Aladdin and Sinbad
await guests at the Arabian coast
Only in Japan
would somebody spend over JY338 billion to build an ocean-themed park on land that used to
be water. But very aptly Disneys first ever sea-themed park, Tokyo DisneySea (TDS),
occupies 71.4 hectares of reclaimed land adjacent to the original Tokyo Disney Land (TDL),
completing the latest stage of the Disney Resort development.
The Disney gang
celebrate the maiden voyage of the S.S. Columbia with the musical revue Sail Away!
Opening September 4, the
park features 9.2 hectares of water, one million plants, 6000 trees, seven themed
ports of attractions-Mediterranean Harbor, American Waterfront, Port
Discovery, Lost River Delta, Arabian Coast, Mermaid Lagoon and Mysterious Island-and a
flame-spewing volcano that dwarfs poor Cindys enchanted castle next door. Full of
stunning trompe loeil work-the artists were imported from Italy-and details that
extend to steam rising from manholes in the New York waterfront area, the park is the
result of four years of no-expense-spared construction. And with 40 percent of the land
still available for development, the project is far from over-an additional ten
attractions are in the pipeline.
The Mouse House first began mooting an ocean-themed park back in 1990, when plans for the
US$2 billion development of a Long Beach, California, site were unveiled. In competition
with the planned addition to the existing Disneyland park in Anaheim, DisneySea-or Port
Disney as it was known-sank without trace and the Anaheim lot eventually became
Disneys California Adventure, which opened this February. Disneys plans to
create a water world were subsequently shifted to Tokyo Bay, to land originally created by
their Japanese operating partner, Oriental Land Company (OLC).
|The S.S. Columbia docked in the
Founded in 1960, OLC-whose
major stockholder is the Keisei Electric Railway Co-were responsible for the original
bayside reclamation between 1964-75 and the construction of the first Disney park between
1980-83. The new venture, which like TDL will also be controlled and operated by OLC,
expects admissions for the first year to total ten million, with a combined target of 25
million visitors for both parks within one year. Following OLCs estimate that each
visitor spends JY9610 on a single visit, annual revenue for the parks alone should exceed
JY240 billion, with further income being generated by the two hotels, monorail, Ikspiari
and other out-of-park outlets. Kansais Universal Studios Japan, which also opened
this year, aims to clear a paltry-by-comparison US$8 million annually, while Disneys
California Adventure is aiming for around US$7 million in its first year of operation.
One innovation that is sure to appeal to adult visitors is the introduction of wine and
beer to the parks restaurants and bars. While alcohol was first introduced at
Disneys California Adventure earlier this year-most prominently with wine tastings
in the Napa Valley zone-the availability of booze, along with fine dining outlets, appears
to be part of the adultification process TDS is striving for. With the
availability of prix fixe French, American and Mediterranean menus and a complete wine
list at Magellans, Disneys most expensive restaurant to date,
the surrounding resort hotels face stiff competition. Magellans, S.S.
Columbia Dining Room and The Teddy Roosevelt Lounge are the
three flagship dining outlets that mark the biggest change in the food and beverage policy
of the park. While fast food and cafeteria-style fare are still available, such high-end
dining and the widespread availability of alcohol indicate that one of TDSs main
target groups is adult couples.
MiraCosta, the first Disney hotel to be built inside of one of the resorts
parks, is a further example of the desire to move things upmarket. With around 500 rooms
that include a suite at JY500,000 per night, four restaurants, swimming pools, banquet
facilities and a wedding chapel, the MiraCosta gives the surrounding resort hotels some
In comparison to its neighbor, TDS is lacking in cute character-themed attractions. The
two official characters for the park, Ariel from The Little Mermaid and the Genie
from Aladdin, appear in only an attraction apiece, while Mickey et al are
consigned to meet-and-greet activities and a single musical show. The remaining
attractions draw inspiration from either live-action Disney productions, such as 20,000
Leagues Under the Sea or from the theme of the port, in the case of Stormrider.
