Wednesday, July 18, 2018

If I Were Disney CEO Part 14 - Tokyo Disney Resort

"To All Who Come To This Happy Place
Here you will discover enchanted lands of Fantasy and Adventure, Yesterday and Tomorrow.  May Tokyo Disneyland be an eternal source of Joy, Laughter, Inspiration, and Imagination to the peoples of the world.  And may this magical kingdom be an enduring symbol of the spirit of cooperation and friendship between the great nations of Japan and the United States of America."
April 15, 1983
E. Cardon Walker
Chairman of the Board
Walt Disney Productions

I want to take a brief intermission in the If I Were Disney CEO series to talk about the one Disney resort and two Disney theme parks that I will not be discussing in depth.  The Tokyo Disney Resort.

The Tokyo Disney Resort is composed of two theme parks (Tokyo Disneyland and Tokyo DisneySea), a shopping district (Ikspiari), and four hotels (the Ambassador Hotel, Hotel MiraCosta, Tokyo Disneyland Hotel, and the Disney Celebration Hotel).

And while the Tokyo Disney Resort has fascinated me for a long time, there's a very good reason I'm not covering it in this series:  it's not actually owned by the Walt Disney Company.

The Tokyo Disney Resort is wholly owned by the Oriental Land Company, operating with a license from the Walt Disney Company.  As such, though they do utilize Imagineering to design their attractions and lands and to pitch and propose new ideas, the decisions for expansion and any changes lie squarely with the Oriental Land Company. 

Which brings me to another well-known secret in Disney circles:  it's undoubtedly the best Disney Resort in the world and is likely the greatest theme park resort in the world.

The Oriental Land Company is meticulous in their design requirements and upkeep.  They lavish spending on the parks and demand excellence.  And for good reason.  The company is only focused on the Tokyo Disney Resort.  All of their holdings and assets center around that park.  And with Tokyo Disneyland being the third-most visited park in the world with 16.6 million guests,  they have good reason to demand such quality.

To illustrate the difference in stateside parks and Tokyo Disneyland, I'll refer to the attractions in the parks featuring Winnie The Pooh.  In the stateside parks, The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh is a quaint little dark ride.  In the old ticket booth language, it would be a "C" ticket.  The figures in the ride are clearly wooden or plastic and are generally stationary or have limited movement.  The ride vehicle moves along a guided track, though it may bump or waddle.  It's a diversion, a ride you do to fill in your day.

In contrast, Pooh's Hunny Hunt in Tokyo is a world-class "E" ticket.  The characters are appropriately skinned with fur and have a much fuller range of motion.  The sets are impeccably dressed.  And the ride vehicles use a location based positioning system to freely move about the room, without guide or wire.  The ride vehicle truly moves on a randomized pattern in the room, leading to thousands of different pathways. The ride is, accordingly, the most popular attraction in Fantasyland and one that people run to first thing (or "rope drop").

In general, Tokyo Disneyland represents a greatest hits combination of Disneyland and the Magic Kingdom.  The Oriental Land Company truly went over both parks, picking and choosing options from both parks to fill Tokyo Disneyland.  As such, there are sections of this park that do appear a little dated as they reflect the state of Disneyland or the Magic Kingdom around the late 1970s or early 1980s.  But while they may appear dated in architecture, they are meticulously maintained.  The park is also currently going through an expansion phase that is bringing a couple of the more dated sections into a more harmonized look.  Tokyo Disneyland has the following unique areas and attractions beyond Pooh's Hunny Hunt:
  • World Bazaar - instead of Main Street, Tokyo Disneyland has an entry street, largely similar to Main Street, but with two major exceptions.  There is an open center street that bisects the area leading into both Adventureland and Tomorrowland in the middle of the Main Street area and the entire thing is covered by a glass canopy to help shelter from Tokyo's weather.
  • The Enchanted Tiki Room: Stitch Presents Aloha e Komo Mai! - Stitch has invaed the Tiki Room, bringing music from Hawaii and his movie.
  • Western River Railroad - the railroad in Tokyo Disneyland only circles Adventureland, Westernland, and Critter Country.  This includes a forest with animatronic displays of wild life and Native Americans, a trestle bridge, and the Primeval World Diorama.
  • Westernland - Frontierland is called Westernland as Frontier does not adequately translate into Japanese
  • Country Bear Theater - The Bears here still run the overlays, especially for Christmas
  • Cinderella's Fairy Tale Hall - a castle walkthrough exhibit on Cinderella.
  • Goofy's Paint n' Playhouse - an interactive house where guests can virtually "paint" on the walls
  • Monster's Inc. Ride & Go Seek - an interesting interactive dark ride where guests have flashlights to shine in the ride revealing different gagas and monsters.
  • Stitch Encounter - a living character initiative show like Turtle Talk with Crush where Stitch can answer guests questions

