YOUNG WORLD

Magical little park

An attraction closer home — Hong Kong's Disneyland opened recently.

SHONALI MUTHALALY

MAGIC: A blend of American showmanship and Chinese characteristics. PHOTO: REUTERS

MAGIC: A blend of American showmanship and Chinese characteristics. PHOTO: REUTERS  

Don't be fooled by the perky ears. There's nothing ratty about Mickey Mouse. Except for the fact that he's as cheerful as Pooh on a honey binge in the mornings — a little difficult to stomach even before you've dug into your cinnamon-dusted Mickey muffins and orange juice breakfast.

But then, if you're heading to Disneyland for a holiday, you had better be prepared to spend a lot of time bonding with the snub-nosed mouse and his rather goofy friends.

At the Hong Kong Disneyland hotels, not only does the big-eyed rodent wake you up in the mornings, by calling you and giggling on the phone, but he also scampers about in person every evening, pulling waitresses' pigtails at the Chef Mickey Diner (which features Mickey-shaped jellies, croutons and waffles) and affectionately hugging passing hotel guests. But inside the actual Disneyland park, dominated by Cinderella's towering pink and blue castle, Mickey prefers to stay in Fantasy Gardens, where it's nice and shady, signing autographs and rubbing noses with wide-eyed children wearing Goofy and Dumbo hairbands.

But, as for you, once you've tickled the chipmunks and given furry, cheery Donald Duck a hug for the camera, there's plenty to do.

If you have a stomach of steel, try the scarily dark `Space Mountain, roller coaster' set in Tomorrow Land — a snazzy Star-Wars-meets-The-Jetsons place, where you can pose as an astronaut, and ride flashy red flying saucers.

It will probably take at least one king coconut (a cool, sweet all-natural drink) to convince your knees that they're not made of jelly, but as soon as you can walk again, head to Adventure Land, which has Tarzan's tree house and a jungle river cruise, which includes never-seen-before glimpses of wildlife — such as a gaggle of fashionable gorillas, all in heart-studded underpants.

But where it all comes together is `Disney On Parade', when all your favourite Disney characters come out onto the main street, and sing and dance their way down the road — the little mermaid in bright curly red hair, Snow White and her dwarf battalion, the Toy Story gang... and, of course, the Mickey brigade, snuffling past gleefully, waggling their collective ears.

A glance at history

Magical little park

Walt Disney dreamed of a "magical little park", where children and parents could have fun together.

In 1953, he had the Stanford Research Institute conduct a survey for a 100-acre site, outside Los Angeles. He needed space to build rivers, waterfalls, and mountains; he would have flying elephants and giant tea cups; a fairy-tale castle, moon rockets, and a scenic railway; all inside a magic kingdom he called "Disneyland".

The search for the best spot finally ended in the rural Anaheim, California, with a purchase of a 160-acre orange grove near the junction of the Santa Ana Freeway (I-5) and Harbor Boulevard.

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