Shanghai Disneyland Hotel and the Art Nouveau

The Shanghai Disney Resort is different from any other Disney destination you know. It has an impressive line-up of never before seen attractions, shops, restaurants and hotels. They feature new storylines, technologies and designs.

Walt Disney Imagineering has clearly steered away from tried-and-tested concepts to create an experience like no other. One of the finest examples is the Shanghai Disneyland Hotel. Unlike its predecessors, the Hotel isn’t Victorian. Instead, Disney made the bold move to design it in Art Nouveau style.

While the Art Nouveau is one of my favorite architectural styles, I was eager to stay at the Shanghai Disneyland Hotel when visiting the Resort last year. After considering the many options, we booked a room on the Magic Kingdom Club-level floors. That would allow us to gain access to the Magic Kingdom Lounge and get personalized concierge services.

In this article, I want to show you how the Shanghai Disneyland Hotel and the lounge of the Magic Kingdom Club look like and assess if Walt Disney Imagineering managed to create a successful variation on its popular Victorian luxury hotel formula. We have a lot to discuss, but, first things first, let me briefly explain you what Art Nouveau is all about.

The Art Nouveau is an international art style that influenced a wide range of fine and decorative arts, including architecture, interior, furniture, jewelry, glass and graphic design. It was most popular between 1890 and 1914.

Art Nouveau buildings are mainly characterized by curving, plant-like embellishments, mosaics, stained glass and the use of materials like metal and concrete. Decorative elements often portray nature (like leaves, vines, flowers, swans, peacocks and dragonflies), mythical creations (like fairies) and the female form.

The style was a rejection of the Industrial Revolution and a reaction against existing approaches to design. The second half of the nineteenth century was dominated by architectural styles that incorporated a mixture of elements from previous historical styles to create something new. The Art Nouveau artist didn’t want to keep on looking backwards and searched for inspiration in the world of nature and fantasy.

The Art Nouveau emerged in Belgium and France. But it quickly spread across Europe and as far as the United States of America. In many countries, the style was slightly adapted and given a different name. In Germany, it was called “Jugendstil”, in Austria “Sezessionstil”, in Spain “Arte Noven” or “Modernismo”, in Scotland “Glasgow Style” and in America “Tiffany Style” (named after the world-famous glass maker Louis Comfort Tiffany). The Shanghai Disneyland Hotel resembles mostly to the Art Nouveau buildings that can be found in Belgium and France.

The Shanghai Disneyland Hotel is just a few stories tall. Its exterior Art Nouveau features can easily be recognized. The building has curved windows with curling wrought iron railings. And the top of the walls is ornamented with flower mosaics. There is only one thing that puzzles me. What do the diamond shaped elements on the roof have to do with Art Nouveau? They look out of place and a bit tacky when lit at night in an array of ever-changing colors.

The lobby is home to the hotel’s reception, concierge and bell service. A seating area offers breathtaking view of Wishing Star Lake and the skyline of the Shanghai Disneyland Park. It has an ornate fireplace with curved embellishments and a spectacular stained-glass ceiling. The lobby was the ideal starting point for walks to discover the different ways the Art Nouveau theme was implemented throughout the Hotel.

During my explorations, I noticed that Characters from Disney’s “The Little Mermaid”, “Beauty and the Beast”, “Peter Pan”, “Fantasia” and “The Lion King” are featured in many spaces of the Hotel. This shouldn’t come as a surprise. It’s in line with other recent projects by Walt Disney Imagineering and the preferences of the 21st century Guest. Furthermore, I have to admit that most of the Characters and stories fit the theme of the hotel.

The “Ballet Café” is a great example. It pays tribute to the world of the ballet with both traditional and Disney related imagery (referring to the “Dance of the Hours” sequence of the Disney animated classic “Fantasia”). The theme of this quick service restaurant perfectly complements the overall design of the Hotel as the movements of ballerinas are reminiscent of the graceful curving lines that are so characteristic for the Art Nouveau style.

The guest rooms of the Shanghai Disneyland Hotel are comfortable and spacious. Ours was located at the heart of the building. It featured (amongst others) a king size bed, hideaway bed, sofa, writing desk and water kettle. We also received some bottles of mineral water as tap water in China isn’t drinkable and can’t be used to brush your teeth.

The bed has a light-up headboard that allows you to ignite a firework display with the mere push of a button. The bed sheets, curtains and carpet feature floral motifs (and not so hidden Mickey’s). The furniture has curving shapes and there are glass flower petal lamp shades.

I especially liked the bathroom. Its sliding door, mirror and sink cabinet have familiar Art Nouveau characteristics such as curving lines and imagery of a fairy and water lilies. The color scheme and the use of light give the space a luxurious feel. The presence of Tinkerbell and Cleo (Geppetto's pet goldfish in the 1940 animated film “Pinocchio") are playful but stylish references to the Disney universe.

As Guests of the Magic Kingdom Club, we could enjoy complimentary breakfast, cocktails, snacks, newspapers and magazines at the club-level lounge on the seventh floor of the Hotel. It’s a quiet, cozy space with comfortable chairs and sofas, beautiful Tiffany lamps, stunning flower arrangements and a beautiful stained-glass ceiling. The etched glass panel with the image of a peacock is a striking Art Nouveau feature.

The Shanghai Disneyland Hotel is a refreshing new take on the classic five-stars Disney hotel concept. The Art Nouveau style lends it a luxurious aesthetic just like the Victorian style does for the Disneyland Hotel in Paris or Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort & Spa in Orlando. But the design encourages you to explore every nook and cranny of the building. And most of all, it takes people back to a now long-gone world of elegance and charm.

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