​Disney’s Fabulous Art Nouveau Hotel / by Michael Ryan

Side note: this was a family holiday so all of the shots were taken hand held and quite speedily so as not to spoil the holiday. See my previous blog entry on how not to bore your family while shooting on vacation. So the architectural photos are not up to my usual standard.


The Most Expensive Hotel

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As a treat for our family, and the only way to get my three year old early to Disneyland, we stayed in the Shanghai Disney Hotel. Only one night because it is by far the most I have ever paid for a hotel. It looks quite expensive at first but perhaps worth it, a mere 1,650 RMB. But then of course you have two children staying with you. And you want a park view, right? So soon it’s over 4,000 RMB with service charge added. And that wasn’t even with breakfast which would have been an additional 1,000 RMB for the four of us - over 800 USD per night.

 Beauty and the Beast. My three year old insisted on a dance here. It’s on video but you’ll never get to see that. 

Beauty and the Beast. My three year old insisted on a dance here. It’s on video but you’ll never get to see that. 

Art Nouveau Heaven

The expense was swiftly rewarded by my two daughter’s joy. The hotel is a fin-de-siecle fantasy come to life from the moment you enter the lobby. I think Walt chose well finding a balance between Disney character rich elements and spacious artistic decor. It’s just enough to prevent adults doing a swift U-turn. Although throughout the hotel there is a post modern approach the overwhelming influence is Art Nouveau. And it just so happens I am a huge fan of that period when it comes to art and architecture. I remember the more serious art students looking down their noses at the likes of Mucha which I found to be a master of grace and delicacy.


Understated Embellishments

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Yes, you read that right, I wrote ‘understated’. Well certainly not in the ordinary sense but there are many features that are almost hidden in the rooms. Rather than over adorning the facilities you will find small details on the corners of mirrors, blended into light stands, carved into the woodwork or completely hidden behind a pull down door under a TV - a child’s bed with a painting of Mickey Mouse asleep in bed. A three year old magnet.


Above the main staircase there is a spectacular chandelier suspended over a carved marble statue of Beauty and the Beast - ok so it’s not all understated, it is Disney after all. And a nice monument to nostalgia is the wonderful round red velvet sofa you’ve seen in film noir hotels.

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Nothing is Perfect

 A circular red velvet sofa from yesteryear. 

A circular red velvet sofa from yesteryear. 

I would definitely recommend staying the Shanghai Disney Hotel even if it is only a once in a lifetime event - which it probably is for us. The service of course was flawless, the staff helpful and friendly and the environment wondrous and luxurious. And with far more character (forgive the pun) that any five star hotel in the world. And your children will never forget it.


I don’t exactly have any gripes but I wish I had skipped the park view and gone for the cheaper garden view room. There is an accessible roof on the 9th floor where you can see the best possible view of Disneyland. Much better than the one from our third floor window and my daughters didn’t really spend much time looking out the window anyway. But I went into autopilot and brought my go to architectural lens for shooting in China, my 16-35mm without thinking. But of course The park is so far from the Hotel I should have brought my telephoto instead. I’m just not used to having this much space in Shanghai.

 The curtains and quilts and other fabrics are decorated with beautiful floral arangements of white on white. 

The curtains and quilts and other fabrics are decorated with beautiful floral arangements of white on white. 


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My only actual complaint is the boat ride to and from the hotel. It’s across a lake from Disney Town if you’re not familiar with it. Not only was there wholly inadequate shade on a 46º C (115ºF) day on the dock while we waited but the boats looked like they could have been ferrying workers across the Pudong river. In other Disneyland parks transportation is Disneyised where here it is a rather utilitarian affair in a red and white bucket with plastic seats. Perhaps they are preparing you for your sad departure and arrival back in reality when you leave. Both my daughters are still suffering from mild depression having to sleep in a ‘normal boring’ bedroom again. But they are truly happy that they got the chance to spend one night in a Disney Hotel.

 We were staying in room 237 so of course we had to do a Disney version of The Shining.

We were staying in room 237 so of course we had to do a Disney version of The Shining.

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