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Mickey Avenue - August 2016

Mickey Avenue/Gardens of Imagination

Shanghai Disneyland eschews the traditional Main Street, U.S.A. entranceway found at Disney’s other castle parks. Instead, it offers one of the most obvious examples of the “authentically Disney, distinctly ­Chinese” mandate by turning what would be Main Street into two distinct lands: Mickey Avenue and Gardens of Imagination.

Mickey Avenue

One of the overriding goals for Shanghai Disneyland is to introduce Chinese tourists to Disney stories and characters. That mission begins in earnest right at the park’s entrance, as Mickey Avenue serves as a neighborhood where Mickey and friends are the proprietors of local businesses.

“The traditional Main Streets were based on Walt’s nostalgia for smalltown U.S.A.—that’s where he grew up, he loved that feeling,” says Larry Davis, executive creative director at Walt Disney Imagineering Shanghai who oversaw Mickey Avenue. “We needed to come up with something completely new and unique, so the idea was a land about the Disney characters that isn’t too cartoonish. This gave us an opportunity to have character experiences throughout the land.”

Mickey Avenue is meant to evoke a blending of architectural styles and eras, rather than tie itself to one particular time period. It features Avenue M Arcade, the largest retail shop in the park, as well as Sweethearts Confectionary (operated by Minnie Mouse) and Whistle Stop Shop (where guests can get their own Mickey ear hats), among others.

Gardens of Imagination

The traditional amount of space allotted to a Disney Main Street was cut in half, as Mickey Avenue occupies what would be the first block in other parks. The second portion of that area—closest to the castle—forms another entirely new land at Shanghai Disneyland: Gardens of Imagination.

Walt Disney Imagineering Shanghai Landscape Architect John Sorenson, responsible for the park’s master planning, calls this 15-acre green space “a park within the park,” with lush shrubbery and bridges over a large lagoon. The first land inside a Disney park designed specifically as a garden, this section embodies the “distinctly Chinese” aspect of Shanghai Disneyland; officials say Chinese guests seek out natural settings where they can rest and relax as a family (there are also several large grassy picnic areas in other parts of the park).

Gardens of Imagination provides another first among ­Disney parks, as well, by moving two iconic attractions in front of Enchanted Storybook Castle: “Fantasia Carousel” and “Dumbo the Flying Elephant.” On the border between the gardens and Tomorrowland resides Marvel Universe, a meet-and-greet space for the famous comic-book characters.

Finally, Gardens of Imagination is home to Garden of the Twelve Friends, a series of murals depicting Disney and Disney•Pixar characters in Chinese Zodiac style; Remy from “Ratatouille,” for example, here embodies the Year of the Rat.

Disney Firsts

     Shanghai Disneyland is the first Disney castle park not to use some version of Main Street, U.S.A. as its main corridor into the park.

     The entrance plaza displays the new Steamboat Mickey fountain, dedicated to Mickey Mouse’s 1928 animated debut.

     Shanghai Disneyland is the first Disney park to feature attractions in front of the castle.