First off, apologies for the two week gap between installments in this trip report. Each part takes a lot of time to put together…and I may or may not have gotten a bit distracted by Disney Infinity! After our snack fest in Adventureland, we crossed the Hub and headed back to Tomorrowland. Since there are a lot of points in the Tokyo Disneyland installments of this report where we’ll be calling this or that, ‘more or less’ the same as an attraction in the United States, I think it’s important to stop and look at this view of Cinderella Castle. The Hub in Tokyo is approximately 13 square miles large (give or take), creating a beautiful, garden-like setting. Thanks to all of this space, the Hub never really felt crowded, which I thought was a big plus. It’s a stark contrast to the Hub at Disneyland. I like both of those Hubs for very different reasons (I’m not a fan of the Magic Kingdom’s Hub), but I suspect those who have grown up on Disneyland will be inclined to call Tokyo’s Hub “impersonal.” In fairness, I think lifelong Tokyo Disneyland fans would be inclined to call Disneyland’s Hub “cramped.” Guess it’s all about perspective!
I don’t really recall how we ended up with them, but we won the lotto for the stage show One Man’s Dream II. I don’t think I was the one who draw for this lotto, and I’d really like to blame someone else for it.
There weren’t many things that I didn’t enjoy in Tokyo, but One Man’s Dream II was one of those few things. It works well there, and is actually immensely popular, because it’s a non-stop parade of characters, and the Japanese love characters. No offense to any character lovers out there (we certainly enjoy meeting characters), but One Man’s Dream II didn’t do a whole lot for me. It simply felt like an opportunity to see a diverse group of characters.
There’s a plot to the show, but it feels like pretense more than anything else. Once the show starts, it quickly becomes clear that it’s a montage show. This type of thing works in a parade or a spectacular like World of Color because something other than the story is meant to be the main draw. In the case of World of Color, it’s the beautiful fountains on display. In the case of a parade, it’s beautiful floats. In the case of a stage show, the story is the show.
The show is really high energy, and again, I’m sure character fans enjoy it, but there’s no real substance to it. It does have a lot of bizarre imagery (I wish I would’ve focused more on photos, but I wanted to enjoy the show), but it just feels thrown together to appease character fans. It’s as if whoever wrote the script knew that Tokyo Disneyland fans would go crazy for it if it had X number of characters, regardless of how good or bad it was, so once they had that number of characters solidified for the show, they were content. Even the name is lazy. One Man’s Dream II? I wonder what the original was like (it’s not named this to differentiate it from the Disney’s Hollywood Studios exhibit…there was an original show), and how it managed to get a sequel. Of course, Bad Boys wasn’t exactly the pinnacle of filmmaking, yet it managed to get a sequel.
Anyway, enough harping on the show. Here are some photos of it:
After that, we wandered around Tomorrowland, taking photos of its architecture. I already covered most of these shots and my thoughts on this in last week’s “Aesthetics of Tokyo Disneyland’s Tomorrowland,” so I won’t rehash them here.
After One Man’s Dream II, it was time to relive my (vague) childhood memories of Walt Disney World on Star Jets. If this were just normal Astro Orbiter, we wouldn’t have done it, but it was worth the 30 minute wait to revisit this classic attraction. While in line, we received these cool boarding passes to return to the Cast Member on the loading platform. I’d hazard a guess that if they used something like this in the US, they’d lose about half of them. I wonder how many guests swipe them in Tokyo…
While we did not (as tempting as it was), we did get in a bit of trouble for breaking the rules. Photography rules can be quite strict at Tokyo Disney Resort, and one such rule is that you can’t take photos–at all–on many attractions. Star Jets is one of these attractions, and apparently that includes the loading platform, as I began taking photos while we were in line up there, and was quickly told that I needed to put my camera away, as no photography was allowed up there.
Normally, to circumvent these photography rules, I just wouldn’t bring my camera out in the first place until the ride had started. That way, no one would affirmatively tell me “no photography” ahead of time (and there was no recorded spiel in English) and I wouldn’t feel bad about breaking the rules to take photos, as no one had told me about the rules (even if I was pretty sure what it was). Call this burying my head in the sand or intentional ignorance if you want, but my discreet photos don’t harm anyone else’s experience, so I don’t mind this intentional ignorance.
Well, in this case, the main reason we waited in the 30 minute line was photos, so I went ahead and pulled my camera back out once we got on the ride. And promptly was ‘advised’ not to take photos over the loudspeaker. I know I’m an awful rebel for breaking the rules, but it was worth it…and I’d do it again.
