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August 2, 2008

Critter Country - Tokyo Disneyland

Critter Country is the smallest land at Tokyo Disneyland and is located at the top end of the Rivers of America. The only access to Critter Country is through Westernland. And in a sense, Critter Country a subset of Westernland, just with a whimsical feel.


Critter Country Tokyo Disneyland

Critter Country Tokyo Disneyland

Critter Country Tokyo Disneyland

Critter Country Tokyo Disneyland


The animals in Critter Country live anywhere there's room to build a house. Every nook and cranny is filled with their handiwork. Take a gander at a few of their homes.


Critter Country Critter Homes Tokyo Disneyland

Critter Country Critter Homes Tokyo Disneyland

Critter Country Critter Homes Tokyo Disneyland

Critter Country Critter Homes Tokyo Disneyland


There are only two attractions and two eateries in Critter Country. Let's start with the biggest, Splash Mountain.


Splash Mountain Tokyo Disneyland

Splash Mountain Tokyo Disneyland

Splash Mountain Tokyo Disneyland


The queue for this attraction is divided into two sections, the outside and the inside. Once again, the Imagineers wanted to protect the guests from Tokyo's cold and wet winters so a full 45 minutes of the line is deep within the mountain. This is also where you board and exit your log. This attraction does use Fastpass and the dispensing machines are located conveniently before you reach the queue.


Splash Mountain Tokyo Disneyland


The indoor queue has interesting scenery as your path takes you deeper and deeper inside the mountain. Eventually you'll meet an audioanimatronic owl who entertains the passing guests - all in Japanese.


Splash Mountain Tokyo Disneyland


Shortly before boarding, you'll come face to face with one of the larger hidden Mickeys.


Hidden Mickey Splash Mountain Tokyo Disneyland


Like Big Thunder Railroad, Tokyo's Splash Mountain has a completely different track layout than Florida or California. Once again, most of the same scenes are present, but you experience them a little differently because of the dissimilar route. Guests also sit side-by-side in the same way they do in Florida.


Splash Mountain Tokyo Disneyland

Splash Mountain Tokyo Disneyland

Splash Mountain Tokyo Disneyland

Splash Mountain Tokyo Disneyland


The Japanese aren't as keen on getting wet as we Americans. Combine this with the harsher winters and it became apparent that something needed to be done to minimize how wet a guest would get. To do this, the Imagineers redesigned the logs so they repel water more efficiently and create less of a splash. You still get sprayed, but it's not nearly as intense.


Splash Mountain Tokyo Disneyland


I can't say that this Splash Mountain is any better or worse then its American cousins - just different. However, I do like the indoor queue. When it's hot and humid in Florida, I can't wait until I enter the "cave" section of the line for a little air conditioning.

The other attraction in Critter Country is the Beaver Brother's Explorer Canoes.


Beaver Brother's Explorer Canoes Tokyo Disneyland


Long absent from Florida and Paris, but still going strong in California, this is the low-tech ride where guests get to do all of the work (with some help from the two cast members). You board at the far end of Critter Country and each canoe seats approximately 18 guests. You're given a paddle and asked to carefully take a seat.


Beaver Brother's Explorer Canoes Tokyo Disneyland

Beaver Brother's Explorer Canoes Tokyo Disneyland

Beaver Brother's Explorer Canoes Tokyo Disneyland


Soon after leaving the dock, you are given instructions on how to row.


Beaver Brother's Explorer Canoes Tokyo Disneyland


From then on, it's a leisurely trip around Tom Sawyer Island.


Beaver Brother's Explorer Canoes Tokyo Disneyland


You see the exact same sights as you do from the Mark Twain Riverboat, but it's a little different from this vantage point.


Beaver Brother's Explorer Canoes Tokyo Disneyland

Beaver Brother's Explorer Canoes Tokyo Disneyland


Something I think the decision-makers in Florida have forgotten is that low capacity attractions still add to the overall experience. Even if guests don't ride the canoes, they add to the atmosphere of the area. They are visually appealing to look at as they pass by. As I mentioned in my last blog, I spent 30 minutes just waving to the canoes as they sailed by the Lucky Nugget Café. Not every attraction needs to be an "E" ticket.

Near the Beaver Brother's Explorer Canoes is a restaurant called Rackety's Raccoon Saloon. This counter service eatery serves cookies, ice cream, and beverages. This is a great place to cool down after your "strenuous" trip around the Rivers of America.


Rackety's Raccoon Saloon Tokyo Disneyland

Rackety's Raccoon Saloon Tokyo Disneyland


The other place to grab a bite in Critter Country is Grandma Sara's Kitchen. Here, you order your food deep within Splash Mountain as the restaurant is located in a cave.


Grandma Sara's Kitchen Tokyo Disneyland

Grandma Sara's Kitchen Tokyo Disneyland


This is a cute spot with plenty of seating on two levels with additional tables outside. The interior looks exactly as if a sweet grandma mouse had decorated it.


Grandma Sara's Kitchen Tokyo Disneyland

Grandma Sara's Kitchen Tokyo Disneyland


Even though Grandma Sara's Kitchen is a counter service restaurant, the food does not reflect this. Full entrees such as grilled chicken and beef stew are served along with salads and desserts. This is an enjoyable spot and unique among the Disney parks.

The Western River Railroad also skirts Critter Country. There are several wonderful spots to watch this train slowly pass by.


Western River Railroad  Tokyo Disneyland

Western River Railroad Tokyo Disneyland


That's it for Critter Country. It's a small, but very cute land.

Here's one last picture looking back at Critter Country from Westernland.


Critter Country Tokyo Disneyland


Next stop, Fantasyland.

August 5, 2008

Fantasyland Part 1 - Tokyo Disneyland

Fantasyland Part 1

Before I start my description of Fantasyland, I need to post a correction. My friend Katsumi, who lives in Tokyo, informs me that the Japanese do indeed wear shorts during the months of July and August when temperatures demand cooler attire. So feel free to don your lighter togs during this time.

Now, onto Fantasyland.

Just beyond Cinderella Castle we find the most magical land of all, Fantasyland.


Cinderella Castle  Tokyo Disneyland


As I mentioned in a previous blog, the exteriors of the Tokyo and Florida castles were almost identical until just recently when the Tokyo castle was given a new color scheme.

Here's a picture standing at the castle entrance, looking back toward The Hub and World Bazaar. The two large turrets conceal lighting and sound equipment used for many of the shows presented in front of the castle.


Cinderella Castle  Tokyo Disneyland


Within the castle breezeway, you'll find the same Cinderella mosaic as the one at Walt Disney World.


Cinderella Castle Mosaics Tokyo Disneyland

Cinderella Castle Mosaics Tokyo Disneyland


Up until two years ago, the interior of the Tokyo castle contained a walkthrough attraction called the Cinderella Castle Mystery Tour (there is no restaurant in this castle). Here, groups of about 25 guests were escorted through a labyrinth of rooms and hallways, dungeons and turrets by a cast member who would have an ongoing discussion with the "Magic Mirror." Along the way you would encounter a number of villains in various settings. You even came face to face with a dragon that was very reminiscent of the dragon that lives beneath Le Château de la Belle au Bois Dormant (Sleeping Beauty Castle) in Paris. The climax of the tour involved a showdown between good and evil and a youngster was chosen from the group to do battle with the Horned King from the Black Cauldron. Of course virtue triumphed and there was a happen ending.


Cinderella Castle Mystery Tour Tokyo Disneyland

Cinderella Castle Mystery Tour Tokyo Disneyland


Even though I didn't understand any of the dialogue, I enjoyed this attraction as it was completely different from any other Disney experience. I was sad to see it close. No replacement has been announced.

Here are a few more pictures of the castle and its courtyard.


