Though this Braille map is meant for those who cannot see it is really beautiful nonetheless.
About a year ago (one year after the tsunami) we were back in Tokyo and were thrilled to find it every bit as wonderful as it has always been. Moreover the parks were running as if nothing had happened. The facilities were of course flawless, the cast members out in force and as dedicated as ever and perhaps most importantly the guests seemed to be carefree and having great fun. I imagine that after dealing with such difficulties having some fun is quite important. As a side note the crowds were extremely light. This may simply be because we visited at a good time of year that is considered the low season but there may be some residual impact on attendance still going on.
The Tokyo Disney Sea Braille map is nice and all, but not on par with the Tokyo Disneyland version.
In that 2011 post we took a look at the “Story Cards” the parks have for hearing impaired gusts and occasionally confused foreigners (more here). We also briefly touched on another interesting and unique service the Japanese offer guests, one that is again indicative of the care and respect they have for all guests; the scale models used to aid visually impaired guests.
Those yellow paths are textured, you can feel them under your feet. Combined with audio cues they can guide sight impaired people throughout the entire city.
Today we are taking a closer look at these wonderful models available at guest services in both Tokyo Disneyland and Tokyo Disney Sea. These are hand made wooden replicas of the various attraction ride vehicles as well as certain show buildings. Guests in need are allowed to touch and examine the models to gain an understanding of what they may not be able to see. I have never seen anything like this in another theme park or anywhere else I have ever visited.
This one is not so much to be touched but to let folks know that they are available… of course if you cannot see this one it does not do much good.
In fact Japan has many aids for people with different disabilities. One will find not only the standard Braille in elevators and so on but also audible beeps at cross sections altering people when the walk sign is on and tactile paving throughout most public streets and train stations that guide those without sight were to walk and warn them of intersections. The tactile paving was invented in Japan in the 1960’s and is now ubiquitous throughout the country, not just at cross walks but throughout huge swaths of cities and public spaces.
What the heck is that one on the bottom right?
Atttractions big and small are represented in these Tokyo Disney Sea models. Even entire buildings in some cases.
Despite this it is not as if Japan has a disproportionate population of those without sight. Throughout all my visits I have seen one visually impaired person, not actually at the parks but rather in down town Tokyo. The Japanese don’t do it because they have to, they do this because care is a part of the culture and that same idea extends to the Disney parks.
The tentacles are rubbery and soft
If they only sold them I woudl buy a complete set… they are amazing.
Sinbad boats on top and the Venetian Gondolas on bottom.
The Journey to the Center of the Earth vehicles are awesome even in plain wood.
Some really cool things done for a nice reason. We may be getting interactive rubber bracelets that allow us to be tracked and marketed to but the Japanese get these… as they say it’s better than a poke in the eye… or in this case maybe because of a poke to the eye.
Tokyo Disneyland has them as well.
At Tokyo Disney Sea they have a fully painted model (a sub from Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea) on display while the actual models meant for use are plain unpainted wood. There are shelves that house the entire range of attractions and buildings. I think the folks working guest relations found it quite funny that some American guy wanted to see them and photograph them. At first they had to ask permission to do so (something that always happens at all levels in Japan). After they were allowed to show us the girls working the counter could not stop giggling… I guess to them it is just very commonplace so taking photos of them might be like taking photos of a fire extinguisher or something… they just never thought about doing so.
Can you name them all?
Thoe lucky blind people… they get all the cool stuff!
In addition to the models they have brail maps (which I believe the U.S. parks have as well) but they have other really nice offerings to those who could use them.
Not a fancy vending machine (though they certainly have those) but rather video previews of all the rides… can I get a copy to take home please?
There is a video kiosk sitting unassumingly to the side of the guest relations area. It has a touch screen display and visitors can select any attraction the park offers. After picking it a video preview of the attraction is played. This helps people understand what the ride is about and gauge whether they would enjoy it or not. What a great idea! Sure, it does give away some surprises but if you are physically unsure if you can handle a ride this approach is so much more efficient than simply hearing a description… and frankly they are just fun to watch.
It’s cool how even utilitarian devices are themed… this one is for the Magic Lamp Theater.
