calls itself the happiest place in the world, but to keep visitors happy in its
five locations across the globe, each theme park is tweaked to cater to local
cultures and tastes. Outside of the two original resort areas in the United
States, Disneyland in California and Walt Disney World in Florida, the Disneylands in Paris, Tokyo and Hong Kong offer subtly
different selections of food, rides and layout to make the millions of visitors
each year feel at home.
in 1983 and larger than the original Disneyland California, Tokyo Disneyland is the third most visited of any theme
park in the world after the two Disney parks in the US. Like Walt Disney World
in Florida, Cinderella’s Castle is located at the centre of the park, rumoured
to have been chosen because the princess’s qualities of duty and a strong work
ethic would resonate more deeply in Japanese culture than Sleeping Beauty,
whose castle is featured in the centre of Disneyland California.
like karaoke, which originated in Japan and is a country-wide obsession,
Disneyland gives the often-reserved Japanese people a place to unleash their
rowdy side. In Tokyo Disneyland, even adult visitors will sing, clap and dance
along to the internationally themed live shows, such as the Latin-American
vibes of Minnie Oh! Minnie or the street show Jubilation!; it is a level of
audience participation that would be a rare sight in the US.
the food offered at Tokyo Disneyland is noticeably different from the US,
infusing both Chinese and American flavours with Japanese cuisine. To refuel
between rides or while waiting in the lengthy queues, you can buy a steamed bun
-- originally a traditional Chinese delicacy with hot, sweet or savoury
fillings -- from Boiler Room Bites in Adventureland. The usually
round bun is in the shape of Mickey Mouse’s head, with the iconic mouse ears
filled with teriyaki chicken. The donburi,
a traditional Japanese dish that consists of rice and savoury toppings, can be
ordered with US flavours like taco meat (spiced minced pork), creole chicken or
shrimp patties instead of teriyaki meats. This is then topped with cabbage and
an egg, just like you would find in any donburi eatery in Japan.
are still feeling peckish, try some popcorn with local flavours, such as soy
sauce with butter from the popcorn stands next to the ImageWorks
photo studio in Tomorrowland or Café
Orléans in Adventureland, or Japanese curry from the stand next to the Trading
Post gift shop in Westernland. For milk tea-flavoured popcorn, a popular
sweet, South-East Asian fusion of tea and milkshake that also goes by the name
of bubble tea, you will have to head to the nearby Tokyo DisneySea, a separate park with water slides and watery
The small Hong Kong Disneyland, opened in 2005, incorporates feng
shui and traditional Chinese elements into its design to attract tourists from
shui balances the elements of wood, fire, earth, metal and water to create
positive energy, and these elements can be seen throughout the theme park.
Rocks represent stability and prevent good luck from flowing away, so two
gigantic boulders have been placed at the park’s entrance to stop energy from
flowing out of the resort. Water stimulates fortune and wealth, and the park is
full of lakes, ponds and streams -- not to mention the large fountain featuring
Disney characters placed at the main entrance of the park.
main gate of the theme park has been positioned in a north–south direction for
good fortune, and as you approach the entrance, look out for a sharp bend in
the walkway. This was put in intentionally to stop good qi (energy)
flowing into the nearby South China Sea.
culture is filled with superstitions about numbers, with 888 considered to be a
powerful number of wealth. That is why the Beijing Olympics were staged on 8
August 2008, the eighth day of the eighth month of an eighth year. Similarly,
the main ballroom at the Hong Kong Disneyland Hotel is exactly 888sqm. There are 2,238
crystal lotuses adorning the hotel’s Crystal Lotus Chinese restaurant because
in Cantonese the number sounds like the phrase “to easily generate wealth”. The
obsession continues with the number four, which is unlucky to the Chinese
because it sounds like the word “death” in both Mandarin and Cantonese. So you
may notice that the elevators in Hong Kong’s Disneyland have no number four,
because the floors in all of the buildings skip from three to five.
items that are missing are clocks in the gift shops (so no Mickey watches!),
because in Cantonese and Mandarin “giving a clock” sounds like “going to a
funeral”. Green hats are not available to buy (sorry Peter Pan!) because of a
Chinese expression that a man wearing a green hat is cheating on his wife (the
relatives of prostitutes were forced to wear green hats in ancient China). What
you will see is a lot of is red, a lucky colour according to Chinese culture.
