Shanghai Disneyland and the End of Civilization: Welcome to Thunderdome.

Society has collapsed. Mob rule, bedlam and anarchy are the norm. Unnamed vandals and costumed thugs roam the lawless streets; unruly clans devour every inch of space squeezing the life out of the remaining panicked innocents. The once pristine land has been laid to waste, water is in short supply and the unflinching heat shows no mercy as the polluted skies are ablaze

Welcome to Shanghai Disneyland!

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If you did not purchase your tickets online in advance you may be out of luck.

It may sound like “Mad Max: Hell Takes a Vacation” but if we are to believe the early reports from the soft opening of Shanghai Disneyland anyone foolish enough to venture within a five mile radius of the place better be well equipped with zombie busting chainsaws, spiked shoulder pads and enough face paint to scare off any post apocalypse survivors (I’m already bald so I have that going for me). Only the bravest of the brave or perhaps the most foolish of the foolhardy would even consider visiting Shanghai Disneyland at this early stage; yes folks Parkeology is going to take a field trip!

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The Happiest Place on Earth!

Long before the opening date for Shanghai Disneyland was announced Shane, myself and our families had independently planned trips to Tokyo and of course the Tokyo Disney Resort (which I generally consider to be the best in the world). Once we realized that we were going at nearly the same time our schedules were adjusted and coordinated so that we would be visiting at the same time.

Cool, wonderful, a dream come true and then Disney announced the June 16th opening date for the Shanghai resort, this overlaps when we will be in Tokyo, a mere 3 hour flight away. Plans were changed again. While Shane will luxuriate in the splendor of the Japanese parks for the duration of his trip my half of the Parkeology team will depart early and head to Shanghai.

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Shanghai Disneyland has many specific Chinese touches such as this tea house.

All was well and good until the park’s soft opening began and we got reports of hundreds of thousands of excited and confused Chinese tourists overwhelming the park’s infrastructure. Photos of huge snaking lines extending for hours simply to get a glimpse of a Disney Store emerged. We saw images of trampled flowerbeds and toddlers relieving themselves in the bushes. I started to think that perhaps we have made a mistake. Going from hyper organized Tokyo to reportedly chaotic Shanghai was not sounding like too much fun. There is no doubt that I have some trepidation about our new itinerary but then I remembered a few things.

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Yes, garbage was left in the grass… but it was hardly the “trashing” we read so much about.

This is continuing a long tradition of attending the grand opening periods of new parks for me. I was at Epcot in 1982, I was at Disney-MGM Studios in 1989, we were at the grand opening of Animal Kingdom in 1998, and we visited Disney’s California Adventure and Tokyo Disney Sea during the Grand Openings as well. We coincidentally were in Hong Kong in 2005 and were able to visit Hong Kong Disneyland within days of the gates swinging open. The opening of a new Disney park is a big deal, things change quickly and there is always a sort of electric excitement during the early goings. They are seldom smooth and they always have bumps to work out but considering how much hype the Shanghai park has and the larger than average scale they have built it on it is worth continuing the Grand Opening streak.

Disneyland Opening

Disenyland had perhaps the worst opening a park coudl imagine.

Unlike Disney-MGM Studios, Animal Kingdom, California Adventure and Hong Kong Disneyland Shanghai Disneyland appears to have enough to do to fill a couple days (even without the unavoidable massive lines). Sure, Tokyo Disney Sea opened with a full slate of fantastic attractions and has added more in it’s first decade and a half but after the debacle of Euro-Disney Disney started building tiny parks void of major attractions.

Disney-MGM Studios had 6 attractions on opening day with exactly ONE ride and a tram-tour; the other 4 attractions were relatively small-scale shows.

Animal Kingdom had 12 attractions (not bad) but Other than Countdown to Extinction (Dinosaur) and Kilimanjaro Safari the rest were shows, walking tours or forms of transportation.

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Shanghai Disneyland not only has a decent mix of attractions but some of them look like this…

California Adventure took a new approach and opened with an impressive sounding 24 attractions, more than most parks have even after decades of operation. However a closer examination reveals that tortilla shops, bakeries and a slew of off-the-shelf stock carnival rides counted towards the total. Once again and perhaps more obvious then ever (after all the previous parks had wonderful environments while this park was more or less a barren wasteland) this was a park with perhaps 2-4 legit attractions depending on how generous one wants to be.

