Shiny happy people

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In Photo: Hong Kong Disneyland Resort Travel Trade Sales Director James Tung

column-Rodel Alzona-a differen viewI have never been to any Disneyland theme parks. The closest I was to being there, if you could call it that, was watching the Mickey Mouse Club as a kid.

Yup, the Mickey Mouse Club was a staple for me along with Voltes V and those robots that invaded our collective imaginations then and, of course, Saturday Fun Machine, which was probably the first cartoon marathon on local television.

Have you paid attention to the intro to the opening of any Disney movie? The castle and the beautiful fireworks sure takes me to another place.

“To all who come to this happy place: Welcome. Disneyland is your land. Here age relives fond memories of the past, and here youth may savor the challenge and promise of the future.”

Miniatue Avenger toys
Miniatue Avenger toys

That was what Walter E. Disney said in 1955 about Disneyland, which they call as “The happiest place on earth”. Putting aside commercialism, which is really present everywhere, he probably was right.

Again, I have never been to Disneyland, yet, but if you look at the images and videos from the theme park wherever in the world they are now, there are several key takeaways—family, unadulterated fun and happiness, innocence, amazement and joyous wonder.

Disneyland is one of those places where we can probably get away for awhile from all the madness of this world, recharge our batteries, and find that child inside us again.

During the middle of last week, I had the chance to talk with Hong Kong Disneyland Resort Travel Trade Sales Director James Tung as his group barged into town with an exciting announcement.

Hong Kong Disneyland Resort Executive Vice President Sam Lau
Hong Kong Disneyland Resort Executive Vice President Sam Lau

You see, Hong Kong, among all Disneyland theme parks and resorts, was, the first to have the Iron Man Experience.

I have been a big fan of Iron Man long before Robert Downey Jr. made the superhero popular on the silver screen. Iron Man was more relatable to me because he did not possess any superhuman strength or ability. Tony Stark was someone with a brilliant mind and he was a millionaire with a lot of wit and charm.

Anyway, according to Tung, the Iron Man Experience, which is  inside Tomorrowland, cost $25 million and took three years to develop by the Disney Imagineering team.

Tung, a seasoned travel executive who had previously worked in the airline industry and the Hong Kong Tourism Board, said it is a three minute 4D ride inside the Iron Wing, which can accommodate 45 visitors. It takes them through the streets of Hong Kong as Iron Man battles Hydra forces that are attempting to steal Hong Kong Stark Tower’s arc reactor.

Along with the ride, visitors will also get to see the latest high-tech creations in various exhibition halls, including the Hall of Legacy, the Hall of Protection, the Hall of Energy and the Hall of Mobility.

There is also the Iron Man Tech Showcase, which has several Iron Man suits and the Avenger member himself will meet and interact with visitors after the ride.

Aside from that, the expo shop will have 70 exclusive Iron Man merchandise items to go along with another 250 Marvel themed items. Tung told me that the Iron Man Experience will complement the more than 100 attractions inside Hong Kong Disneyland Resort and not take away any visitor traffic from them.  He explained further that it takes two to three days for a visitor to fully experience their resort.

And here is a not-so-surprising data from Tung.  After China, Filipinos represent a good portion of international guests that go visit Hong Kong Disneyland Resort.  While Hong Kong as whole, Filipino visitors also increased by 22 percent over the first six months of 2016, with 61 percent of them being young adults.

Aside from the Iron Man Experience, Tung said they will also be opening later this year their third hotel, the Disney Explores Lodge, which will bring their total number of rooms to 1,750.

The Disney Explorers Lodge aims to celebrate the golden age of exploration in the early 1920s and transports guests to some of the most exotic corners of the world. The hotel will have the Dreamer’s Spring and Raindrop Pool while featuring four themed gardens highlighting the cultures of Asia, South America, Africa and Oceania.  It also presents three distinct dining experiences at the Dragon Wind, World of Color Restaurant and Chart Room Café.

Hong Kong Disneylan d Resort two other hotels are the Victorian inspired Disneyland Hotel and the 1920s-themed Hollywood Hotel.

And then there is the new Hong Kong Disneyland Resort mobile app that is GPS enabled and lets visitors find their way around the park and make reservations at its various restaurants.  It also allows for users to know where their favorite Disney characters will be appearing at a certain time of the day and tells the waiting time for each attraction.

Tung said China now is building somewhere between 200 and 300 theme parks and that there is good competition in Asia.

However, if you consider proximity and familiarity, Hong Kong Disneyland Resort is still the most logical choice.

Oh, and I think I might be in the minority here, but my favorite Disney character growing up was Donald Duck.

Image credits: Rodel Alzona

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