If you don’t speak Japanese or are deaf certain attactions have hand held devices that sync with the show. You are issued one of these and can follow along with the performance, even certain live action shows.
OK, service dogs for those with hearing and sight issues… and um, those who require canine valentines?
Whether you need them or simply appreciate them the fact that Disney has these measures available is really great. I’d love to see this type of thing in the U.S. just because it is that extra layer that makes things special… plus I want to buy them!
A while back Shane gave himself a little challenge. He wanted to find the small hidden areas in the parks that he had never been to before. Not unlike the monsters lurking in the uncharted areas of old pirate maps who knew what these seldom trafficked areas held? Sadly other than getting arrested for inadvertently sneaking into the women’s cast member locker room Shane’s adventures were pretty docile. Perhaps the parks are so well covered that there are no surprises left?
Fortunately the same cannot be said for the overseas parks. Those parks are filled to the brim with strange swarthy beasts,they are literally bursting at the seams with exotic characters that know no bounds and are always willing to push you to your limits, but enough about the typical Disneyland Paris visitor (oh those crazy Europeans!). Today we are going back to Japan to check out a newish but surprisingly not very well chronicled attraction of Tokyo Disneyland; batten down the hatches you scallywag for here there be princesses.
Prior to the gutting of the old Castle Mystery Tour I wrote a post about it (click here). Later, as has become the recent Disney tradition, management decided to remove a cool and unique attraction and replace it with something much more common and expected; the castle meet and greet was born. It’s not that the new castle attraction (Cinderella’s Fairy Tale Hall) is bad; it’s just that it is a downgrade from what used to be there. We are not talking Alien Encounter to Stitch’s chilidog eating contest downgrade but a lesser experience for sure. Perhaps what is even more odd is that there really aren’t princesses there after all. There are props suggesting that a princess is near by, that a princess was there but what you mostly see are a lot of semi confused Japanese tourists with cameras wondering why they are not seeing something cooler and questioning where the dragon has gone (something I’d really like to know myself!).
Basically most of the exploration of the castle has been removed. There is no more tour guide, no more narrow passageways or narrative or really even a basic framework of a story. You walk in to a lobby, hop aboard an elevator (you know the famous story of Cinderella and the golden Otis Elevator don’t you?) go up a floor and then walk through a couple nicely decorated rooms before exiting down some stairs and back out into the cold.
In those rooms are some interesting dioramas and art work telling some of the story of Cinderella but nothing as clear or comprehensive as the similar dioramas in Sleeping Beauty Castle at Disneyland and they lack the special effects of the Disneyland counterparts as well. They are unique in that each display features a distinct artistic style. They are little works of art each using it’s own medium and approach (paper, metal, mixed media etc.) seemingly less interested in a traditional story telling and more focused on visual distinction. That element is nice, and the displays are all of high quality, as is the entire attraction… but it lacks the sense of adventure and thrill that the old Mystery Castle Tour had. It really lacks any distinct sense of purpose. This all looks and feels like a lovely lobby at a Disney themed hotel rather than a true theme park attraction.
It’s a bit disappointing really to see that this approach has now crossed the Pacific to the Tokyo Disney Resort as well. For most of its existence Tokyo Disney has lived in it’s own protective bubble seemingly immune to the Disney corporate cost cutting and homogenization of the parks. Now, slowly, we are seeing more attractions shared with the U.S. parks (Turtle Talk, Toy Story Midway Mania) and we are seeing general attitudes that are shifting to be less unique. Still, the execution in the Japanese parks is generally head and shoulders above the U.S. counterparts and the same goes here. Though at the end of the day it is nothing special it is of extremely high quality and obvious care was put into it.
Chalk this one up as another replacement that I wish never happened… I mentioned Alien Encounter previously and there is perhaps the ultimate example of the Imagination Pavilion at Epcot…what other attractions have been replaced that you wish were still the originals?
This is just a short post to highlight something truly awesome from a Tokyo Disneyland fansite. Apparently Halloween is such a big deal at Tokyo, Disney has to issue rules about what costumes people can wear. They are usually limited to Disney animated characters, or characters from the parks.
