Expansion update May 31, 2013
Hong Kong Disneyland expansion, here's my opinion:
Mystic Point surely is the highlight of the three new areas, featuring a beautifully-themed and -narrated dark ride, experienced in a trackless ride vehicle with some stunning sparkle and projection effects, as well as animatronics. Danny Elfman's tailor-made supporting soundtrack greatly adds to the magic and makes for a stimulating and playful, albeit little short experience. It's not as good as 'Journey to the Center of the Earth' or 'Pooh's Hunny Hunt' in Japan, but it's a remarkable family ride unique to Hong Kong Disneyland.
Regarding Grizzly Gulch: somewhere, someday, someone important must have come to the conclusion that Asians don't like thrills - and, somehow, this has had a lasting impact on Disney's strategic decision-making.
Given that the middle-aged woman seated next to me in the just-opened Grizzly Gulch coaster screamed murderously when taking a horizontal curve at toy train speeds, this verdict may not be so wrong, after all. 'Big Grizzly Mountain Runaway Mine Cars' - the coaster's title that reminds me a bit of the bumpiness of saying 'Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull' - is nothing more and nothing less than a shrunken, flattened version of the Expedition Everest roller coaster found at Disney's Animal Kingdom in Florida.
It's just mildly thrilling and feels more like a Swedish massage than a turbulent plane ride (congrats to manufacturer Vekoma for making the ride insanely smooth). The storytelling proves solid with two plot-and-direction twists that the uninitiated won't expect, and both theming and animatronics are as excellent as expected.
Toy Story Land is undeniably the cheapest-looking land Disney ever created, just as the original at Walt Disney Studios in Paris. Yet, add some beloved characters and classic scores to the mix, and it works. With the three new lands open, surely Hong Kong Disneyland is now better than it ever was.
Construction Update June 05, 2012
Phuh! On a personal note, this was the last time I hiked up and down these treacherous mountains. Being passionate about getting aerial photos is one thing, being a suicidal, masochistic geek another. It's a 7 hour hike through painfully untamed jungle and they got venomous snakes up there. I am convinced people in military camps do tougher things, but these trail-free mountains are close.
Please enjoy the final and exclusive set of Hong Kong Disneyland aerial pictures, taken in June 2012 and focusing on its awesome expansion: Grizzly Gulch roller coaster (brown rock structure), Mystic Manor dark ride (grey building in the center) and Toy Story Playland (orange shuttle coaster in the foreground):
Construction Update June 13, 2011
Well, this is quite an update.
In order to take the aerial photos of Hong Kong Disneyland below, my local hiker friend Michael and I had to trek for seven hours over mountains on hiking trails that ceased to exist. We had talked about doing it for two years, but only the expansion gave us the final reason to go. This was the real Jungle Cruise, and together with the thunderstorm suprise we got up there I can say it's the scariest thing I have done since putting a needle into a wall socket when I was a kiddo! You can't see the trail whatsoever (no one must have walked there for years) and there are some perilous cliffs on both sides of the mountain. Without exaggeration, our toe nails were bleeding/falling off after that hike. Don't try to repeat it. I mean it. It wasn't funny.
We got a great view of the Disneyland expansion area: Toy Story Land with its U-shaped orange shuttle coaster and green 'Toy Soldiers Parachute Drop' attraction in the foreground, the world-exclusive and probably terrific dark ride 'Mystic Point' in the middle, and the 'Grizzly Trail' mountain roller coaster (featuring bears and dynamite) in the background. I am anxiously looking forward to this expansion since I believe it will change Hong Kong Disneyland forever.