The Year of the Rabbit is here! As Shanghai Disney Resort has just celebrated the Chinese New Year, it’s hard not to notice the transformation that has taken place at the resort, bringing the festivities to the next level — seemingly like magic. We asked some of the cast members responsible for this makeover to answer our most pressing questions. Meet Yakki Zhou, Associate Art Director and Yuan Pei, Senior Technical Director.
First things first — when do you begin prepping decorations for Chinese New Year?
Yakki explains that the art team generally starts to prepare decorations for seasonal campaigns at Shanghai Disney Resort three to four months in advance. For the 2023 Spring Festival campaign, the art team started brainstorming designs last August.
“The process begins with conceptual designs and technical drawing,” Yakki says. “Once the artwork is complete, they work with the technical team to produce samples to bring the designs to life. The sample creation stage is the most challenging part because we need to ensure the products meet Disney’s standards. Once the decoration parts pass inspection, we can move on to the installation stage.”
How long does it take to decorate the park and when does this happen?
Yuan shares that it typically takes two weeks and is very much a collaborative team effort to decorate the resort, with art, technical and horticulture teams working hand-in-hand. And because the park is open to guests during the day, the transformation takes place exclusively during night shifts!
Are there any new decorations this year?
There sure are! Both Yuan and Yakki note that the resort always has new designs for Chinese New Year. With every year associated with a different Zodiac sign, different elements are being developed and used for the park decorations, Yuan explains.
As the resort celebrated its Winter Frostival, which encompasses the entire winter season from Christmas through Chinese New Year, “we added some winter elements to the new year decor,” Yakki said. “You will see that in addition to the traditionally auspicious colors of red and gold, we’ve blended in a special glaze blue. With its vivid and luminous atmosphere, we hope that guests experience a magical and delightful Spring Festival at Shanghai Disney Resort.”
While all of the decorations are incredible, which ones are particularly meaningful or culturally significant?
“The iconic centerpiece in the Gardens of Imagination is always a hotspot for our guests,” Yakki shared. “This year, it is an abstract representation of a Chinese lantern, which combines key elements such as peach blossoms, Judy Hopps from ‘Zootopia,’ and rabbit motifs. There are also twelve panels printed with blessings and best wishes for the New Year for our guests.”
Fun fact: there are a total of 510 lanterns hanging in the park, Disneytown and the resort’s two hotels – all in different sizes and styles!
Yuan spoke about the Mickey Avenue lampposts and how “they look like old-fashioned Shanghai-style calendar posters, which combine Disney elements with neon light effects, giving them a traditional look with a unique twist!”
Is there a special piece of decor or a tradition you had growing up that you see reflected in the park during Chinese New Year?
For Yuan, it’s the lanterns with different pendants.
“These pendants contain many Chinese elements. This year is the Year of the Rabbit, and therefore, some lanterns have rabbit-themed elements on them. The lanterns also echo the Lantern Festival traditions,” he says. “It’s an exciting time for us. We love seeing the excitement and smiles on guests’ faces, which in turn makes us happy too.”
At the end of the day, “we want to make our guests feel like they are coming ‘home’ when visiting the park,” Yakki says.
Thank you to all the cast members involved in bringing this transformation to life at Shanghai Disney Resort, and for the passion that goes into this process. Happy Year of the Rabbit to you and yours!