Cinderella Castle  Tokyo Disneyland

Cinderella Castle  Tokyo Disneyland

Cinderella Castle  Tokyo Disneyland

Cinderella Castle  Tokyo Disneyland

Cinderella Castle  Tokyo Disneyland


Moving clockwise from the castle courtyard, you come to Snow White's Adventures. Notice the word "Scary" is not in the title here. I find this strange because I felt that this version of the ride was much more intense than its American cousins - especially the scenes in the haunted forest. The trees were more menacing and this section of the ride was longer.


Snow White's Adventures Fantasyland Tokyo Disneyland


Next we come to Peter Pan's Flight. In this case the attraction is almost identical to the one in Florida. However, I will make two observations.


Peter Pan's Flight Fantasyland Tokyo Disneyland

Peter Pan's Flight Fantasyland Tokyo Disneyland


First, the boarding area is about four feet higher than ground level. To bring guests up to this height, the queue is actually a series of ramps that switch back and forth until you reach the boarding area. Unfortunately, when you're in line on a lower level you're able to look up into the ride mechanism and see the track. It's impossible to ignore and I feel it really detracts from the magic.


Peter Pan's Flight Fantasyland Tokyo Disneyland


For my next comment, I'm only using the Peter Pan attraction as an example. For what I'm about to describe is common everywhere at the Tokyo parks.

There is never a lack of cast members manning the rides. For Peter Pan there were two cast members maintaining the queue -- greeting guests and keeping the line moving. When you reached to boarding area, a third cast member asked you how many people were in your party and a fourth helped you into your ship. And finally, a fifth cast member helped you exit your ship at the end of the ride. That's five cast members for one simple attraction.

I've often seen only one cast member man the "dark rides" at California and Florida. I was continually amazed by the number of cast members I saw everywhere. Restaurants, shops, and attractions easily had one and half to two times the cast members as their American counterparts.


Peter Pan's Flight Fantasyland Tokyo Disneyland


Keeping in our clockwise direction, and practically entering Westernland, we come to Snow White's Grotto. This pleasant spot is a copy of the grotto found at Disneyland CA.


Snow White's Grotto Tokyo Disneyland


For those of you not familiar with the story of the Snow White Grotto, it goes something like this. It seems that Walt received an anonymous gift from an Italian admirer who sculpted Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. Walt was so touched by this gesture that he insisted that the figures be placed in his new Disneyland park. There was just one problem. It seems that the sculptor made Snow White the same size as the dwarfs instead of twice their size. In order to remedy this oversight, the Imagineers decided to use forced perspective and place Snow White high above the dwarfs, thus minimizing the similarity in height and making her look taller than she actually is.

When the Oriental Land Company was told this story, they insisted that their Snow White Grotto be the same as the California version. They did not want the "mistake" corrected.

Continuing our clockwise tour of Fantasyland we come to the Haunted Mansion.


Haunted Mansion Tokyo Disneyland


At first you might think that this is an odd place to put the Haunted Mansion, but there are a number of reasons why it ended up here. Since Disney was only going to build "half" of New Orleans Square in Adventureland, there was no place for it here. Also, Tokyo would have no Liberty Square as this was an area the Japanese could not relate to. So nix that idea.

Throughout the Haunted Mansion's development and history, thoughts of placing it on Main Street and Frontierland had been considered. But these ideas were also dismissed for the new Tokyo park for various reasons. In the end, it was Japanese culture that determined its location as ghost stories are considered fairytales or fables in their society. Since Fantasyland is all about fairytales, what better place for the Haunted Mansion.

Until the mansion in Florida had its major rehab last year, the Tokyo mansion was an exact copy inside and out. The only difference is that the exterior of the Tokyo mansion is run down, evidenced by broken windows and overgrown gardens.


Haunted Mansion Tokyo Disneyland

Haunted Mansion Tokyo Disneyland


The queue is also somewhat different. Here you pass by several crypts in various stages of decay.


Haunted Mansion Tokyo Disneyland


The parades also make their entrance from an area next to the Haunted Mansion. I don't have any pictures of the current parade so I'm only going to be posting one photo that has to do with an interesting detail I will relate.

A number of Americans are hired to portray many of the "face" characters in the parades and throughout the park. A "face" character is someone whose actual face is visible to the public like Snow White, Prince Charming, and Sleeping Beauty. Since a Japanese cast member could not be made up to look like these characters, it's necessary to hire people who can emulate them. This is also done at Hong Kong Disneyland.

When I've watched the parades in Tokyo, I've taken some of the greatest pictures because my blonde hair stands out among the crowd. Therefore, I'm more noticeable to the characters and they lock eyes with me as they pass by.


Face Character


Continuing on, we come to Dumbo The Flying Elephant. My comment here is that this attraction needs to be torn out and rebuilt. See for yourself.


Dumbo The Flying Elephant Tokyo Disneyland


This version of Dumbo harkens back to the original Dumbo attraction at Disneyland California in 1955. It looks cheap. It only has eight elephants (instead of 16 like the other parks) and has very few architectural embellishments around the ride. Considering the money Oriental Land Company is willing to spend on other projects, it surprises me they haven't updated this attraction.

The next ride we come to is Castle Carrousel. There's not much I can add to this - it's a merry-go-round. However, I would like to note that the cast members stand attentively and wave to you as you ride by on your steed.


Castle Carrousel Tokyo Disneyland

Castle Carrousel Tokyo Disneyland


Like the carousel, there's not much I can say about Alice's Tea Party. Round and round you go, where you puke, nobody knows. Like Florida, this attraction is covered to protect you from the elements.


Alice's Tea Party Tokyo Disneyland

Alice's Tea Party Tokyo Disneyland

Alice's Tea Party Tokyo Disneyland


Visitors familiar with Disneyland in California often complain when seeing Disney World's "it's a small world" for the first time. The exterior is quite a disappointment compared to its west coast counterpart.

In an effort to correct this mistake, the Imagineers took the best from both American parks when designing the Tokyo version of "it's a small world." The elaborate exterior from California would be combined with Florida's indoor boarding area.


it's a small world Tokyo Disneyland

it's a small world Tokyo Disneyland

it's a small world Tokyo Disneyland


The actual ride is closer to Florida's design as your boat floats through a "lake" rather than a trough.


it's a small world Tokyo Disneyland


Here's another picture of "it's a small world" taken from the now defunct Skyway.


it's a small world Tokyo Disneyland


That's it for Part 1 of Fantasyland. Stay tuned for Part 2.

August 6, 2008

Trail End New Lunch Menu - Walt Disney World

Just yesterday, I finally finished writing my last Tokyo Disneyland blog. It won't be posted for at least another week or so, but now I'm free to return to Disney World and look for local things to report on.

SIDE NOTE: The Tokyo Disneyland blog will resume in several days. If you need to catch up, here's the start of the Disneyland blog.


Today I decided to check out the new lunch menu at the Trails End Restaurant at the Fort Wilderness Campground. It seems that a decision was recently made to stop serving a full "hot" buffet at lunch in favor of a simpler "cold" buffet which includes soups, salads, and sandwiches. I wanted to see exactly what was going on here and find out why this change was made.


Lunch Buffet Trails End Restaurant at the Fort Wilderness Campground


Lunch service now begins at 11:30 and I was there 11:31. Upon being seated, my server Lynda explained that breakfast is served until noon so there is an overlap of 30 minutes where both menus are available. Breakfast and lunch both are priced at $11.99. (Lunch with the hot buffet has been $12.99). I decided to take advantage of this overlap and helped myself to a small serving of scrambled eggs, bacon, and sausage. I also ordered a glass of orange juice that is included in the price, along with refills.

At 11:30, all of the breakfast items are consolidated into one area to make room for the lunch items.


