Donald’s Hot Jungle Summer brings about the return of a stage show to Cinderella Castle with Oh! Summer Banzai!, which is like World of Color meets the kind of show you’d find at a Walt Disney World Christmas or Halloween party. Of course, like all seasonal events, this is included in the normal $69 price of a 1-day Tokyo Disneyland ticket.
Tokyo Disney Resort fans have been highly anticipating this stage show for a while, and in most senses, it doesn’t disappoint. It’s not quite as strong as it could’ve been on a musical or narrative front, but it’s hard to argue with the lavish costumes, beautiful water jets, projections, and the mostly-catchy music.
Oh! Summer Banzai! is a very big addition, and is unquestionably the main draw of the event. Unfortunately, almost everything else about Donald’s Hot Jungle Summer is a disappointment as compared to past Natsu Matsuri celebrations at Tokyo Disneyland, making this one of the park’s weaker seasonal offerings…
Let’s start by getting the other stuff out of the way. First, there’s no summer parade. This is not a huge deal, as it can reasonably be assumed that the parade budget was reallocated to the stage show.
However, since the Oh Summer Banzai stage show has fewer than half the performers of the parade (45 v. 100), we assumed the daytime stage show would thus help compensate for the lack of a parade. Unfortunately, that’s not even remotely the case.
Judy and Nick’s Jumpin’ Summer Splash is an absolute snooze, something I regret waiting even 5 minutes to see. It offers no redeeming value for anyone over the age of 8. There are only 10 performers in this, and even the limited cast isn’t given much to do.
It’s basically just the “Try Everything” song, plus splashing water, plus Judy and Nick jumping around on stage for about 10 minutes (which is about 8 minutes too long for the concept). If you’ve seen the kid-centric performances or the smile and wave harbor shows over at Tokyo DisneySea, this is basically that.
While this was disappointing, it wasn’t totally unexpected given that there’s precedent for this type of smaller scale, kid-centric summer show. However, usually it’s an appetizer for the daytime ‘get wet’ parade. For Donald’s Hot Jungle Summer, there’s nothing else until the evening hours.
The biggest disappointment for me personally, though, is the lack of decorations. If you check out our (now outdated) Natsu Matsuri at Tokyo Disneyland post, you’ll see just how beautiful the park’s traditional Japanese summer festival decor used to be. (One of which is pictured above.)
What I especially loved about these decorations was that they gave Tokyo Disneyland a wonderful marriage of the Americana of Disney and the traditional summer festivals celebrated throughout Japan. These festivals are one reason we tolerate the summer heat, and seeing Tokyo Disneyland’s ‘East Meets West’ twist has been really cool.
This year, there’s nothing. No character displays in the Central Plaza (such as the one pictured below from last year), nothing in World Bazaar, and nothing at the front of the park. Aside from a couple of (frankly, boring) window displays and banners, you won’t find anything indicating there’s a seasonal celebration occurring.
I would like to give Tokyo Disneyland the benefit of the doubt here. As we cover in our new Should You Avoid Tokyo Disneyland for the Next Year? post, there’s a ton of construction happening at Tokyo Disney Resort right now. This would explain the limited decor at the front of the park.
However, it doesn’t justify literally nothing in World Bazaar or the Central Plaza, where the bulk of the decor for these festivities is usually added. One explanation for the lack of decorations is so as to not block guest views of the Oh Summer Banzai stage show, but that’s not entirely plausible since previous year’s decorations have (mostly) been below eye level, and wouldn’t have interfered with the show, anyway.
Whatever the explanation, I truly hope it’s not cost-cutting or a sign of things to come. Tokyo Disneyland’s superlative seasonal celebrations are a huge part of what makes the park special. Hopefully Halloween and Christmas bring about a return to form!
Next, merchandise. There are around 80 different types of merchandise for Donald’s Hot Jungle Summer, including t-shirts, shorts, plush badges, and a variety of eye-catching glow-items.
I liked several of these designs, but many were heavy on dark colors, which is a no-go for us as the owners of a light-furred cat.
There are also some fun food and drinks for Donald’s Hot Jungle Fun.
This summer, these compete with the special Toy Story 4 treats, so there aren’t quite as many as normal.
Finally, Oh Summer Banzai! As noted above, this new nighttime spectacular marks the return of a Cinderella Castle stage show for the first time in 6 years. For all of our Japanese friends, this was a nostalgic and emotional experience, and several said they knew they’d love this regardless of its content because of that.
