The broad decision to stick with what works makes HKDL something of an uncanny experience for the seasoned visitor.
The Disney press releases state this proudly; it's unique because this is the first time the designers have decided to 'pay tribute' to the original Anaheim park. However, I feel it detracts overall.
Disneyland Paris was charming precisely because it was so uniquely engineered for european tastes. Similarly, the two cloned Cinderella Castles in Florida and Tokyo were designed to evoke a sense of massive scale and provide a landmark visible at a great distance—departing from the small intimacy of the original Disneyland. In all cases, the design was greatly modified, quite intentionally, for the needs of those parks.
Here in Hong Kong, the theme is not so much Medieval Fantasy or Americana as Disneyland itself. The park has become not a thematic representation of other times and places, but a recreation of the 'original' Disney theme park.
This tendency in Disney design to replicate itself has been manifest since the Walt Disney World (second generation) opened in 1971, and has carried through the company's other resorts around the world. But here in Hong Kong it is distilled to the point of changing the formula itself.
This newest Disneyland, in an odd sense, has become a museum to itself.
Instead of HKDL's Main Street being a simulacra of an archetypal small, Midwestern American town at the turn of the twentieth century, it’s rather a copy of a copy. And just like a document duplicated on a copy machine, and then in turn that copy is again duplicated, there is a noticeable loss of quality. Quality and, in the case of thematic representation, authenticity as well.
HKDL's Main Street U.S.A. felt the most patently fake of all the Disney Parks I’ve visited, in ways that I can’t quite describe or explain. Granted, my perception carries with it a certain bias; I grew up close to the original Disneyland, and I’ve visited that park many more times over the years than the average visitor. I could notice, instinctively, tiny details that make Hong Kong’s castle and Main Street feel less concrete, less real than the Anaheim original.
Part of this is just due to the newness; the original Disneyland has been fermenting for over 50 years, changing with each new attraction added or replaced, each new restoration and paint job, each new re-paving and remodel.
In this sense, it is like any other human-designed space; it evolves and continually gains complexity by virtue of its passage through time. HKDL is much like Dubai compared with New York City—an entire metropolis constructed in a split second.
In any case, for the majority of visitors to HKDL (I observed about 80% to 90% Asian, with the remaining ten or so percent being British from Hong Kong, South Africans, Australians and New Zealanders—I saw no other Americans at the park or at the hotel during my visit), these distinctions are moot—this might very well be the only Disneyland they will probably visit; this is Disneyland.