I know, i know, it may look a bit odd to talk about the Shanghaî Disneyland "that never was" when the park is not yet open and still under construction, but as you will see there has been many changes - as well as good ideas sacrified between the first concepts and the latest one, and we'll have a look at this in details.
The very first thing which won't be the same as envisioned three years ago is the park entrance. As you can see on the artwork above SDL was supposed to have a "grand entrance" and Mickey Avenue - the entrance street leading to SDL castle - would have been under a huge canopy. Both apparently don't exist anymore from what we can see in the latest bird eye view artwork released recently, see below. May be a part of the above concept will be in the final version but the canopy has definitely disappeared.
Note that this artwork, just like two others below, was shown by Bob Iger during an event in New York of the National Committee on U.S-China relations recognizing the WDC's long-term work and philanthropy in China, on October 17, 2011 that you can see in video HERE - Also note that although i did my best to enlarge the screen captures it's not possible to have them sharper than what you see.
Now, let's have a look at the above early bird eye view of the park, also shown by Bob Iger in 2011. If we have a look at the entrance we can see the canopy over Mickey Avenue but if you look on the right you'll see a very different Treasure Cove land and most of all a huge Skull Rock with what seems ( but not sure ) to be a fall out of it. Most probably SDL Imagineers thought at that time to have an ending for the POTC ride like it was envisioned by Tim Delaney in the cancelled HKDL Pirates of Caribbean land.
Below is a view of this land from the latest rendering, and the Skull Rock has disappeared... unfortunately... but the POTC fortress is much more impressive. The big mountain in the foreground is the one for the Roaring Rapids raft ride, and you've seen an official construction picture of it last Saturday.
Always on the early bird eye view artwork we can see on the left of the castle SDL Tomorrowland. The building with a shape looking like a bicycle is the one for the TRON motorbike coaster...
...or i should say "was" as it won't have anymore this design as you can see below, from the latest bird eye view rendering, although what is called by SDL Imagineers "TRON Cover" - to cover the outdoor part of the track - will be in the final version. Personally, on a design point of view, i think that the first version looked better but it was also probably more expensive. It also look better because on the rendering it's painted as seen "from the sky", which wouldn't have been the case for SDL guests looking at it "from the ground". And by the way the building which is on the right, above, just a few meters below the TRON building is now relocated on the left - and Super Block as they call it will include the Buzz Lightyear ride as well as Stitch Encounter.
Another interesting rendering from the "first" version is the one below showing what was called at that time the "Gardens of Imagination".
Most of the elements are still in the final version although some have been moved a bit up, like the Dumbo ride and especially the long line of cherry blossom trees which are now located more on the right, probably to avoid that they hide the view on the castle. On the top left above you see the exit from Mickey Avenue and its canopy - now disappeared - and on the left and right of it these facades of different architectural styles should more or less remain in the final version. The water in front of the castle - bottom right above - has been moved up, and are now closer to the castle.
Now, if we go back again to the early bird eye view artwork and look at Disney Town - SDL shopping, dining and entertainment district - which is located on the left of SDL entrance, you'll see that at that time Disney Town was supposed to have some water here and there in its center...
...which is not anymore the case on the final version below, probably because SDL Imagineers changed their mind for a question of guests flow - and in this case i think they're right.
Plenty of others differences exist between the first and the last artwork, specially in Fantasyland but it is so in the background of the artwork that it's hard to see what was envisioned at that time - although the Alice maze is already there, on the right of SDL castle.
So, do we have to have regrets with the cancelled elements? Personnally i regret the phenomenal grand entrance, the disappearing of Skull Rock and if there was one the outdoor fall for the POTC ride final and may be the shape of the Tron Lightcycles Power Run building, even if i know that we would have never seen it like on the rendering for a question of angle of view. I don't regret too much the canopy, although i'm sure it would have been precious during rainy days in Shanghaî . We'll check all this when the park will open and, talking about opening date, the good sources of Lance on Screamscape told him that the park - always supposed officially to open end 2015 - "isn’t expected to open until sometime between late Spring and mid Summer 2016 at this point". Disney said recently that the official opening date will be announced early 2015 so we won't have to wait too long to know the truth.
Pictures: copyright Disney - Shendi