Oh Summer Banzai features the use of castle moat water jets (installed last year for Celebrate Tokyo Disneyland), flames, and drenching sprays of water shot at guests. There are also castle projections, spotlights, and some really vibrant costuming, all of which make it a visual feast.
The premise of the show is (loosely) that Donald plants a garden, is watering it, and it grows into a jungle. After that, it’s mostly just a montage show with songs about dancing, summer heat, and Donald being king of the jungle.
There’s probably more to it, but that’s the best I could ascertain. (Our Japanese friends didn’t have much to add, likening it to Fantasmic.)
I really enjoyed Oh Summer Banzai (and ended up watching a couple of times by myself), while Sarah found it moderately enjoyable.
It brings together some of the best elements of recent Tokyo Disneyland nighttime spectaculars, while also incorporating elements of a Tokyo DisneySea harbor show.
However, it’s not flawless. Tokyo Disney Resort’s best shows have ear-worm music that you’ll want to listen to on repeat, and only about half of this show’s album would qualify in that regard. The last couple of songs are very strong, so at least it ends on a high note, but the music does start a tad slower.
My other main criticism would be that for all the beautiful visuals, Oh Summer Banzai drops precipitously in terms of engagement the farther you get from the stage. If you’re back by Partners, forget about it. Obviously, part of this is to be expected. After all, this is a stage show.
It doesn’t necessarily have to be the case, though. Making the projections a bit more dynamic, pumping the soundtrack throughout World Bazaar (and having projections along the facades in there), more lighting effects, and perhaps some inflatable set pieces would’ve helped.
Oh Summer Banzai is incredibly popular among Tokyo Disneyland guests, so you’ll want to try your luck at the lottery if you’re planning to see it. (Be aware: that’s a splash zone.) Failing that, we recommend watching the later show and claiming your spot in the middle of the Central Plaza about 30 minutes in advance of the show.
Alternatively, if you don’t want to wait, my favorite spot for watching Oh Summer Banzai after my first viewing was on the bridge heading towards Frontierland.
From here, it’s like World of Color: Cinderella Castle Edition.
You cannot see much of the action on stage, but the water jets, pyro, projections, and other effects are all not only visible, but more pronounced. Moreover, you can hear the soundtrack well, making this an excellent mix of hypnotizing visuals and a catchy soundtrack. For me, this was about perfect.
Additionally, you can see each of the characters as they’re “backstage” and they ham it up for the bridge audience. After the show is over, immediately head behind Cinderella Castle to get an up-close look at the performers as they do their walk-off.
In the end, Oh Summer Banzai is really impressive, and showcases just how much has changed (and improved) in terms of technology and infrastructure in the 6 years since Tokyo Disneyland ran such a show. It’s not perfect, but a good ‘proof of concept’ show, and one that I hope is built upon for subsequent seasonal events. On the other hand, so much has been lost going from Natsu Matsuri to this event, and it’s unclear why–or whether it’ll be back. I’m not totally convinced Oh Summer Banzai is worth what has been sacrificed in anointing Donald King of the Jungle.
Consequently, Donald’s Hot Jungle Summer is a mixed bag. That might seem kind of harsh given that this seasonal event is a pure bonus, something included in the normal price of a 1-day ticket to Tokyo Disneyland. However, that’s true with all of their seasonal festivities–Easter, Halloween, Christmas, etc. It’s true that we hold Tokyo Disney Resort to a higher standard than the other Disney theme parks, but that’s because Oriental Land Company holds its parks to those same standards–as do local guests at Tokyo Disney Resort. Lowering expectations or providing excuses for mediocrity is a harmful, slippery slope.
If you’re thinking of visiting Japan for the first time and are overwhelmed with planning, definitely check out our Tokyo Disney Resort Planning Guide. It covers much more than the parks, from getting there to WiFi to currency and much, much more. For more photos and an idea of what we did day-by-day during our first visit, read our Tokyo Disney Resort Trip Report.
Have you experienced Donald’s Hot Jungle Summer at Tokyo Disneyland? Did you see Oh Summer Banzai? What did you think of the show? Do you agree or disagree with our review? Wish Walt Disney World would offer such seasonal entertainment outside of $100+ hard ticket parties? Any questions? Hearing your feedback–even when you disagree with us–is both interesting to us and helpful to other readers, so please share your thoughts below in the comments!