Tokyo Disney Resort Archives

March 28, 2016

In greenlighting Epcot and Tokyo Disneyland, Card Walker cemented his Disney legacy

Walt Disney Company president Card Walker, left, and Masatomo Takahashi of the Oriental Land Co. sign an agreement in 1974 to join forces in the creation of Tokyo Disneyland. [The Walt Disney Company]

CHUCK SCHMIDT / Still Goofy About Disney
AllEars.Net Guest Blogger

On Oct. 24, 1982, E. Cardon Walker stepped onto a small podium in front of a giant geodesic dome known as Spaceship Earth and read the following words:

"To all who come to this place of joy, hope and friendship, welcome. Epcot Center is inspired by Walt Disney's creative genius. Here, human achievements are celebrated through imagination, the wonders of enterprise, and concepts of a future that promises new and exciting benefits for all. May Epcot Center entertain, inform and inspire. And, above all, may it instill a new sense of belief and pride in man's ability to shape a world that offers hope to people everywhere."

With that short dedication speech, Card Walker opened the gates to Epcot, bringing to a close a decades-long odyssey that began with a sketch on a napkin by Walt Disney. Over that time span, Epcot evolved from Walt's concept of a futuristic city of tomorrow into an eclectic, two-pronged experience: Future World, where technological advances and glimpses into innovative products on the horizon would be displayed, all in an atmosphere conducive to learning; and World Showcase, where several of the world's countries would be able to show off all their nations had to offer ... kind of a permanent world's fair.

Card Walker reads the dedication during opening day ceremonies for Epcot Center on Oct. 24, 1982. [The Walt Disney Company]

Right from the start, Epcot was different, unlike anything that had ever been created before ... or, frankly, since. While most people were blown away by the shear innovative nature of the place, as well as the richly detailed architecture in World Showcase and the product displays [such as cell phones and personal computers] in Future World, some people were puzzled. Many surmised that if the Magic Kingdom was mainly for kids, then Epcot was a place devoted strictly for adults.

For one thing, Epcot in 1982 was devoid of thrill rides and, for that matter, lacking in any sort of amusements for young children. For another, the Disney characters, so prevalent in the Magic Kingdom, were virtual no-shows at Epcot during the early days.

But Epcot, like every other Disney theme park after their openings, evolved and changed to meet public demand, and after a few years, the park hit its stride and became an overwhelming success.

What many people don't realize or appreciate is that during the design and construction of Epcot, Card Walker and the Walt Disney Company had undertaken the unprecedented task of building another theme park ... this one, thousands of miles, one vast ocean and another continent away. A Japanese firm named Oriental Land Co. Ltd. had approached Disney in 1974, inquiring about the possibility of building a Disney park in the Land of the Rising Sun. Oriental Land Co. did an extensive feasibility study, met with many of Disney's corporate leaders and even took them on a helicopter tour of the proposed site.

Building Epcot and Tokyo Disneyland almost concurrently "split our staff quite a bit," recalls former Walt Disney Imagineering leader Marty Sklar. "At the point where we were in the height of construction at the two sites, we were the largest design company in the world. We had to take some of our best people and send them to Japan."

The projects pushed Disney's creative staff to the limit. "It meant that a lot of people were doing double duty," Marty added. "We had to designate people that had to live in Japan because the Japanese had no idea how to do the things that were needed to build a park. We used a lot of outside help in both projects. In building Epcot, there were so many different pieces, so many different contractors. We needed people from just about very craft that you can imagine.

With Cinderella Castle as a beautiful backdrop, Disney's fabled Partners statue adorns The Hub area of Tokyo Disneyland. [Gregg Schmidt]

"In Tokyo, we were dealing with landfill for the first time. [Tokyo Disneyland] is built all on reclaimed land. What they have there is something called differential settlement. Even today, the castle there is actually on jacks, and the jacks have to be adjusted from time to time. One part will drop, because different parts of what's underneath are going to change character ... drop an inch or two. So they're dealing with differential settlement on a regular basis."

While building a Disney park in Japan offered many new challenges, then-Disney president Card Walker had to come to grips with something on a deeply personal level: Some 35 years before Disney and Oriental Land joined forces, Walker served in the U.S. Navy in the Pacific during the war against Japan. He was a flight deck officer aboard the USS Bunker Hill, which fought in eight battles between 1943 and 1945.

"Card had a really tough time dealing with the Japanese," Marty said. "The hardest part for him was coming to grips with the loss of so many of the people he served with on the carrier. Many of them were his friends."

Walker eventually came to terms with the dilemma and Disney and Oriental Land forged a strong partnership. Eleven years after Oriental Land had begun exploring the possibility of creating a theme park in Japan - and roughly nine years after design and construction had commenced on the Disney-Oriental project - Tokyo Disneyland opened its gates on a rainy April 15, 1983.

A topiary of Mickey Mouse can be seen outside the entrance of the Tokyo Disneyland Resort. [Gregg Schmidt]

Before the gates opened, Masatomo Takahashi, president of Oriental Land, and Walker cut a ceremonial tape with Mickey Mouse and other Disney characters looking on.

In front of about 3,000 opening-day guests, Mr. Takahashi addressed the attendees from a platform set up in World Bazaar: "On this day, April 15, 1983, I declare the opening of Tokyo Disneyland!"

Card Walker offered the following words of dedication, just six months after doing similar honors at Epcot:

"To all of you who come to this happy place, welcome. 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 people 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."

Soon after the opening of Tokyo Disneyland, Walker retired as an executive, but continued to serve as a consultant to the company until 1990. After 61 years of service - which started in the Disney Studios mailroom - Card Walker retired from the board of directors in 1999 and was designated an emeritus member of the board.

He died on Nov. 28, 2005, in La Cañada Flintridge, Calif., his legacy firmly established, his contributions to the company legendary ... and his debt to Walt Disney more than paid off.

April 9, 2014

Jim’s Attic: The Story of Beacon Joe

The Story of Beacon Joe
By Jim Korkis

Which original Disney character appears in three different attractions at Walt Disney World and was originally created for Disneyland?

I always hated it when teachers asked questions like that and they already knew the answer" and I was a public school teacher for several years after I graduated college so I always tried to help the students with the right answer.

