The Story of Exploration:

Today we are going to look at the last of the Tokyo Disney Sea Story Cards.

Actually I am not sure that these would even technically be considered Story cards. Unlike the previous pieces we looked at all five of these cards are available right out in the open, no need to either ask for them or simply look like a confused and lost foreigner. No, these are displayed right at the entrance to the Fortress Explorations. 


Photos have a hard time giving this thing justice.
The fortress is really an amazing accomplishment for a theme park, and something I honestly think could only exist in Japan. As we have discussed other times we have looked at the Tokyo parks the Japanese as a culture are very respectful. They respect each other and they respect property, therefore they tend not to scratch things, try to break things off, steal things, write on things, put gum on things, spit on things, urinate on things, climb over things to get to other things and then spit, urinate or worse on said things. No, the Japanese are more than happy to file past exhibits and displays and leave them as intact as they found them. 

So sweet.
Because of the nature of the people the designers in Tokyo are free to create very intricate and elaborate attractions with little fear of them being destroyed by guests, it is a win-win situation for all involved. So when creating the Fortress Imagineers not only designed a very cool centerpiece for the park visually, but unlike the Castle in the Magic Kingdom they fully fleshed out the interior as well. The fortress is full of chambers and hands on exhibits that range from the artistic to the physical. It appeals to pretty much any age group, but it is also complex.

Enter the story cards. (yes, you can click on them to make them large)



In this case there is a sort of master card, a small pamphlet that is printed on parchment like paper and unfolds to reveal a really cool map of the complex. This gives you a basic overview of the place, fills you in on some history and helps you get your bearings. It also introduces the concept of the S.E.A. No, not the sea as in the ocean but rather the Society of Explorers and Adventures… oh those witty writers. The S.E.A. is a group of world hopping explorers, adventurers, scientists and artists but S.E.A.S.A. was not as catchy. Imagine the Adventurers Club from Pleasure Island times a thousand and you get the basic idea. They have a cool crest and that crest is made up of four distinct symbols. Each of those symbols in turn has it’s own story card and little task to complete. 

You have to click me baby… do it!
These cards are more like those we have looked at previously they are dual sided, single page cards. Each one details a different aspect of the experience.

The first is Adventure as represented by the galleon docked out front. The card has a map of the ship which is it’s own mini attraction and has a scavenger hunt of sorts for guests to partake in. 



Next comes Romance, here is where a sort of generic “good looking” guy in a soap opera sort of way presents desperate woman with roses while pretending that he is not a scum bag… wait, that’s the Bachelor.  In this case Romance means the Chamber of Planets and a full on massive orrery (a mechanical model of the solar system) in a beautiful planetarium. 


We move on to Discovery as the compass symbolizes. This card leads guests through parts of the fortress in search of a sundial and then teaches them how to use it. 


Finally we come to Innovation, NOT Innoventions thank goodness as we will find no out-dated computer exhibits, poorly realized trade show booths or 8 bit video games on display. Rather we are led through labs and eventually to a large-scale camera obscura, which in essence puts you in the inside a camera. 


Everything about both the attraction and the cards are impeccably well done. The craftsmanship is out of the world; the cards are wonderfully illustrated and printed. It does not end there. Japanese speakers can participate in Leonardo’s Challenge that is an interactive adventure along the lines of Kim Possible in Epcot. Here you will also find the high end restaurant Magellan’s that serves classic European fare in a magnificent setting under a massive 2 story illuminated globe.

There is nothing like the Fortress Explorations in any other park. One could possibly relate it to Tom Sawyer Island but that is a little like comparing a Bentley to a Yugo… same basic concept but executed on a massively different level.

So you have seen the cards and a few photos… but lets take a better look at the Fortress Explorations. Here is an exclusive Parkeology video tour of the Fortress. 



Lets not forget why we started these posts to begin with… as a way to say thank you to the Japanese and to let everyone know that we are thinking of them. The earthquake and related events are unimaginably difficult and we all hope and know that they will get through it.

The Story Continues…

Earlier this week we took a look at some of the special little touches that abound within the Tokyo Disney Resort. You can find that here.

We are going to continue today by looking at the remaining “Story Cards” the resort offers.

One major difference between the Japanese and most Western cultures are how they seem drawn to the printed word. Pick up a Japanese magazine sometime and you will see more text then you can believe. Even kids magazines are just overflowing with descriptions and type. Disney fans who collect printed materials are in heaven because the parks have all sorts of free give-aways. More than just park maps they have specialized materials for certain attractions (like Tom Sawyer Island or the Fortress Explorations) and much more.

But in the U.S. we tend to respond to pretty pictures more than words (stupid reading, you suck!)… who needs a book when the movie will be out soon? So lets get back to the pictures and check out some story cards.

