AS part of our ongoing spotlight on the people
working behind-the-scenes on the soon-to-open Shanghai Disney Resort,
today Shanghai Daily talks with producer Blake Lennon and associate
creative director Zhong Yanle.
Lennon, a native of the United Sates, comes from the Creative
Entertainment team of Shanghai Disney Resort which works on the design
and production of the shows in the resort. Lennon as a producer has been
working on two of the resort’s signature shows: the “Mickey’s Storybook
Express” daytime parade and the “Ignite the Dream: A Nighttime
Spectacular of Magic and Light.”
He joined Disney 13 years ago as a college intern at Disneyland
Resort in Anaheim. After graduation, he joined Disney’s special events
team and got the opportunity to work all over the US and Canada. He has
also worked as a project manager on a number of shows in California.
When he heard about an opportunity to work on creative entertainments
in Shanghai, he saw it as a chance to do something new. Having worked
on the project for nearly three years back in the US, Lennon is now in
Shanghai as part of a group of experts from all over the world to make
sure everything goes smoothly once the park starts welcoming visitors.
“I offered myself up,” Lennon said. “I just moved to Shanghai a
couple of months ago for the opening of the project, so I am presently
under great pressure.
“I am so honored to be part of a team that is opening Shanghai Disney Resort,” Lennon added.
Meanwhile, Zhong Yanle is part of the team that is responsible for
the creative content of the shows and entertainment at Shanghai
Disneyland. A native of Shanghai, Zhong officially joined the Shanghai
Disney Resort in April 2014. Prior to this, she worked on the Shanghai
Disney Resort project for around two years as an external consultant. An
experienced performer in her own right, Zhong has appeared on-stage on
Broadway, as well as London’s West End and China.
“I think this time we are working on the most exciting project on the
planet. I am honored that I can do something for my hometown,” Zhong
said, who now works closely with Lennon.
To help the Shanghai Disney Resort stand out among its peers, the
local cultural and tourism market was extensively researched, with
special attention paid to preexisting performances and cultural shows,
according to Lennon.
“We really challenged ourselves to come up with things that are new …
We hope to bring in something that is really unique and will make
people want to come and return to Shanghai Disney Resort,” he said. “The
entertainment programs we’re bringing to Shanghai and the Chinese
audience are brand new and tailor-made,” Zhong said. “We have the
biggest castle in the world, which will be the backdrop of the daytime
show and nighttime spectacular. Besides, there is a large variety of
shows throughout the six themed lands of the park, such as the “Eye of
the Storm: Captain Jack’s Stunt Spectacular,” which will make its global
premiere at El Teatro Fandango in Treasure Cove, made just for Shanghai
“In Tomorrowland, we have the Star Wars Launch Bay and the Marvel
Universe, where visitors can meet characters from the stories,” she
But the Shanghai Disneyland experience will be about more than just
huge spectacles. Numerous small-scale performances aimed at individual
visitors will help create an immersive atmosphere within the park,
according to Zhong.
“We also create small intimate moments for people to interact with
the characters. Those special moments are important to form memories and
to have relatable connections with our guests,” said Lennon.
Below, both Lennon and Zhong go into further detail about their work at Shanghai Disney Resort.
What do you think makes Disney so successful?
Lennon: The universal appeal of our characters and our stories is
what make Disney so successful. Sometimes what we have is really a
treasure. Everyone in the team knows and loves Disney’s long-cherished,
classic as well as brand new stories, and would love to provide the life
and personalities to bring them alive in the show.
Zhong: I would say it’s the accuracy, and the magic experience we
provide in our resort. We work so hard on the details to give the best
to our guests. Our vision is to be the most loved and trusted leisure
experience provider in the world.
What’s the biggest challenge you’ve worked on?
Lennon: We really pushed ourselves to be always at the cutting-edge,
to make everything the newest, the greatest and the best. It is a great
challenge to be able to teach and to learn from all of the designers,
artisans and performers, due to the fact that this is my first time
working on such a big project.
Zhong: There’s a total collaboration between Disney and the Chinese
culture. We have a lot of projects, which we work on with the local
artists. There are a lot of challenges during the whole process. But I
think the result is rewarding, because this whole program is made
especially for the local audience. We didn’t just copy the original
stage shows in other Disney parks and resorts. They are tailor-made for
Shanghai, for the Chinese market.
Are there any highlighted shows in Shanghai Disney Resort?
Lennon: Both the parade and the nighttime show are brand new and
custom-made for Shanghai. The parade, called “Mickey’s Storybook
Express,” will transport fantasy, romance, music and merriment
throughout Shanghai Disneyland each day. Led by a whimsical locomotive,
it is the longest parade route ever traveled in a Disney park.
The nighttime show is a signature event, a hallmark element of our
Disneyland. The Enchanted Storybook Castle will become the star of the
nighttime spectacular as it inspires everyone to unlock and ignite their
Zhong: I personally like the show “Tarzan: Call of the Jungle,” which
will be available at the Storyhouse Stage in Adventure Isle. We have a
Chinese director and use Chinese elements and acrobatics to retell the
Disney story. This is the only one like it in the world. You cannot see a
version like this at any other Disney park in the world.
What does Disney mean for your career and personal development?
Lennon: It was a lot of fun getting to Shanghai to work with the
local artisans, especially having worked with Disney for 13 years. To
work with people who are excited and enthusiastic about working on their
very first Disney project, it makes for a lot of smiles and a lot of
Zhong: It’s a great environment to support each other. It is success
for the whole team, the whole group and the company. We are committed to
collaborative teamwork. And as a team, we all want to do our best. The
company has a great culture and I would say this is the best job in the
world because I help create happiness.