This site has several pictures of costumes from last year, I believe:
How creative they are at expressing the essence of a character without being a full-on character costume. This is especially noteworthy in costumes for Lady and the Tramp, various Country Bears, Robin Hood characters, and Brer Fox and Brer Rabbit.
How truly obscure many of the characters are. You have a trio dressed as the Babettes from Beauty and the Beast. You have another trio dressed as Bunny, Bubbles, and Beaulah. The Walrus and the Carpenter from Alice in Wonderland. Somebody even dressed as Tokyo DisneySea’s lighthouse.
I have to say, the bar has been raised for Mickey’s Not-So-Scary Halloween Party. I don’t want to see any more Snow Whites or Jack Sparrows this year, got it? I myself will be going as Marahute the Golden Eagle.
Oh, my favorites from the Tokyo pictures? I really like the Horned King, the vampires from Nightmare Before Christmas, and the Walrus and the Carpenter. But that kid as Judge Frollo is super cute.
It is well established that we suck! Everything Disney gets in Tokyo is far superior to our honky-tonk, county fair, ho-down like experiences. If given a choice between a trip to the Tokyo Disney Resort and say ending world hunger only a fool would choose to feed the children. In fact in my very own completely non-biased, super scientific and ultra fair comparison Tokyo Disney Sea emerged as the greatest Disney park out there, besting even the original Disneyland. Sorry hungry kids of the world but we have to get our priorities in order.
A mystery is held deep inside.
As shocking as it may seem even the Japanese are fallible and the proof can be found in the now defunct Castle Mystery Tour that operated at Tokyo Disneyland for 20 years from 1986 to 2006. Two missteps are at play here; the first was building a major new attraction (it was a “D” ticket… that’s the second best for you youngsters) that hinged on the success of the Black Cauldron (that’s a crappy, failed Disney animated movie that nearly destroyed the animation division. Please try to brush up on your Disney history so I can stop with the parentheses.)
Adventure, action, Satan’s minions out to kill us all… good family fun.
The second was closing it down as it was totally unique and had a charm about it that is hard to find elsewhere, especially in mega rigid Japan. So yea, I’m saying it was a mistake to both open it and to close it, Disney just can’t catch a break can they? Some fool on some obscure blog is going to complain about something no matter what they do. Worse yet that fool may not fully understand all for forces at play and really be clueless of the actual facts… but we won’t let that stop us.
Sure beats some stinking tapestry.
The Castle Mystery Tour was great for many reasons. First off it was a real and honest attraction set inside the castle. Not murals, not a restaurant, not small dioramas not character meet and greets not a super fancy off limits hotel room or even a self guided walk through, it was a real attraction with real effects ad a real storyline that was well worth seeing.
Frenchy here owes it all to his Japanese cousin.
Secondly it had a dragon. A big A.A. (OK seriously… if you don’t know what AA stands for why are you even reading this?) dragon lurking in the basement. While everyone seems to know about the dragon that lives beneath Le Château de la Belle au Bois Dormant in Disneyland Paris few seem to realize that a virtually identical one pre-dated it in Tokyo by more than 6 years. In fact it is a logical assumption that if not for the Japanese version the French would likely have a big empty hole beneath their castle instead of the crazy cool reptilian that currently calls it home.
Third is the fact that it was really the only other attraction (along with the Jungle Cruise) in which cast members narrated the entire experience and therefore had a HUGE impact on the show. The Japanese tour guides really took their roles seriously and had a lot of fun playing the part. While the narration was 100% in Japanese the visuals and audio cues were pretty easy to follow.
We’ll save the final factor of greatness for later but suffice it to say that those children may not only go hungry but also be deprived souvenirs as well… stay tuned.
These storyboards are actually quite rare. This is the first time they have been posted on the web and they help illustrate the attraction and it’s scale. See, we can post the good stuff too!
The entrance to the attraction was at ground level along the side of the castle. Groups would collect outside of the doors and be led in (20 or so at a time, they could run 2 groups simultaneously through twin sets, ala the stretch rooms at the Mansion) and congregate in the foyer. As with every other Disney attraction ever created something goes horribly wrong at this point. What was billed as a calm tour of the castle’s beautiful chambers takes a turn for the worse when classic Disney villains (and the Horned King) feel slighted at being overlooked for so long.