Breakfast Buffet Trails End Restaurant at the Fort Wilderness Campground


Be aware, this "overlap" is an experiment on Disney's part to see if this might entice additional guests to eat here. At the moment, the jury is out so don't be surprised if this feature is extended or discontinued.

As I was taking pictures of the new lunch buffet, Chef Bob approached me and quizzically asked me if I had any questions. So I was blunt and asked why they had changed from a full "hot" buffet to a simple "cold" buffet. His answer, "To assure better food quality for our guests."

It seems that lunches at the Trails End Restaurant can be patronized by as few as 40 guests to as many as 200 - and they have no way of knowing from day to day what their head-count might be. Because of this, a lot of food was being thrown away at the end of lunch or they might not have enough of a given item because larger than expected crowds materialized out of nowhere. A simpler buffet allows for less waste and easier replenishment when things get busy.

Personally, I have no problem with the scaled down lunch menu. I usually didn't want that much food for my mid-day meal anyway. And rest assured, the breakfast and dinner menus have not changed.

First let's start with the soups. Three different soups are offered daily along with their delicious chili. Today's offerings included Chicken Noodle, Vegetable, and Beef Barley. I tried the vegetable and enjoyed it.


Soup Trails End Lunch Buffet at the Fort Wilderness Campground


As you would expect, the salad bar is more extensive than on the old lunch menu. First, three premade salads are available, Caesar, Blue Cheese & Strawberry, and Chinese. The Caesar was excellent and the Blue Cheese & Strawberry was also quite good. I did not try the Chinese Salad.


Salad Bar Trails End Lunch Buffet at the Fort Wilderness Campground


If you want to create your own salad you can choose from iceberg lettuce or mixed greens. Toppings included beats, cheese, mushrooms, cucumbers, tomatoes, carrots, olives, garbanzo beans, radishes, bacon, and croutons. Five different dressings were on hand along with cottage cheese. I've seen more elaborate salad bars, but there were certainly enough choices here to satisfy the vast majority of people.


Salad Bar Trails End Lunch Buffet at the Fort Wilderness Campground


The sandwich bar offers the following breads, white, wheat, multigrain, hamburger bun, and French roll. Also included in the bread section were several breakfast style sweet rolls.


Bread Trails End Lunch Buffet at the Fort Wilderness Campground


The sandwich toppings included beef, ham, turkey, tuna salad, and three selections of sliced cheese. Mayonnaise and mustard are available along with several side dishes like pasta salad, potato salad, and coleslaw.


Meat Trails End Lunch Buffet at the Fort Wilderness Campground

Side Dishes Trails End Lunch Buffet at the Fort Wilderness Campground


The fried chicken at Trails End has always been a perennial favorite so "picnic" chicken is being served at lunch. Picnic chicken translates to cold fried chicken. This is the same chicken that is served at the Hoop Dee Doo next door.

Chef Bob told me that all of their fried chicken and BBQed ribs are prepared right there. Approximately 1,200 pounds of each meat are served every day. He went on to tell me that one cast member arrives daily and starts breading the chicken and will do nothing else for an entire eight hour shift. Shortly thereafter another cast member arrives to start frying the chicken for his entire eight hour shift. Wow! This preparation is for both the Trails End and the Hoop Dee Doo.

The dessert bar at Trails End has been expanded for both lunch and dinner. Now available is a soft-serve ice cream machine with a decent topping bar featuring Gummi Bears, M&Ms, nuts, cookie crumbs, chocolate chips, and several sauces. Also available for dessert are several varieties of cookies, Rice Crispy Bars, and brownies.


Soft Serve Ice Cream Trails End Lunch Buffet at the Fort Wilderness Campground

Dessert Bar Trails End Lunch Buffet at the Fort Wilderness Campground


I have heard a few parents are unhappy that the new lunch menu isn't "kid friendly" since pizza and mac & cheese are no longer available. I don't have kids so I can't say, but I would think that there is enough variety available here to please even the pickiest eater.

Personally, I like the new lunch menu. Because of its reduced price and lighter fare, I'll be tempted to eat here more often. However, I can certainly understand that if you weren't aware of this change and showed up expecting a full-scale buffet, you might be disappointed. But I left today completely satisfied!

August 7, 2008

Construction Photo Updates - Walt Disney World

While I was out and about, I took a few pictures of the Bay Lake Tower under construction.

This is a rumored DVC that sits prominently next to the Contemporary Resort. It appears that the structure has reached its ultimate height as finishing touches are being added to the top of the building.


Bay Lake Tower Construction at Contemporary

Bay Lake Tower Construction at Contemporary

Bay Lake Tower Construction at Contemporary

Bay Lake Tower Construction at Contemporary


At the Contemporary, I took a few pictures of the construction going on where the Concourse Steakhouse once stood. The Tempo Grab & Go will be permanently located in a portion of this space and Chef Mickey's will expand into the remainder of this area.

Old Concourse Steakhouse Area Under Construction at the Contemporary Resort

Old Concourse Steakhouse Area Under Construction at the Contemporary Resort

Old Concourse Steakhouse Area Under Construction at the Contemporary Resort


And finally, I drove over to Downtown Disney and snapped a few pictures of the T-Rex restaurant that looks ever closer to completion.

TRex  Restaurant Construction at Downtown Disney

TRex  Restaurant Construction at Downtown Disney

TRex  Restaurant Construction at Downtown Disney


August 9, 2008

Fantasyland Part 2 - Tokyo Disneyland

I rank Pooh's Hunny Hunt as one of my all time, world-wide favorite Disney attractions! And considering I'm not a big fan of Winnie the Pooh, that's saying a lot.

When I wrote about World Bazaar, I mentioned that I would talk about FASTPASS in a later blog. Well the time has come.

FASTPASS works exactly the same in Tokyo as it does in California and Florida.

You arrive at a FASTPASS kiosk, insert your admission ticket, and receive a slip of paper with a return time printed on it. Simple. But Pooh's Hunny Hunt is the first attraction that I've literally, without exaggeration, waited 25-45 minutes in line to pick up a FASTPASS.


When Tokyo Disneyland opens, everyone scrambles to their favorite attraction to secure a FASTPASS, and Pooh's Hunny Hunt is one of the most popular destinations. Cast members set up a temporary queue just to handle the FASTPASS line for this attraction. This picture was taken at around 9:30am and the line is about 25 minutes long at this point. Note, this is the line for the FASTPASS, NOT the attraction.


Pooh's Hunny Hunt Tokyo Disneyland


By 10am, one hour after the park opens, Pooh's Hunny Hunt will have an 80 minute standby line. By 11am, it can easily be two hours. And at 10am, the Fast Pass return time will already be late afternoon or early evening.


Pooh's Hunny Hunt Tokyo Disneyland


Why is this attraction so popular? Because it is astoundingly superior to its cousins in California, Florida, and Hong Kong. These other three versions pale in comparison. And even if you didn't compare it to the other Pooh attractions, it's a fantastic attraction in its own right.

I will do my best to describe the experience, but I know my efforts will fall short. Let's start with the cast member costume. Here they wear a "camp counselor" outfit -- very appropriate for the 100 Acre Wood.


Pooh's Hunny Hunt Tokyo Disneyland


The queue begins in a lovely garden. In the background you see a large book, open to a Winnie the Pooh story.


Pooh's Hunny Hunt Tokyo Disneyland

Pooh's Hunny Hunt Tokyo Disneyland


After a number of switchbacks through the plants and flowers, you eventually enter a gardener's shack full of tools and toys. As you exit this building you find yourself behind the large book you saw earlier, looking back out into the garden.