Look for liberal uses of painted accents on the buildings on Main Street, USA.
you are done counting, have a dim sum lunch, something Hong Kong is famous for.
If you want to try dumplings with a Disneyland flavour, go to the Crystal Lotus
restaurant where the dumplings and steamed buns are formed in the shapes of
characters from Disney films, such as Duffy the Disney Bear (a character that exists
only as a product, but who is very popular in the Asian market), Chicken Little
of the eponymous 2005 film, the three-eyed Little Green Men from the Toy Story
movies, and of course those mouse ears in the form of Mickey fried shrimp and
root vegetables, Mickey seafood glutinous pancakes, Mickey red bean honey
pudding and Mickey green tea jelly.
is also ample opportunity to take a picture with Mulan, the animated character
from Ancient China, whose actor can be found posing in Fantasy Gardens, the
park’s dedicated area for taking photos with Disney characters.
excitedly entering Disneyland Paris, which opened in 1992, visitors are
greeted with an arcade that features a small replica of the Statue of Liberty –
a gift from France to America in 1886, making it a fitting introduction to
Europe’s only instance of this American theme park. The covered arcade is one
of two on Main Street, replacing the open spaces of its counterpart in
California, and offering essential cover from the cold and rain that typically hits
venture further into Disneyland Paris, you will see other changes. Gone is Tom
Sawyer’s Island – a staple of the US theme parks – since the character is little-known
in Europe. Instead there is Discoveryland dedicated to European visionaries,
such as Leonardo da Vinci with the Orbitron attraction, a rocket ship ride in
the style proposed by the Italian inventor; and Jules Verne with Les Mystères
du Nautilus, an attraction that lets visitors walk through the rooms of Captain
Nemo’s submarine, as featured in Verne’s novel Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the
Sea. The great artists of cinema are revered in CineMagique, a theatre show unique
to Paris, featuring French director and actress Julie Delpy on screen with
synchronized live actors. And the character Remy, a French chef rat from the Disney
cartoon Ratatouille, will be given his own ride in 2014, titled Ratatouille:
Kitchen Calamity, complete with an attached restaurant to match the cartoon’s
the French stereotype of a smoking, wine drinker is upheld in Disneyland Paris.
Many visitors complain that although the theme park is supposed to be outfitted
with dedicated smoking areas, most smokers seem to puff away in all the open
areas, including in queues for rides. It is also the only Disneyland in the
world where you can enjoy an alcoholic drink with your meal; a French meal
without a glass of wine would make for the unhappiest place in the world.
At the 2011
opening ceremony for the sixth Disneyland, set to open at the end of 2015, Disney
said the Shanghai-based park will include “characteristics tailored to the
Shanghai region and other amenities consistent with Disney's destination
ceremony followed this lead, featuring traditional Chinese drum music and
Mickey Mouse dressed in a traditional, red Tang Chinese suit -- a collarless
silk jacket with matching trousers, resplendent with gold accents on the
embroidered jacket, toggle buttoning and trouser cuffs.
Paris opened, it was criticised by French intellectuals for not incorporating
more local culture. Even in 2002, 10 years after its first day in operation, Parisian
theatre director Ariane
the theme park in Paris a “cultural Chernobyl”, which still holds true if you
aren’t a fan of American culture, as few further nods to French culture have
been added to Disneyland Paris. This criticism led Disney to take extra care
when adding culturally specific elements to their parks in both Hong Kong and
Tokyo. If the opening ceremony in grand Chinese style is anything to go by,
Shanghai Disneyland may become the most customised Disneyland yet, to make the
most populous nation in the world the happiest place in the world.