The answer is in the title of this blog installment: Beacon Joe.

However, for many Disney fans that can still be a puzzling answer. When The Pirates of the Caribbean attraction opened in May 1967, it was the last Disney attraction personally overseen by Walt Disney himself.

It was Walt's idea to have the shallow boats drift leisurely through the Blue Bayou before plunging down a hidden waterfall to begin the pirate adventure. The musical chirp of unseen crickets and the faint glow of fireflies against the background of an indigo sky dotted with stars and slowly wafting clouds artistically frames this location to give it a false sense of calm.

The always innovative Walt Disney conceived of a quiet, upscale restaurant that would actually be inside an attraction. It was an idea that had never been done before and it was an instant hit with the many visitors to Disneyland. (My favorite treat at Disneyland is a Monte Cristo sandwich in the restaurant.)

There were discussions of including live entertainment in this quiet, restful environment but after a dress rehearsal during a trial dinner, Walt reportedly said, "In this restaurant, the food is going to be the show, along with the atmosphere".

Right across from the Blue Bayou restaurant and to the left of the guests in the boats is a shack where a bearded man wearing overalls leisurely rocks back and forth plucking out a tune on his banjo. That's Beacon Joe.


Disney Legend Marc Davis designed both the character and the shack. In fact, the initial concept drawings came from his original designs for a Thieves Market that was going to be part of the attraction when it was planned to be a walk-through experience.

The Pirates of the Caribbean attraction was initially not going to be installed in Florida so to brighten up the steamboat voyage around the Rivers of America in Frontierland, Davis installed Beacon Joe and his shack just around an upper curve in the river.

Joe was not there at the opening in 1971 but made his appearance sometime in late 1972 just before the opening of Tom Sawyer's Island in 1973 along with other residents added to the river banks like the Native Americans in their village.


Joe is the last outpost of civilization before guests drift into the frontier wilderness.

He sits on the porch of his shack in front of Alligator Swamp smoking his corncob pipe. He keeps track of the river's occasional course changes and marks the river accordingly for the river traffic.

His faithful dog intensely watches a jumping fish (that looks suspiciously like a repainted piranha from the Jungle Cruise) with his head turning from left to right.


Beacon Joe also appears in Tokyo Disneyland. He can be seen fishing, surrounded by barrels and with his faithful dog on the nearby stairs, near the large trestle of the Western River Railroad as the steamboat maneuvers around the Western River.

However, I mentioned that Beacon Joe appears in three different attractions just at Walt Disney World. It is not unusual for the Disney Company to re-use audio-animatronics sculpted figures. For instance, President Thomas Jefferson shows up as a sheriff on a balcony in The Great Movie Ride, along with some Caribbean pirates re-used as gangsters earlier in the attraction.

The character sculpt of Beacon Joe is used in The Pirates of the Caribbean attraction as the standing pirate in the last jail cell at the end of the ride trying to coax a dog to give him the key to the door. He also shows up clean shaven and wearing a crown at the ballroom banquet table in The Haunted Mansion.

Just like a supporting character actor in a film, Beacon Joe quietly makes his appearances to help the storytelling but never feels the necessity to be the star of the show. However, now, you know where he is and why he is there so give him a wave or a shout on your next visit.

Disney Historian Jim Korkis goes up into his imaginary attic to rummage around his archives and often stumbles across an unusual story about Walt Disney World. Those who have met me know that I take real joy in talking about Walt Disney.

Check out Jim's other "From the Attic" Blogs

Full features from the Walt Disney World Chronicles series by Jim Korkis can be found in the AllEars® Archives:

Jim Korkis

Jim Korkis is an internationally respected Disney Historian who has written hundreds of articles about all things Disney for more than three decades. As a former Walt Disney World cast member, his skills and historical knowledge were utilized by Disney Entertainment, Imagineering, Disney Design Group, Yellow Shoes Marketing, Disney Cruise Line, Disney Feature Animation Florida, Disney Institute, WDW Travel Company, Disney Vacation Club and many other departments.

He is the author of three new books, available in both paperback and Kindle versions on
The Book of Mouse: A Celebration of Walt Disney's Mickey Mouse
Who's Afraid of the Song of the South
"The REVISED Vault of Walt":

September 10, 2013

Tokyo Disney Resort: Beyond the Theme Parks!

By Jenny Lynne
Guest Blogger

During my recent 14-day trip to Japan, after I spent an amazing day at Tokyo DisneySea and another incredible day at Tokyo Disneyland, I felt like I was missing something. I had packed in two full days at the theme parks, leaving no time to explore the rest of Tokyo Disney Resort. And so, I added another "Disney day" to my schedule. This day would be dedicated to seeing the three Disney hotels and whatever else the Tokyo Disney Resort had to offer.

Shopping at Bon Voyage

In order to make the most of my previous precious theme park days, I hadn't spent much time shopping in the parks, and so my first stop on my third day at Tokyo Disney Resort was the resort's huge gift shop, Bon Voyage. Bon Voyage carried many, but certainly not all, of the Tokyo Disney theme park items that I had seen for sale inside the parks.


With no rides or shows vying for my attention, I examined the gift boxes of cookies and snacks, Disney charms, Disney hand towels, Disney plush characters, Disney jewelry, Disney car accessories, Disney chopsticks, Disney-character-tail lint rollers, Disney-themed Q-tips, and Disney character hats that I'd never seen for sale at U.S. Disney parks. I made a mental note of the items that I planned to purchase at the end of the day and then continued toward the Tokyo Disneyland Hotel.

Tokyo Disneyland Hotel

The Tokyo Disneyland Hotel was just outside the entrance to Tokyo Disneyland. Steps away from the hotel, the Tokyo Disneyland Station offered easy access, via monorail, to Tokyo DisneySea.

The approach to the hotel from the monorail station was breathtaking. The towering, Victorian-style building flanked a courtyard with Disney-character topiaries. There was a Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique and shopping and dining venues along the lower level of the hotel. I am, unfortunately, too old for a princess makeover at the Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique. I browsed in a nearby shop and then made my way to the hotel lobby.