Pooh's Hunny Hunt Tokyo Disneyland

Pooh's Hunny Hunt Tokyo Disneyland


From here you weave in and around more book pages as you gradually work your way to the head of the line.


Pooh's Hunny Hunt Tokyo Disneyland


Pooh's Hunny Hunt loads three hunny buckets at a time. Each bucket holds four guests, two in the front and two in the rear. As the ride begins, all three vehicles move forward simultaneously, one, two, three. There is no track on the floor so the buckets are free to move about randomly.


Pooh's Hunny Hunt Tokyo Disneyland


A short distance away, all three vehicles come to a stop in front of a giant storybook, which comes to life as Christopher Robin and Winnie the Pooh set the mood for the adventure to come.


Pooh's Hunny Hunt Tokyo Disneyland


A moment later, you leave this area, but not in the same order as you arrived. Now, vehicle number three is in the lead, followed by two and one. Next stop, the Blustery Day room. As you enter this large area, your vehicles seem to have minds of their own. Each hunny pot takes a different route and roams around the room as the wind causes a number of events to unfold.


Pooh's Hunny Hunt Tokyo Disneyland

Pooh's Hunny Hunt Tokyo Disneyland


As each vehicle wanders about, you'll see most, but not all of the goings on. Each hunny pot experiences things a little differently. When you leave this room, vehicle number two is in the lead, followed by one and three.

Next you enter the Bounce Room where Tigger is your host. All three vehicles come to a stop, then the entire floor begins to bounce up and down. At the same time, the trees and plants that surround the room spring to life, but they bounce independently from the floor. All the while, Tigger can be seen hopping from one screen to the next in the background. The effect is fantastic. You really are immersed in the middle of everything.

As you leave this room, you travel backwards down a long hallway with car number one in the lead, followed by three and two. Eventually you make another stop, this time to watch Pooh fall asleep and go into his dream state. This effect is the same as the one seen at Florida and California.

From here you enter the Heffalumps and Woozles Room. This is the best area of all! As you enter this "fun house," you join four other hunny pots already in the midst of things. Three of the hunny pots are occupied by other guests and the fourth contains several Heffalumps and Woozles.

At this point, your three vehicles join the Heffalumps and Woozles' hunny pot and create a circle. Then the four of you rotate around each other. After you make a couple of revolutions, you break away from the group and start your crazy journey around the room. At the same time, the vehicles that were already in the room when you arrived take their exit. As they leave, a fresh group of hunny pots join the room and create a new circle with the Heffalumps and Woozles.


Pooh's Hunny Hunt Tokyo Disneyland


Now traveling independently from the other hunny pots, your vehicle moves from one gag to the next, stopping momentarily to view the event, then moving on - sometimes forward, sometimes backwards.

It seems to be complete chaos, seven hunny pots moving about randomly. It's sheer delight. Eventually, it's time for your group of hunny pots to leave the room, only to be replaced by a new group of three.

Your final stop brings you to Pooh covered in honey.


Pooh's Hunny Hunt Tokyo Disneyland


When you eventually reach the unloading area, car number three is in the lead, followed by two and one. And I guarantee, you'll want to hop right back on and experience this ride again. Unfortunately, by this time, all of the Fast Passes are gone and it's an hour-and-a-half to two hour wait for the standby line.

If you are lucky enough to ride this attraction multiple times, be sure to request a different hunny pot on each occasion as the sights and experience is slightly different depending on the car you're in.

You exit the attraction through a shop, as if you couldn't have guessed that.


Pooh's Hunny Hunt Tokyo Disneyland


Pooh's Hunny Hunt uses the same ride technology as the Aquatopia ride at Tokyo DisneySea. Having no track, the hunny pots are controlled by a master computer that relays directional information to each individual unit from a number of transponders positioned throughout the attraction. This allows different vehicles to take different routes, adding to the confusion of the experience.

Why do I think this ride is so fantastic? It's because you're immersed in the story. You're more than just a passive observer; you're part of what's going on. Somehow you've been whisked from reality and allowed to "live" the fantasy for a few moments. No trip to Tokyo Disneyland would be complete without experiencing this attraction. Even if you HATE Winnie the Pooh, this is a MUST SEE attraction.

I find it sad that Disney chose to build "traditional" Winnie the Pooh attractions at Disneyland CA and Hong Kong. They knew they had a winner with the Tokyo version. Why did they "cheap out" in the other parks? From my own experience and from what I've read, the Pooh attraction in California is often empty, even when the park is busy. I can guarantee that if they had put in the Tokyo version, this wouldn't be the case.

Located outside of this attraction is a concession stand that sells honey flavored popcorn. How appropriate.


Popcorn Cart


It's interesting to note that even though popcorn is sold extensively at both Disneyland and DisneySea, finding plain, salted popcorn is almost impossible. It seems that the Japanese enjoy their kernels flavored. Here are just a FEW of the varieties you'll find: curry, chocolate, cream soda, caramel, black pepper, strawberry, salad, cappuccino, and coconut.

Pinocchio's Daring Journey is located across the way from Pooh's Hunny Hunt.


Pinocchio's Daring Journey


This attraction is a carbon copy of the Pinocchio adventure at Disneyland in California. This is a classic "dark" ride that follows the wooden boy and his conscience on a series of adventures.


Pinocchio's Daring Journey

Pinocchio's Daring Journey


The final attraction in Fantasyland is The Mickey Mouse Review.


The Mickey Mouse Review


For all of you old enough to remember, The Mickey Mouse Review was one of the original Magic Kingdom attractions that ran from October 1, 1971 through September 14, 1980 when it was closed and shipped to Tokyo. Florida guests still look back nostalgically when they think of this show.

For those of you who fondly remember this classic, I have good news and bad news. The good news is this, other than being translated into Japanese, the show has not changed one bit since its opening in 1971. The bad news, other than being translated into Japanese, the show has not changed one bit since its opening in 1971.

The presentation begins in a preshow area. Here you'll watch the same exact film that was shown at Disney World (dubbed in Japanese). As the movie begins, an animated "sound track" moves from the side of the filmstrip to the center of the screen and introduces a variety of Mickey Mouse cartoon clips and a history of animation unfolds. This "soundtrack" gag was originally used in the movie Fantasia.

This movie is horribly out of date. Ever present is the old Disney World logo.


WDW%20Logo.jpg


The film is also terribly scratched and the colors are faded.

From the preshow area we move into the main theater, which looks pretty much as it did in Florida.


The Mickey Mouse Review


For those of you not familiar with the attraction, a large collection of audioanimatronic Disney characters are assembled on stage and perform a number of classic songs. Mickey Mouse takes center stage as the conductor of the orchestra.


The Mickey Mouse Review

The Mickey Mouse Review


With the exception of Mickey Mouse saying goodbye at the end of the show, all of the songs has been translated into Japanese. This isn't a problem since there is no dialog and we're all so familiar with the music that we can translate the lyrics in our heads.


The Mickey Mouse Review

The Mickey Mouse Review

The Mickey Mouse Review

The Mickey Mouse Review


But the show is frozen in the past. The most current movie represented is The Jungle Book which came out in 1967. And by today's standards, the show is very slow moving.

Don't get me wrong. I enjoy this attraction, and I suspect that many of my generation would also like seeing it again or for the first time. But younger audiences may find it a little dull and plodding. I know many Disney purest will disagree with me, but I think this show could be updated, both in pacing and with more contemporary characters and songs

This attraction is rarely crowded, even on busy days, and it's a good place to relax and cool off when you need a rest.

There are a number of places to eat in Fantasyland, but I'm only going to talk about one, the Queen of Hearts Banquet Hall. Located between the Haunted Mansion and "it's a small world," this restaurant was designed with an Alice in Wonderland theme and an exterior that looks like a fanciful castle. You'll even be able to spot a few playing-cards painting the roses red.


