In a bold and and virtually out of the blue announcement, Disney today announced a massive regeneration project for Hong Kong Disneyland.
The most shocking of all the details was by far the revelation of a brand new castle! Yes, you read that correctly - Sleeping Beauty Castle will be transformed into a towering structure, completely unlike what we see there today.
Instead of me paraphrasing everything, I am going to provide the full press release below, followed by the press images. Then I have some additional information from the New York Times, and finally I'll provide my thoughts on it all.
Hong Kong Disneyland Resort (HKDL) announced a multi-year development plan to take the park to a new level of excitement, leveraging some of the most beloved and successful franchises of The Walt Disney Company. Plans include new themed areas, attractions and entertainment, launching almost every year from 2018 through 2023.
Guests will experience Marvel and “Frozen” like never before as HKDL leverages the best of Disney to bring both these world-renowned franchises to life in their own immersive areas. The centerpiece of the park and the gateway to Fantasyland – the castle – will also be transformed to create spectacular entertainment experiences for guests.
“We are more excited than ever about the future of Hong Kong Disneyland,” said Bob Chapek, chairman of Walt Disney Parks and Resorts. “We are bringing the best of The Walt Disney Company to this wonderful tourist destination, giving guests from around the world an experience only Disney can deliver and an experience they can only have with us at Hong Kong Disneyland.”
Some highlights of the new experiences that will delight Disney fans and guests from around the world include:
- An epicenter of Marvel Super Heroes that will continue to unfold. From the launch of Iron Man Experience, the Marvel universe continues to grow at HKDL. Buzz Lightyear Astro Blasters will be reimagined into a brand new experience for guests to fight alongside the icons of the Marvel Universe. Further, another thrilling attraction dedicated to one of the most popular Marvel franchises will be added to expand the epicenter of Marvel Super Heroes as exciting events unfold in phases.
- An exciting new “Frozen” themed area where characters and stories from the kingdom of Arendelle will come to life in ways guests have never experienced before at a Disney park. Guests will enjoy two new attractions and be immersed in Arendelle with uniquely themed dining, shopping, and entertainment.
- A completely transformed Castle and Hub area to showcase brand new daytime and nighttime shows and entertainment offerings that will celebrate every prince and princess who ever wished upon a star and dared to follow a dream. An “Adventureland Show Place,” which invites guests to “Moana’s Village Festival” through a series of daytime entertainment offerings anchored around a lively stage show in a new interactive entertainment environment. In addition to experiencing live shows and immersive Disney storytelling, guests can meet Moana, heroine of the new Disney animated film that will be released globally starting November 2016.
The major development plans extend the excitement and amazing growth at HKDL, as the resort is set to open the eagerly anticipated Iron Man Experience officially on January 11, 2017 and the richly themed Disney Explorers Lodge resort hotel later in the first half of the year.
HKDL has continued to grow since its opening in 2005 and has broadened its appeal to families and young adults as well as diverse markets, including local, mainland China and overseas guests.
The three themed areas launched between 2011 and 2013, Toy Story Land, Grizzly Gulch and Mystic Point, have enhanced the park’s attractions and entertainment offerings and boosted the park’s attractiveness to different market segments. In 2013, Mystic Manor was awarded the prestigious Thea Award for Outstanding Achievement – Attraction, the equivalent of the Oscar in the theme park industry. In the following year, the nighttime parade “Disney Paint the Night” was launched and subsequently honored with a Thea Award.
In celebration of HKDL’s 10th Anniversary in 2015, the new stage show “Mickey and the Wondrous Book” and a new walk-through experience “Fairy Tale Forest” were introduced. This past summer, “Star Wars: Tomorrowland Takeover” presented attractions and offerings themed after another classic Disney franchise.
“The all-new developments will further reinforce HKDL’s position as a world-class tourist destination for everyone, including families and young adults, and help build lifelong memories across generations of families,” said Samuel Lau, executive vice president and managing director of Hong Kong Disneyland.
HKDL’s two shareholders – The Walt Disney Company and the Hong Kong Government – have agreed on the development plans, subject to funding approval by the Company’s Board of Directors and Legislative Council for their respective share of investment.
Disney have thus far provided the following concept images for the brand new areas:
All images (C) The Walt Disney Company and their associates.
There are some very interesting things in these images, which I'll discuss in a moment, but first I also want to direct your attention to a New York Times article from today that states (according to them, at least), that the new castle will stand 197 feet tall, versus the current 77 feet, and will be the tallest Disney castle in the world upon completion. They also suggest that the cost of the park's regeneration will be around $1.4 billion.
So with that in mind, what does all this mean? To be absolutely clear, everything from here on is my own opinion.
First of all, the new hub area is going to be very neat, and clearly they are going for something akin to the area in front of Enchanted Storybook Castle at Shanghai Disneyland. However, having been to Hong Kong multiple times, and looking at this concept art, it will be very interesting to see how they are going to fit this in exactly. Even if they manage to make it look like the concept art, it'll be very small. I doubt the seating area capacity will be very high at all.
The castle itself is a mixed one for me. Ultimately, it is definitely a good thing that they are making such massive improvements. However, in my opinion, it's a real shame that they have lost such confidence in their own brand that they would go to such lengths. Nothing like this has ever been done before, and it really shows that they are admitting their mistakes. Why didn't they just spend the money to make it awesome in the first place?
The castle show images are also interesting because they give us a glimpse of who we might come to expect in the new performances there. There are two character based images - one that depicts the daytime and one depicting the nighttime. Why these images show us what appears to be two different shows, with two different sets of characters, is not made clear at this point, and I don't think we should read anything into who we see in the images until Disney themselves know exactly what they are doing. However, it is interesting to note the presence of characters such as the Cheshire Cat and Br'er Bear.
The Marvel area looks utterly epic, with the new hangar looking building completely swallowing Autopia and transforming the face of Tomorrowland altogether. Replacing Buzz Lightyear is a smart move, especially since there is one in every park, and the nearby Shanghai has the far superior newer version.
The Moana area is cute, and doesn't appear to envelop anything existing, except perhaps a small water area and some trees. It's a smart move to have an area dedicated to her, and we look forward to seeing it.
The Frozen area looks really nice, and while Frozen is used on overkill these days, I actually have hope that they'll do a real good job of it, looking at the pictures we have so far. Of course, the Oaken's Dancing Sleigh Ride looks completely adorable!
Finally, the it was inevitable that with a brand new castle will come a new nighttime spectacular. Disney seem to be upping their game on nighttime spectaculars all the time, so by the time the new castle is completed, hopefully we see something really awesome there!
Despite some of my slight criticisms (mainly the workability of the hub, and them losing faith in an iconic Disney castle), I am very excited for all these changes. Hong Kong Disneyland is a beautiful park already, and I constantly sing its praises here on the blog and to every Disney fan I meet. Looking around the internet today, though, I see that there is a lot of resentment swirling around already, and, right or wrong, I think that the following perfectly sums up how a lot of people feel.
To rebuild an iconic Disney castle is unprecedented, and virtually unthinkable. Some may say that this investment is just what the park needs - and to a degree they are right. However, perhaps what the park needed was a little love and investment from the beginning though, and not being sold out for a bigger, better park just a few hundred miles away in Shanghai. A couple billion dollars later, and perhaps Disney have realised that money should have gone to Hong Kong in the first place.
Now fans can blame Shanghai even more for US cutbacks... but at least Hong Kong will be pretty, right?
What do you think?
Have a great day everyone,