In case you've wondered why I haven't answered e-mails much lately, or why my
online pieces haven't been targeting current events in WDW, it's because I've
been away and the articles recently published were written ahead of time. No, I
didn't go to Bora Bora (though we had a heck of a time there on our honeymoon
some years ago). My online and increasingly my hobby life is dominated by
Disney, so when I take a vacation, it's often related to the cause.
You can almost guess my destination: Tokyo Disney Resort. I'll get into the
details soon enough, but to cut to the chase, it's a masterful vision of Disney
theming over there. You HAVE to go. Tokyo Disneyland comes across as a
pixel-perfect execution of the Magic Kingdom concept, though it doesn't inspire
'awe' since it's a refinement rather than a dramatic departure from a tried and
If you want awe-inspiring, visit the other park. Tokyo DisneySea will rob you
of breath, make your knees wobbly, and leave you dizzy and drunk with pleasure.
I've died and gone to theme park heaven.
First up: Tokyo Disneyland (TDL). The operative words which leap to mind when
thinking about TDL have the consistency of optimism: 'clean', 'pristine', or
even 'immaculate.' As your eye glances over the wide (too-wide) boulevards, you
see no trash whatsoever.
They need the wide walkways, since this park
Every single speck of paint is shiny and beautiful. The upkeep is incredible,
and even improves on the Disneyland of my youth. In all the world, I've never
encountered a place so clean, so well-maintained, and so well-painted.
Great lighting, fresh paint… is there anything
I wondered if even Walt's Disneyland, when he was around, was so well-kept.
Little surprises abound, like this animatronic
figure in a pizza restaurant in Tomorrowland.
Part of it is the culture here. Yes, people are polite. But what counts is
that they are by nature respectful. The queue walls of Pooh's Hunny Hunt are
highly themed, yet right within easy touch. At WDW, this invites prying hands
and pecking fingernails, and the whole thing degrades pretty quickly. Not so
here, where things continue to look pristine.
They touch, but they don't destroy.
It's a cliché at Disney to say that sweepers come along every few minutes and
clean up trash (indeed, that's a joke in the Honey I Shrunk movie). But in
reality, it takes a while for a sweeper to materialize at WDW. Not so at TDR.
Less than thirty seconds after you drop something, SOMEONE will come along and
pick it up. It's like the vision for DL/WDW, but that's not the reality
stateside. In Japan, it is the reality. More than once, we watched CMs kneel
over and pick up popcorn by hand, kernel by kernel, until the ground looked like
it could be eaten from again. And these weren't the Custodial CMs, just the guy
or girl passing through.
Even the ground really sparkles. And that ground is slurry, the painted
concrete you may remember from the Disneyland of your childhood, if you're over
thirty now. This makes for much easier going on strollers and wheelchairs, but
even more than that, adds a layer of nostalgia to the visit, at least for me.
It's like a perfected vision of Disneyland as it existed in 1983. This isn't
surprising, since that's exactly what year this was built. It's the WDW MK
concept more than Anaheim's DL, so in one sense it's merely a perfected vision
of the MK.
All the river animatronics work, and look really
clean. Bird poop and faded paint is so American!
The attractions are sometimes identical to their American counterparts,
especially the dark rides. Pinocchio, for example, had only these tiny changes:
there were fake puffs of smoke in the pool hall, the seagull projection was
different, and the Rough House room had a different backlit projection that
featured boxing gloves. Otherwise, expect the same ride.
Small World has a very large warehouse for a
Much the same could be said for It's a Small World, or even the Country Bear
Jamboree, which was playing the Vacation Hoedown on our trip. On the one hand,
we loved that the bears looked quite literally brand new. The contrast with the
Orlando version, which we had just seen the week prior, was striking.
Were these guys just installed or something?!
But the songs were not just Japanese versions of the same tunes, which
disappointed us, and the show was not as fulfilling as we'd hoped. Nor was the
Tiki Room, which was not WDW's version but still had hip and edgy content and
songs, so it was not the beloved original show.