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…Instead of this.

Hong Kong Disneyland hit the scene with a great atmosphere nestled in a valley and surrounded by mountains but boasting only 15 attractions made up of a couple larger scale rides and filled in with shows and smaller scale attractions such as the Tea Cups. Furthermore none of them were new or unique to this park and many of the repeats were done on a smaller scale than previous renditions. The park itself was also tiny.

I’m not even going to mention Disney Studios Paris that was and remains such a deeply embarrassing effort by Disney that it is truly best forgotten altogether.

I enjoyed the opening of each of these parks despite the dearth of legitimate E-Ticket rides. Even California Adventure (by far the weakest of these at opening) held it’s fair share of fun for me.

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The Shanghai Disneyland concept art looks great… but concept art often lies…

Now lets look at Shanghai Disneyland. On opening day they are claiming the same number of attractions as California Adventure, 24. Of those 4-6 appear to be legit E-Tickets with two of them (Tron and Pirates) setting new benchmarks in their respective categories. Others are expanded and improved versions of classics (such as Peter Pan). The remaining attractions hold a solid mix of medium level rides such as a new version of Buzz Lightyear or an all-new boat ride launching from the castle. Add to that a mix of new shows and the very grand scale of the park and it appears on paper that this will be the best park at launch since Tokyo Disney Sea. In fact one could make a very sound argument that there wil be more legitimate things to do at Shanghai Disneyland than there is to do right now at Animal Kingdom, Disney Hollywood Studios, Disney Studios Paris, Hong Kong Disneyland and even Disneyland Paris; all of which have been opened for many years.There may be maddening lines and even unruly crowds who are not familiar with theme park etiquette but at least there will be stuff for them to see and do!

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…Though in this case perhaps not.

Additionally some of these early chaotic reports smack a bit of racism painting the Chinese to be uneducated and undisciplined savages set loose to ravage Disneyland with ignorant abandon. The truth is that Shanghai is one of the most international and cosmopolitan cities on earth. The infrastructure of Shanghai will put to shame any and all cities in the United States and most of the world for that matter.

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The mag-lev train in Shanghai goes 267 MPH… how long was your train ride to work?

China is the second wealthiest country in the world and it’s growth rate far, far exceeds that of the United States. This is not a country of barbaric fools but rather one of the oldest cultures on earth extending thousands of years beyond that of our own and filled with a lot of excited fans with an unprecedented pent up demand for the product Disney has to offer.

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Yea, this is a real dump.

In Disneyland Paris I have seen toddlers roaming naked in stores as parents change diapers in full view of other park guests. I’m not talking about in or even near a bathroom or other private location. I mean literally in the middle of a jam crowded store with hundreds and hundreds of people streaming about. I have also seen people climb trees, trample flowers and generally destroy their surroundings at Disneyland Paris in attempts to get a better view of a parade.

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Crowds are nothing new…

In the U.S. parks I have seen hundreds of examples of slovenly and flat out dangerous guest behavior ranging from blatantly throwing copious amounts of garbage on walkways to vomiting in public to drunken brawls and worse. In fact the worst guest behaviors I have ever seen can all be attributed to various American guests (USA! USA! USA! We’re #1!!!!!!!). Ignorance, foolishness and unawareness are not unique to China.

And so as we inch towards the grand opening and our synchronized trips I do have my concerns but I also have a lot of excitement and anticipation. I know that Tokyo Disney will be great, it always is, but I wonder what exactly I am getting us into with Shanghai.

At the worst we will get to say that we were there for the grand opening (in this case we go two weeks after the actual first day but still within what Disney is considering the Grand Opening period). At best the park and the population will surprise and delight us with their ability to both handle the crowds and themselves. In either case it will be an experience unlike any we have had before.

The Complete Canonical List of the Best Animated Film Tie-Ins Ever – Part 3

Well now. That was an adventure, wasn’t it?

Things couldn’t be better than they are, here in the fabulous 2010s.

