Several members of the AllEars team spent most of March visiting Disney destinations far from home. We visited Hong Kong Disneyland, Tokyo Disneyland, Tokyo Disney Sea, and Aulani in Hawaii. Along for all or part or this journey were AllEars' Deb Wills, Laura Gilbreath, Lee Zimmerman, Jeanine Yamanaka, Linda Eckwerth, and Deb Koma, and friends Jack and Pete.
Tokyo Disney Resort - Day 2, Part 2, Tokyo Disneyland
That's right, folks, at the conclusion of the previous post it was just after noon!
It was lunchtime then and we were hungry. The "Queen of Hearts Royal Banquet Hall" in Fantasyland was suggested, but, even though it's a cafeteria type of restaurant, the wait time was over an hour to get in! Deb and Linda went in to look around - it is really wonderfully themed. Here is the video:
We explored the options and ended up at Captain Hook's Galley on the edge of Westernland, which was a pizza place. Most importantly, it didn't have an enormous line.
The pizza was actually quite decent! Lee and I both had the Hawaiian pizza, but they had a special that had yams and some other veggies on it which looked quite good - Pete tried it and said it was excellent. They also had a menu item called "Baked Potato with Cheese" - this turned out to be a cup filled with piping hot tater tot-like bites. They were not what we expected, but they were really good. And they were HOT, which was also very nice - we were chilled and we both ordered hot green tea to drink. And guess what, beverage sizes in Tokyo were the same as they'd been in Hong Kong...
Our group mostly went their separate ways after lunch. Lee and I just wanted to wander around the park for a while. So we visited Critter Country (Splash Mountain was down for refurbishment, as was the Jungle Cruise in Adventureland), and went through Fantasyland too - where all of the lines were very long. It was time that we could get another Fastpass - not much was available, but we were able to get one for Star Tours with a return time that was only about an hour in the future.
We also wandered around the castle area. The hub in front of the castle is HUGE in Tokyo...and there is a Partners statue there (there wasn't one in Hong Kong).
We went back to Westernland to check out the line for Big Thunder Mountain...160 minutes. Wow. I've never seen it that long here! The line for the popcorn cart there wasn't too long - but they were serving relatively boring caramel corn. We bought some and it was good, even if not very exotic. :-)
Another popcorn thing...souvenir popcorn buckets are extremely popular in Tokyo. Not only are there different ones available at different stands, but they are refillable. So guests bring them on multiple trips and simply have them refilled (which is a slightly lower price). They also come with straps to hang around the neck so they are easy to carry. We saw lots of people standing in lines and munching on popcorn.
The popcorn stand was near the parade route. There weren't a lot of people in the area so we thought it might be a decent spot to watch the parade from, since it was going to start in about 10 minutes.
In Tokyo, those in the first two or three rows are required to sit down and remain seated during the parade. So if you're standing in the first row behind those who are seated it's a pretty good spot. We were in the second row of standers...you always hear that the Japanese people are short compared to Americans, well, I always seemed to get stuck standing behind a Japanese girl who was at least my height.
As a courtesy to others, there are announcements reminding people to remove head wear (remember all of those enormous hats?), and not to hold their cameras above their heads. Results for the latter were mixed, but it was somewhat better.
People are SERIOUS about their parade viewing spots. That morning we were in Fantasyland 15 minutes after the park opened and there were already several groups of people sitting along the parade route waiting for a parade that didn't start for over 6 hours! Decorated plastic sheets and foam seating pads are very popular - but you aren't allowed to spread out a plastic sheet to sit on until an hour before the parade starts...they even make a park announcement about that!
The parade is called "Happiness is Here". It was created for the 30th anniversary "Happiness" year. Obligatory Soundsational tie-in: While the parade in Hong Kong sounded like Soundsational in California, this one LOOKED like Soundsational in California - so I was not surprised to learn that Jody Daily was the designer for both parades. The floats had that paper sculpture look that he and Kevin Kidney are known for. But the floats were far more elaborate and detailed than Soundsational, and there were a lot more of them.
Many of the floats resembled old-fashioned pull toys, or incorporated other elements of classic toys.
The parade also had the individual carousel bikes similar to those Mary Poppins and Bert ride in Soundsational, and there were a lot more of those, too. I enjoyed them - the characters rode carousel animals that were appropriate for them, like Lilo and Stitch on seahorses, the Genie on a camel, and Alice on a caterpillar.
