Tokyo Disney Resort Trip Report – Part 8

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After lunch, we didn’t have much time to get back to Mediterranean Harbor before Legend of Mythica started. It fortunately wasn’t too busy of a day, and we had a fairly good view, even showing up only 15 minutes before the show started.

Mythica has an interesting storyline involving the dynamic of the human and mythical worlds, and how we now live in harmony after years of conflict. The Disney characters are essentially shoe-horned into the show, but in a very workable way, as they represent the spirit of various things (laughter, adventure, etc.) and help bridge the gap between mythical and human worlds. The language barrier came into play on this one, but it wasn’t a huge deal, as this show was about pageantry.

With the exception of the character presence, the story is the type of abstraction that reminds me of Illuminations at Epcot. Both are spectaculars that are simply stunning, and feature deeper messages than the general “magic and happiness” found elsewhere in Disney productions. The overarching message of harmony found in Legend of Mythica works regardless of Disney characters or even the mythical element.

What’s truly special about the show, though, is not its message. It’s the lavish fanfare and the insane amount of detail and high production values. Legend of Mythica is essentially a parade (with show stops) on the water, yet the level of detail in it puts to shame any other parade or production of this sort (I’m not even sure what would qualify as “of this sort”) that I’ve ever seen. I think we were all blown away by how elaborate the show was, and the scale of it all. As I mentioned in a recent post, I’d love to see it come to Animal Kingdom when it’s retired at Tokyo DisneySea.

Thanks to a combination of a food coma, general exhaustion, and the hot afternoon sun, I don’t think I fully absorbed Mythica during that showing. Perhaps that’s why my main impression was the overall awe-inspiring pageantry instead of specific details about the show. When I edited my photos for this trip report, I noticed a lot of details that I had missed when watching it live. This now has me really hoping we get another chance to see it in person before it’s retired next year.

Here are some Legend of Mythica photos:

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After Mythica we did Big Band Beat again. Nothing new to report here, and since photos aren’t allowed, no new photos of it, either.

As we left the American Waterfront, we noticed Donald Duck and two chefs performing in front of McDuck’s Department Store. This was basically streetsmosphere (the show is called Kitchen Beats) and it was really good. Sort of like Jammitors at Epcot. The chefs were humorous and great on the drums, making it a fun show to watch. Donald Duck was also really good on the drums–does Tokyo DisneySea have some sort of training academy where it teaches these characters to drum?! First Mickey, now Donald? We were impressed.

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At this point, I think we were all fairly tired (I think Henry stayed back to explore more of the Tokyo DisneySea details), so we decided to go back to the hotel to take a break. I had probably consumed 5 cups of coffee and a few Cokes that day already, so even though I was exhausted, I wasn’t sure I was going to be able to sleep.

The monorail stopped at Ikspiari, which is Tokyo Disney Resort’s version of Downtown Disney, except notably without any Disney IP, on the way to the Hilton, and since Ikspiari was never open when we left the parks at night, we decided to stop then to look around. Some friends had suggested a couple of the shops there for Tokyo Disney Resort books, Blu-ray, and music, so we hit those shops.

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The store with CDs, DVDs, and Blu-ray was something else. I knew Tokyo Disney Resort releases music and video like no other park, but I was shocked by how many out of print releases they had. I could’ve spent thousands of dollars there, but I decided to do a little sleuthing online and determine what I really wanted before going crazy buying stuff.

The bookstore didn’t live up to the standards set by the CD/DVD shop. This was probably a good thing, as I didn’t want to go broke on this stuff (and I can’t resist a good Disney theme park book). With one exception, all of the books they had were simply photos of characters. Literally every page of every book was characters in different poses. I understand that characters are popular there, but it was disappointing to me to have such a strong focus on characters. The photos were pretty good, but I really don’t have any use for a book with 200 photos of Mickey Mouse and friends.

That one exception was a book titled simply, Tokyo DisneySea. I knew about this book and had tried to win a copy on eBay a couple of times, but always found myself outbid. This book was really awesome, with excellent photography of the beautiful park. I still prefer the eBook written and photographed by fellow Disney photographer James Hilger, but there’s something to be said for the tactile feeling of a physical book (at least in my opinion–I only tolerate eBooks because they’re the only way to get some content).