Parkeology hit the global media market in a big way. Our faces were on seemingly every TV channel in the country. A guy named John Cameron Swayze gave us all the news. A lot of singing and fluff, but it’s fun.

Major newspapers from London to New York carried articles on us, and the Parkeology exploits traveled from New York to Los Angeles in less than seven days.

And I even hear tell of some brothers from North Carolina who are working on some kind of WDW48-ride-vehicle-contraption. Heh heh. It’ll never work.

Yes, we’ve got all the latest inventions. Twitter accounts, Youtube videos, Facebook pages. And some kind of innate ability for news media to use the worst screen grabs of our faces ever. They are also mildly obsessed with calling us “middle-aged.” That may be true of Ted, but this parkeologist is still just a youngster, don’t you know.

And now I’m mixing up animatronic stage show quotes.

Anyway, thanks to all the new riders who found/followed/subscribed to us on that whirlwind journey that was WDW46, and a warm welcome back to those of you who made it. And a friendly word of warning, one you won’t find in any guidebook:

What we do 99% of the time on parkeology has nothing to do with outrageously stupid theme park quests, and mostly has to do with obsessing over the obscure, incredible, intricate details of the parks. In fact, we were in the middle of a series of articles on the greatest theme park tie-ins to the official canonical list of Disney animated features. We may have been detoured (“Brakes? Brakes! Where are the brakes?”) but it’s time to dive back in. Journey with us now, to the dawn of recorded time. Or at least to the dark ages of animated films.

We welcome you, to the 1980s. We welcome you… to SeaBase Alpha.

#29 – The Rescuers Down Under

Oh good grief. What a way to start. This somewhat forgotten sequel (actually from 1990) to the somewhat forgotten original Rescuers film never really had a chance to blossom in the parks. The pickings are slim, my friends.

Bernard and Bianca appeared as walk-around characters (and still very rarely do, though mostly in Tokyo). But they are usually more evocative of the 1970s original film then of this sequel.

The film is not terrible, and some of the animation montages will include it. Marahute the golden eagle will often get a brief clip during any “You Can Fly” number from the various animation attractions.

However, the best park tie-in to emerge from the Rescuers Down Under is actually at Epcot in Future World.

Sound strange? It is, but that glorious Future World fountain has an entire sequence choreographed to the Rescuers Down Under opening credits music.

That sounds noble. It does. But also, we must remember that the Future World fountain also has an entire sequence choreographed to music from the 1994 dogsledding movie Iron Will. So do with that what you will.

So when do we get some water dancing set to the stirring music of the Journey of Natty Gann?

So when do we get some water dancing set to the stirring music of the Journey of Natty Gann?

Photo by Express Monorail

#28 – The Little Mermaid

The one that started the renaissance. The second golden age really began with the Little Mermaid, which caught audiences by storm in 1989 and ushered in a new dawn of Disney cartoon musicals.

And yet somehow it took them more than decade to build a ride after it.

Little Mermaid got the standard 90s treatment: Stage shows and parade performances. At Walt Disney World, she also managed to carve out part of the defunct sub lagoon for a greeting area called Ariel’s Grotto. Scuttles the seagull also became the proprietor of a snack stand next to Dumbo.

Voyage of the Little Mermaid opened at Disney MGM Studios, a decent black-light puppet and live actor stage show, and of course the music turned up everywhere, from Spectromagic to Fantasmic.

It was not until the opening of Tokyo DisneySea in 2001 when Little Mermaid finally got serious theme park attention. The film is the basis for the entire themed land of Mermaid Lagoon, housed almost entirely indoors. Unfortunately, the attractions in Mermaid Lagoon are of the off-the-shelf type. There’s Flounder’s Flying Fish coaster (kiddie coaster), a Jumpin’ Jellyfish parachute drop, some sort of seashell version of the teacups.

It also had a rather artistic live show, with Ariel on arials — wires that would make the live performer seem to float through the ocean.

Then a decade later, Disney’s California Adventure added the first full-length dark ride based on the movie. It was billed as a major E-ticket, and ended up being a solid D-ticket. Disney World cloned it into New Fantasyland, and added a breathtaking show building on top of it, and that, my friends, is probably the best park tie-in.