Queen of Hearts Banquet Hall


Inside you'll find an elaborate buffeteria and show-kitchen that serves an assortment of entrees such as rotisserie chicken, steamed sole, meatloaf, and a variety of salads, soups, and desserts.


Queen of Hearts Banquet Hall

Queen of Hearts Banquet Hall


The seating area is also a lot of fun as you sit among more playing cards, overgrown flowers, and a beautiful stained glass window.


Queen of Hearts Banquet Hall

Queen of Hearts Banquet Hall


Queen of Hearts Banquet Hall

Queen of Hearts Banquet Hall


This restaurant is very popular and lines tend to be long for lunch and dinner.

For me, Tokyo's Fantasyland lacks an overall cohesiveness. It has a lot of nice individual elements, but somehow I don't feel that they blend together well enough to make this land magical. Instead, you just wander from one attraction to the next with no real sense of being anywhere special. Others might disagree, but that's my take. That's it for the realm of fairytales.

Next stop, Toontown.

August 12, 2008

Toontown - Tokyo Disneyland

Toontown

Toontown is the community where carTOON characters live, shop, and play when not at a studio making movies. Inspired by the movie "Who Framed Roger Rabbit," Toontown is a whacky place where very little makes sense and you never know what crazy thing might happen next.

The entrance to Toontown is located at the boundary of Fantasyland and Tomorrowland and it's tucked neatly behind the two.


Toontown Entrance Tokyo Disneyland

Toontown Entrance Tokyo Disneyland


Here are several aerial shots of Toontown taken from the old Skyway attraction.


Toontown Tokyo Disneyland Aerial View

Toontown Tokyo Disneyland Aerial View

Toontown Tokyo Disneyland Aerial View


In the above picture you can see the Grand Circuit Raceway skirting the edge of Toontown and Gadget's Go Coaster.

Anyone familiar with Toontown at Disneyland California will immediately become disoriented when entering Tokyo's version as the entire land is a mirror image of its American counterpart. But other than that, these two lands are remarkably similar. Even the interiors of the buildings are furnished almost identically.

For those of you who are only familiar with Disney World's "Mickey's Toontown Fair" you're in for a treat. Toontown in Tokyo (and California) are vastly superior to the scaled down version in Florida.

Let's start with the residential section of Toontown which has many of the same elements as Mickey's Toontown Fair. Specifically, let's start with Mickey's House.


Mickey Mouse's House Tokyo Disneyland


At Mickey's house you can personally meet The Mouse in one of several movie sets. This is a great way to get some uninterrupted time and pictures with the number one cheese. However, the line to meet Mickey and tour his home can be as long as many of the top attractions. As you can see in the above picture, this is a popular destination and many guests make this their first stop of the day.

Here's a picture of me taken 13 years ago at Mickey's House.

Jack in Mickey's House Tokyo Disneyland

Touring Mickey's house is a lot of fun. Straight lines are almost nonexistent, everything is overstuffed and curved, and craziness abounds. I always secretly wonder if I could somehow convert one of the rooms in my own home to look like this.


Mickey Mouse's House Tokyo Disneyland


Minnie is Mickey's neighbor to the left and her house is also open to her adoring fans. However, Minnie rarely makes a personal appearance like her boyfriend. Here are a couple of pictures of her charming cottage.


Minnie Mouse's House Tokyo Disneyland

Minnie Mouse's House Tokyo Disneyland

Minnie Mouse's House Tokyo Disneyland


To the right of Mickey's house we find Chip 'n Dales Treehouse. Once again, these rascals' home is open to all.


Chip 'n Dales Treehouse Tokyo Disneyland

Chip 'n Dales Treehouse Tokyo Disneyland

Chip 'n Dales Treehouse Tokyo Disneyland


Continuing on we find Gadget's Go Coaster.

Gadget's Go Coaster Tokyo Disneyland


This is definitely a kiddy coaster. At Disney World it would be comparable to The Barnstormer at Goofy's Wiseacre Farm. The ride is just a little over a minute in duration and the thrills are tame.

You would never think of going on this attraction unless you had little ones in tow OR you were an absolute Disney fanatic that wanted to experience EVERYTHING. By the way, I have no children and I've been on this ride.


Gadget's Go Coaster Tokyo Disneyland


Docked next to the Go Coaster we find Donald's Boat, the Miss Daisy.


Donald's Boat Tokyo Disneyland

Donald's Boat Tokyo Disneyland


Unlike Mickey and Minnie's houses which are primarily for viewing, Donald is a little less uptight than his neighbors and let's you play with various goodies in his residence. You can steer the ship, ring a bell, talk over the "intercom" and a bunch of other cool stuff.


Donald's Boat Tokyo Disneyland

Donald's Boat Tokyo Disneyland


The final residence in Toontown is Goofy's Bounce House. Here, the walls and floors are cushioned and/or inflated, making this the perfect spot for kids to bounce and jump to their heart's content. There is a height restriction though. You must be UNDER 132 cm (52 inches) to enter. No adults, please.


Goofy's Bounce House Tokyo Disneyland

Goofy's Bounce House Tokyo Disneyland


You never know where you'll find a toon.


Toon Topiary


For the long commute into the city, residents and visitors of Toontown can catch the Jolly Trolley located next to Mickey's fountain.


Mickey Mouse Statue Tokyo Disneyland


The Jolly Trolley is visually appealing as it bobs and pitches, this way and that, on its one-way trip downtown. The trolley holds eight guests and the ride lasts a whopping two and a half minutes. This is one of those attractions that provides more ambiance to onlookers than it does enjoyment to the few who actually ride it. I love the Jolly Trolley. It's cute!


Jolly Trolley Tokyo Disneyland


The Jolly Trolley is another good example of how the Tokyo parks have substantially more cast members manning their attractions than the American parks. When the trolley is in motion, one cast member drives the trolley. Another walks in front of the trolley in a zig-zag pattern clearing pedestrians from the tracks. And a third cast member follows behind the trolley ensuring that no hitchhikers jump aboard.


Jolly Trolley Tokyo Disneyland


Downtown Toontown has all the essential elements of any big city. City Hall anchors one section of town and is flanked by a school, a bank, and various other municipal buildings.


City Hall in Toontown Tokyo Disneyland

City Hall in Toontown Tokyo Disneyland


You'll even find Restaurant Row here, where you can purchase such taste treats as ice cream, caramel-flavored popcorn, pizzas, sandwiches, and Mickey pretzels.


Restaurant Row in Toowntown Tokyo Disneyland

Pretzle


As we venture further into downtown we find winding streets with gags galore.


Downtown Toontown  Tokyo Disneyland

Downtown Toontown  Tokyo Disneyland


There is a fireworks factory with occasional explosions on the second floor.


Downtown Toontown  Tokyo Disneyland


Beware of falling safes.


Downtown Toontown  Tokyo Disneyland


Beware of falling barbells.


Downtown Toontown  Tokyo Disneyland


Sparks fly at the Power House.


Downtown Toontown  Tokyo Disneyland


The Five & Dime is where the toons do most of their shopping. Here they can find a large array of Disney souvenirs for themselves or their human friends.


Five & Dime Tokyo Disneyland


The final attraction in Toontown is Roger Rabbit's Car Toon Spin.


Roger Rabbit's Car Toon Spin Tokyo Disneyland


On this ride you join Benny the Cab for a wild ride through the seedier side of Toontown. The weasels are in hot pursuit with "Dip" and a desire to dissolve you. Your cab has a steering wheel that when turned, spins your car in circles. Think of the "Tea Cups" on wheels. The attraction has been carefully designed so that no matter which direction your cab is facing during the ride, there is something fun to see.


