Disney to open first mainland China resort in Shanghai in June

Image: Shanghai Disney Resort

NBC News:

China‘s very own Happiest Place on Earth will be enchanting visitors as soon as this summer.

The Shanghai Disney Resort is slated to throw open the doors of its Magic Kingdom on June 16, becoming the first Disney destination on mainland China and the third in Asia following Tokyo Disneyland‘s debut in 1983 and Hong Kong Disneyland Resort opening in 2005.

The estimated $5.5 billion resort is a joint venture between Disney and Shanghai Shendi Group, a state-owned enterprise that is holding 57 percent of the project.

The resort reflects Disney’s legendary storytelling along with China’s rich culture, and showcases some of the most creative and innovative experiences we’ve ever created,” Disney CEO Robert Iger said in a statement. “We’re looking forward to showing it to the world and sharing it with the people of China for generations to come.”

Disney is hoping to capitalize on China’s massive economic growth in recent years, although forecasts this year have sent the world’s second-largest economy into a tailspin.

The new resort broke ground in 2011 and will encompass more than 960 acres. It will include an Enchanted Storybook Castle, being billed as the largest, most technologically advanced of Disney’s fabled castles.

The park will also be home to different themes, and include Marvel and Star Wars characters owned as part of Disney’s other properties.

Beijing Universal Studios set to open in 2019

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Shanghaiist (by Daniel Cunningham):

The completion date for the Universal Studios theme park being built in Beijing‘s Tongzhou district has been set for 2019. Beijing Universal Studios will be the Hollywood corporation’s biggest theme park yet at 2.02 million square meters, or 11 times bigger than the theme park in Singapore.

In total, since Beijing’s approval this time last year, the multi-billion dollar project will take around five years to complete. Stephen Spielberg is involved with the design process, which will incorporate some “Chinese elements” to appeal to both foreign and local punters.

Meanwhile, Disney is still set on opening its new resort and theme park in Shanghai during the “first half of 2016”, with a Six Flags amusement park due to be complete in Tianjin by 2018.

Fuji Safari Park in Japan has opened a 213-foot transparent pool so guests can watch elephants swim underwater

Daily Mail UK:
A Japanese Zoo has created a large glass swimming tank, so the giant creatures can get some exercise and so visitors can watch underwater
The zoo wanted to show tourists that the animals can swim, a fact that many didn't know

The zoo wanted to show tourists that the animals can swim, a fact that many didn’t know The 213-foot aqua arena was erected at the Fuji Safari Park in Shizuoka, at the foot of Mount Fuji.

Not only have the majestic mammals been enjoying the giant pool, but staff say that after three laps of the pool, their appetites have grown considerably.

Zookeeper Daiki Takeuchi said the transparent sides provided a surprising glimpse into how elephants use their powerful legs for propulsion as they poke their trunks above the surface. The inspiration behind the glass swimming pool came from images of elephants in the ocean.

The zoo wanted to show tourists that the animals can actually swim, something many were unaware of.

The unusual attraction opened to the public on July 11 and joins other attractions such as visitors controversially being able to take pictures with young lions. Though they are supervised by staff.

The 213-foot aqua arena was erected at the Fuji Safari Park in Shizuoka, at the foot of Mount Fuji
Not only have the majestic mammals been enjoying the giant pool, but staff say that after three laps their appetites have grown considerably

The inspiration behind the glass aqua arena came from images of elephants swimming in the ocean

Spooky unfinished theme park in Wuhan re-discovered by tourists

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Shanghaiist (by Liam Bourke):

In a country where tacky copy-cat monuments are commonplace and grandiose architectural ambitions regularly turn to dust, it should come as no surprise to see the two collide in photos taken by tourists at an abandoned amusement park in Wuhan, Hubei province.

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Construction on the “Universal Park” began in 1996 and ceased in 1999 due to a lack of funds and an unforeseen transportation dilemma.

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Some 16 years after it was deserted, tourists have returned to the eerily overgrown theme park to take wedding photos and enjoy camping and picnicking against the sightly incongruous backdrop of mock Egyptian pyramids and hieroglyphic-inscripted temples.

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A tourist poses for a selfie with what looks like a post-apocalyptic Hogwarts castle.

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The rise of creepy ghost-towns across China has accompanied China’s economic boom, as its often over-zealous urban expansionism has allowed for lavishly immoderate designs which were found to be totally superfluous in reality. If you need proof, check out China’s largest shopping mall which remained 99 percent empty seven years after it opened.

