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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.
I can't help but toss my two cents in here. I was one of the Disney employees who spent nearly a year in Tokyo during construction. I was part of the Show Programming dept whose job it was to program all the animatronic shows. I did tech support for the animation of the big shows like Pirates and Haunted Mansion, and I did most of the animation for a bunch of the smaller shows that used a different control system.
The so-called "dark rides" (e.g. Peter Pan, etc), Jungle Cruise, and the Circlevision theater are examples of my efforts. Incidentally, I worked 32 hours straight just before the park opened doing final touch-up, and I spent the
entire night before opening reprogramming the Circlevision theater which I think is now gone. Disney Studios waited until that day to send over the final film loops, and they'd changed all the leader lengths and it totally messed up all the timing for the projectors, doors, lights and everything! The first complete run of the new prints was with management watching to OK it for opening, and the second run was with the first group of guests. I guess I cut it a little close.
I was laid off by Disney some months after TDL opened (just after I finished programming Alice in Wonderland at Disneyland), and I've never been back to Tokyo, but it's pleasing and gratifying to see what TDL has become. I'd love to see Disney Sea but probably never will. I'm glad you all enjoy TDL (and you know more about it than I do!), it was great fun helping to make it happen. - Bob J., WED Enterprises (now WDI) Show Programming Dept, 1981 - 1984.
I think the best thing about Tokyo Disneyland is the food. I had some of the most delicious foods and snacks there, they were just yummy. My favorites are the mickey mouse waffles, mickey mouse steamed buns and the turkey legs. The best snack was the popcorn that came in so many different flavors. Caramel popcorn was really good, the butter and honey popcorn was tasty as well.
There were also many choices for kids. You can find different kids meals at Disneyland and Disney Sea. The themed foods are especially fun for kids to eat, like a sausage filled pastry that's shaped like a flute! I also liked the Mickey Mouse pop sickles that helped us cool down in the heat.
I read in the news that Tokyo Disneyland was damaged by the earthquake that happened in Japan recently. The article said that there was some flooding and sinking of the ground because the Tokyo Disneyland was built on a landfill. Thankfully, no one was hurt and everyone was evacuated pretty quickly.
I think earthquakes happen quite often in Japan, near Tokyo especially. What kind of precautions have Disneyland authorities taken in case another earthquake happens in the future? Do they have special areas to evacuate people in emergencies and transportation to get them out?
All their facilities were closed for a while after the earthquake and I think their transportation was not working either. But since everyone who
was at Disneyland during the earthquake got through it safely, they must have some sort of a system set up for emergencies.
I would like to know more about it because I have many friends who want to visit but are worried about an earthquake happening.
I've been to both Tokyo Disneyland and Disney Sea. Tokyo Disneyland is great, it's very similar to the one in the U.S., the rides are pretty much the same except for a few minor differences. I had a lot of fun at Disneyland, I have always loved the Disney rides and shows.
The only downside I can think of was the long lines for rides and the huge crowds. But the employees were really doing their best to manage it. For rides with waiting lines over an hour, for example, they had passes which you could pick up. So you could come back later in the day and ride without getting in line again. I really liked that this
option was available.
I was just as impressed with Disney Sea as I was with Tokyo Disneyland. The structures and characters at Disney Sea were amazing. I saw some of the most fascinating sights there. Disney Sea was not as easy to get around as Disneyland though. They are both very large, but Disney Sea is kind of confusing. We had trouble getting around despite having maps.
But I think overall, both Disneyland and Disney Sea in Tokyo are definitely worth seeing. There is always going to be some confusion when you first visit any theme park. I had a lot of fun my first time and I'm sure it's going to be even better when I go again.