Roger Rabbit's Car Toon Spin Tokyo Disneyland

Roger Rabbit's Car Toon Spin Tokyo Disneyland


Just when you think all is lost, Roger Rabbit comes to the rescue with a portable hole and saves the day. This effect is simple, but beautifully executed.


Roger Rabbit's Car Toon Spin Tokyo Disneyland


This is a very popular ride, but fortunately, the queue is almost as entertaining as the attraction so the wait is somewhat enjoyable.

That finishes up Toontown. Next stop, infinity and beyond. Or in other words, Tomorrowland.

August 15, 2008

Tomorrowland - Tokyo Disneyland

Much of the architecture of Tokyo's Tomorrowland is stuck in the 80's. Actually, it's stuck in the 70's as it was copied after the Magic Kingdom at WDW - which was designed in the '60's.

In other words, there are areas here that could definitely use a face lift like they did to the Tomorrowlands in California and Florida. But even though some of the areas are a little dated, there is still a lot of fun to be had here.

Let's start with the main entrance into Tomorrowland.

Tomorrowland Entrance Tokyo Disneyland

Tomorrowland Entrance Tokyo Disneyland


Do the spires look familiar? Remember them from the Magic Kingdom at Walt Disney World?

In an effort to update the spires, they have received several stylish paint jobs over the years. And by the way, water no longer cascades from these guys.

If you look closely at the above picture you'll notice that there is no PeopleMover running down the middle of the concourse or along the side of the buildings. By the time Tokyo Disneyland was being planned, people-movers were already becoming commonplace at airports and were no longer considered a product of the future.

Let's start with the first attraction you come to on the right, Buzz Lightyear's Astro Blasters.


Buzz Lightyear's Astro Blasters Tokyo Disneyland

Buzz Lightyear's Astro Blasters Tokyo Disneyland


The Tokyo version of this ride is the exact same attraction as can be found at Disneyland, CA, Disneyland Paris, and Hong Kong Disneyland.

All four of these attractions came after the Disney World version and have a different track layout than their Florida cousin. Also different from Florida is a very nice upgrade. The laser guns are not attached to the vehicle. Instead, they're connected via a retractable cord which gives you a greater range of movement when shooting.

The queue is also a little different from Disney World. Instead of seeing a giant View-Master, here you see a large Etch-A-Sketch which continually draws new pictures.


Buzz Lightyear's Astro Blasters Tokyo Disneyland


The sights within the attraction have also been changed slightly from the Florida version, but the concept is the same. You aim and shoot at targets as you travel through Buzz's universe and high score wins. Because of the upgraded laser guns, I have to say that all of the other Buzz Lightyear attractions are better than the Magic Kingdom's version at Disney World.

Across the way from Buzz we find MicroAdventure.


MicroAdventure Tokyo Disneyland

MicroAdventure Tokyo Disneyland


MicroAdventure is what we call, Honey, I Shrunk the Audience. This is the exact same movie as plays in California and Florida, except that it has been dubbed into Japanese. There are several phone handsets in the back of the theater that play the English soundtrack.

This is a very popular attraction and I would suggest using FASTPASS.

Let's take a little detour and enter Tomorrowland via Center Street from World Bazaar. Here are two pictures, one looking out from World Bazaar toward Tomorrowland and the other looking from Tomorrowland back toward World Bazaar.


Tomorrowland via Center Street from World Bazaar Tokyo Disneyland

Tomorrowland via Center Street from World Bazaar Tokyo Disneyland


Once entering Tomorrowland from World Bazaar, you will be greeted by an all new attraction in 2009, Monsters, Inc. Ride and go Seek.


Monsters, Inc. Ride and go Seek Tokyo Disneyland


Because of the construction wall, I wasn't able to get any good pictures of the building. The photo below was taken from outside the park from the monorail station platform.


Monsters, Inc. Ride and go Seek Tokyo Disneyland


As you can see, the structure is reminiscent of the buildings seen in the movie, Monsters, Inc.

The details for this attraction are still sketchy, but from what I've read you play hide-and-go-seek with Boo, Mike, and Sulley in Monstropolis. The ride will be similar to the attraction "Monsters, Inc. Mike & Sulley to the Rescue!" at Disney's California Adventure and it will incorporate 3D screen technology similar to that used in the "Toy Story Midway Mania" attraction at Disney's Hollywood Studios. It's scheduled to open in 2009 at a cost of $88M.

This new ride replaces "Meet the World" which was a "Carousel of Progress" type attraction that portrayed the history of Japan.

Next to Monsters, Inc. Ride and go Seek you'll find Star Tours. I like the exterior of this building as it looks like a futuristic space craft hanger.


Star Tours Tokyo Disneyland

Star Tours Tokyo Disneyland

Star Tours Tokyo Disneyland


The interior of the attraction is very similar to all of the other Star Tours around the world.


Star Tours Tokyo Disneyland

Star Tours Tokyo Disneyland


The dialogue for Captain Rex and the pilot seen on the TV monitor have been dubbed into Japanese, but the vocals coming from Star Command are still in English. Otherwise, the attraction is exactly the same as the American versions.

The exit for Star Tours is far more elaborate than the "hallways" you walk through in the American parks. At Tokyo, the space age architecture is continued in the exit corridors and you even come across a strange alien working feverishly in a control booth. Look closely and you might recognize him as he bears a striking resemblance to Sonny Eclipse from Cosmic Ray's Starlight Café at WDW.


Pan Galatic Pizza Port Tokyo Disneyland


When you exit the Star Tours building, you cross an elevated walkway to an observation platform and the upper level of the Pan Galactic Pizza Port. You can also reach this platform via a large staircase.


Star Tours Tokyo Disneyland

Pan Galatic Pizza Port Tokyo Disneyland

Pan Galatic Pizza Port Tokyo Disneyland


The Pan Galactic Pizza Port is a sizeable, counter service restaurant that serves, you guessed it, pizza. Sausage & Mushroom and Chicken & Vegetable pizza is offered by the slice along with salads and a few other odds and ends.


Pan Galatic Pizza Port Tokyo Disneyland


Food is ordered and purchased on the ground floor, but there is additional seating upstairs, overlooking the greatest pizza making machine you've ever seen. Here, Tony Solaroni runs an outrageous contraption designed to delight children and adults. Even if you don't eat here, I would strongly suggest taking a gander at this fun spot.


Pan Galatic Pizza Port Tokyo Disneyland

Pan Galatic Pizza Port Tokyo Disneyland

Pan Galatic Pizza Port Tokyo Disneyland


Located between Star Tours and Space Mountain is Showbase.


Showbase Tokyo Disneyland


Showbase is a covered amphitheater where lavish Disney-character shows are presented. As with all live performances at Tokyo Disneyland, you need to arrive early to get a seat.


Showbase Tokyo Disneyland


Next we come to Space Mountain. You enter this attraction via a long speed-ramp that takes you to the second floor of the building. Here, the line continues around the perimeter of Space Mountain for a short distance before it enters the structure.


Space Mountain Tokyo Disneyland

Space Mountain Tokyo Disneyland


Up until recently, the inside queue and ride were identical to the Space Mountain attraction at Disneyland, CA. Unfortunately, I was unaware of the recent refurbishment and chose not to ride Space Mountain on my latest trip. It wasn't until I returned home that I found out that Disney has tinkered with this perennial favorite quite a bit. Even the logo has changed.


Space Mountain Tokyo Disneyland


The large spaceship that once hung from the main queue area has been replaced by a much sleeker craft.


Space Mountain Tokyo Disneyland


I want to thank my friend TDLFAN for the above picture and the following description.