The hotel lobby was grand, with high ceilings, accented by chandeliers and skylights with stained-glass touches. Bronze Mickey and Minnie statues greeted guests as they walked through the main entrance. Opposite the entrance were tall windows that looked out at Tokyo Disneyland Station and offered a peek at Cinderella Castle. There was a café and bar where diners could enjoy this view along with meals, drinks, and desserts.

In the center of the lobby, Tinkerbell topped a soothing, multi-level fountain. A windowed elevator, that offered guests a view of the lobby as they traveled, was laced with ironwork that featured iconic Disney images.


I took a walk down a guest room hallway where housekeepers greeted me with a bow and a "Konnichiwa." In the hallways, I spotted Mickey, incorporated into the wall sconces.

Outside the main entrance of the Tokyo Disneyland Hotel, sculptures brought to life the famous sorcerer's apprentice story from Disney's Fantasia. Brooms, holding buckets that spouted water, filled the overflowing inner fountain. Sorcerer Mickey stood at the center. Seeing the story that had captured my imagination as a child in the form of a fountain was enchanting. This just might be my favorite fountain in the world.


Disney Ambassador Hotel


Disney Ambassador Hotel was located between Tokyo Disneyland and Tokyo DisneySea. It was a short walk away from a quick monorail ride to the theme parks.

The Disney Ambassador Hotel had an Art Deco style cruise ship vibe. The lobby felt more intimate than the Tokyo Disneyland Hotel, and a bit more geared toward children. The ceiling featured a mural of Mickey's friends on an airplane adventure.


Toward the center of the lobby, there was a sculpture of Mickey working as a movie director. It was so shiny that it was difficult to fully appreciate or photograph. My favorite feature of the lobby was the piano music that seemed to be coming from the unattended piano. I just had to sit for a few minutes and enjoy it.


Tokyo DisneySea Hotel MiraCosta

The final Tokyo Disney Resort hotel that I visited was Tokyo DisneySea Hotel MiraCosta. The hotel was not just near Tokyo DisneySea, the MiraCosta was actually part of the theme park! Hotel guests had their own "secret" entrance to DisneySea.


The hotel's theme matched Mediterranean Harbor, the DisneySea "port-of-call" of which it was a part. At the front entrance of the MiraCosta was an ancient-looking fountain featuring slightly-scary stone creatures spouting water from and around their bodies.

In the main lobby was an impressive brass ship which sported Disney touches on close inspection. The MiraCosta lobby had a more adult feel to it than the other hotels, and, like the Disney Ambassador Hotel, it felt intimate.


Just off the lobby, large windows revealed that the hotel really was part of Tokyo DisneySea. The windows looked out directly into Mediterranean Harbor with Mount Prometheus, the volcano, as an ominous backdrop. After staring longingly into the park, flooded with happy memories, I took a jaunt down a guest room hallway, where I found the story of Pinocchio somewhat subtly incorporated into the murals.


The Disney hotel pools

The outdoor pools at the three Disney hotels at Tokyo Disney Resort only open in the summer, and were not yet open when I visited in June. I did take a look at Hotel MiraCosta's small, but bright and lovely, heated indoor pool. Like most upscale hotels in the Tokyo area, there was a steep fee for hotel guests wishing to use the indoor pool during their stay.

Downtown Disney?

Ikspiari is Tokyo Disney Resort's answer to Downtown Disney. There were stores that one might find at a typical shopping mall, selling mostly clothes and shoes at typical mall prices. There was also a movie theater, a food court, and a large Disney Store. Among the extensive selection of Disney items, from Disney character backpacks to Disney UniBEARsity plush toys, the Disney Store featured bargain clearance merchandise which was eagerly snapped up by shoppers.


Back to Bon Voyage

The sun was starting to set when I made my way back to Bon Voyage to make my final purchases. It was hard to believe that I'd spent an entire fun-filled day at the Tokyo Disney Resort without entering either of the two theme parks. It was something I hadn't planned when creating my Japan itinerary, but something I'd recommend to any Disney fan who travels to Tokyo to see Tokyo Disney Resort.



Jenny Lynne met Mickey Mouse for the first time at Disneyland when she was just 1 year old. Jenny has made many trips back to Disneyland, a few excursions to Walt Disney World, and one incredible journey to Tokyo Disney Resort. She is an author who lives in Los Angeles, California, with her adorable cat, Nala. You can read about Jenny's other adventures at

May 3, 2008

A Trip to Tokyo Disneyland - Final Thoughts

AllEars® reader JeanineY is part of the NFFC trip to Tokyo Disneyland. She will be filing reports along the way.

First, a note about Jeanine's camera. As you saw in an earlier blog, her night photos of the parade were awesome!

I've had my camera for ages--it's a Sony F717 which came out right before all the digital SLRs came out. After probably hundreds of nightime parade photo attempts, I find the easiest thing for me is to leave it on automatic but turn off the flash. It looks like it took most of them at 1/30s, f/2.1, with an ISO of 320. I like it because it doesn't take a long time to start up and the autofocus is pretty good, but it's a little on the heavy/bulky side, and I wish it had better image stabilization.

And now, some final thoughts:

So, having made two successful trips to the Tokyo Disney Resort, I have a few observations to make. While they are all true according to me, remember that you would probably laugh at someone who had been to WDW twice and tried to give you recommendations, and that free advice is usually worth the price.

Should I Go? Isn't it just the same as Disneyland or the Magic Kingdom out here?

Yes, you should. While the general scope of Tokyo Disneyland is essentially the same as Disneyland or the Magic Kingdom, I think it's fascinating to see how differently it all runs, and how the different aspects of Japanese society affect it.

In general, it's cleaner than the parks here, the Cast Members are more abundant and more enthusiastic, the rides are better maintained, and the shows and parades are longer and more elaborate. Lines are long, but the people are more accepting of waiting and the lines move faster than you'd expect. There are more restrictions--people are not allowed to stand in front of people sitting for the parades, and people are not allowed to raise their cameras or children higher than their head--but these generally contribute to a better viewing experience for everyone.



Then, if there was nothing else, DisneySea would be worth it. It is a gorgeous park with impeccable theming and really shows exactly what quality of work the Imagineers might turn out if they had adequate financial support.