In addition to familiar characters like the Fab 5, Pooh & friends, princesses, and the Toy Story gang, there were a lot of more unusual characters in the parade, like Marie, Toulouse, and Berlioz from The Aristocats, The Ugly Duckling and the Grasshopper from Silly Symphonies, the Three Little Pigs, heffalumps and woozles, and a whole bunch of Alice in Wonderland characters, including lesser-known characters like the King of Hearts, the March Hare, and a whole bunch of card soldiers and Tweedledee/Tweedledum dancers.
The parade included a show stop - and that's the reason some people staked out their parade spots so early: so that they could be at the place where their favorite character was going to stop.
Which brings me to another interesting thing about Tokyo...they love, love, love, love the characters there. My observation was that many people felt they had a personal relationship with the characters, especially their chosen character. So when the characters went by they waved excitedly (I can't tell you how many of my photos have waving hands in them), and they go really crazy when it's "their" character. If the character would look in our direction and wave, the reaction (mostly from the girls, but some of the boys, too) was "Mickey waved at ME!". (When of course it should have been obvious that Mickey was actually waving at Lee and me. :-) ) For their part, the characters do an excellent job of seeming to make eye contact, and appearing to point to and acknowledge specific people in the crowds, much more than I see here.
Back to the parade...
I thought the floats were lovely and the parade was very whimsical, but I wasn't that impressed with it at the time. It's funny, but I have more of an appreciation of it from looking at the photos than I did while I was actually watching it. I thought it was too long. But I'm not a fan of the show stops...I think everyone should get the same view of the parade, and that doesn't happen when there's a show in the middle of it.
After the parade we went to Tomorrowland to use our Star Tours Fastpass. We actually had problems finding the entrance to Star Tours - it wasn't very close to the Fastpass distribution location! I wasn't sure if this Star Tours was "The Adventures Continue" version or not, but it was, and guess what, we got Hoth as our first planet. It's almost always Hoth for us! I was hoping that would be different in Tokyo...
We were ready for an afternoon break but on the way out of the park we did some shopping...I'd seen a Tigger hat that I wanted. It wasn't one of the huge heads - just an orange knit cap with black stripes and Tigger ears. It was cold, so I wore it for most of the rest of our trip. (Yes, mid-40s was cold for us - especially with the humidity and the wind.)
It was really great to be so close to our room! Less than 5 minutes from walking out the turnstiles (where we were required to get our hands stamped) until we walked through our door.
Lee and I relaxed in the room for a couple of hours, then went back into Tokyo Disneyland around 6:15. It was dark by then, and we enjoyed taking some nighttime photos of the castle and its 30th birthday decorations.
This time we walked through the castle, and saw the beautiful tile mosaics on the walls depicting scenes from Cinderella's story. (Tokyo Disneyland's castle is also Cinderella Castle. That makes three for Sleeping Beauty (Paris is the third) and two for Cinderella. Not sure which princess will own Shanghai's castle real estate.)
Off to the side we noticed a sign for "Cinderella's Fairy Tale Hall". There did not appear to be much of a line so in we went. There was a queue decorated with lots of Cinderella art, and then we went upstairs in an elevator to a room that told Cinderella's story in artwork and moving dioramas. Some of the art was scenes from the movie, some was representations by non-Disney artists, which looked quite different.
In the next room were scenes from the wedding and coronation - I'm not sure most of these were in the movie. There were some decorative panels on the wall - one of these had a panel that slid sideways and Gus and Jacques peered out of it. The final room had a chair and a footstool with Cinderella's glass slipper on it - that was very popular for photos.
There was a cast member in that room who asked (in English) if we spoke Japanese. When we said no, he told us that we should take photos of the two large paintings in the room WITH the camera flash, to see a special effect. We are so used to being told NOT to use a flash that this was a surprise, but I did it...with the flash the paintings show the magical sparkles from the Fairy Godmother's wand. It was very nice of him to tell us about that.
Language was more of an issue for us in Japan than Hong Kong. We THINK that a lot of people understood English, but they are reluctant to speak it, so we did a lot of pointing. And people were patient with us and tried to be helpful. We learned to say a few Japanese phrases like "Good morning", "Good afternoon", "Good evening", and "thank you" - we already knew "Sayonara". So we tried to at least greet and thank people in Japanese. They seemed appreciative of the effort, and sometimes responded in English. Between Hong Kong and Japan the whole multiple languages thing had us really confused, and Lee kept attempting to speak Spanish to the Japanese. :-)
By then it was 7:00 so we went to Westernland to use our Big Thunder Mountain Railroad Fastpasses. But it was down. :-( And had been down for a while. Bummer.
