Wednesday, April 27, 2011
The Shanghaî Disneyland event was undeniably eagerly awaited by the Disney fan community and the SDL WDI artwork was what we had waited for for many months. I will have, today, a new look at this SDL artwork. Although Disney did its best to not provide renderings which would reveal SDL design in detail, there are still interesting elements to provide food for thought as we saw last week in my previous SDL article.
Something in particular in SDL artwork caught my attention. Although it's hard to see details, when we look at the rendering the only area which seems to have a futuristic "Tomorrowland" design is the area located on the left of the castle, i.e in a location where normally a Frontierland or an Adventureland is built, and exactly at the opposite where are all other Magic Kingdoms built their Tomorrow/Discovery/lands - except Tokyo Disney Sea which have its Port Discovery located on the west side.
But there is more: WDI Imagineers know from all studies done since 1955 that guests are generally inclined to visit Magic Kingdoms clockwise, i.e they usually begin by Adventureland or Frontierland, and then the other lands. Not all of the guests of course, but most of them. It's well known, and there might be another meaning at this clockwise visit, as by doing this guests begin by the past (Frontierland) and end with the future (Tomorrowland) which is quite logical.
But in Shanghaî, it seems that everything is inverted. Not only am I not surprised by the lack of Frontierland, but also what seems to be an Adventureland area stands where we usually find a Tomorrowland or, at DLP, Discoveryland. So knowing all this, why WDI Imagineers would have put a "Tomorrowland" exactly at the location where guests usually begin their visit, why would they invite SDL guests to begin by the future instead to have a look at a nostalgic past?
Well, maybe because there is no nostalgic past for chineses. At least for the period of time that we usually find in Frontierland. Generally Frontierland bring back DL guests in the 19th century at a time of pioneers, gold rush, and the birth of a nation. Like everyone, China had its 19th century but, you see, they probably don't keep good memories of it. For centuries China was the most advanced civilization, much more advanced than the rest of the world; especially in science, medecine and arts. China also brought to the world major inventions like printing, paper, compass, bank notes, gunpowder and even pasta!
And then, in the 19th century, China adopted a defensive posture towards European imperialism. As China opened up to foreign trade and missionary activity, opium produced by British India was forced onto China. Two Opium Wars with Britain weakened the Chinese Empire's control and European imperialism proved to be a disaster for China. The First Opium War was from 1839 to 1842 and the Second Opium War from 1856 to 1860. The subsequent passing of the humiliating Treaty of Tianjin in 1856 and the Beijing Conventions of 1860 opened up more of the country to foreign penetrations and more ports for their vessels. Hong Kong was ceded over to the British. Thus, the "unequal treaties system" was established and heavy indemnities had to be paid by China, and more territory and control were taken over by the foreigners.
I think you begin to understand why the Chinese don't really have a nostalgic image of the 19th century. For China, it was probably the worst time of humiliation in all of China's history. I've been told that at WDI, quite a while ago, for HKDL i think, they envisioned doing a chinese Main Street instead of an american one. I though it would have been a good idea and I probably thought this because of my romantic vision of chinese cities at the turn of the century, but China probably don't have the same romantic image of that era...
Now, in this early 21st century China is back and its residents are on their way to become the most powerful nation in the world which probably will happen in the next 20-30 years or the other half of this century at the latest. The time of a new greatness is coming for China and the Chinese are well decided to put China's flag on the moon - and probably they will succeed. In two words, we have a whole nation looking towards the future and not really back two hundred years ago. That could be a reason why SDL's Tomorrowland would be located where guests usually begin the park visit. Nothing right now is more important for China than the future, so let's begin with it!
Although China doesn't have good memories of the 19th century it doesn't mean that the collective subconscious doesn't have myths and legends. China civilization is more than 5000 years old, and there is no doubt that old myths are part of China's subconscious and that Shanghaî Disneyland will probably pay tribute to some of them. As for the SDL fireworks that we can see on the rendering, when Shanghaî Disneyland will open in 2016, Disney better not be cheap on the evening fireworks. Because the Chinese know what the word "fireworks" mean. As a matter of fact they also invented fireworks. And not last century, but 900 years ago.
Artwork: copyright Disney
Many thanks to Nate Walz for the text editing!