Tokyo Disneyland will be adding a new Beauty and the Beast section with theater, village, and grand dark ride, as well as a Minnie Mouse design studio for Toontown, and a Big Hero 6 whip ride (like Maters) for Tomorrowland.

Tokyo DisneySea is a newer park, opening in 2001, with an overall nautical exploration theme.  It has seven themed "ports of call":

  • American Waterfront - representing the northeastern seaboard of the United States in the early 20th century including New York City and Cape Cod.  This section contains the large passenger ship, the SS Columbia, in the harbor (that's right, a cruise ship in the theme park), containing the Teddy Roosevelt lounge, a main dining room, and Turtle Talk with Crush, as well as serving as the backdrop for many stage shows.  This area also includes Big City Vehicles, an Elevated Electric Railway, the Transit Steamer line which circles the park, a completely different Tower of Terror, and Toy Story Mania! in a Luna Park/Coney Island inspired mini-land.
  • Lost River Delta - represents an archaeological site in a tropical rainforest of Central America in the 1930s.  The landmark is an ancient Aztec Pyramid which houses a version of the Indiana Jones adventure from Disneyland and the Raging Spirits roller coaster through the ancient ruins.
  • Port Discovery - is the "Tomorrowland" of the park, home to the fictional Marine Life Institute.  This area houses the Nemo & Friends SeaRider (a larger simulator ride) and Aquatopia, a trackless "bumper" boat ride.
  • Mermaid Lagoon - a combined indoor/outdoor pavilion themed to The Little Mermaid.  Full of small flat rides and an impressive theater show.
  • Arabian Coast - an Arabian harbor combined with an enchanted world from 1001 Arabian Nights, this area houses a double-decker carousel, a flying carpet spinner, The Magic Lamp Theater combining real stage magic and 3D film, and Sinbad's Storybook Voyage, a boat ride that takes the story of Sinbad in a setting like it's a small world on steroids.
  • Mediterranean Harbor - the entrance port of call, which includes the Hotel MiraCosta, this section includes Venetian Gondolas that guests can ride, Fortress Explorations that guests can discover, and various shops and restaurants.
  • Mysterious Island (with park icon Mount Prometheus, a giant erupting volcano) - this section is dedicated to Jules Verne and houses the Journey to the Center of the Earth ride, a 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea dry/wet dark ride, and a Nautilus in the harbor.  This section also includes Vulcania, the restaurant in Captain Nemo's scientific base.

Tokyo DisneySea is likewise undergoing an expansion to add a Michelangelo themed Soarin', as well as an entirely new port of call, Fantasy Springs.  This new port will have brand new attractions for Tangled, Frozen, and Peter Pan, and a new hotel. This new expansion is particularly interesting.  It's an expenditure of $2.3 billion dollars, being placed on a particularly interesting plot of land.  Instead of going in the previously identified area for a new port of call (between American Waterfront and Lost River Delta), it's going to have an entrance between Lost River Delta and Arabian Coast, pushing out into the parking lot behind this area.  

Estimation of new area
This placement also has it butt up against the back of Fantasyland in Tokyo Disneyland, leading to visions of park to park gates, something that has previously not been possible in the Tokyo Disney resort.

So while, it's not something that would fit in the If I Were Disney CEO series, it is a resort that I watch closely.   I cannot wait to have the opportunity to visit.  We're hoping to do so once all these additions are completed, potentially around the 40th anniversary of the park.  It remains one of the top goals on my Disney Impossible List.

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