All Disney theme parks built in the Disneyland-style share similar components, but with a regional flavor. At Shanghai Disneyland (SDL), instead of entering the park along Main Street, USA, you find Mickey Avenue.
And instead of entering the simple hub of the park, at SDL you find a uniquely Chinese creation: The Garden of the Twelve Friends.
Gardens Themed To The Twelve Signs Of The Chinese Zodiac
After passing through Mickey Avenue, the first land you’ll find is The Garden of the Twelve Friends. It’s an 11-acre park area, comprising scenic ponds, tree-lined walkways, several rides, and at least one gazebo. At the very end of the garden, and directly opposite the entrance to the park, sits the massive Enchanted Storybook Castle.
The center of the hub-and-spoke system of pathways for Shanghai Disneyland, the garden will be themed to the 12 signs (characters) of the Chinese zodiac. Decorative mosaic tiles, incorporating Disney/Pixar characters with the essence for each zodiac sign, will be found throughout the land.
Here’s a list of each sign and some Disney characters that could be used to represent it:
- Rat (Remy from Ratatouille, Basil of Baker Street from the Great Mouse Detective, Bernard and Bianca from The Rescuers)
- Ox (Babe the Big Blue Ox from Paul Bunyan)
- Tiger (Shere Kahn from the Jungle Book, Rajah from Aladdin)
- Rabbit (Rabbit from Winnie the Pooh, White Rabbit from Alice in Wonderland)
- Dragon (Mushu from Mulan, Maleficent from Sleeping Beauty)
- Snake (Kaa from the Jungle Book)
- Horse (Maximus from Tangled)
- Sheep (??)
- Monkey (King Louie from the Jungle Book, Kala from Tarzan)
- Rooster (Alan-a-Dale from Robin Hood)
- Dog (Lady or the Tramp, Bolt, Dogs from 101 Dalmatians, Dug from UP)
- Pig (Hamm from Toy Story)
The Garden of the Twelve Friends was originally called the ‘Gardens of Imagination’ in early plans. In 2013, the Shanghai Disney Resort signed a multi-year agreement with the Industrial and Commercial Bank of China, leading to the name change and the later zodiac theme.
Fantasyland Rides Out In Front
At the front of the garden will be a ‘Storytellers’-type statue, either identical to the one in Disney California Adventure or at least very similar. As you enter the area, the Fantasia Carousel will be immediately on your right.
In yet another difference from typical Disneyland-style parks, rumor has it that this carousel will be entirely horses, but an entire menagerie of characters from many Disney films, including those from the movie Fantasia. How cool would it be to ride Pegasus or a Centaur?
In the back of the garden, closer to the castle, we find Dumbo the Flying Elephant. I’d expect this attraction to be very close in detail to the attraction of same name in Disneyland, rather than it’s recent, flashier sister in New Fantasyland at the Magic the Kingdom.
Enchanted Storybook Castle Is Huge
Massively, undeniably, the star of the garden is Enchanted Storybook Castle. Sitting at 197 feet, it easily dwarfs all other Disney park castles, not to mention Shanghai Disneyland itself.
I’ve included several Tron-looking 3D images, so you can get a feel of just how massive the castle will be in relation to the buildings around it.
I’ve also included an image looking down Mickey Avenue at Enchanted Storybook Castle.
To put it’s size in perspective in another way, I’ve included an image comparing it to Sleeping Beauty Castle in Disneyland. Sleeping Beauty Castle stands only 77 feet tall, almost one-third the size of the new Enchanted Storybook Castle!
Enchanted Storybook Castle will not only be bigger than all the others, it will have more in it as well, including princess meet-and-greets, shops, and places to eat.
It’s hard to imagine just how beautiful The Garden of the Twelve Friends will be. Being a uniquely Chinese creation, it’ll be interesting to see how Walt Disney Imagineering translates classic Disney/Pixar characters and ideas into a format that honors Chinese tradition while still be entertaining.
That’s it for this week. What do you think about The Garden of the Twelve Friends? Do you have any ideas about possible Disney characters that match with the Chinese zodiac? Let me know in the comments below. Thanks for reading and we’ll see ya’ real soon!