Recently, we covered a conspiracy theory that Singapore built a Disney-style Castle with the intention of attracting the Walt Disney Company for a licensing deal. Now, new photos have surfaced of a true “copycat” Disney Park abandoned in China’s Chenzhuang Village, whose Castle is the only reminder it ever existed at all.
The love of the Disney brand, especially its theme park offerings, seems to be a universal phenomenon that one can find nearly anywhere worldwide. However, there’s definitely a huge fanaticism (and therefore a large consumer market) surrounding all things Disney, and particularly Disneyland, within many countries across Asia.
In fact, the Disney name is so popular in China that they boast two separate Disneyland-style Parks, Hong Kong Disneyland and the Shanghai Disney Resort. But what about a theme park so inspired by Disney’s success that it tried to become the next Disneyland and failed?
Beijing’s “Wonderland” theme park first began construction in 1998 on the outskirts of the Chinese city. Developers began working on what should have become the site of the largest amusement park in all of Asia, a plot of land approximately 20 miles northwest of the capital.
At the time, developers for Wonderland estimated around 3 million visitors per year would pass through the Park gates, bringing in millions of dollars of revenue. Thus, construction began on a few outbuildings, along with the framework and walls for a Bavarian-inspired castle similar in style to both Sleeping Beauty Castle at the Disneyland Resort and Cinderella Castle in Walt Disney World’s Magic Kingdom Park.
In spite of this, faced with insurmountable obstacles, Beijing abandoned the Wonderland development, leaving crops to overgrow walkways and half-completed buildings to crumble under vandalism and disrepair. Sources suggest that the local government could not reach an agreement with the area’s farmers, in addition to a corruption scandal that hindered the project towards the end of that first year.
Although at some point around 2005, Wonderland officials attempted to revive interest in the Park’s competition ahead of the 2008 Olympics hosted in China, their efforts found no success, and locals and their crops have since reclaimed the land. Unfortunately, by that point, the spot had become the potential site of a new city complex, not to mention that Imagineers had already completed the actual Hong Kong Disneyland in September of that year.
Since then, almost 25 years have passed and the only remnants of the once-promising Wonderland Park are the rusting skeletons of former attractions and the Castle’s outer walls. Moreover, after over 15 years of stalled progress, the city gave orders to tear the rest of the inoperable Park down.
Would you have liked to visit China’s abandoned Disney Park? A select adventurous few even hazard the copycat’s empty grounds today, though they’re home to nothing but a lack of magic…