"It's too bad you didn't ride Space Mountain, because Disney did a very nice job giving this ride a new look all over. Still the same track, but now it features a new show that makes it look like you are in an electrical power plant/station in outer space, complete with lightning-like special effects and other show elements unique to Tokyo. There is no ride soundtrack, but it doesn't matter because now the TDL version has a very unique look to it. Best of all is how Disney made the main portion of the ride very dark, with some sound effects and new visual elements, like flying thru a nebula during one of the drops, plus the new star field at "re-entry" similar to the one now in use at DL and HKDL."

Let this be a lesson to myself and all of you, 'GO ON EVERYTHING WHEN VISITING A FOREIGN DISNEY PARK!"

Now we come to what I describe as the "boring" concourse. This is a vast expanse that runs from Space Mountain to the Star-Jets. It's flanked by the Grand Circuit Raceway on one side and the Tomorrowland Terrace on the other. At one time, the Skyway traveled above this area, but with it gone, there really aren't any architectural elements to excite the eye.


Skyway

Concourse Tomorrowland Tokyo Disneyland

Concourse Tomorrowland Tokyo Disneyland

Concourse Tomorrowland Tokyo Disneyland

Concourse Tomorrowland Tokyo Disneyland

Concourse Tomorrowland Tokyo Disneyland


The Grand Circuit Raceway is Tokyo Disneyland's version of the Autopia at Disneyland or Tomorrowland Indy Speedway at Disney World. In fact, the track layout is almost identical to the Tomorrowland Indy Speedway.

It's interesting to note that the steering wheels are on the right side of these little cars as the Japanese drive on the left side of the road. Also, the Japanese do not consider these "bumper cars" as so many of us Americans do and it's rare to get smacked from behind.


Grand Circuit Raceway Tokyo Disneyland

Grand Circuit Raceway Tokyo Disneyland

Grand Circuit Raceway Tokyo Disneyland


I have always felt that this attraction and the one in Florida are strictly for youngsters who don't yet have a driver's license. There really isn't very much to see along the journey. However, the Autopia in California has been updated with some nice scenery and props that make this simple car-ride more enjoyable to adults.

Like Walt Disney World, the Grand Circuit Raceway does have a "stadium" where parents can wait and take pictures.


Grand Circuit Raceway Tokyo Disneyland


Across the way from the Grand Circuit Raceway is the Tomorrowland Terrace.


Tomorrowland Terrace Tokyo Disneyland

Tomorrowland Terrace Tokyo Disneyland


If you notice a resemblance between the Tomorrowland Terrace and Cosmic Ray's Starlight Cafe at Walt Disney World, that's because the two restaurants are almost identical in everyway.


Tomorrowland Terrace Tokyo Disneyland


This is one of the few true burger joints at Tokyo Disneyland and you can order hamburgers, cheeseburgers, chicken burgers, sandwiches, chicken strips and fries. I didn't eat here on my latest trip, but five years ago I got the cutest burger.


Tomorrowland Terrace Tokyo Disneyland


Sonny Eclipse does not perform at the Tomorrowland Terrace, but there is a stage in the same location as Cosmic Rays and live entertainment can sometimes be heard here.

The last attraction in Tomorrowland is the Star-Jets.


Star Jets Tokyo Disneyland


There's not a lot I can say about this ride. You take an elevator to the loading platform, board a two-passenger "jet" and spin for something less than a minute.


Star Jets Tokyo Disneyland

Star Jets Tokyo Disneyland


Like all Disney parks, live entertainment is everywhere, and Tomorrowland is no exception.


Space Mountain Tokyo Disneyland


One final curiosity I'd like to point out is the interesting trash can I saw in Tomorrowland.


Concourse


If you look closely at the smaller receptacle, you'll notice that it's intended to be used for liquids before throwing away your paper cup.

Well, that's it for Tokyo Disneyland. I will be writing one final blog about my trip to the Hong Kong and Tokyo Disney Resorts in an effort to sum everything up.

August 18, 2008

Should you go to Hong Kong and Tokyo Disney?

During the postings of my Hong Kong and Tokyo Disney blogs, I received several emails from people asking me if it's worth the trip to travel this vast distance to visit these parks. Ultimately, this would depend on your budget and how strong your desire is to experience the foreign Disney parks, but I will give you my thoughts.

Let's start with Hong Kong.

It's a 13-14 hour flight from Chicago to Hong Kong. That's a long time to spend in an airplane. Fortunately, I had enough frequent flyer miles to upgrade to Business Class and I would recommend this to anyone who can swing it.

As I mentioned in an earlier blog, Hong Kong Disneyland is a nice, LITTLE park, but it still has a long way to go before it could be considered a great park. There just aren't enough rides and attractions to keep the average guest busy for more than a day - two if you're a true Disney fanatic. I chose to spend three full days here because I'm a Disney extremist and I wanted to experience everything multiple times, but I would only recommend this length of stay to a handful of my readers. Because of the lack of rides and attractions, it becomes difficult for me to recommend a trip all the way to Hong Kong, JUST to see Disneyland.

But keep in mind, the City of Hong Kong is only a 20 minute train ride away from Disneyland. And believe me, there is no other city on earth like Hong Kong. This is a magnificent metropolis. A combination of ultra modern and traditional Chinese make this an exciting place to visit. You can easily spend three days here. And a day trip via hydrofoil to Macau is also a great excursion.


HK%201.jpg

HK%202.jpg

HK%203.jpg

Macau.jpg


So, if you add the City of Hong Kong and Macau to your trip to HKDL, then it becomes a no-brainer. I say, "Go for it."

If you do decide to go to Hong Kong, I would break the trip up into two sections. Stay at the Disneyland or Hollywood Hotel for two or three nights and the remainder of your stay on Hong Kong Island or across the harbor in Kowloon.


Disneyland%20Hotel%20100.jpg

Hollywood%20Hotel%20100.jpg


I've stayed at the Kowloon Shangri-La twice and was most pleased. In fact, it's one of the nicest hotels I've ever been in. It has beautiful views of Hong Kong Island and it's an easy walk to many of the sights. However, I'm sure there are MANY equally good hotels to choose from. Talk to your travel agent.


Shangri-La%201.jpg

Shangri-La%202.jpg


Now let's discuss Japan. Should you fly 9-10 hours from Chicago to visit the Tokyo Disney Resort? Absolutely!

If you've been reading my blogs, you know that I rank Tokyo DisneySea as my absolute favorite park and I rank Tokyo Disneyland as my fifth favorite out of a total of eleven. Each of these parks has much more to offer than HKDL and each requires every bit of two days to see. Also, keep in mind that you probably won't be returning anytime soon, so I would suggest spending three full days in each park to make sure you've imprinted all the sights and sounds into your brain.

Just like Disney World, I always recommend staying "on property." If there is anyway you can afford it, stay at the MiraCosta. With the hotel located literally inside Tokyo DisneySea, it's the most magical of any Disney hotel anywhere in the world. You'll be glad you did. Also consider the new Disneyland Hotel which is right on the doorstep of Tokyo Disneyland. And lastly, the Ambassador Hotel which is just a short walk from the monorail, is worthy of your consideration.


MiraCoast%20100.jpg

TDL%20Hotel%20100.jpg

Ambassador%20101.jpg


Japan is an expensive country. If budget starts to play a part in your decision, consider staying at the Sheraton Grande Tokyo Bay Hotel. It's a little less costly than the Disney hotels and it's extremely convenient to the Disney monorail so the parks are still just a short ride away.


Sharaton%20100.jpg


On one trip, I stayed at an inexpensive (relatively speaking) Holiday Inn in downtown Tokyo and took the train to Disneyland everyday. It was less expensive than staying on property, but it lacked "magic" and I was more or less stuck at the park all day long as it would not be convenient to return to my hotel mid-day for a nap.

