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?
I’d been to Hong Kong Disneyland (HKD) before I came to Tokyo Disneyland (TD) so I have high hopes that I would get better experience since TD is bigger (at least that’s what I read).
What a real surprise was, it wasn’t better experience but disappoiment. Here are the list of my disappointment (I’m writing this in front of Coffee House UCC Coffee inside TD):
1. Lack of information due to language problem
Most of the staffs unable to speak English, so it’s quite difficult to ask info feom them. Luckily I’d learned Japanese but I saw some tourists hardly got the info they needed so, trying to be a good person, sometimes I’m the one translating for them. Yes the staffs were trying to help by finding their other colleague who understand English better, but still … I began to think that TD is only for Japanese speaking people. Maybe that’s why I didn’t see many western or English speaking in TD.
2. There’s no Disney Princess meet and greet
Ok, based on my experience in TD, if you bring a daughter what they want is taking pictures with Disney Princesses. In TD? I only saw, Peter Pan and Wendy, Mickey and Minnie and … Gaston!!! Ok, the actor is handsome, but come on …. Gaston? He’s the bad guy. I saw some families left imediately when they found out it’s Gaston.
3. No ‘wow’ experience
Ok, TD has Pirates of Carribean, Snow White Adventure, Tom Sawyer Island, Peter Pan flight, Once Upon A Time projector show shot to Cinderella’s castle and Electrical Light parade. Though all are good, it didn’t give me (and some people that had been to HKD) a ‘wow’ experience like watching Golden Mickey or Simba’s Pride show in HKD.
My last hope for the show are Disney Parade and the fireworks and the result was … forgive me for saying this, it’s like you’re one step of having orgasm but suddenly you lost the urge. The parade is not long enough, the Disney princessess (finally they appear!) just stand in their spot, while in HKD they move from one side to another so all people can see them, and there’s no Ariel (ok, that one probably because of winter). While in HKD the spectacular fireworks close the day, in TD there’s projector show around 5.30 PM then around 8 PM there’s electrical parade then wait about 15 minutes for fireworks then the same projector show again.
4. Centralized shops and limited options of shirts
5. Lacks of beverages stall/vending machine and limited option of snacks stall (only pop corn with various flavour but in different places all over the park and smoke turkey leg).
6. Hard to find/buy mineral water and water tap. Most restaurants in TD do not sell water, only orange juice, apple juice, coffe or tea. While in HKD all available and in almost every rest room has water tap.
For me, it’s quite disappointment to spend 2 days in Tokyo Disneyland. Hope it can be better. For now (I’m in TD from 30-31 December 2014), the HKD I went is far more exciting than TD.
Thanks for writing…. May I ask where you are from?
I ask because my personal experiences and those of most others are exactly the opposite of your own, so I am wondering if it may be a cultural issue?
To address your points:
1) You are in Japan, in Japan they speak Japanese, not English. Despite this EVERYTHING is written in English, all signs, all menus, all maps. I find it incredibly easy to get get around the parks there and I speak no Japanese whatsoever. I also quite enjoy the fact that most cast members speak Japanese and not English, it makes it feel different and foreign to be which are things I like. But I have NEVER had an issue finding someone to answer questions if need be.
2) Again this is a personal preference but while it is true that TDL lacks the typical meet and greet areas I greatly prefer this. TDL is like going back in time to the way WDW was many years ago… in the 1970’s. Then they did not have meet and greets, the characters simply wandered around the park for you to run into. I find this charming and I also find waiting in line to meet characters a huge waste of time… so I prefer this set up. The Japanese LOVE characters however and they are EVERYWHERE within the parks… I am not sure how you possibly missed them. My suggestion is to go to the front of Main Street, even that area just outside of the front of the park… there you will virtually always find some characters. You can also ask at Guest Relations… they will have an English speaking person.
3. You version of a “WOW” experience is quite different from mine. Your options are every bit as valid as my own and so I am sorry that you did not find “WOW” experiences there. I find them around almost every corner. I have been to HKDL on several trips and many days… it is a nice but extremely small and limited park. To me the biggest “WOW” there is probably the natural setting with he hills in the background… I agree that is very cool. I also agree that TDL is not as pretty as many of the other parks… but the actual rides and how well the park is run are total WOW experiences for me.
4. In general the Japanese do not wear T-Shirts the way Westerners do. Same with baseball hats. These things that seem typical to some are in fact things that they are not very interested in as a culture… and therefore you do not find them. Your observation is correct but that should not be held against them. Otherwise the shopping is in general superior to most of the other Disney parks.
5. This one has me for a loss. There are great food options throughout TDR…. from the fun and crazy flavored popcorn that you mentioned to gyoza and more regional foods to typical American snacks like hot dogs… they are everywhere… I am not sure why you are not seeing them, perhaps they are listed on an English map?
6. I can’t address this because I do not recall trying to purchase bottled water in the parks… again this may be a cultural situation. I tend to enjoy cultural differences within the parks.
You are there at an EXTREMELY crowded time and that can really have a major, MAJOR affect on your enjoyment. HKDL is tiny by comparison and offers much less to do but if you enjoy that better then great. Are you spending any time in Tokyo Disney Sea?
Every visitor has his or her own expectations and preferences and it is quite possible that you simply mesh with HKDL better… but again I think the time of year may have a lot to do with your less then stellar experience.
TDR “insider” here. Mystery Tour was the victim of two situations: One, the building required structural reinforcement (seismic retrofit), which displaced much of the area that housed the attraction on its lower levels and, two, the opportunity to use the remaining upper level for weddings was extremely financially attractive to Oriental Land.
You mean there is not even a character greeting in here? I actually can’t make out why this would be considered an attraction. The decor is nice and all, I guess, but certainly not more so than the average Disney hotel hallway.
I think Tokyo just has a blind (bland) spot when it comes to princesses. I remember when they imported Cinderellabration over to MK a few years back. And it was one of the most dreadful castle shows in recent memory.
Correct Shane, there is no actual meet and greet in the Castle. You can sometimes see Cinderella out in front of the castle but not inside.
It’s really too small inside to handle the crowds a formal meet and greet would bring. So you are left with this sort if nothing phantom attraction. It looks like it is going to be something until you are walking out and realize that’s it.
It’s super odd because in the main chamber is a thrown and also a smaller area with a chair and slipper. It feels like a show or presentation is going to happen yet it never does. It’s sort if like walking through empty movie sets; it’s kind of cool looking but also pointless.
Sad because the old Castle Mystery Tour was quite good. They could have replaced the Black Cauldron ending and been golden.
I wish the Aladdin ride was still a nice empty space in Adventureland!
Love the metal sculpture of Cinderella trying on the glass slipper… and that Tigger tail is just too cute.