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When we got back to the Hilton Tokyo Bay and got in bed, I told Sarah that I might not be able to sleep due to all the caffeine, in which case I’d quietly just go back to the park. No less than 5 minutes later, I was dead asleep, and I didn’t wake up for a couple of hours. I was bummed about missing the sunset, but I realize you can’t photograph sunrise, sunset, and late nights every single day. That is, until I can master Kramer’s plan of only sleeping 20 minutes at a time here and there.

We started our night with Sindbad. I think I’ve said everything that needs to be said about that attraction, but in case you missed it, check out my recent article questioning whether Sindbad’s Storybook Voyage is the greatest modern Disney dark ride.

 

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After that it was time for Fantasmic. This time, we opted to watch it from the front. I preferred this location to the spot high in Fortress Explorations, but it was definitely more crowded from the front of the park (we again showed up for it at the last minute).

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FastPasses we had acquired earlier for Toy Story Mania were now valid, so we headed over there to do it. Located in the charming Toyville Trolley Park area of the American Waterfront, Toy Story Mania is the newest and most popular attraction in Tokyo DisneySea.

Its popularity sort of worries me. The most recent attraction additions to Tokyo DisneySea (to my knowledge) are Turtle Talk with Crush (2009), Jasmine’s Flying Carpets (2011) and Toy Story Mania (2012). There’s a definite trend there, and I can’t necessarily say it’s a good one. In fairness, Jasmine’s Flying Carpets is the most elaborately themed spinner I’ve ever seen and Turtle Talk fits the park. It also was pretty much a foregone conclusion that Toy Story Mania would be added to the Tokyo parks after its incredible popularity in the US. I don’t think it lives up to its hype, but I still think it’s an attraction that should be cloned everywhere.

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In terms of fit, it’s arguable that Tokyo DisneySea has always played fairly fast and loose with theme when it comes to actual attractions, and anything that has to do with “exploration or adventure” has been an okay surrogate for “sea” when it comes to the attraction menu. However, the environments have always held to port-of-call theming. I think Toy Story Mania and Toyville Trolley Park stretch DisneySea’s theming the most. First, the attraction has nothing to do with water, exploration, adventure, or any other common motif of the park. Second, while I get that Toyville Trolley Park is supposed to be a take on Luna Park/Coney Island in New York, it doesn’t really look like Luna Park in New York at all. Instead, it bears very close resemblance to the Luna Park in Melbourne, Australia!

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For a while I was sort of torn on the addition since there is simply so much incongruity in it. I have seen what has happened to the other Disney theme parks as they have made ‘small’ compromises to their mission statements, and how those small compromises have left Future World in Epcot and Tomorrowland in the Magic Kingdom.

What has happened in those locations could be considered cautionary tales for other parks, but in this case, I ultimately just don’t want to listen. Toyville Trolley Park looks absolutely beautiful at night, and until I did serious research, I didn’t realize that it’s not the way that New York’s Coney Island used to look. If an American doesn’t realize that Toyville Trolley Park is themed to Australia, and not the actual American waterfront, how many Japanese guests will? More importantly, does the actual design inspiration matter if most guests associate it with New York’s Coney Island?

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I guess my point is that I’m willing to make a compromise like the one in Toyville Trolley Park if it’s that well done and seems like it fits. I’m still concerned at what the future will hold if the most popular aspects of Tokyo DisneySea are all related to Disney characters, but as long as those designing the park have respect for its theme, I think it will remain the gem that it is. I just hope on its 30th anniversary, we aren’t pining nostalgic for what the park used to be, like so many fans were on EPCOT Center’s 30th anniversary.

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As for Toy Story Mania itself, it was brilliantly done. No surprise there. While the substance of the attraction is the same as in the states (at least so far as I could tell), the queue is pretty awesome. You literally walk into Andy’s room as you enter the load area! Take a look:

We were all pretty hungry at this point, so we headed to Cafe Portofino in Mediterranean Harbor to grab some food. This is a buffeteria/counter service restaurant, and yet another location with excellent food. Some of the friends with whom we spoke said dining wasn’t that great at Tokyo Disney Resort, but that was not our experience, at all. Portions were slightly smaller than in the US parks, but the food was overall more diverse and of a higher quality, and I say this as someone who is actually a fairly big fan of the options in Walt Disney World and Disneyland. Maybe after the experience of awful dining at Disneyland Paris, our expectations were just really low? I don’t think that’s it, because all four of us really enjoyed the food there.

The best part about this particular restaurant was the custard/Jell-O Duffy dessert. After a long day in the parks, few things are as great of a stress reliever as savagely consuming a Duffy-dessert!