All the timeless and classic Disney heros and heroines; Briar Rose, Pinocchio, Snow White… and um… is that Sandy Duncan as Peter Pan…
Transformed into their villain alter-egos… and Skeletor from He-Man I think.
Our tour guide banters with the Magic Mirror from Snow White who appears throughout the attractions to help move the story along. The Mirror sends us on our way through the unknown nether regions of the castle. It all gets very dark and spooky, bats screech, prison cells are traversed, dumbfounded Americans are scolded for trying to take pictures (give me a break, I couldn’t understand a freaking word).
They are not kidding.
Eventually we descend one of several sets of stairs into the Queens liar where we see she is making the apple that will be used to take out Snow White. The tour continues through some dungeons and the cast members really play up the creepiness with lots (and lots and lots more) exposition as to what exactly is happening (or as we might call it, unintelligible gibberish). We catch a glimpse of Chernabog and move on through several more spooky dungeon scenes.
Down another dark corridor (this attraction would have lasted exactly 32 minutes in the U.S. before someone’s Lil’ Rascal scooter flipped over and 12 subsequent law suits were filed) we come upon a talking skull who warns that there be squalls ahead and the dead men tell no tales or something like that. At this point a cave full of glittering jewels is made visible to us and as lighting strikes we see the aforementioned dragon chilling in the cave. He wakes up and the guides warn us that we have to flee. As in all the best Disney movie escapes we head to the nearest elevator. You didn’t realize that medieval castles were equipped with elevators did you? They had ADA issues back then too… only they didn’t and we are in Japan but whatever.
We could not manage to avoid tapestries altogether as it turns out.
Up we go in the elevator, when the doors open we are in the world of The Black Cauldron. Wall tapestries weave a tale of poor story telling, lack of focus, PG ratings and regime changes… The guide keeps blathering in Japanese (seriously, the amount of narration in this thing is incredible) but the gist is that the Horned King controls the soldiers of death and that we are all screwed.
So the guide bickers back and forth with the mirror and we join the second group (which has been mirroring us through the tour) in a big and impressive recreation of the Horned Kings liar. As impressive as the dragon’s den was this is even more so.
And you thought Alien Encounter was the first scary Disney attraction…
The king appears and informs us (no joke here) that we are all going to die, that Satan’s kiln controls us all and that he will resurrect an army of the dead to torment what little is left of our lives… you know, typical happy go lucky Disney stuff.
More of that cool concept art, and the real deal was actually larger and MORE impressive! It’s touching how they always choose a child to defeat the Horned King.
Mr. sour puss starts chanting and the undead start rising all around us as spirits of death billow from the cauldron of doom. But wait, a magic sword of light is handed to a lucky guest who points it at the Horned King (stay on target) and shoots a blinding beam of death… I mean light that kills the king (don’t get cocky kid).
Did they have an Evil Conquers Good banner all printed up just in case things didn’t turn out so well? And this whole thing has been totally in Japanese, then just when you are walking out the door they tease you with some token English.
We adjourn to a side room where the final great thing about this attraction takes place… they give something away! Not a piece of paper, not a magical wave or a smile… no they give away something real, and cool. The lucky guest who wielded the sword (generally a child) receives a bronzed medallion that is hung around his or her neck as they accept a grateful round of applause. However on my first visit they unexpectedly handed me the sword! Why I am still not sure, there were kids in our group but I guess the goofy American guy was enough of a novelty to warrant breaking from tradition. Honestly, these kids all looked pretty well fed (Japan is one of the wealthiest nations on Earth) so I did not feel too bad plundering the loot. They were all very good natured and people seemed to get a kick out of it, oddly even asking to have photos taken with me afterwards.
Remove your drool from the screen.
Now how many Disney attractions can boast dedicated cast members, unique story lines, large set pieces and the chance to walk away with cool free stuff? Sure, the Black Cauldron was probably not the best choice in retrospect, but it worked… it was unique to the park and now with the closing of this, Meet the World and The Mickey Mouse Review that is getting to be more and more rare. (Though this being Tokyo after all they still have Pooh’s Hunny Hunt, Monster’s Inc. Hide and Go Seek, and several other exclusive to Tokyo attractions… plus all of Tokyo Disney Sea for that matter).