Hopefully, however, this aborted wonder can still be a Mecca for tourists (or hermits) and avoids the fate of the attempted “Wonderland Amusement Park” in Beijing, which was demolished 15 years after construction began in 2013.

 

Universal Studios to open theme park in Okinawa

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RocketNews 24:

For folks in the Kanto area, theme parks tend to mean Tokyo Disneyland, and for people in the Kansai area, they mean Universal Studios Japan, or USJ for short. But what about Okinawan residents? We suppose they could just fly to Osaka or Tokyo if they get bored with their beautiful beaches and old-lady idol groups, but they don’t have much actually in the prefecture.

However, it looks like things are going to change for theme-park-ride-starved Okinawans: It was revealed today that USJ is planning to open a second park on the tropical island!

Of course, things are still in the very early planning stages for USJ Number 2, and a location hasn’t even been decided yet. But there are a few details that have been released.

First, it looks like the theme park will be smaller in scale than USJ in Osaka–which seems sensible. Okinawa’s population is just over 1.4 million, while there are over 18.7 million people in the Osaka metro area–not to mention all the theme park lovers coming from farther out.

Unfortunately, that smaller scale will bring another downside for Harry Potter fans: The themes won’t include movies! Obviously, we don’t know what themes will be included, but Okinawans can always hope they change their mind.

▼And USJ Osaka just built a new Jurassic Park area too!

View image on Twitter

 

As for why USJ has chosen Okinawa, where you would think the beaches, castles, hiking, and diving would be enough to keep anyone busy, it seems that USJ is looking to expand. It turns out that they’re simply running out of room in Osaka and started looking elsewhere, including outside of Japan. In the end, they decided on Okinawa thanks to the government’s enthusiasm and offer of support. What exactly that support would be is unclear, though we imagine it’s easier to build a theme park when the locals actually want it built there!

Obviously, Okinawa has a much smaller population than the mainland, but they do see plenty of tourists. In 2013, for example, 6.4 millions tourists visited Okinawa, and while we’re sure beaches are great, we can only imagine beaches and roller coasters are an even bigger draw! And with plane tickets from Narita Airport in Tokyo to Okinawa coming in at just over 30,000 yen (a bit more than US$247), we can see this working out as a great destination for people who want to get away–but not too far away.

▼Even minions need a vacation sometimes!

View image on Twitter

But before you start strapping on your sandals and getting in line, we should point out that Glenn Gumpel, the CEO of USJ, emphasized that this was all still in the planning stage.

The hidden, scientifically accurate backstory of Tokyo Disney Sea’s volcano

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RocketNews 24:

Tokyo Disney Resort, as anyone can tell you, is a land of magic and whimsy. As we’ve shown before, it’s also somewhere you can experience the pinnacle of attentive service, whether you’re an inattentive motorist or a lost cat. But did you know that in addition to all that, Tokyo Disney Sea is actually a place that you can enjoy for its subtle yet precise depictions of natural science?

It’s true, as explained by one Japanese Twitter user who’s uncovered and documented the geological principles behind one of the park’s most iconic features.

It’s safe to say Twitter user Shohei Nanri’s inquisitive mind works a little differently than most people’s. On a recent trip to Disney Sea, Nanri decided to search for ways to enjoy the park not as a star-struck animation fan, but as a scientist. He wasted no time, noticing that the globe in the center of the fountain outside the ticket booth has no tilt to its access.

View image on Twitter

But while that’s a miss in the scientific accuracy department, things quickly improved once inside the park itself. First stopping by the knowledge-themed Fortress Exploration complex, Nanri observed the castle’s Foucault pendulum, which knocks over a series of pins during the day due to the rotation of the earth.

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And while he’s not sure if Disney’s Imagineers planned it or not, Nanri found a waterfall in the walkway linking the Mermaid Lagoon and Mysterious Island Sections of the park (directly opposite the gyoza dog concession stand) where the light refracts into a rainbow at precisely 12 noon on sunny days.

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But where things start to get really interesting is inside Mysterious Island, the design of which is, ironically, remarkably sensible if you know the science behind it.

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The most dynamic feature of the area is Mount Prometheus, a constantly smoldering volcano that soars some 51 meters (167.3 feet) above guests’ heads. Much as Cinderella’s Castle is the symbol of Tokyo Disneyland, Mount Prometheus is the first image that comes to mind for many when they think of Disney Sea. Its non-Japanese name isn’t just a quick way to add a bit of worldly flair, though.

