September 22, 2014

Frozen at Disney Sea..and more

The new home of Elsa and Anna, soon to be in Tokyo.

Aside from the incredible and original Mystic Manor at Hong Kong Disneyland, the stunning Cars Land at California Adventure, and all that is to come to Shanghai Disneyland, it does seem as if the Tokyo Disney Resort consistently gets the best attractions to come out of Disney Imagineering. Maybe they will wow fans with all the additions and changes in Central Florida, but that remains to be seen... and hasn't been seen for at Walt Disney World for at least a decade.

The unbelievable Tokyo Disney Sea is proof enough. You can take a glance at videos for Pooh's Hunny Hunt at the first international Magic Kingdom, track down a Journey to the Center of the Earth or check out the Hotel Mira Costa in all its glory to decide for yourself . Tokyo Disney Resort is currently where Disney creativity hits its peak- at least in this century!

Tower of Terror in Tokyo presents a great story even without
the Twilight Zone tie-in.

Everyone in the theme park blogsphere understands cloning popular attractions from one park to another is commonplace. Disney does it. Universal does it. Seems everyone does it. So when it came time to enhance Tokyo Disney Sea with a version of The groundbreaking Twilight Zone Tower of Terror, the Imagineers bravely gave the attraction a brand new story with a unique  exterior, spellbinding effects and a clever connection to the rest of the park. (What did the Tokyo budgeteers -a new breed of accountants unfortunately gaining momentum- do? Strap the attraction with the cheaper to built and easier to maintain version, the one found in California and Paris.) Yet, the new story is so good, it almost makes up for the accountants' error in judgment.

Let's look a little deeper. Can Disney Imagineers hit home runs by turning the very popular Pixar movies into headliner attractions? Absolutely- when they are given the funds and freedom to do so! To see these adventures, guests must travel to Tokyo since the American parks are left with smaller, less impressive attractions that what is found overseas. Notice a pattern? Here's Tokyo Disneyland's splashy Monsters Inc. Ride and Go Seek! Trust me, after viewing this video, you'll look at the Monsters ride at California Adventure in a whole new way.

Turning Pooh into a must see adventure.

But what can the Suits and Imagineers do with an older and less edgy property? Here's a great little video of Pooh's Hunny Hunt from Theme Park Review. Can a cute story without a roller coaster track or even a traditional thrill element be turned into an "E Ticket Plus" by today's crop of Imagineers? The answer is "yes" when a story is matched with great technology and the right finances to do the attraction concept justice. This is a Fantasyland Dark Ride elevated to the next level, even if the entrance design does seem relatively unimpressive. Certainly, its of a different scale than what you'll find in Critter Country at Disneyland.

Tokyo Disneyland in all its variations of quality.

There's the other side of the coin as well. Tokyo Disneyland is meticulously maintained, yet there are areas that look tired even if well cared for. Why? Well, the older designs duplicated from Florida or Anaheim have run its course, leaving parts of the park to look dated. Take a look at the video tour of the kingdom (above). Tomorrowland is the worst of the bunch, and even the Japanese seem to have given up on a land of the future. Regardless of the quality of what has been added, the toons have arrived. 

Fantasyland is in equally poor shape, strapped with the look of Florida's Magic Kingdom circa 1971, prior to the beautiful to view but substance lacking New Fantasyland. Unfortunately, its a concrete kingdom save for a nice paint job on the castle to differentiate it from the others and a beautiful Queen of Hearts Banquet Hall. Let me be the first to say- Having Dumbo just outside the Haunted Mansion is lazy design work. Word on the street is a New Fantasyland may be one of the things coming with that next big influx of cash.

The suits of the Oriental Land Company clearly understand the park needs upgrades badly to keep it fresh as the one next door. You can rest assured plans are on the table to do exactly that. I do wish they would dust off this project: Sci-Fi City. Here's the concept art for the beautiful redo of Tomorrowland:

Never built Sci-Fi City to replace Tomorrowland.

Imagineer Eddie Sotto, responsible for the beautiful rendition of Main Street U.S.A. in Disneyland Paris, turns the land of the future upside down, giving it a retro comic book feel. A land of 40s space heroes and villains.  Space Mountain gets reimagined including a new piece of exterior track. Disneyland's beloved Flying Saucers return in a new form. Plus more. The entire project just gleams with a bright sheen.

Disney Sea from the air. Lots of room for Frozen to show up!

The second Tokyo park is not being overlooked. As the suits have chosen to pour billions of dollars into their two parks and the resort at large in the next decade. (Yes, billions). 

Here's Disney Sea from the air. Mermaid Lagoon is at the left top with the park entrance to the right. If the estimated $500 million plans are approved, you can count on Frozen's land of Arendelle to become the next port built. Perhaps it will go right across from the American Waterfront. The South American themed Lost River Delta would separate Ariel's kingdom from Elsa's, giving guests a chance to explore ancient ruins with Indiana Jones in between princess focused attractions.

If the suits in Japan go all in, I can see Imagineers creating an Arendelle that may favorably compare in substance to the Pirate themed land being built in Shanghai Disneyland. Can't you just picture a Norwegian style village on the shore with Elsa's first  magnificent castle (below) forming an entry point to a Frozen adventure or two? 

Princess dining and more inside.

Without a doubt Frozen has joined the Disney canon of classic animated films. It's popular worldwide and absolutely a cultural phenomena in Japan. The guests have embraced Mermaid Lagoon as the first Disney land dedicated to one movie property. They will definitely take the newest addition to heart, especially when the port will contain a state of the art attraction using a brand new technology to tell the story. Add to it a few more smaller scale attractions, unique shopping and dining. Another theme park smash. Conversely, we lucky Americans are getting a cheap Maelstrom remodel in Florida to represent one of Disney's most popular and profitable franchises... and in a park where its does not belong.

For now, I am waiting to be wowed in Florida. It's been almost six years since my last trip to Walt Disney World, and at the rate in which Disney builds new attractions, it will at least be another 5 or so years before I finally book another trip. Maybe I'll go to Tokyo instead. And maybe you should too.

(Art copyright The Walt Disney Company.)

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