But here comes my dilemma when suggesting a trip to Tokyo. How can you possibly fly all this way and ONLY see Disney? Japan is a beautiful country. It would take weeks just to see the highlights. Do you really want to miss out on experiencing this wonderful culture?

Japan is roughly the size of California and has a magnificent railway system that can take you almost anywhere quickly and safely. But navigating in Japan can be daunting for someone who doesn't speak the language. To make things easier, I would suggest meeting with a travel agent and arrange for a multi-day tour of the country that begins or ends in Tokyo, then spend an additional 6-7 days at Disney.

Here are just a FEW of the "must see" attractions in Japan.

Daibutsu (Buddha) in Kamakura


Kamakura.jpg


Daibutsu (Buddha) in Nara


Daibutsu%20in%20Nara.jpg


Kyoto's Golden Pavilion


Golden%20Palace.jpg


The Kyoto Bridge


Kyoto%20Bridge.jpg


Osaka Castle


Osaka%20Castle.jpg


Nagasaki


Nagasaki.jpg


If you've already visited the City of Hong Kong and the country of Japan as I have, or, if you really only want to visit Disney, you might want to do what I did and combine both resorts into one trip. I figured if I was flying all the way across the Pacific anyway, why not lengthen my stay and see both resorts. It's about a 4½ hour flight between Hong Kong and Tokyo.

Getting from the airports to the resorts is easy. In Hong Kong, just hail a cab and tell him where you want to go. It shouldn't cost much more than $20US to get to the Disneyland Resort. (Honk Kong also uses the "dollar" so don't get confused.) The trip takes about 20 minutes. You can also take a train, which would be cheaper, but that would involve a transfer. And do you really want to schlep your luggage through crowded stations after just having completed a 13+ hour flight?

In Tokyo, there are a number of motor-coach counters located immediately after you clear customs. It's here that you can arrange transportation to Disney. After purchasing your ticket (about $25 per person one-way) you will be told where to wait for the bus which will be just a short walk from the counter. The trip takes approximately one hour. You arrange for your return trip at your hotel.

Even though Visa and Master Card are accepted everywhere, I always try to have some local currency in hand when I arrive. It's just one less thing I have to worry about after my flight.

One of the major enjoyments I get out of Disney theme parks is comparing them to one another. It fascinates me to see how similar, yet different, any given attraction can be.

I realize that international travel isn't in everyone's budget, but if you're one of those families that visits Walt Disney World three or four times a year, might I suggest that you only visit once or twice some year and use the money you'll save for an overseas Disney trip. You'll be happy you did.

Although I have not talked about the Disneyland Paris Resort in my recent blogs, I rank Disneyland Paris as my second favorite park. And even though I rank the Walt Disney Studios Paris as my least favorite park, I still feel the resort has a lot to offer - a lot more than Hong Kong. Not to mention, the City of Lights is just a short train ride away.

So, this ends my Asian Disney blogs. I hope you've enjoyed them. I've had a good time reliving my adventures by sharing them with you.

August 21, 2008

Polynesian Resort Torch Lighting Ceremony

It's amazing the things you can learn on the AllEars.net website. I was reading the Fact Sheet for the Polynesian Resort when I came across the "Torch Lighting Ceremony." I had never heard of it, so I decided to investigate this event for myself.

Each evening at 6pm (Tuesday - Saturday), one of the fire-dancers from the "Spirit of Aloha Polynesian Luau" show positions himself just inside the Great Ceremonial House.

Another member of the cast is also on hand and announces the commencement of the "Torch Lighting Ceremony." The fire-dancer then creates a trumpet-like sound as he blows on a conch shell. His fanfare complete, the announcer then asks everyone in attendance to step outside.

Two supervisors cordon off an area near the entrance and the announcer takes his place behind two large drums. He then begins a Polynesian chant while beating the drums in rhythm. Moments later, the fire-dancer returns with a large baton, fire blazing at each end. A few ceremonial theatrics are performed with his fiery wand and then he proceeds to light several of the torches. The show continues as he "eats" fire and does an impressive baton twirling. The event lasts maybe five to seven minutes.

Is it worth making a special trip to the Polynesian Resort to see this mini-show? No. But if you happen to be in the area, perhaps waiting for your 'Ohana reservation, then go for it. You'll be glad you did. I looked around at the others in attendance and everyone was smiling. This is one of the little details that helps make Disney special.

Torch Lighting Ceremony Polynesian Resort at Walt Disney World

Torch Lighting Ceremony Polynesian Resort at Walt Disney World

Torch Lighting Ceremony Polynesian Resort at Walt Disney World

Torch Lighting Ceremony Polynesian Resort at Walt Disney World

Torch Lighting Ceremony Polynesian Resort at Walt Disney World

Torch Lighting Ceremony Polynesian Resort at Walt Disney World

August 27, 2008

The Eight Days of Christmas and Little Bit More

I was at the Marketplace at Downtown Disney recently and visited the Disney's Days of Christmas Shop.

While browsing, I noticed a cute sign with one of the "12 Days of Christmas" printed on it. It piqued my curiosity so I started to search for all twelve. To my dismay, I couldn't find them. So I asked a cast member and was told that there are only eight. Strange, but I took pictures of them to share with you.

Days of Christmas Sign Downtown Disney

Days of Christmas Sign Downtown Disney

Days of Christmas Sign Downtown Disney

Days of Christmas Sign Downtown Disney

Days of Christmas Sign Downtown Disney

Days of Christmas Sign Downtown Disney

Days of Christmas Sign Downtown Disney

Days of Christmas Sign Downtown Disney

Days of Christmas Sign Downtown Disney

Days of Christmas Sign Downtown Disney

Days of Christmas Sign Downtown Disney

Days of Christmas Sign Downtown Disney

Days of Christmas Sign Downtown Disney

Days of Christmas Sign Downtown Disney

Days of Christmas Sign Downtown Disney

Days of Christmas Sign Downtown Disney

Days of Christmas Sign Downtown Disney


If you're collecting the Disney Christmas Village pieces, two new buildings have been added. First there is the DV LDG Castle for $44.95. Also available is the Ivory Castle for $65.00. This piece features the same Mickey and Minnie that can be found on a Christmas stocking, Big Fig, tree skirt, and several other pieces.

Disney Christmas Village

Disney Christmas Village


While visiting the Art of Disney Shop, I noticed that they have a new Big Fig for those of you who like to decorate for Halloween. This Mickey and Minnie pumpkin set sell for $175. It's approximately 8 inches high and 15 inches wide.

Halloween Mickey and Minnie big Fig


For those of you who like to take your lunch to work or school, I found a new Lunch Tote for $19.95 at Mickey's Pantry. It was reasonably thick (insulated) and had a shiny, metallic-like finish on the inside to help keep items hot or cold.

Lunch%20Tote%201.jpg

Lunch%20Tote%202.jpg

And finally, I snapped a few pictures of the construction taking place in front of the World of Disney. The stage that occupies this area is being completely redesigned and improved. From what I understand, it will be covered when complete.

Construction Downtown Disney Stage

Construction Downtown Disney Stage

August 28, 2008

Bay Lake Tower Observation Deck

A strange looking structure is being constructed on the top of the rumored Bay Lake Tower, Disney Vacation Club located north of the Contemporary Resort.

This is strictly a RUMOR, but I have it on good authority that this will be a private, Magic Kingdom firework viewing area for DVC members staying at this resort. If true, this feature will make this "home away from home" all the more enticing.

Bay Lake Tower Construction

Bay Lake Tower Construction

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About August 2008

This page contains all entries posted to The “World” According to Jack in August 2008. They are listed from oldest to newest.

July 2008 is the previous archive.

September 2008 is the next archive.

Many more can be found on the main index page or by looking through the archives.