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It was almost time for my nighttime shoot of Tokyo DisneySea, so I left Cafe Portofino as everyone else was finishing up their food, and quickly headed for the Arabian Coast to meet my contact, who was so gracious to again accompany me on a shoot of the park. I only had so much time, so I opted to completely skip Lost River Delta (which didn’t seem all that photogenic at night besides Raging Spirits) and Port Discovery, and instead focus on the other lands. I went rom Arabian Coast to Mermaid Lagoon to Mysterious Island to Mediterranean Harbor to Cape Cod (which is technically a part of American Waterfront) to American Waterfront, where just as I was finishing my last shot (well, it probably would not have been my last shot but for this…), the lights on the park went out.

It was a whirlwind hour and a half of photography, but I was pretty pleased with the results. It was also somewhat surreal leaving the park with work lights on instead of show lights. Here are a few of my shots from that evening:

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I think I fell asleep within a minute of getting back to the room. Even with the two hour nap it was a long day, and the next day would be just as long, as I had a sunrise shoot in Tokyo Disneyland.

Are you still reading? Apologies for the delays between each installment of this report, but getting one of these ready to post takes significantly more work than the average blog post. I know we’ve lost some of you along the way (obviously not you if you’re reading this), but if you’ve stuck with the report, we hope you are still enjoying these installments! If you have any sort of questions or comments, please leave them…and of course we greatly appreciate when you share this trip report with others.

It’s our goal to convince every hardcore Disney fan to try to take a trip to Tokyo Disney Resort sometime in their life (okay…every fan might be a bit overzealous…if we could convince 10 people to make the trip, we’d consider it a success!), and we’d love your help in spreading the word!

To read the other installments of this trip report, visit the Tokyo Disney Resort Trip Report Index

Your Thoughts…

Would you like to see Legend of Mythica imported to one of the US parks when it finishes its run at Tokyo DisneySea in 2014? What do you think of Toy Story Mania in Tokyo DisneySea? Any thoughts on anything else in this installment? Hearing from you is half the fun, so please share your thoughts in the comments!

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28 Responses to “Tokyo Disney Resort Trip Report – Part 8”

  1. I love the night time pics – just amazing. And I’m downloading James’ ebook – thanks for the link!

  2. Megs says:

    Yes- we are still reading! Found this blog a few months back and have since read all your trip reports. Love the pictures!

  3. Greg says:

    LOVE the trip reports! Your tips helped my wife fall in love with Disney during our Honeymoon last summer and now we are both itching to head to Tokyo! Can’t wait for the trip planning post! Beautiful pictures, as always!

  4. Will says:

    Mythica is the best theme park show that I’ve ever seen. I found myself tearing up as I was watching it, something that has never happened to me with any other show. I liked it so much that if it was to come to one of the U.S. parks, I could almost justify a plane ticket out there just to experience it again.

  5. Christian says:

    So excited!! A little more than fifty days until my trip to TDR!

  6. Kelly M says:

    Still reading and still enjoying! Every time a new post in this trip report pops up, I emit a little ‘yay!!!’

  7. Stephanie says:

    Still reading! I’m going to start planning our TDR trip for May when we return from WDW in October. Every time I get confused from reading the TDR planning books I own, I just go to your trip reports and drool over the gorgeous photos and read how easy you make it sound, then I think, we can DO this!

  8. Dave Adams says:

    Still following along… of course. I will admit that having them broken up does make it harder to follow, but completely understandable due to the content and photos. We’ll worth it for sure. Also, I think it bears mentioning that your night photos in this installment are incredible. It’s one thing to draw inspiration from Disney photographers on Flickr, etc., and come up with your own composition. But it’s quite another to compose those shots in an unfamiliar TDR.

    Also, your posts on Animal Kingdom and World Showcase recently have inspired me to check out things I’ve never done despite many trips to both. I consider myself a Disney geek, yet have never experienced the China or France pavilion films. I’ve also never tried Rafiki’s Planet Watch or the jungle trail.

  9. Cris says:

    I agree with what you have to say about Toy Story Mania but unfortunately as the parks age they seem to revert away from their primary focus that the original design team intended and instead later additions focus more on operational/capacity necessities and what management thinks could drive attendance. Unfortunately, many of the later decisions detract from the overall sophistication original Imagineers sought for the park with placing characters or other experiences where thematically they do not fit, only for the purpose of marketing. Yet they fail to realize that the public will come to a great ride/environment regardless of a character tie in or not so they might as well make it match the intent of the park.