The only area clearly aimed at kids is the Mermaid Lagoon, but even there the 700-seater Mermaid
Lagoon Theater houses a 14-minute show of aerial-no pun intended-choreography,
effects and advanced oversized puppets that will equally entertain adults.
Ticket to ride
Linked by a snaking sea composed of 155 million liters-at nine hectares it's
the largest body of water in a Disney park-the seven ports provide plenty of oceanic
attractions. The longest lines will undoubtedly be for Journey to the Center of
the Earth and the Indiana Jones Adventure: Temple of the Crystal Skull,
two of the most thrilling rides in the park. Inspired by the stories of Jules Verne,
Journey may start off at a leisurely pace, but it concludes with the most roller
coaster-ish finale in the park. While its worth the potentially long wait, taking
advantage of the FastPass system that allows you to register for admission at a specific
time slot is highly recommended. As the actual ride is only three minutes in duration, a
lot of additional attention has been devoted to styling the waiting areas with scientific
specimens, such as giant mushrooms and paraphernalia belonging to Captain Nemo, who uses
Mysterious Island as the base for exploration. Less thrilling for grown-ups-who wont
be conned into believing theyre really submerged-but still enjoyable is the adjacent
20,000 Leagues Under the Sea ride.
The only attraction at TDS based on an existing ride-Indiana Jones Adventure: Temple of
the Forbidden Eye in Anaheim-the Temple of the Crystal Skull is packed with
state-of-the-art effects (watch out for one particularly stunning smoke effect) and plenty
of excitement. Visitors travel through the Central American pyramid, which supposedly
contains the Fountain of Youth, guarded by the vengeful Crystal Skull, in battered jeeps.
Following Indy into the temple, visitors encounter plenty of booby traps, insects and the
obligatory old rope bridge as well as a couple of set-piece moments from the movie series.
The spot where superior SFX make you swear youre moving backwards is the ride's
brainteaser. Although the expected wait for the ride once the park opens will be around
two hours or more, getting a FastPass will cut the time.
"Ciao" to a young fan in the Mediterranean Harbor
The sleeper hit of the
park is set to be the futuristic Stormrider, a simulator that takes visitors on a journey
to the eye of a hurricane. The ride that has given the engineers the most headaches,
Stormriders state-of-the-art cabins are packed with special effects-some big
surprises await-and it makes Star Tours look prehistoric. At five and a half minutes, the
ride is one of the longest-after the Its a Small World-esque Sinbads
Seven Voyages, which clocks in at seven minutes and thirty seconds-making it
worth the wait.
Although several of the ports lack ride-type attractions, there are a plethora of live
shows to entertain visitors. The Mediterranean Harbors 40-minute extravaganza Porto
Paradiso Water Carnival (from 2:30pm daily) is the dont-miss-it event,
featuring a 200-strong cast who perform throughout the harbor. At night the port plays
host to the DisneySea Symphony, conducted Fantasia-style by Mickey, who
rides a giant sphere out on the water. The son et lumiere show starts at 8:50pm daily and
combines water, pyrotechnics and effects. Mickey makes a further appearance over in the
American Waterfront in Sail Away! (four shows daily). The 20-minute
outdoor production is themed around the maiden voyage of the S.S. Columbia-the ship
actually houses offices and cast dressing rooms in addition to a restaurant and bar-and
features a crew of dancers and Disney favorites. The Waterfront is also home of the
1500-seat Broadway Musical Theater where the review Encore! is performed.
The 35-minute show (performed five times daily) includes excerpts from 21 Broadway shows
and is the main attraction in the New York-themed port.
Already dubbed a sure-fire hit by those lucky enough to attend the previews, TDS has
cleverly reworked the Disney magic to provide a fresh and more mature theme park that
really has cross-generational appeal. Mickey may have turned 73 already, but Tokyo
DisneySea shows that sometimes you can teach an old mouse new tricks.