But isn't Tokyo the most expensive place, ever?

Like any city, there are very very expensive hotels/restaurants/shops in Tokyo, and there are also very affordable places as well. While food found in hotel restaurants is likely to be overpriced, it should only serve as an incentive to explore the nearby small cafes, department stores, or food courts. One day we had some very respectable shrimp pitas for dinner obtained from a Starbucks for about $7. Other days we had bowls of udon for about $5.

Park tickets are actually cheaper than in the US, as a 4-day passport was $150, compared to DL's 4-day ticket at $185, or WDW's 4-day ticket of ~$250.

Although most of the hotels directly around the Tokyo Disney Resort are fairly expensive by my poverty-stricken standards, my understanding is that there are cheaper places only slightly further away and easily accessible by train. Having said that, I think if your goal is to go to the Disney parks, then one of the Disney Official Hotels is a good place to spend on, simply for the ease of getting to the park, the extra magic hour (you only get one) and the ability to buy your park tickets in the lobby.

Of course, if you've got the dime, the Miracosta or the newly built Disneyland Hotel look immensely worthwhile, and far more luxurious than the Grand Floridan. Prices appear to run around $310-$5k/night.


But I don't speak Japanese! I won't understand anything! No one will understand me! Woe!

While it is true that most of the shows are largely in Japanese, I think the average person likely to make the effort to go there will already know most of the stories involved, and what a Cast Member might be asking you at any given time (hint: "how many in your party?"). Maps and signs are almost always available in English, and in an increasing number of shows they offer small electronic devices that display English subtitles keyed to the timing of the show.

Most Japanese people have actually studied English at some point in time, but in general are usually reluctant to try to use it, due to an extreme sensitivity to embarrassment and error. Consequently, they may understand enough of what you're asking to try to help you in a non-verbal fashion.

While I think it is probably always appreciated when visitors make an attempt to learn a given country's language, I actually think it might be just as helpful and more easily accomplished to try to learn some of the writing. Japanese has 3 different writing systems--Kanji, which is made up of individual pictographs that have to be rote memorized by the thousands, Hiragana, which is a syllabary used for words in Japanese, and Katakana, which is a simplified syllabary used for foreign words. Since most of the writing around the Disney Resort is likely to be English, if you can make out the Katakana from a chart, you have a fighting chance of being able to read a lot of the Japanese you may encounter.

Well that's fine and generalized, but how about some specific advice?

Ok. I was told prior to this trip that the flights, if they were going to go down, were likely to go down around 2 months before the date, which was about right. From LAX, a good price to Narita Airport used to be around $500, but in the last year or so, I've been unable to find flights less than around $650. If you can upgrade, I suggest doing so--it's very long flight and while a one-way upgrade may cost 25k miles and $300, the price of not arriving with puffy feet and backaches? Priceless.

Unless you manage it carefully, chances are your flight will arrive after 4pm, Tokyo time. This means that, barring better luck at the Customs lines than I've ever had, you'll miss the last direct shuttle bus from the airport to the resort. Your transportation options at that point will include: Trains--less expensive, but you'll have to transfer at least twice, making it a problematic plan if you've brought a lot of luggage. Japan still isn't particularly accommodating to the weak, and a lot of train stations still don't have abundant elevators or escalators, meaning you may have to lug your stuff up the occasional flight of stairs to get to different platforms. There's also the issue of whether you'll be up to trying to figure out the mechanics of the train system after 10+ hours of flying. Taxis--least effort, most expensive. The airport is about 30-60 minutes away from the resort, and I don't know what that would equal in taxi terms, but I'm pretty sure it's more than I'm hoping to pay. Having said that, the taxis are impeccably clean and honest, although on the small size--two groups of people with luggage would likely not be able to share one. The likely compromise--what the shuttle bus people will advise you, is to take the next shuttle bus to the closest hotel to the resort (the Brighton at this time) and then take a taxi the rest of the way. The taxi from the Brighton cost us around $20, and the "Airport Limo," or shuttle bus, cost $24. Going home, it should be possible to buy a ticket for the shuttle bus from the hotel directly back to the airport for the same price. As a rule, there is no tipping in Japan.

Is there stuff for me to buy?

Is there tea in China? There is an enormous amount of merchandise available, most of which appears fantastically cute. The Japanese have a fairly demanding gift-giving system which mandates an enormous amount of souvenir shopping. The main things they seem to sell are cell phone charms and tins of cookies and candies in decorative tins. Another big item is face towels, which are carried by most people in lieu of any proffered paper towels or paper napkins. What you usually won't find is a wide variety of t-shirts or pins which are apparently of limited interest to the local people.


The merchandise changes rapidly and is not uniform everywhere. There is a large gift store right outside the entrance to Tokyo Disneyland called Bon Voyage that has a lot of park merchandise, but there is quite a bit that is not represented there. As I found out the hard way, once your tickets are up, there's no way to get in to buy any merchandise you might have wanted, that isn't outside the parks, without purchasing another ticket. Other people in the group found that merchandise they saw at the beginning of the week was completely sold out towards the end of the week and replaced with other merchandise. Lastly, the shops do not stay open for another hour or so on Main Street after closing, as they do in DL and WDW--a lot of them shut their doors right at closing, and most of them try to herd people down to the Emporium which seems to stay open for another 30 minutes. Moral: Buy whatever you want, when you see it. At most, you have 4 days to look at things, and you may not pass that way again.


My favorite souvenirs were generally the ones that came with food. Around the various parks, you can purchase little cakes or custards that come in small ceramic plates or cups that are usually themed to whatever the current celebration is at the time. Popcorn buckets are also a huge deal there, as a multitude of popcorn carts exist, each selling a different decorated bucket and flavor of popcorn (flavors are extensive and esoteric, ranging from "sea salt" to "strawberry" to "cappuccino" to "curry.") I find the buckets there amazingly efficient, with pop-up lids and coordinated straps, and resembling the generic flat-printed buckets in the US as much as a Fabergé egg resembles a real one. They're not cheap though--the bucket with popcorn might cost around $12, while refills cost $5. This doesn't sound terrible, except that you feel obliged to keep the bucket full as long as you're going to carry it around, and then at night, you have to reflect that you spent $25 in one day on popcorn.