Prince Eric’s castle and the surrounding rockwork and grottos are some of the Magic Kingdom’s most beautiful sights, and the ride is easily on par with the classic Fantasyland dark rides (and usually longer).

After losing the 20K Lagoon, it's amazing that we finally get to see something this beautiful again.

After losing the 20K Lagoon, it’s amazing that we finally get to see something this beautiful again.

Photo by Scott Smith

#27 – Oliver and Company

The one that did NOT start the renaissance. I recently re-watched this “classic” and I can safely say that it’s hard to see them making the jump from this to Little Mermaid. Oliver is cringe-inducing and pandering.

It’s easy to see why it never really found a home in the parks. The characters are all dogs and cats, so walk-arounds are difficult. The film got a few token clips in various montages (Dodger in particular shows up in one of the bubbles during the Florida version of Fantasmic).

If I’m going to be forced to pick something, I’m going to go off the reservation and choose a segment from the Grand Opening of the Disney MGM Studios. I had this special on grainy VHS and watched it over and over and over (John Ritter is hilarious). One of the selling points of the new park was that the New Mickey Mouse Club was filmed there, and the Mouseketeers are featured in the Grand Opening at the 17:35 mark, performing “Why Should I Worry?” from Oliver and Company. I’m not sure if Christina, Justin, and Brittany are in this cast, but they might be. It won’t make the number any better.

#26 – The Great Mouse Detective

Uh-oh. I’m, uh, not sure what to do with this one. I actually like the movie much better than Oliver and Company, but this is apparently during Disney’s “classic English literature character done with animals” phase, and references to the Great Mouse Detective are few and far between in the parks.

You would think that Ratigan, one of the most bombastic villains, would have made a great walk around character, and I think maybe he was around briefly (but only very, very briefly).

Okay, I wasn’t going to use this one unless I absolutely have to, because it’s basically just an image of the characters. But as images go, it’s a legendary one.

I’m referring to the Bill Justice character mural that once graced the wall outside the Walt Disney Story at the Magic Kingdom. This one was truly amazing, with lots of obscure characters. This mural for the longest time was actually one of the greatest relics of the modern parkeology era. The Walt Disney Story closed decades ago, but the mural remained, hidden deep inside the old theater, and was often considered a backstage area. Stumbling across it as I did after so many years of forgetting all about it was one of the happier days of my early parkeological career (this was before the blog existed).

Sadly, the mural is no more. But it is of significance to the Great Mouse Detective, because characters from that movie were the last to be added to the mural. None of the other recent characters from Little Mermaid and beyond were ever included.

#25 – The Black Cauldron

I am not going to lie. The Black Cauldron is, to me, the single worst animated film Disney has ever produced. It is an incoherent mess of a story, almost completely without any redeeming factor. I can count on one hand the number of readers who can name 3 characters from it. I’ll even spot you Gurgi and the Horned King.

Personal anecdote: The Black Cauldron was released in 1985. It is to my great shame that my stupid, Disney-can-do-no-wrong self proclaimed it better than the other big movie that came out around the same time, which starred Michael J. Fox and a time-travelling DeLorean. Rating the Black Cauldron higher than that masterpiece is one of my life’s biggest regrets.

Having said that, Black Cauldron actually managed to snag itself a snack stand at Magic Kingdom. Gurgi’s Munchies and Crunchies is still around — well, the venue is, though it has changed names about a hundred times since then. Now it’s called The Friar’s Nook. It’s in Fantasyland. It’s forgettable.

But as is sometimes the case with fate’s weird sense of humor, the worst film on the entire list also gets one of the most delightfully obscure major attraction tie-ins (at least to American audiences).

The Cinderella Castle Mystery Tour at Tokyo Disneyland was an odd walk-through thing that ran from the mid-80s to 2006. It has one of those “Villains Hijack the Proceedings” plots, and culminates in an encounter with the Horned King and the Black Cauldron. Seriously, somebody in Tokyo thought the Black Cauldron deserved a rather elaborate finale in a mid-level attraction.

If I could go back in time and experience any lost Disney attraction on the planet...

