Disney announced today that a new themed port inspired by “a magical spring leading to a world of Disney fantasy” will add Frozen, Tangled and Peter Pan mini-lands to Tokyo DisneySea with an adjacent in-park luxury hotel. This new FantaSEA Springs (as we’ll call it) port will open in 2022, and will be the largest expansion to Tokyo DisneySea ever. In this post, we’ll share basic details about the expansion announcement, and offer some commentary about what this means for Tokyo Disney Resort.
Disney FantaSEA Springs will feature four attractions, three restaurants, and (thankfully) only one gift shop. Three of the new attractions will be boat rides, which is both fitting for Tokyo DisneySea and also delightful for nerds like us who like leisurely attractions. (You can read more about the basics of the news in this OLC press release.)
This will also be the most expensive addition to any Disney park ever. The total investment in the Disney FantaSEA Springs port will be approximately 250 billion yen, or $2.27 billion US. That’s an astronomical sum for a single port, even one that’s essentially three ports in one. (Previously, there were “rumors” that this plot of land would be used for a $2.7 billion third gate at Tokyo Disney Resort; as we’ve said before, a 3rd gate is highly unlikely.)
To put this into perspective, the Beauty and the Beast land currently under construction at Tokyo Disneyland (and opening in time for the Tokyo 2020 Summer Olympics) will cost $750 million. At the time that was announced, we marveled at how that should be enough to break the record for the most expensive dark ride of all time. Well, I guess that “record” will only last a couple of years.
The key difference here is that it sounds like there will be at least 3 E-Ticket attractions in the expansion, whereas there’s only one major ride in the Beauty and the Beast expansion. Even if “only” $250 million is spent on each attraction (that’s probably a low estimate) and the rest is spent on the restaurants, hotel, and mountainous environment, that’s 4 attractions that are each more costly than Radiator Springs Racers.
In terms of the substance of those attractions, we know the Tangled boat ride will feature gondolas for a romantic boat tour of Rapunzel’s “best day ever” as she journeys with Flynn to the lantern festival. This will culminate in countless flickering lanterns that illuminate the attraction’s finale while Rapunzel and Flynn sing an iconic song from the film. (Meaning one of my ‘Disney animated movies that should have rides’ dreams will come true soon!)
The Frozen area will feature a ride telling the story of Elsa and Anna with iconic songs from the film and surprising thrills. Also located in this area will be a restaurant set inside Arendelle Castle at the foot of beautiful, snow-capped mountains.
The Peter Pan area will be home to two attractions and a restaurant, and showcase the fantastical world of Never Land. The landscape will include mountains, Captain Hook’s pirate ship, and Skull Rock. One attraction immerses guests in the oversized world of Pixie Hollow. Never Land’s restaurant will be inspired by the Lost Boys and their hideout, affording lovely views of Never Land that Guests can enjoy while they dine.
The main Peter Pan attraction will be a boat ride (that also flies?) as guests board boats to chase Captain Hook and his crew of pirates who have captured Wendy’s younger brother; Tinker Bell sprinkles the boats with pixie dust, Guests fly through Never Land on an adventure that features iconic music and dynamic 3D imagery.
If the concept art and budget are any indications, this new port will be stunning. Oriental Land Company is once again giving Imagineering a blank check to create something awe-inspiring and lavish, and we fully expect the results to be incredible. These new attractions should be far more ambitious than the Frozen attractions being built in Hong Kong and Paris.
Getting past the initial excitement of the prospect of something ‘shiny and new’ at Tokyo DisneySea–especially a project that’s so expensive and will likely deliver amazing new attractions–I have some trepidation. The major concern is pretty obvious, and something we’ve raised with the last several additions to Tokyo DisneySea. This further cartoonifies Tokyo DisneySea, a park that was originally built with a more mature audience in mind.
Personally, I was hoping for the previously-announced Frozen expansion (which was shelved a couple years ago), as that could’ve been a Glacier Bay or Scandinavian port that felt like real world places but housed attractions with Frozen characters. To some degree, that’s what Arabian Coast does, and even with its heavy influences from Aladdin, it still feels very much like a distinct, real world place.