Next stop was the Queen of Hearts Banquet Hall. Before our trip, a few friends described this as one of the coolest restaurants in Tokyo Disneyland, but a madhouse at lunch. By the time we visited at around 3 pm, there was no line (granted, we went on an offseason weekday).
We had just eaten like 5 pounds of desserts each, and it took the four of us about 10 minutes of standing there looking at the food display to realize we weren’t really that hungry. We still wanted to eat there and didn’t know when else we’d have the chance, so we ended up ordering dessert. Henry also got food. I’m not sure what it was, so I’m going to call it a Salisbury steak. It looked gross, but Henry said it was really good. Henry also is a huge fan of Heimlich’s Chew Chew Train.
Even though we weren’t hungry, we had to get these two desserts. Hear me out. We “had” to get the medium-sized cake because it looked really cool and had the 30th anniversary logo on it, so I wanted to get a photo of it (nevermind that they had one sitting out that I could’ve easily photographed). We got the smaller cake because it came with an awesome Queen of Hearts Banquet Hall collectible dessert tray. At least, those are our convenient excuses for “needing” both cakes.
Queen of Hearts Banquet Hall is a really cool restaurant, one of two really well-done counter service restaurants at Tokyo Disneyland. The theme isn’t as ‘deep’ or immersive as many other restaurants around the resort, but its whimsical stylings made it a big winner for all of us.
Before we went into the Queen of Hearts Banquet Hall, we had grabbed FastPasses for Haunted Mansion…which is right next to Queen of Hearts Banquet Hall…in Fantasyland. We had about 20 minutes until our window for this opened, so rather than running off to another attraction and coming back, we decided to just divide, wander to soak up the details, and return. We did a lot of this, and I think it worked really well. It gave each of us a chance to do exactly what we wanted without worrying that we were holding up anyone else. While I generally think we all basically wanted to do the same things, it was still nice.
Tokyo’s Haunted Mansion is more of less Walt Disney World’s Haunted Mansion prior to the 2007 refurbishment. There are some subtle differences on the outside in terms of “upkeep” (one you can clearly spot in the photo below) and a few different effects inside, but otherwise, the versions are very similar.
One noticeable thing about Tokyo Disneyland’s Haunted Mansion is that the ghosts were all more crisp. A number of attractions had noticeably better maintenance (in some cases, we didn’t notice that American counterparts were “bad” until we saw just how different the same thing in Tokyo looked), but this is one time when I think that worked against the attraction. The ghosts at Disneyland and Walt Disney World aren’t nearly as crisp, especially in the graveyard scene, and I think this makes them look more realistic. Oddly, it’s one instance of elements of an attraction getting better with age. Reasonable minds might differ on this…I guess I just prefer my ghosts to be less distinct.
We had FastPasses for Buzz Lightyear’s Astro Blasters, so we wandered back towards Tomorrowland. As you can tell, we used FastPass with incredible efficiency in Tokyo–at least for these first couple of days when we still weren’t sure how long it would take to get everything done.
I would describe our touring style as “wandering efficiency.” I know this might sound contradictory, but it should make a lot of sense. What I mean by this is that we were really efficient in hitting attractions in the best order (or close to it) and minimizing the time we waited in line, but we were not just bouncing from attraction to attraction. We spent a lot of time wandering around, exploring every little nook, restaurant, and snack stand. We had a lot of time to do these types of things precisely because we were efficient with lines and balked. It just sounds contradictory because usually people take either a commando approach to hit as many attractions as possible or a leisurely approach without any emphasis on accomplishing anything.
Anyway, Astro Blasters was pretty much the Disneyland/Disneyland Paris version of the attraction. We only ended up doing it once, because it was one of the longest waits in the park, and although it’s the best version of the ride and in the best condition of those installations of that version, it’s still essentially the same thing that’s usually a 10 minute wait at Disneyland.
We planned on doing Captain EO later in the trip just to see how it differed in Japan, but thankfully, we ran out of time. Hopefully it’s gone for good by the next time we return.
Space Mountain had a long wait and was out of FastPasses, so it would have until later.
Time for Star Tours!
I’m really glad we did Star Tours: The Adventures Continue on opening day. The Disney fan community is all about meaningless bragging rights, and now we can boast that we were there for its opening day. Going forward, if I ever right anything about Star Tours on this site, I’m going to preface it with, “Not that I’m an expert or anything, but I did ride Walt Disney World’s during the first month it was open, and oh, Tokyo Disneyland’s on opening day…yeah, I’m basically friends with George Lucas…”
Kidding aside, we are geeks and it is fun for geeks to experience things on opening day. I can’t explain why, but it absolutely is. It’s the same reason I enjoy the 24-hour days at Disneyland. There’s not necessarily anything special going on at them, but there’s a fun energy to them, and they’re just a fun thing to be a part of. It felt the same way to be in that attraction on its opening day.
