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"That Castle Looks Familiar!" - The Top 5 Asian Disneyland Clones

Two characters at Shijingshan
Two familiar characters welcome guests to Shijingshan. A goose & cat?

With Shanghai Disneyland in the works, it’s high time to size up the competition. Asia is full of parks that border on (and sometimes surpass) copyright infringement on Disneyland's characters, universally-known buildings, and outstanding attractions.

In fact, so many have tried to duplicate Disneyland’s success and beauty, Asia has more fairytale castles than the United States (though not all are still inhabited). So take a look at the parks below and draw your own conclusions – can Shanghai Disneyland compete with Asia’s other “Disney” parks? And can any of the alleged copycats withstand the "real thing" moving into town?

5. Wonderland (Beijing, China)

A fairytale castle stands as a beacon of what might have been for farmers working the fields that used to be earmarked for Beijing's Wonderland. Image: Stuck in CustomsA fairytale castle stands as a beacon of what might have been for farmers working the fields that used to be earmarked for Beijing's Wonderland. Image: Stuck in Customs

A bid to construct Asia’s largest theme park fell through amid troubling economic times in 1998. The land was reclaimed for farm use, with fields of crops overtaking much of the 100 acres designated for the park’s use. As such, farmers find their 100-acre field protected by a twenty-five foot castle wall boundary intended as the park’s gates. Passing through the steel framework of a never-completed main street, crops are tended around the base of a unfinished concrete castle. The images are intriguing and eerie at the least.

4. Dream World (Bangkok, Thailand)

Dream World in Thailand’s Pathum Thani province is a truly quaint, entertaining family park with quite a few interesting gardens, family attractions, and some uniquely done rides. But in name, the park borrows quite a few Disney themes. First of all, the Fantasy Land area features “Sleeping Beauty’s Castle.” In Adventure Land, you’ll find an amalgamation of jungle and future themed rides, and a select few attractions that harken to Disneyland favorites: “Haunted Mansion,” “Monorail Tour,” “Space Mountains” and the unfortunately named “Red Indian’s Boats.” And guests entering park pass under a façade that unmistakably resembles Disneyland’s “it’s a small world.”

3. Shijingshan Amusement Park (Beijing, China)

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Where can you find Mickey Mouse, Shrek, Bugs Bunny, and Hello Kitty residing together in a fairytale castle next to a replica of Epcot’s Spaceship Earth? Well, no where. But you can find their unauthorized counterparts at Shijingshan. There, in the shadow of Cinderella Castle’s evil-twin of sorts (trading in white and blue spires for tan and red ones) you’ll find familiar characters who the park officially defends are based on Grimm’s Fairy Tales. You can decide for yourself, of course, but the park’s official slogan translated to English reads: “Disney is too far to go, please come to Shijianshan!“'

2. Nara Dreamland (Nara, Japan)

From the train station and Mainstreet, to the Castle and Matterhorn, Nara Dreamland was a unique blend of Disneyland and big wooden coaster.From the train station and Mainstreet, to the Castle and Matterhorn, Nara Dreamland was a unique blend of Disneyland and big wooden coaster.

This now-closed theme park – made famous in the theme park community by a photo trip report on Theme Park Review – resembles Disneyland in a way few others can rival. From Main Street to the pink and blue fairy tale castle, the Matterhorn, the monorail, the Jungle Cruise, and a sparsely decorated Tomorrowland were all represented. But something was decidedly amiss – pickup trucks parked on midways, portable carnival rides in “Fantasyland,” and dilapidated, crumbling facades. Add in the aptly named Screw Coaster, a wooden playground, and the actually-decent Aska wooden coaster and you’ve got one strange grab-bag of amusement.

1. Lotte World (Seoul, South Korea)

While it does borrow elements from Disneyland, Lotte World is a successful resort of its own doing. It imitates (and sometimes surpasses) Disney Parks in innovation and beauty.While it does borrow elements from Disneyland, Lotte World is a successful resort of its own doing. It imitates (and sometimes surpasses) Disney Parks in innovation and beauty.

It may be unfair to call Lotte World in Seoul, South Korea a “copyright infringing” park. In fact, Lotte World is a wildly successful and innovative resort all on its own that, like so many others, borrows from the successes of Disneyland here and there. Sometimes, the park’s rides come across as an imitation. Other times, they seem to surpass any potential “sisters” that Disney has devised. Comprised of the world’s largest indoor theme park and an outdoor amusement park built around a white and blue castle, some offerings may sound familiar.

A water, fire, light, projection, and music show called Fantastic Odyssey (perhaps a take on Disney’s Fantasmic!) resides near Jungle Adventure, an indoor river rapids ride past animatronics jungle scenes. One of the park’s most incredible attractions is Pharaoh’s Fury, an EMV ride that resembles and rivals Disneyland’s Indiana Jones Adventure with impressive effects, incredible scenery, and out-of-control motion-base technology. And like any good Disney-esque park, you can always meet Lotty and Lorry, two anthropomorphic raccoons that wear a blue suit and a red skirt & hair bow, respectively. Whatever you call it, it is truly among the “best” borrowers of Disneyland’s ideas in that it succeeds in implementing them in new and inventive ways.

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