The new port looks incredible, and would be lauded without any hesitation…as an expansion to Fantasyland at Tokyo Disneyland. The FantaSEA Springs port feels very much like Fantasyland, right down to the way that it blends multiple disparate films. In Fantasyland, this blending is accomplished successfully via architectural commonalities.
In this new addition to Tokyo DisneySea, it appears that the blending will be accomplished via waterways and rock-work that offer transitions and boundaries between the areas. I really have no issue with how these three films are blended with one another, as the design looks fairly smooth in the concept art.
The issue is how these areas work within the larger framework of Tokyo DisneySea. The strength of Tokyo DisneySea has always been its transportive nature, suspending disbelief and convincingly putting guests in another time and place. It’s difficult to look at a port that combines three films each with very different settings and see how they work together to create a transportive sense of place. Perhaps the finished product will work within the larger context of DisneySea, but it sure feels like this is Fantasyland 3.0.
It could be argued that this ship has already sailed with recent changes to the park and a steady injection of characters. It could also argued that with Mermaid Lagoon, Tokyo DisneySea has always had a character element.
To me, Mermaid Lagoon felt like a concession to provide an area for families with small children, and it’s self-contained nature isolated it from the rest of Tokyo DisneySea. This is the park’s largest expansion ever, and will fundamentally alter DisneySea. This will be the park’s main draw, and is effectively New New Fantasyland.
In fact, this new port is actually closer in proximity to New Fantasyland at Tokyo Disneyland than it is most of Tokyo DisneySea. This raises interesting questions about whether the new port will bridge the gap between the two parks and have its own entrance. Presumably, the hotel will have an entrance into the new land (as does Hotel MiraCosta), but will the hotel also have an entrance into Tokyo Disneyland?
We’re also wondering whether there will be a general public entrance into Disney FantaSEA Springs, or a way to park hop between the Beauty and the Beast mini-land and this port in Tokyo DisneySea. Logistically and in terms of crowd control, we don’t know to what extent this is possible–or even desired–but it has certainly worked well (and been a lucrative way to upsell guests into park-to-park tickets) for Universal Orlando.
Moreover, getting to this new port from Tokyo DisneySea’s existing park entrance will be a serious hike. There’s a reason Indiana Jones Adventure is a walk-on for the first hour of operation–it’s over one mile into the park! If there’s no separate entrance for FantaSEA Springs, the rope drop dash might need to be renamed as the ‘rope drop 5k. (Scratch that, then runDisney will want to turn it into a virtual event and charge us a fee). Running to these new attractions will be something of an endurance test first thing in the morning.
The other vague concern we have is that this could spell the end of Sindbad’s Storybook Voyage, our favorite Disney dark ride in the world. The concept art makes it very difficult to gain a sense of orientation, but it does seem like the hotel could be extending back into this section of Arabian Coast.
Given that, Sindbad’s lack of popularity, and the potential of harvesting the many Audio Animatronics from it for these new attractions, we’re concerned that it may be a casualty of this expansion. We hope not, and there’s no reason to believe that it is (we’re not trying to fear/rumor-monger), but we’ve long been concerned that the days are numbered for Sindbad’s Storybook Voyage given its reception among guests.
Ultimately, the announcement prompts a bit of a mixed response from me. The design of the port and its attractions will be nothing short of amazing–I have no doubt about that. That aspect of the news, and the sheer amount of money OLC is throwing at Tokyo DisneySea is cause for excitement. This also makes me hopeful that this will blunt the spread of IP into other ports at Tokyo DisneySea, as this provides a concentrated IP injection. On the other hand, I don’t think this is coherent with Tokyo DisneySea’s overarching theme and atmosphere, and I worry about how this will alter the vibe of the crown jewel of Disney parks.
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.
What do you think of this Tokyo DisneySea expansion announcement? Am I being overly pessimistic about the biggest theme park expansion of all-time, or are these valid concerns for TDS and its overarching sensibilities? Do all of these additions to Tokyo Disney Resort between 2020 and 2022 make you want to plan a trip there? Any questions? Hearing your feedback is both interesting to us and helpful to other readers, so please share your thoughts below in the comments!