A new more friendly attraction is supposed to open later this year but my guess is that not unlike Stitch destroying Alien Encounter the ship may have sailed on the Mystery Tour for good. But I still have the medallion and my memories (even if they would not allow a couple of photos… geez).
Check out this video from the closing days of the attraction. It is a very dark place to shoot so this only gives a general sense of what it was like but you will get the idea. And notice at the end, they gave medals to EVERYONE… lucky fools!
UPDATE: In the comments section Shane asked about a walk around character they used to have dressed as the Magic Mirror… yes, quite bizarre, quite Japanese… and here he is:
Special thanks to www.tdrfan.com for the photos as marked.
Our spellchecker is not broken. The headline is Japanese, and it translates roughly to “Mickey’s Adventure in Tokyo Disneyland.” (I’ll let you clever folks figure out which Japanese word means “Adventure”).
Up until about a month ago, I never knew Mickey had adventures in Tokyo Disneyland. I just sort of assumed he sat in the back office and collected his paycheck. But then I decided to do a series of articles about video games based on the Disney theme parks, and my research led me here.
I don’t know about you, but to me, the most confusing thing on this screen is the fact that Scrooge McDuck apparently had a girlfriend.
I know what you are thinking: The parkeology guys research? And the answer is: Yes, when we can’t think of anything better to make up. For instance that Gulf Coast room thing that Teevtee wrote about was a total fabrication. Who would really believe that Disney used to run a full-service restaurant out of a Contemporary ballroom? It’s like a bad April Fool’s joke
Except that it really happened.
Anyway, this video game was released for the Japanese market, for a home system known as the Super Famicom. This system was analogous to the Super Nintendo here in the States (I’ll let you clever folks figure out which Japanese word means “Nintendo”). As such, it had souped up colorful graphics, a rocking 16-bit MIDI score, and twice as many buttons to learn.
Doesn’t Mickey ever get tired of rescuing these guys?
The plot will be familiar to anyone who read my first entry in this series, Adventures in the Magic Kingdom (no Magic Kingdom Daibouken). Something about Mickey having to save Tokyo Disneyland by rescuing the sacred whatevers from the clutches of the evil somethings. He does this by conquering levels based on famous park attractions.
As you would expect, the levels are based on Cinderella’s Carousel, the PeopleMover, and the Emporium. No, okay, they are based on Pirates and Mansion, obviously, because those rides appear in every single park video game ever, including those released by Knott’s Berry Farm. The three mountains (Splash, Big Thunder, and Space) also comprise levels. The final level is based on the Castle Mystery Tour, which is an attraction unique to Tokyo, and a subject very interesting to parkeologists, though I don’t think this game really sheds any new light on it. On a personal note, just once I would like to see a level based on the Swiss Family Treehouse. The platform jumping possibilities are endless.
This is either the Pirates level, or Mickey in the belly of a giant space slug.
Mickey’s weapon in the game is a supply of balloons, which he uses to reach high spots and also to turn the various enemy voices into hilarious squeaky chipmunk sounds (just kidding about that last part). This was before anyone cared about the environment, so Mickey has no problem popping his balloons and creating new ones on a whim. There is a rumor that Tokyo Disney Seas was built on a landfill of ruptured rubber bladders.
That clown on the left has one job: Make sure nobody materializes out of the rock wall onto this ledge. He doesn’t need to worry about the big open shaft behind him.
Like all Japanese video games, it is virtually incomprehensible as a story, but rather engaging when it comes to graphics and playability. The game is available via ROM download out there on the Interwebs, and there are several youtube videos where you can get the flavor.
There is some great info (and fun screenshots) on a forum on the Visions Fantastic site (which is awesome, by the way). It also mentions a Gameboy game called “Tokyo Disneyland Fantasy Tour.” I haven’t been able to find much info about this one at all, but it sounds sublime, given Gameboy’s advanced black & white graphic capabilities.