I'd really like to experience it, but I can't imagine going to Japan. It's too foreign and too big of a endeavor for me to think about right now.

The aspect of going there is probably not as daunting as you might think. It's a modern city, complete with the occasional McDonald's (although pronounced something closer to "Macu Donarldo") and KFC. There are certainly many cultural sites you may want to visit beyond Disney, but day or multi-day tours are easy to pick up through your hotel or even online. Just get your passport, book your reservations and go. It'll be fun. It'll be an adventure. Think of it this way: As Hillel the Elder says, "if not now, when?"


Read my Trip Report to Tokyo Disneyland.

April 28, 2008

A Trip to Tokyo Disneyland - Day 4 - Back to Disneyland

AllEars® reader JeanineY is part of the NFFC trip to Tokyo Disneyland. She will be filing reports along the way. Here is Day 4

Tokyo Disneyland: Back to Disneyland.

Almost before we knew it, we had arrived at the last day of our 4 day passport. We headed on over to Disneyland, as that was where the NFFC was going to take its group photo. On our way, we admired the costuming and enthusiasm of the monorail CMs.

Monorail Cast Members

One thing that really stands out is the sheer volumes of CMs in the parks that are almost unfailingly cheerful and welcoming, and who all have distinct costuming. No nondescript blue shirts and khakis for them!

The symbol of the 25th Anniversary appears to be the Key of Dreams which appears everywhere in the decorations and merchandise.

Tokyo Disneyland 25th Anniversary

Although there was a plethora of merchandising options available in most of the stores around the resort, there were two special items (cell phone charms) that were personalizable: One was an "ears" type hat in various colors with various characters on them that you could get your name printed on, and another was a metal key which was personalized with slide-on beads and various end plates that had letters or pictures on them. These items were only sold in little kiosks in the hub and were characterized by monster lines. This is the one for the keys:

Line for Tokyo Disneyland 25th Merchandise

I heard the key line was something like 4 hours long. I waited in the other line for about 30 minutes successfully, but you had to get in it as soon as you got in the park, because by the afternoon, they closed the line.

After that, we got positioned for the official NFFC photo by sitting in lines in front of the castle. Unfortunately, this had apparently not been cleared by the TDR security, which then halted the proceedings until they could contact other people. Also unfortunate was the fact that we had chosen to sit directly in the path of the Omnibus, which then proceeded to edge closer and closer to us, much to the amusement of the handful of riders on it, who were probably texting all their friends about the odd Americans they were about to run over. Eventually choosing the latter part of valor, we fled, with the hopes that someone had gotten a photo of something.

Since we hadn't done much of the left side of the park, we headed on over to Adventureland, where we found the equivalent to Aloha Isle...

Tropical Juice Bar Squeezer's

...which sadly did not carry the Dole Whip. And that sound you just heard? Was that the death of any desire Mike Scopa ever had to go to Tokyo.

Adventureland is a little odd by our standards, as it incorporates a lot of the New Orleans architecture without actually having a New Orleans Square area. Their Pirates is about the same as the WDW version, complete with an all-Japanese Pirate band outside.

all-Japanese Pirate band

Jungle Cruise was fairly similar to the WDW one, with the narrative being completely in Japanese (although apparently "backside of water" goes over well in any language.)

The Tiki Room was closed as they are currently updating it to include Stitch, so we moved on to the Western River Railroad. This version, unlike the American versions, has no stops but basically just encircles the Jungle Cruise area. It has the dinosaur dioramas from DL, and additional Indian animatronics at various areas along the way.

After a stop for some noodles at China Voyager, it began to pour down rain. This was a little distressing as we had hoped to see the new parade Jubilation from a better vantage point, and they apparently have a history of putting on a different rainy day parade when it rains. Fortunately, they went on with the parade as scheduled, just eliminating the show stops and some of the acrobatics.

Jubilation Parade

Jubilation Parade

Jubilation Parade

Jubilation Parade

Jubilation Parade

It's a lovely parade, although there doesn't seem to be much in the way of a theme tying it all together...but that seems to be the way the parades have been going for awhile.

By this time, we needed to go to meet some family members that were having dinner with us that night, so that was pretty much it for the day. I did, however go back in the evening another day for a few more hours in Disneyland to see their evening parade Dreamlights.

Dreamlights Tokyo Disneyland Night Parade

Dreamlights Tokyo Disneyland Night Parade

Dreamlights Tokyo Disneyland Night Parade

Dreamlights Tokyo Disneyland Night Parade

Dreamlights Tokyo Disneyland Night Parade

Dreamlights Tokyo Disneyland Night Parade

Dreamlights Tokyo Disneyland Night Parade

Dreamlights Tokyo Disneyland Night Parade

Dreamlights Tokyo Disneyland Night Parade

This is a beautiful parade that combines all the charm of the Main St. Electrical Parade (including some of the music) with all the higher-tech effects of Spectromagic. It was awesome, and if any of the US parks ever gets it, we can consider ourselves lucky.

Afterwards, I took in a few more attractions finally got to see the Dreams firework show from the DL side. It was nice, but very short--the lighting on the castle changed with the music and the shells and was very pretty. Still, I don't think Wishes or Remember have anything to worry about.

Dream Fireworks Show

The last area I got to investigate was their Toontown, which is like a mirror image of DL's, with the residential district on the right, and the business district on the left. Roger Rabbit's Cartoon Spin was about the same, but the main attraction for me was the Jolly Trolley! It was still running! I realize for most people this would be an inconsequential thing, but...come on! The Jolly Trolley!

Roger Rabbit's Cartoon Spin

One more ride on Pooh's Hunny Hunt, and the park was closed. I shopped a little on the World Bazaar area, but the stores close much sooner than in the US, and it was evident they were really trying to clear everyone out of all the shops except for the Emporium, and that one closed about half an hour after the official park closing.

So, that was the end of the Disney-related part of my trip, all of which was terrific. I could not recommend a trip over to the Tokyo Disney Resort highly enough.