It was a very chilly evening - that damp cold, plus some wind. I'd changed into my fleece-lined pants back at the hotel so I was relatively warm, but Lee was cold. We noticed that Troubadour Tavern was selling hot chocolate for 260 yen, so we bought some. It was those little six ounce cups again, but it was REALLY good hot chocolate - thicker and more chocolatey than we get here. More like the liquid chocolate drink that Starbucks used to sell, though not quite that thick.
The Electrical Parade started at 7:30, and there was a spot we could sit on the edge of the wooden porch of one of the "old west" buildings. There were people sitting along the edge of the parade route in front of us, so we hoped that we could stand behind them when the parade started, which we thought would give us an excellent view, since we were also on a corner.
And fortunately that proved to be correct.
The Tokyo electrical parade is called "Dream Lights". Oh. My. God. It was wonderful. I don't even know how to describe it. In technology and design it is so far above the Main Street Electrical Parade and SpectroMagic that there's simply no comparison.
It uses all LED lights, very brilliant and colorful. Most of the floats also animate the lights - at the very least they change color, such as the Pixie float, which uses varying colors to reflect the different seasons - spring, summer, fall, and winter. Just the color variation changes the look of the float. Some of the floats have more sophisticated and complex animation.
For example, the Genie from Aladdin changes from blue into a variety of different patterns, including a Hawaiian shirt, playing cards (a la Alice in Wonderland) and, my favorite, Tigger's orange and black stripes! The Genie is more like a 3-dimensional Genie-shaped LED screen...
The parade still uses the Baroque Hoedown music, but more of the music is appropriate to whatever movie is depicted in the parade unit that is passing by. There are 19 different floats and then there's all of the other smaller individual units like the spinning ladybug, snails, and bees, knights on brightly caparisoned chargers, and even Nemo.
It was incredible. Second only to Mystic Manor in the "Wow, that was amazing" department on this trip. It's been running in Tokyo since 2001 (though the units with the more specialized effects were added in 2011) so there's really no excuse for not giving us a more state-of-the-art nighttime parade here. Except $$$, of course.
Big Thunder Mountain was still down - and looked like it would be for the rest of the night. We wanted dinner, and since it was just the two of us we could be a little more adventurous, so we went to the Hungry Bear Restaurant, which offered curry dishes. Very different than the Hungry Bear in Anaheim, which is a burger place. It was counter service but the seating area was indoors, and after the parade we were both pretty cold. And it had a very short line. I had a chicken curry over rice and Lee had the special curry, which looked like the same sauce as mine, but his had mini sausages, shoestring potatoes and cheese sauce on top of the rice. Sounds odd, but he said it was good. More warm green tea to drink with it!
This reminds me of something we noticed with food in both Hong Kong and Tokyo - it wasn't very hot when served. Sometimes it was just barely warm. When we had soups they were usually the right temperature (hot enough they needed to cool down a little), but otherwise most dishes I had were not hot at all.
By the time we finished eating, it was just a few minutes before the fireworks were supposed to start. In fact, as we were heading toward the hub they started behind us, which was not at all what I expected. I thought they would be centered over the castle, but instead they are over toward Westernland, since they are visible from both Tokyo DisneySea and Tokyo Disneyland. The two parks are right next to each other and share a backstage area.
Deb and Jeanine had told us earlier in the day not to expect much from the fireworks. And yes, I'd have to agree that's one of the few areas were Tokyo does not excel. The show was less than 5 minutes long, and while it had a nice variety of fireworks that went much higher than those in Hong Kong, it was not even average by Disney standards. That was a surprise. But I guess it's nice to know there's ONE area where the American parks are better. :-)
We were ready for some dessert - earlier in the day we'd noticed a place called "The Great American Waffle Co" on the edge of the World Bazaar. They served Mickey waffles with choice of sweet toppings. They had chocolate, strawberries, ice cream, etc., but we went with maple syrup, served with a dollop of whipped cream and some nuts. It was freshly made and pretty good.
It was almost 9:00 by then. I'm not even sure what time the park closed - my English times guide doesn't give the park hours! - but the next morning we were planning to get up early to get to Tokyo DisneySea prior to park opening, so we needed to get to bed.
Next time: Tokyo DisneySea - I foresee another multi-part report for the
The previous post in this blog was E3 2014: Bring on the Games (Part 2).
The next post in this blog is Tokyo DisneySea - Part 4.