Make sure you click on them to blow them up and see the detail.

First more from Tokyo Disneyland:

Now back to Tokyo Disney Sea:

The last one we will check out today is unique… it is for the Transit Steamer Line which is Tokyo Disney Sea’s version of the train, only in a boat. It is more or less what the old Animal Kingdom Discovery Boats aimed to be but failed miserably instead. The Transit Steamer on the other hand is a relaxing and fun boat ride around the entire park. Because there is much more to cover (considering all the sights to be seen) they could not fit everything on one simple card. So in this case you are presented with a small 4-page newspaper. Designed to fit with the American Waterfront theme (one of the main launch stations for the Steamer) it futures ads for local restaurants and a host of other fun things. I LOVE this type of extra, it makes the experience much more unique and rich, and is another cool souvenir.


Next time we will take a trip over to the Fortress Explorations to check out the five, yes FIVE different cards they have available to help you fully appreciate what is really one of the most incredible parts of the entire park.

So the Story Goes:

Parkeology is all about having fun and not being too serious.  Afterall this is a blog about theme parks… not really world altering stuff.  But sometimes things are just not fun or funny, sometimes thet are serious and sad.

Thousands were trapped within the parks
The past week and a half has brought us many shocking images from Japan.
It is nearly unimaginable what has been taking place and trust me when I tell you that the Japanese infrastructure makes ours look like something that is pre-industrial revolution.  If it can happen there is can happen anywhere.
In some almost meaningless way I was directly affected by the unfolding disasters as well.  We had just confirmed reservations for a trip to Japan the day prior to the earthquake, a trip that has of course now been canceled.  By all accounts the actual parks and for the most part all of Tokyo Disney Resort escaped any major damage, but the immediate area was hit hard.  More so is the continued threat of a major nuclear disaster and the long lasting effect it could have on Tokyo.
With the world watching and hoping for the best I thought this would be a good time to take a look at some of the small things that make the Tokyo Disney Resort so specialas well as the Japanese as a whole.  They take enormous pride in how they run the resort; how they tend to guests needs and how smoothly the operation is handled day in and day out.  While we may think Disney has (or depending on your point of view used to have) great customer service in the U.S. it falls far short of what they offer in Tokyo.

Anyone would be proud of this.
It is deeply ingrained in the people of Japan to respect and honor those who they are serving.  Look at the situation in Tokyo now; there is no looting, no violence, and no mass hysteria that would make a horrible situation even worse.  Rather there is calm and order and dignity and those same basic tenants carry over to the guest experience at Tokyo Disney Resort.

More thoughtful and unique touches.  These models are not limited editions for sale
at extremely high prices.  Rather they are available so visually impaired
guests may touch and feel them to better understand the attractions.
One small touch is that even though the mass majority of visitors to the Tokyo parks are Japanese (only a couple of percent of the guests are non Japanese) the park bends over backwards to make sure non-Japanese guests have a great time.  This can be seen in many ways but today we are looking at something they call Story Cards.  These single page pamphlets are created for most of the popular rides and explain the plot to those who might not understand the language and therefore have trouble following the attractions storylines.  They are printed in English but also available in Japanese for those locals who cannot hear.  It is a very thoughtful and delightful touch.  But beyond that they are often beautiful.  As we saw with the old matchbooks what could be simple, practical and utilitarian objects are elevated into miniature works of design and art.  Care is given to these double-sided cards, not only in the clarity of the explanations of the story but in the aesthetics as well.
When a cast member spots a non Japanese-speaking guest they may offer the cards to help them out.  Otherwise guests may request them from guest relations or from the actual attraction hosts.  They are not widely known about and in fact it was only on my third trip to the resort that we discovered them when a host on the Sinbad attraction at Tokyo Disney Sea offered one to my daughter.
Both parks offer them; here are some from Tokyo Disney Sea: (all of the shots can be clicked on to enlarge… DO IT)

It’s not just the biggest attractions either.  Shows and even some small attractions have them:

 
Of course Tokyo Disneyland has them as well, even for some very well known attractions:
As well as some unique or smaller attractions:
We will post more in the upcoming days, but click on the pictures to see some of the wonderful details.
I’d like to end with a line from a letter sent to me by Ms. Sanae Sakurai from the Tokyo Disney Resort Guest Relations Center.  She replied to a request of mine and ended her note with this:
“We the cast members, pledge to never stop trying to give our guests the ultimate experience in Disney’s theme park entertainment.We wish you a happy future filled with joy and magic and look forward to seeing you again at Tokyo Disney Resort.”

 

This is a pledge I know they give from their hearts.  I too look forward to seeing them again in the future, lets hope it is in the very near future.