If I could go back in time and experience any lost Disney attraction on the planet…

Say what you want about my middle-aged co-parkeologist Ted, but he will always be the only friend I personally know who has been chosen to wield the Sword of Light against the Horned King, and received the awesome medal reward from the cast members. I’m not joking, it’s like a big production or something.

He claims it’s because the Japanese always pick goofy white guys as the “volunteer.” Clearly they have seen our WDW46 screengrabs.

#24 – The Fox and the Hound

Another awful movie from the 80s, which is even more pandering than Oliver and Company, if that is possible.

The main characters are a fox and a hound. Go figure. No character greeting areas then.

I’m going to choose the ultimate cop-out and go with an Emporium window display at Disneyland. The less said about this movie, the better.

Off-Model and shrouded in darkness... sounds about right.

Off-Model and shrouded in darkness… sounds about right.

Photo by Castles, Capes, and Clones

#23 – The Rescuers

Suddenly we’re in the groovy 70s! The year is 1977. Star Wars is still in theaters. Bell bottoms are all the rage. And this pandering (imagine that) story about 2 mice rescuing an orphan explodes onto the world theme park stage.

Okay, no it doesn’t. The Rescuers got the aforementioned walkaround of Bernard and Bianca, and even had Orville the Albatross and Evinrude the dragonfly, as seen in this beautifully vintage picture.

#22 – The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh

Finally. After a lot of dreck, we’ve arrived back at a good movie. This movie was a sort of anthology, combining a few different Winnie the Pooh featurettes as one movie, but it strikes the perfect note and is one of the truly enduring Disney classic movies.

Pooh is one of those few Disney characters that has universal recognition and appeal. Much like Mickey and the gang, he is a pervasive character in the parks, and practically owns the merchandise shelves (though he has given some ground to princesses in recent years).

Pooh’s walk-around character has undergone a few changes over the years (the oddest example was when he had a honey pot on his head). And of course his supporting cast (Tigger, Eeyore, Piglet, etc.) are just as popular.

Winnie the Pooh even ran for President in 1972 and 1976. This included daily campaign parades at Disneyland a stage show of sorts. It’s unclear why Disney thought Pooh made the best candidate from their repertoire of characters, but if anyone could be considered incorruptible, it is Pooh Bear.

But in terms of major attractions, it took a long time before Winnie the Pooh finally came into his own. Unfortunately, it was at the expense of beloved Mr. Toad. In the late 90s, Pooh evicted J. Thaddeus Toad for his own ride at the Magic Kingdom, named with the exact same title as his movie. Though Toad proponents rightfully mourn the loss of the Wild Ride, it should be noted that the Pooh ride is very well done, and deserves its place in Fantasyland — especially with its more intricate queue that was added only a few years ago.

Pooh then made his way to Disneyland, where he again managed to stick his foot in the proverbial honey pot by evicting another classic attraction in the Country Bear Jamboree. The Disneyland ride is very similar to Florida’s version, perhaps a tad worse.

But the piece de resistance came when Pooh’s Hunny Hunt was added to Tokyo Disneyland. Here is an absolutely breathtaking E-ticket level ride for families that is a marvel of technological engineering and oozing with charm.

It is clearly the best version of a Pooh ride anywhere, and among the best attractions in the entire world.

#21 – Robin Hood

Here we go again, English lit characters as animals. At least this time, they are anthropomorphic animals, which is actually a pretty unique way to tackle the Robin Hood story.

Though time has illuminated me of its flaws, Robin Hood was for the longest time my favorite animated film, and the fox himself remains my favorite Disney character.

Unfortunately, Robin Hood has never really had much of a presence in the parks, except as a walk-around character. It is to the filmmakers’ credit, however, that the characters are so magnificently rendered. Robin Hood, the Sherriff of Nottingham, and to a lesser extent Friar Tuck and Prince John still frequently make appearances in the parks.

They never got an attraction or even so much as a popsicle stand, but the characters are still there.

The debonair Robin Hood, looking decidedly more double-chinned than I remember.

The debonair Robin Hood, looking decidedly more double-chinned than I remember.

Photo by Jeff Christiansen

#20 – The Aristocats

The last film in today’s segment. As the saying goes, in with a whimper, out with a …whimper. Aristocats is not a terrible film, but it is somewhat weak. There were a few different gift shops called The AristoCats at various Magic Kingdom-style parks at one time or another, but the move never had a major presence.