People in the US often enjoy saying "sayonara" as goodbye, but in Japanese there is a sense of finality to it (one teacher described it as "something you'd say to someone you're never going to see your ex.") Ja mata is a more casual phrase, meaning something like "see you later." As I will certainly return here, we will not then, say sayonara to Tokyo Disneyland, but rather ja mata. Until next time.

Tokyo Disneyland Castle

Read my Trip Report to Tokyo Disneyland.

April 27, 2008

A Trip to Tokyo Disneyland - Day 3 - Tokyo Disney Sea

AllEars® reader JeanineY is part of the NFFC trip to Tokyo Disneyland. She will be filing reports along the way. Here is Day 3:

Having arrived at the 3rd day of our 4-day park ticket, we were now free to go into either park at will. Since the NFFC luncheon for today was at the Miracosta Hotel (the amazingly fabulous hotel that makes up part of DisneySea) we headed over in that direction in the morning.

Miracosta Hotel

After entering, we took advantage of the light morning crowds to take a ride on a gondola, from the Mediterranean Harbor area. This area is beautifully themed, but is largely facades, as I believe the Miracosta Hotel makes up one side of the street.

Mediterranean Harbor

The gondola rides have a reasonably authentic feel to them and afford a nice view of the bay. The narration is all in Japanese however, with little obvious hints of what the driver is talking about. At one point I believe he tells everyone to close their eyes as he sings in Italian, which is something of a surreal moment. The ride is probably not a must-do for most people, as it's a relatively low capacity loader and is also sometimes difficult to find working, given that it stops operation when the big water shows are taking place. If you enjoy the canoe rides, but aren't fond of the physical labor involved with them, you'd probably enjoy these.

Gondola Ride

After that, we walked around the Fortress Exploration area which is a terribly underrated attraction. It has almost a Tom Sawyer Island feel to it as it involves a lot of stair-climbing around twisty turrets on Escher-like multiple levels. Based as it is on the theming of discovery and scientific study, it includes fascinating interactive nooks where you can do everything from turn cranks and rotate planets around a huge model of the galaxy, see an optical display of spherical aberration, or operate the most incredibly detailed coin-operated remote-control boats in an environment complete with whirlpools and occasional rainstorms. Definitely worth taking the time to investigate.

Fortress Exploration area

By this point, it was time to make our way to the magnificently themed Miracosta Hotel to Oceano, for our final NFFC lunch. The Miracosta is positioned as the front wall to DisneySea, so that you actually walk under it to enter the park. The views of the harbor area from the rooms are supposed to be incredible, as are the room prices. Should anyone wish to take up a collection for me to stay there, I'll gladly report back.

Miracosta Hotel

Oceano is a similarly beautifully decorated restaurant with multiple dining areas all abstractly given an underwater feel. The lunch was buffet style with a wide variety of selections, all of which were very good. The service was impeccable as usual, with people actually following you around to carry a plate for you, if you looked like you ran out of hands.

Oceano Restaurant

Oceano Restaurant

At the beginning of lunch there was a brief presentation as Dennis Tanida inducted OLC CEO Toshio Kagami into the list of NFFC Disney Legends.

Dennis Tanida, Toshio Kagami, Kendra

Afterwards, one of the several other Imagineers in attendance also gave a brief talk on some of the future plans for the resort. The highlight of the lunch, and possibly of the trip, was being able to go out onto the restaurant balconies at showtime to watch the Legends of Mythica from a special reserved vantage point. As a total Illuminations dessert party devotee, this was an amazing experience and a perfect way to finish the formal NFFC programming.

Legends of Mythica

After another quick jaunt back to the room to change into more park-appropriate clothing, we watched Primavera: Springtime Fun, which was their 3rd and smallest water show. Here, a few character floats came out, while various other characters led different dance acts around the harbor.

Primavera: Springtime Fun

A short walk around the American Waterfront area followed. Although the theming of 1920's New York is well done, I found this to be the least interesting of the lands as, with the exception of Tower of Terror, it mostly consists of shops and restaurants.

American Waterfront

We watched their latest show Big Band Beat at the Broadway Theater which had excellent production values and consisted of a variety of big band/swing numbers, some of which featured Minnie Mouse, Daisy Duck, and Marie from the Aristocats. It's an interesting show, given that it's all in English, so you wonder how much of it the general Japanese public understands.

Big Band Beat at the Broadway Theater

One more show by the large restaurant-filled SS Columbia, Over the Waves was a typically goofy Japanese production about stowaways on a cruise ship. The singing was largely in English, however all the dialogue is in Japanese--not that it's all that difficult to follow.

Over the Waves

A serviceable dinner at the Chinese buffeteria Vulcania, in the depths of Mysterious Island, rounded out the night.


All the heated food is apparently cooked by the geothermal heat from the volcano.


Once again the fireworks were canceled due to gusty winds, so we headed on back to the hotel.

Read my Trip Report to Tokyo Disneyland.

April 26, 2008

A Trip to Tokyo Disneyland - Day 2 - Tokyo Disneyland

AllEars® reader JeanineY is part of the NFFC trip to Tokyo Disneyland. She will be filing reports along the way. Here is Day 2:

We had been told that people would start lining up early in order to get into the park and get a good spot for the Anniversary re-dedication ceremony. After breakfast, we arrived on the monorail to find almost the whole area in front of the entry gates filled with people.

Arriving at Tokyo Disneyland for Re-Dedication Ceremony

When the park finally opened, people moved in a mostly-orderly fashion through the gates and received their commemorative Tinkerbell pin. There was then a mass sprint to the castle forecourt down the World Bazaar area which was lined the entire length with CMs waving and calling out welcomes. A band was out playing, and film crews and press were around in droves.

Having failed to secure a particularly good spot, I mostly saw the ceremony through the viewfinder of some tall person's camera. I did manage to see Toshio Kagami, Chairman of Oriental Land Co. and Bob Iger make their announcements, after which virtually every character and CM known to Tokyo Disneyland came out with much fanfare.

Tokyo Disneyland for Re-Dedication Ceremony

After much singing and dancing, the characters and CMs all paraded off and there was another mass exodus as the large swell of humanity sprinted off again to various attractions or merchandise locations.