On top of that, the queue was a stark contrast to either of the US versions. It was really, really cool. I guess that’s what you get when you combine an original show building plus the OLC footing the bill. My only complaint is about the post-show, where they egregiously sent Officer Zzzzyxxx on what sounds like a permanent “vacation.”
The coolest thing about the Star Tours queue in Tokyo Disneyland was definitely these hitchhiking droids. If you overthink it, it’s easy to view these droids as a little too self-referential, but c’mon…they’re just too awesome and clever not to love!
After Star Tours, we decided to split up again. I think everyone else ran back to the hotel, but I’m not really sure. Once I saw the sunset closing in, my mind sort of tuned out on everything else that was going on. I know that I ran around like a madman taking photos as the light faded.
Unfortunately, before we split up, I did not check the spare battery for my MiFi, which, it turns out, I had forgotten to charge the previous night. This was problematic because my main battery died while I was running around, and I had no way to contact the rest of the group.
For lack of better options, my only solution was shaking the backup battery, which gave me about 30 seconds of life, and trying to get a message sent with my “next 15 minutes” location. After failing at this the first two times, I really shook the battery a third time, and it appeared my message had sent before the battery again died. I wasn’t sure, but I had sent my location as being near the Tomorrowland monoliths, so it wasn’t as if I would be standing around with nothing to do.
After about 20 minutes, I figured the message hadn’t gone through, and started to leave the area. As I got to the Hub, I saw Henry, towering over the crowd like…I dunno…some sort of towering beast that towers over crowds in Tokyo?
He, Sarah, and Kate had been eating at Grandma Sara’s Kitchen in Critter Country. Grandma Sara’s came highly recommended to us by a few people. This ended up being my favorite counter service restaurant in all of Tokyo Disney Resort in terms of food quality and ambiance, but since I arrived late, I didn’t really get much of a chance to fully experience it then. I’ll come back to its excellence in a later installment. By the time I arrived, we had to run off to get a spot for Tokyo Disneyland Electrical Parade Dreamlights.
For a fan of SpectroMagic and (to a much lesser extent) the Main Street Electrical Parade like me, seeing Dreamlights was mind-blowing. It takes the light parade concept to the next level, and adds a couple of revolutionary floats to the mix. In fact, after seeing it, I wasn’t so sad when I heard the news that SpectroMagic floats were being destroyed. Not because it wasn’t sad (it’s mostly sad because it confirms that the tired Main Street Electrical Parade will be around until it finally croaks), but because seeing Dreamlights confirmed to me that SpectroMagic should have been peacefully retired years ago.
Dreamlights combines a great soundtrack with some plussed versions of the standard floats stateside guests are used to, and then throws some truly astonishing floats into the mix. I would love to see this parade come stateside, as it really puts our parades to shame.
Take a look at some photos from Dreamlights, I’ll get to the truly amazing float in a bit…
Below is the float that’s really special. I had no idea that this float existed (one of the great things about not watching video before the trip), and it’s one of the coolest things we saw on the trip. Note that the next five photos are all of the same float, and anything that appears to be a “burnt out lightbulb” is actually just a result of the photos, not how the float actually looks. These are just a few of the many sequences in this float.
If you don’t want to spoil something awesome you’ll see in Tokyo, blindly scroll down roughly 5 photos…
After the parade the park really cleared out and we did Pooh’s Hunny Hunt, ‘it’s a small world’, PhilharMagic, and Space Mountain all before the park closed. For some reason (exhaustion) I didn’t take any (good) photos of any of these attractions, so I’ll save my commentary on them for future installments.
Usually, when the parks close, I perk up and have energy for photos no matter how tired I was previously. That definitely happened on this particular night, but we had spent so much time in Space Mountain at/after closing that I had very little time to take any photos before the park cleared out. Tokyo Disneyland cleared much quicker that night than any other night of our trip; I suspect this was because it was unseasonably cold.
This probably wasn’t such a bad thing, as I was up since early morning for the Star Tours grand opening, and had to get up for a sunrise shoot the next morning. In the “Land of the Rising Sun” at that time of year, sunrise was around 4 am, so it would be more like a catnap than a night of sleep for me…
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To read the other installments of this trip report, visit the Tokyo Disney Resort Trip Report Index.
What do you think of Dreamlights? Would you trade Main Street Electrical Parade for it? Any thoughts on any of the other attractions or restaurants in this installment? Hearing from you is half the fun, so please share your thoughts in the comments!