As Nanri explains, the lava of most Japanese volcanoes is highly viscous, so once its destructive path is halted, it tends to harden into symmetrical masses. But take a look at the volcanic runoff at Disney Sea.

View image on Twitter

View image on Twitter

Those ropy, coiled formations are the product of a low-viscosity lava flow, closer to the pahoehoe style seen in other countries than Japan’s indigenous a’a lava flows. As such, it stand to reason that Mount Prometheus isn’t a Japanese volcano, and therefore it wouldn’t make sense for it to have a Japanese name.

But that’s just the start of the tale Disney Sea’s lava has to tell. Looking at the map, we can see that following an eruption, some of Mount Prometheus’ lava would flow towards the shoreline that separates it from the Mediterranean Harbor.

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The molten rock would cool as it travelled, and Nanri explains that once it did, it could solidify in hexagonal columns, which is exactly what you can see near the waterfront.

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That’s not the only effect an eruption would have on the surrounding landscape, though. The entrances to both of Mysterious Island’s rides, Journey to the Center of the Earthand 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, owe the look of their entrances and line-up areas to the nearby volcanic activity.

▼ Locations of Journey to the Center of the Earth (1) and 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea (2)

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Let’s start with 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, where parkgoers hop aboard a vessel and become part of Captain Nemo’s crew of explorers.

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You might notice the sunken body of water is surrounded by craggy rock formations. How come? Because, as Nanri explains, it’s a crater lake formed by a steam explosion, which explains why you can still see some sort of gas fizzing to the surface of the water in the above photo.

However, the scientific significance is deepest, appropriately, at Journey to the Center of the Earth.

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Given the theme of the attraction, it’s no surprise that the entrance leads guests through a cave. This isn’t just any cave, though. Coming back once again to that low-viscosity lava, the thinner consistency means that even as the top layer of the flow comes into contact with the air, cools, and hardens, the lower layers can stay in motion, in the process forming a tunnel just like the ones the line for the ride snakes through.

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In the case of repeated eruptions, the next lava flow would come through and melt away the hardened rock, making the cavity larger and also creating the shelf-like ripples on its walls.

Of course, while this is the scientific way in which the tunnel would form, it’s still not a controlled, entirely stable method. A lack of structural integrity in spots is to be expected, which accounts for the skylight-like openings that can be occasionally seen overhead.

Finally, Nanri leaves us with one last example of attention to minute details.

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Looking up at those streaks of discoloration, you might think it’s just accumulated grime, or maybe water staining. It’s neither, though, according to Anri, who points out that this is what would happen as the sulfur deposits which melted in the lava flow later recrystallize.

Taiwan’s Gravity Max – Quite possibly the scariest roller coaster in the world

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RocketNews 24:

Whatever that thing is in front of us is, I really hope it can hold all of our weight,” says roller coaster aficionado Robb Alvey as the car he is sitting in reaches the end of the track. And it literally is the end – just a couple of feet ahead of where the train has come to a halt, the rails suddenly stop and there is naught but blue sky.

This is the Gravity Max roller coaster in Taiwan’s Discovery World theme park, a ’tilt coaster’ built by Dutch thrill rides designer Vekoma which features a section of track at the top of the chain lift that slowly tilts from horizontal to vertical before clicking into place and releasing the safety lock to drop the train down. Provided, of course, that the rails line up…

Shot by the professional thrill seekers from Theme Park Review, the following video shows just how terrifying Discovery Land’s roller coaster really is. For anyone who’s afraid of heights (right here!), roller coasters can be nerve-racking enough, but add in the fact that the track your car is connected to isn’t even complete until seconds before you’re thrown into the abyss, and you reach a whole new level of fear.

▼ Um, are you quite sure this thing’s finished?

grav max approach

▼ If that safety latch were to break open… <shudder>

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▼ Still no track.

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▼ Please line up, please line up, please line up…

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We’ll leave you now with Robb’s video in full. Honestly, just watching the footage is enough to make us feel a little queasy, and we’re not entirely sure we’d be able to get on this thing without a little man-handling and maybe a gentle tranquiliser.

After all, as Robb says, there are two kinds of fear to be dealt with when riding the Gravity Max: “The ‘oh shit’ factor is when you come to the top and you realise there’s nothing in front of you; the ‘shit’ factor is when you go down the drop.”