Until recently.

Somehow modern audiences have rediscovered the character of Marie, the feisty little white kitten who is basically a bit player in the movie. All of the kittens in the film are cute, but Marie has come out of nowhere and now her merchandise is everywhere. I blame the Japanese. You just know this started with them.

A lot of the Aristocats (including all three kittens and some of the weird cats from the Scat Cat band) have appeared at some point as walkaround characters, but Marie is the only one who appears regularly today.

She is often found on Town Square at the Magic Kingdom, and has been seen in France at Epcot as well, and at other parks worldwide.

Cross-eyed French kitten of the 70s!

Cross-eyed French kitten of the 70s!

Photo by Castles, Capes, and Clones

Summary

The 70s and 80s were not exactly Disney’s best time period for animation, though there are a few gems in there (Winnie the Pooh and Little Mermaid). Most of the stories are forgettable at best, and nearly unwatchable at worst. It’s no wonder most of these never panned out with major park tie-ins.

But some great films in the 50s and 60s are just around the corner…

 

Mustard application is now easier than ever at Tokyo Disney Sea!

What does a Rolls Royce Phantom and a Jules Verne inspired ride vehicle in Tokyo have in common? Read on.

At Parkeolgy we are always on the lookout for the little details that Disney pours into the parks and attractions. These generally come in the form of unexpected effects or nods to the past.

One could spend days going over the hidden references the Imagineers tend to hide. These details are often lost on the average guest but those who do pick up on them really appreciate the depth of the experience on offer.

During my recent visit to Tokyo DisneySea I found a new detail but unlike the typical story enhancing efforts this one is purely functional. In fact I have never seen anything quite like this at Disney or any other park I have been to. Moreover it is new… it did not exist on my previous visits.

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Maybe a little bit of overkill?

As you probably know due to the often-rainy conditions in Tokyo all of Main Street USA (in Tokyo Disneyland) is enclosed and re-named the World Bazaar. One would think that if they went to this level to keep guests dry that many other attractions would offer some sort of rain protection or accommodations and yet by and large there are no other concessions to rainy weather in either of the two Tokyo parks. It’s Tokyo folks not a Columbian rain forest, maybe building a giant glass canopy was a little bit of an over reaction to begin with.

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The rich have many “unique” problems to deal with.

Nevertheless people don’t like being wet and perhaps especially not the Japanese who often wear nice clothes to visit theme parks (or just generally to live life… I don’t think they know what shorts are over there). That means many guests carry umbrellas with them if there is even a small chance of rain (or direct sun for the matter) and this is where the connection to the elite car collector comes in. Rolls Royce owners need their hands free to handle various tasks such as applying Grey Poupon mustard to gold plated caviar or casually blowing their noses with hundred dollar bills. They certainly do not have time to be fumbling with umbrellas; therefore the Phantom has a convenient compartment to slide an umbrella into upon entering the car (or perhaps more accurately a place for the butler to slide the umbrella).

Rolls

When you think of it why don’t all cars have this? Do you have to be wealthy to not want to be wet?

Well just like the Rolls the ride vehicles for Journey to the Center of the Earth now come equipped with built in umbrella holders!

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It just drops right in there and stays put for the ride.

I’m not sure exactly when this happened but I do not believe they were in place in 2012 (my last visit) and I know they were not there much before that (I have photos of the ride vehicles sans holders before that).

Journey_Vehicle

Previously the holders were not there.

It’s actually a great idea and one that they should incorporate on more rides (maybe they are?). Rather than trying to hold what could in essence become a spear during a high-speed ride guests now just drop the umbrella into the exterior slot and it goes along for the ride, then they swoop it up upon exiting.

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Could also be used for canes, large loaves of French bread or pet snakes.

I love finding little unique things like this but I also love knowing that it was recently added; that Disney is continuing to find small ways to improve the guest experience. This is one of those things that is likely “only in Japan” as their set of values and needs is quite unique. However I’d love to see it come to rides in the U.S. as well… just imagine the spike in-park high-end mustard sales would have!

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They were installed right here…