Tokyo Disneyland is one of the world’s most popular theme parks, and was the first Disney park to be built outside of the United States. Since its opening in 1983, Tokyo Disneyland has been a commercial success and fan favorite. With the addition of a second park, Tokyo DisneySea, in 2001, the park has only grown more popular with each passing year.
The history of Tokyo Disneyland is linked closely to the development of the second Disney World park, Epcot. The world culture themed park was trouble for the Disney company from the beginning due to conflicting design concepts, and the company sunk an incredible amount of money into the park. Japanese businesses, hoping to capitalize on the adoration of Japanese citizens for Disney, originally lobbied the company to build a new park in Tokyo. For budget reasons, Disney would not commit to a Japanese park.
The Oriental Land Company offered a licensing deal to Disney, which would bring considerable income into the American company while preventing them to lay out additional money on the Tokyo park. The deal meant that the new park would be designed by Disney Imagineers and have Disney characters, but be run by the Oriental Land Company. Disney agreed to the deal, which made Tokyo Disneyland the first Disney park to be operated and owned by a separate company.
Most of the attractions and rides at Tokyo Disneyland are similar to those in the American parks. Guests enter the park through the somewhat confusingly named World Bazaar, a glass and steel roofed enclosure that contains elements nearly identical to Disneyland’s Main Street, USA. The centerpiece castle is modeled after Disney’s Cinderella castle, similar to the one found in Disney World. The remaining space is given to six themed areas: Tomorrowland, Critter Country, Adventureland, Westernland, Toon Town and Fantasyland.
Tokyo Disneyland is much larger than either the California or Florida version, at 115 acres. The park is noted for its wide pathways and gathering spaces, build in anticipation of enormous crowds. It is rumored to have a hidden member’s club in the World Bazaar area, similar to the original Disneyland’s Club 33. As it does not feature an American waterfront area such as New Orleans’ Square, the Haunted Mansion ride has been transplanted to Fantasyland, while Pirates of the Caribbean resides in Adventureland.
One of the most innovative rides in the entire Disney franchise exists only at the Tokyo Park. Pooh’s Hunny Hunt themed after the popular Winnie the Pooh series, places riders in giant honey pot vehicles that operate without a track system. The ride works through a master computer, which develops random ride paths for each vehicle. This new technology guarantees that the ride will never be the same twice.
Some criticism has been leveled at the park for its practice of importing Western actors to play major Disney characters. While some feel this is understandable, as the Western actors more closely resemble the cartoon characters, critics consider it alienating to Japanese children. In the 21st century, this practice has altered somewhat, but despite continuing criticism, “import” actors are still used.
In the 1990s, Oriental Land Company began construction on a second park for the Tokyo Resort. The resulting park, Tokyo DisneySea, was hailed for its beauty and innovation and is considered by many to be the best second-gate Disney park in the world. Between the two parks, shopping complexes, and hotels, the Tokyo resort remains the most popular Disney attraction outside the United States. Tokyo Disneyland, the first Disneyland outside the control of the Disney company, has made considerable impact on the world of theme park entertainment.