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:
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.
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.
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).
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.
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).
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.
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!
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?
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.
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!
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:
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.
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!