We joined in the race to get fastpasses for Pooh (past the CMs vainly calling out "yukkuri!" which is Japanese for "slowly!") and then jumped in whatever Fantasyland lines were shortest. We had surprisingly little wait for most rides, with the exception for Peter Pan which is apparently at least a 35 minute wait in any country.

One attraction I had been waiting to experience for a long time was the Mickey Mouse Revue, which was gone from WDW by the time I ever got there. Although it was presented almost entirely in Japanese, the gist of it seemed clear: It began with a short film intro that traced Mickey Mouse's appearances through time, and then moved into another room which was inhabited by a number of animatronics from various animated classics. These were alternately lit as they performed songs from their respective movies (again, mostly in Japanese) and eventually all joined in for the finale, conducted by Mickey Mouse and his animatronic orchestra.

I thought this was a very appealing show, although the somewhat dated appearance of the filmstrip preceeding the main attraction gives some evidence as to why it might have been replaced.

Mickey Mouse Revue

After that, it was time to congregate for the Club 33 luncheon. The Club 33 in Tokyo Disneyland is in the World Bazaar area, with a similarly inconspicuous entryway.

Club 33 Entrance

The inside is probably as nice as you'd imagine.

Club 33

While the setting was gorgeous, I would have to say that the only underwhelming part of the meal was the food, which was good but didn't really strike the people at our table as being equal to the surroundings. The exception was the dessert which was fabulous.

Club 33

After lunch we had a talk with Imagineer Patrick Brennan who was filling in for Marty Sklar, absent secondary to a death in his family. He spoke of different projects they had coming up for Tokyo Disneyland, took questions, and generally showed a lot of enthusiasm for the park and their work there.

Subsequently, they had a limited amount of Club 33 merchandise for sale. The items were attractive, but a little pricey, running around $157 for a pair of cups.

Club 33 Tea cups

After a quick run back to the hotel to change into more park-friendly clothes, we watched the new Anniversary parade "Jubilation!" from a spot which could only be described as "obstructed viewing." As this was apparently the first official day for the parade, it seemed that everyone in Tokyo had come out to see it and despite the fact that it appears to be mandated that the front 4-8 rows must be sitting, it was still hard to get a good view.

Jubilation Parade

The floats were impressive both in size and in detailing--particularly the Peter Pan float that had a ship in something like a Russian Swing formation hanging from a crescent moon, and associated acrobatics.

After the parade, it was finally time for our Pooh fastpass. Pooh is deservedly one of the most popular rides in Tokyo Disneyland because of its unique trackless ride system which has you skittering around in honeypots seemingly at random--first spinning around in circles, next appearing to crash into other pots, then zooming up to a woozle (or a hefflelump?) to get smoke blown at you. It's a great ride and puts the Anaheim Disneyland version to shame.

Pooh Attraction

After that, we visited a number of other attractions, notably the Country Bears which was amusing as some of the characters apparently spoke Japanese, and some didn't. It was sponsored by House Food Curry, and by an odd coincidence the Hungry Bear Restaurant next door served pretty much nothing but House Food Curry--fortunately we enjoy that, so we sampled their fried prawn curry while waiting for the fireworks which were called off on account of wind.

Hungry Bear Restaurant

Since we had gotten up fairly early in the morning, we had begun to droop from fatigue, so we called it a night. Tomorrow: DisneySea II.

Tokyo Disneyland

Read my Trip Report to Tokyo Disneyland.

April 19, 2008

A Trip to Tokyo Disneyland - Day 1 - Tokyo DisneySea

AllEars® reader JeanineY is part of the NFFC trip to Tokyo Disneyland. She will be filing reports along the way. Here is Day #1: DisneySea

Tokyo Disney has an odd quirk about it's passes--you can buy multi day passes up to 4 days but you must specify which park you are going to each day for the first two days, and there is no park hopping permitted until after those two days are up. For our purposes, it was essential we designated Disneyland as our second day, so as to be there for the official 25th anniversary date. Consequently, we spent today at DisneySea.

The big globe in Tokyo DisneySea Plaza

Tokyo DisneySea is unique among all Disney parks. It is based upon the concept of seven different lands joined by their varied connections to the sea. It is insanely detailed in terms of theming and is probably the most beautiful Disney park I have ever visited. Of all the American parks, it resembles EPCOT more than any other in its lack of reliance on conventional Disney characters, and its representation of multiple different cultures and geographic areas.

After breakfast in the lounge I went downstairs to register for the NFFC events. After being given copious amounts of papers, tickets, shirts, bags, pins, etc., we were off to DisneySea for Early Magic Hours. Apparently, the first day of your ticket you are allowed in an hour early before the park opens to the general public if you stay at one of their associated hotels--this was a boon as we pretty much had the park to ourselves the first hour, although not essential as the crowds were fairly minimal for the whole day.

Along with the anniversary decorations, the Tokyo Disney Resort is also celebrating their version of the Flower and Garden Festival so there are various topiaries and merchandise available as well.

Tokyo Disney Sea Spring festival topiary

Our first stop for the morning was the relatively new Tower of Terror ride in the American Waterfront area. This variation jettisoned the Twilight Zone theme and instead features a storyline of a wealthy American adventurer Harrison Hightower, who absconds with a tribal idol and ends up taking an unfortunate elevator ride shortly thereafter.

Harrison Hightower's Tower of Terror at Tokyo Disney Sea

The main difference I noted was that there appears to be a much higher emphasis on the decoration and show value of the line as you walk through the lobby, his study, and numerous trophy/artifact storerooms, and much less emphasis on the actual drop. Anyone looking for the same thrill value found in the WDW or CA versions would likely be disappointed, however anyone who typically felt those rides were too intense could easily enjoy this version.

It had begun to rain somewhat by now, so we soggily made our way to the most dramatic of all the lands, Mysterious Island. Set in sort of a Jules Verne era of exploration, it contains two of the more popular rides of the park, Journey to the Center of the Earth, and 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea.

The queue for 20k Leagues Under the Sea

In both rides, you start out plumbing the depths of each respective media in vehicles designed by Captain Nemo--what could go wrong? They are each immensely enjoyable and understandable despite being almost entirely in Japanese. The only difficulty I see with them is that the ride vehicles are rather small and in the case of 20k Leagues you actually have to practically crawl in back of the other people in the pod in order to reach your bench. The windows are, as with everything in Japan, rather low to the ground so it's hard to imagine that really tall people would not have to stoop down for the duration of the ride.

