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Castle combines Disney magic, Chinese tradition
By Lu Feiran

Behind the Disney Magic

Disney is bringing its magic to the people of China by building the first Disney resort destination on the mainland. As construction of the Shanghai Disney Resort progresses, Shanghai Daily is running this regular column to go behind the scenes and meet the experts and team members who are making it happen. The column will also explore the challenges they face and the fun they have creating a world-class tourism destination here. 

As construction continues at the Shanghai Disney Resort, the theme park’s castle is surrounded by scaffolding – as well as the lofty expectations of its designers.

According to Disney, the resort’s Enchanted Storybook Castle will be the tallest and largest castle ever built at a Disney theme park. Disney Imagineers who spoke to Shanghai Daily say there are also plenty of other features that will make this castle unique among its peers.

“There will be more immersive attractions and activities here,” said Ali Rubinstein, the castle’s executive producer and creative director. “There will be an elegant table-service restaurant, a Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique salon for children, shopping and spectacular entertainment. A magnificent winding staircase will lead to the top of the castle, for the magical walk-through attraction Once Upon A Time Adventure. The mystical boat ride Voyage to the Crystal Grotto will pass beneath the castle, through a secret underground chamber.”

What’s more, unlike other Disney castles, which are each themed around only one of Disney’s famed princesses — for example, the Cinderella Castle at Disney’s park in Tokyo, or the Sleeping Beauty Castle in Paris — the castle in Shanghai will feature all 12 of Disney’s iconic princesses.

Another distinctive feature of the castle in Shanghai will be its Chinese elements, designed in large part by a team of local talent.


The tallest finial on the castle will feature a peony, the flower of China, alongside the traditional Disney shooting stars. Other finials are designed with Chinese motifs of their own, such as auspicious cloud patterns, lotus flowers and magnolias. Flying above the castle will also be a flag with a traditional Chinese symbol offering good wishes to guests.

“In Chinese culture, lotus flowers represent pure hearts and perfection, while the magnolia is the flower representing Shanghai,” said Leia Mi, the creative designer behind the finials and one of the many Chinese Imagineers whoworked on the castle. “The whole idea of the design is that if you have a pure heart, your wish will come true.”

With the castle still decidedly European in its overall design, designers were creative about their use of Chinese elements.

Apart from those in the finials, Rubinstein says there are Chinese motifs and flourishes hidden throughout the castle. Part of the fun for visitors, she explained, will be discovering these details for themselves.

“This park is actually the most collaborative project by Disney so far,” she said. “We’re always thoughtful about trying to incorporate the local cultural elements in the park, and we’ve really brought in designs from local artists.”

For both Rubinstein and Mi, this castle is also the first such project they’ve worked on with Disney.

Rubinstein joined Disney in 1998 and worked as a production designer, art director and show producer at Disney resorts in Tokyo and Hong Kong.

Mi, a native of Shanxi Province, began dreaming of a career at Disney from the age of nine. Her break came in 2008 when, as an art and animation student at the Savannah College of Art and Design, she participated in a design contest held by Disney. Her design impressed the judges and she was offered an internship. This led to a full-time job after graduation.

“I kept telling people that one day I would become a Disney artist,” she said. “To me, joining Disney is like a childhood dream coming true.” 


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