an address. But she did find this basic map:


Piecing together the info from the materials available to her – and cross-referencing with a map of the planned subway expansion – our reporter concludes that the resort is about 20 minutes from Shanghai Pudong airport. But how to get there? The subway hasn’t been built yet, and she couldn’t even find a taxi! The only available route was this bus with no apparent timetable.

▼ “This way to the Magic Kingdom!” … is what this sign does not say.


▼ “Oh well”, she thinks. “Let’s get on the bus and see what happens!” Which I can confirm is a pretty good start to any adventure.


“The nearest stop to Disneyland, please!” she tells the local bus driver, who told her where to get off. And not in a “you crazy, it’s not open yet” kind of way – he obligingly informed her of the correct stop. At least, she thought he did…

▼Getting off the bus. “This is Disneyland!? It’s just a farm or something!”


▼ “There’s… nothing here!!!!!”


▼ “Just this weird river!”


Just as our reporter was beginning to think that Disney (and indeed the internet?) was just screwing with her, these gates loomed into view! At last, something vaguely theme park-esque!

▼ They don’t look exactly like regular Disney gates, but it’s a start.


▼ “We had arrived at the Shanghai International Tourism and Resorts Zone!  Yayyy!!”


▼ Oh.


▼ “Whe–where’s Mickey?”


Our reporter even began to doubt the knowledge base – and intentions – of the bus driver and construction worker who had shown her the way and confidently informed her that this was Disneyland. But nope, this is definitely the site for the theme park.

▼ It’s just a little empty – it’s still good, it’s still good!


Inside the gates, she spotted some mysterious plants being grown. Could these be luscious greenery for the magic kingdom?


▼Foundations for Cinderella’s castle. Maybe.


Try as she might, our reporter couldn’t see any way that this site is going to be ready in time for next year. “Perhaps it just looks different to my untrained eyes,” she wondered to herself hopefully. Maybe there’s some kind of Disney miracle in the works, and it turns out they’re going to airlift in the entire resort from Anaheim or something.

On the other hand, we have seen and heard about super-fast Chinese construction work going on before… Let’s just hope they won’t be cutting any corners to meet that deadline.

▼Shanghai Disney: Coming soon(?)

stories-welcome-to-the-shanghai-disney-resort-hero2Shanghai Disney Resort

Sources: Shanghai International Tourism and Resorts Zone (1, 2)
Images: RocketNews24 except where otherwise stated.
[ Read in Japanese ]