By this time, the NFFC luncheon at Magellan's was taking place. Magellan is a restaurant in the Fortress Exploration area which incorporates multiple Spanish fortress architectural elements to make up a center for exploration in the Galileo era. The food was excellent and was topped off by a great talk by Dennis Tanida, an Imagineer and NFFC member who worked on the Fortress and the beautiful Spanish galleon attached to it.

Magellan's at Tokyo Disney Sea

Part of the amazing decor inside Magellan's at Tokyo Disney Sea

Subsequently we staggered over to the Lost River Delta area, themed after the jungles of Central America and rode Raging Spirits--a ride about the same size as Primeval Whirl, but with the distinction of having a 360-degree loop.

Raging Spirits at Tokyo Disney Sea

Of interest, they are so afraid things will fall off of you, they offer free 3-hour lockers outside the ride for your belongings. I'm not sure they have too much to worry about, as the ride seems to go so slowly, compared with all the other coasters of its ilk, that it seems as though you have time to reach out and grab anything that falls.

We went on to Indiana Jones Adventure: Temple of the Crystal Skull which is essentially the same ride as at DL, but with slightly different theming and effects. I would say the rides are about equivalent, although I am partial to the DL version out of hometown loyalty.

Indiana Jones Adventure: Temple of the Crystal Skull

At this point, it was time to make our way over to the Mediterranean Harbor to see the daily showing of The Legend of Mythica, their big water show. It's hard to describe it as, unlike the rides, the storyline does escape you a little if you don't know Japanese.

Legends of Mythica

The only thing you can imagine is that someone decided to throw everything anyone might like to see in a show together into one glorious spectacular. There's singing, dancing, characters, floats, fire effect, water effects, drumming, jet skis, kites, fireworks, and more. There must be a phenomenal number of CMs working on this one show, and it all goes to form an extravaganza that's unlikely to be matched in any US park.


Mickey and Mythica

Subsequently we went around picking up a number of smaller attractions around the park until it was time for the second big water show, the nighttime production BraviSEAmo! I believe it's supposed to be a romance of sorts, between a water spirit and a fire spirit, and it works out about as well as you'd think. The production itself is excellent and I could only advise getting there early enough to get a decent viewing point.

BraviSEAmo! Water spirit

BraviSEAmo! Fire spirit

After a long day at the park, we managed to catch the monorail to Ikspiari for a couple of bowls of tempura udon, and then back to the hotel.

Tomorrow: Tokyo Disneyland's 25th Anniversary.

Read my Trip Report to Tokyo Disneyland.

April 14, 2008

A Trip to Tokyo Disneyland - Introduction

AllEars® reader JeanineY is part of the NFFC trip to Tokyo Disneyland. She will be filing reports along the way. Here is the Introduction:

Ohayo Mickey! - The Departure

Many people plan out trips years in advance, carefully checking for bargains and making upgrade requests in a timely fashion so that every value is maximized, and no time is wasted. I am not any of those people. On the other hand, have you ever seen people run shrieking down the airport as the gate is paging them and saying the door is closing? I'm sorry I was too busy to wave hello to you.

My advance planning for this trip consisted of making a hotel reservation about 2 years ago, when the NFFC announced they were going to have a group program at Tokyo Disneyland for its 25th anniversary celebration.

Tokyo Disneyland 25th Anniversary Logo

The hotels around the Tokyo Disneyland resort are, as a rule, fairly expensive, and the rate they had found at that time was pretty good and didn't require a credit card deposit to hold it. As the date approached, the airfare dipped down enough to justify it, so we (my Mother and I) were off.

Of course, conveniently enough, the week before we were to leave turned out to be the airline equivalent of Chernobyl, as 4 carriers went out of business, and the week we actually were to leave, American canceled hundreds of flights due to mechanical inspections.

You know a trip is auspicious when your main hope is to just get off the ground in the first place. Nevertheless, in defiance of probability we had no problems with our flights that an upgrade wouldn't have cured. On a 12+ hour flight in coach, the evolution of attitude goes like this:

Hour 1: Well this isn't bad! We left on time and everything! The grand adventure has begun!
Hour 2: There isn't much space in these seats, is there? Well at least the meal was...included.
Hour 6: If this guy in back of me shakes my chair one more time, I am turning my vent full blast towards him. Also, I can't feel my feet anymore.
Hour 10: We will grow old and die on this plane.

Unfortunately, despite scheduling a flight that was supposed to land 1.5 hrs before the last bus to the hotel left the airport, we were foiled by the plane landing 40 minutes late, and then by getting stuck in the disembarkation line for around 45 more minutes. After some initial panic, we got tickets for the next bus to the next closest stop and then took a cab the rest of the way.

The Tokyo Bay Hilton is probably the nicest Hilton I've stayed at, and definitely the cutest. The level of service is always astounding and the decor is wonderful. Not only do they have a small area for children to play in while adults register for their room, but they also have a lego area and a small mock up of the hotel counter, along with a rack of tiny hotel uniforms so kids can create their own photo ops.

Tokyo Bay Hilton

We are given a room on one of their refurbished rooms, the Happy Magic Rooms! It is so cute, it makes Sanrio stores blush. There is a Happy Magic mirror that plays music and shows a strange girl's picture when you push a button, and an enormous Happy Magic key that causes music and lights to issue out of a large Happy Magic lock.

Some in the NFFC party decide to monorail over to the Ikspiari to do some shopping. IKSPIARI is made up of nine themed zones containing a total of 120 shops and restaurants, as well as the 16-screen "AMC Ikspiari 16" cinema complex and Camp Nepos, a children's play and care center.

We are tired enough so we satisfied ourselves by buying our park tickets for the week and some shrimp pitas from the Starbucks in the lobby.

Tomorrow: DisneySeas.

Read my Trip Report to Tokyo Disneyland.

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About Tokyo Disney Resort

This page contains an archive of all entries posted to All Ears® Guest Blog in the Tokyo Disney Resort category. They are listed from oldest to newest.

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