Walt Disney once famously said of his entertainment empire: “It all started with a mouse.” For visitors at the Shanghai Disney Resort, their entry into the magical world of Disney Parks will begin in a similar way at Mickey Avenue, a specially designed shopping and recreation area that pays homage to beloved Disney characters, including Mickey Mouse.
“Mickey Avenue is much more than a street. Mickey Avenue is a town,” said Geof- frey Woodward, a Creative Producer who is working with an international multi-disciplinary team in the design and execution of the main en- trance of the theme park. “As we were developing what the main entry should be, we have learned that Chinese people love stories and characters.”
Based on this premise, designers and planners at Walt Disney Imagineering Shanghai saw Mickey Avenue as a channel where they could introduce guests to the company’s beloved characters — including Mickey Mouse, Minnie Mouse, Donald and Daisy Duck, Goofy and Pluto — before entering the park’s other themed lands.
Indeed, one of the first icons greeting visitors is a fountain decked with a sculpture referencing “Steamboat Mickey,” inspired by the 1928 animated short that introduced the world to Mickey Mouse.
After walking through the resort’s gates, guests can browse Avenue M Arcade, a bustling commercial center offering apparel, accessories, gifts, home décor, jewelry, as well as an extensive array of items created especially for shoppers in China, which planners say is the largest shopping facility of its kind in the park.
There will also be plenty of sweet treats and delicious foods on offer at Mickey Avenue. For instance, there is Sweethearts Confectionery, a candy store that pays tribute to Disney’s first couple, Mickey and Minnie Mouse.
A French-themed bakery based on characters from Ratatouille, Rémy’s Patisserie will offer a variety of breads, pastries and muffins, along with fresh desserts.
Mickey & Pals Market Café, a counter-service restaurant, will feature localized Chinese and international menus plus views of the nearby gardens, the Fantasia Carousel and the Enchanted Storybook Castle.
Meanwhile, the Market Cafe, designed as an open-air market, will feature four ex- hibition kitchens and a mural depicting Mickey and his pals planting, harvesting and shar- ing happy times together.
“This is the first time in the history of Walt Disney Parks and Resorts that we have built a main entrance like this,one that’s dedicated to Dis- ney characters,” the creative producer said.
Gardens of Imagination
After making their way down Mickey Avenue, the next stop for visitors is the Gardens of Imagination.
“Mickey Avenue is a space defined largely by architec- ture, and the gardens is a space largely about landscap- ing,” said John Sorenson, Director and Principal Land- scape Architect at Walt Disney Imagineering Shanghai. This 26-year Disney veteran worked closely from the creative team from the very beginning in order to create an inviting space for Chinese guests and families.
“It’s a celebration of nature. It has both quiet space but also very active space.” Guests can choose to explore the beautiful gardens, ride on attractions or find a great viewing location for the daytime and nighttime castle shows.
In the gardens, visitors can take a spin on the Fantasia Carousel, soar on the back of Dumbo the Flying Elephant or explore the sights and sounds of Melody Garden. It is also in this area that guests can find bridges and pathways leading to other areas of the park. As guests stroll along, they may also meet Mickey Mouse and his pals.
The area, covering more than three hectares, will con- tain seven individual gardens focused on themes of family, friendship and fun. These will include the Garden of the Twelve Friends, the Melody Garden, the Romance Garden, the Woodland Garden and so on.
Each garden will be filled with engaging activities, floral and woodland displays, and playful photo opportunities.
Over the past three years, Sorenson and his team trav- eled to China’s remotest rural areas and talked with local farmers to find flora com- patible with the climate in Shanghai.
“A lot of trees you will see there are familiar to most people in Shanghai, but we also tried to find unusual Chinese native trees,” he said. “We spent a lot of time going to parts of the remote countryside of China and we perfectly achieved our goals.”