    I do like the queue and main loading area for Toy Story Mania but it has nothing to do with the exterior and 1900′s New York/Coney Island. While it is fun, the Imagineers failed to realize it contradicts itself. The mini-land “Toyville Trolley Park” is overall nice but there is no need for 21st century cartoon characters to be plastered all over the place. They should have at least made the aesthetic match the type that would have been found at that time if they thought it was essential (which it is not).

    However, it is not the worst contradiction at any Disney Park. Toy Story Playland at WDS, parts of Epcot, Cars Land at DCA, Little Mermaid at DCA, Avatar at DAK, etc. also jeopardize the theme.

    • Tom Bricker says:

      Yeah, I think it’s an unfortunate reality with Disney theme parks, and the solution fade of EPCOT Center into what it is today is the prime example of this occurring. Even though characters are incredibly popular in Japan, I think Tokyo Disney Resort aims for a more intelligent audience than modern day Walt Disney World, so I don’t see this ever being as big of an issue there. It’s a slight contradiction, but not nearly as bad as what Epcot has become.

      Now, as for Toy Story Playland at WDS…that park has a cohesive theme? I’d argue that anything fits there because of the “who cares?” approach they took when designing that park.

  10. Brandon says:

    Great trip report. I’m a lifelong Disneyphile and have made many trips to the US parks and one to DP. I’ve always wanted to do TDS and reading your trip reports have galvanised me to make the plunge. I’m headed there in January. Thanks for the inspiration.

  11. Clint says:

    Each report makes Tokyo Disney move a little higher up the list. We’re on the West Coast, so flights aren’t that bad. I’m hoping for sometime in the next year or two, but I’ve already started compulsively checking out flights and hotels.

    • Tom Bricker says:

      Good to hear! I’m jealous of anyone who can fly out of LAX, SFO, or SEA. Those airports always have the best deals on airfare to Tokyo!

  12. Agnes says:

    Everyone here at home loved the picture of the door in Andy’s room! And the nighttime photos, absolutely stunning.

  13. Rafael says:

    Yes, you have convinced me. I will take that trip.

  14. Emily says:

    I have to agree with you about Toy Story Mania. It’s a fun ride, but not worth all the hype in my opinion. Question: Were you allowed to use your tripod for those night shots since you had a contact escorting you? If not, cheers to you for pulling off some great long exposures!

    • Tom Bricker says:

      I was able to use a tripod for the photos in this installment. Night photos in previous installments of the report have all been without the tripod. A tripod has the benefit of making it quicker and easier to set up for shots, but I found it possible to get by without one…it just took a lot more time finding interesting compositions with trash cans or other stabilization devices nearby!

  15. Ben says:

    Thanks Tom, for taking the time and effort necessary to create such an immersive experience for those of us who cannot make that trip anytime soon. Sorry I missed you on your recent trip down here, but I’m sure you were busy doing Disney as only you would do.

    Just wanted to say I appreciated all the work you put into these reports, in between working and having a regular life as a married couple.

  16. Kevin says:

    The lack of sleep was worth it for those night-time shots!

  17. Catlyn says:

    I’m absolutely loving your trip report from Tokyo Disney. I’m in Seattle and have summers off, so it’s a feasible trip for my family!

    Questions for you: is it very busy in the summer months like WDW and Disneyland? How long would you suggest for a trip? We visit WDW twice a year and DL at least twice, and spend usually a week in WDW and four days at DL.

    Appreciate the insight!

  18. kait says:

    I always get excited when I see a new installment has been published – so you won’t lose me! :) I really hope to make a trip to TDR soon (I’d love to see the rest of Tokyo, too!) your reports make it seem more do-able than I ever thought. Fingers crossed :)

  19. lilouw says:

    Of course I’m still reading! It’s so interesting and your photos are so amazing that I want to go back to TD

  20. Bec50 says:

    Tom,
    Part 9 keeps loading me back to part 8. tried searching but still couldn’t get part 9 to come up

  21. Donna says:

    Thanks so much for your website, it was invaluable in planning our most recent trip and I have recommended it to several friends since. Being a Disney fan living in Australia always makes for long travels, but if we managed the 19 hours of plane travel to WDW this April with our 7 and 4 year olds, then Tokyo feels close!
    You mentioned your love of theme park books. I have a couple but would love to know the name of some of your favourite titles so I can search online – I can live vicariously through them until our next trip!

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