Tokyo Disney Resort Trip Report — Part 10
Before we headed to Country Bear Jamboree, we decided to prepare for the experience by going on a quest to find the Mile Long Bar.
If you’re not aware, I’m a huge fan of the Country Bear Jamboree. It ranks among my all-time favorite Disney attractions, and when people tell me that they don’t like Country Bear Jamboree, I draw (possibly unfair) conclusions about them. (Oh come on, we all do this to various degrees with our own trigger topics–at least I admit to it.)
I feel very strongly about everything the Country Bears represent, and I regret never seeing them in all of their Bear Country glory at Disneyland. What I would give to go back in time and explore Bear Country…
Although I don’t own a time machine, it seems that a visit to Tokyo Disneyland is a halfway decent proxy. While it doesn’t have the full glory of Bear Country (I love Splash Mountain, but to see how awesome Bear Country was, you really ought click on each of the Bear Country links above, and visit this page), it does have a Country Bear Jamboree and the Mile Long Bar, two key components. Plus, it plays each of the Country Bear Jamboree seasonal shows (although my mom tells that I’ve seen each of these shows at Walt Disney World, I don’t remember them).
So we looked and looked, trying to find the Mile Long Bar. We asked Cast Members, but none of them could seem to help. We didn’t know exactly where it would have been located, but we ultimately concluded that it had been replaced by the Westernland Shootin’ Gallery. We stood for a few minutes, marveling at the details, which we presumed used to be behind the counter at the Mile Long Bar. It looked like it would have been such a cool place.
It turns out that the Mile Long Bar was not replaced by the Shootin’ Gallery, so I guess that Gallery is just cool on its own. I’m still trying to figure out what happened to it (anyone know?). As we learned with Officer Zzzzyxxx, the downside to having a resort with very little English coverage is that it’s really difficult to learn about minor changes.
It actually reminds me a lot of my experiences with Walt Disney World in the pre-internet days. I’ve been visiting since 1986, and one of my earliest memories was visiting in 1992 and seeing the construction for Splash Mountain and the signs announcing its arrival up. Actually, you know what, this is a fairly involved tangent and I think I’ll save it for its own post and just cut to the chase here…
…The downside of little English coverage of Tokyo Disney Resort is that we often don’t know what’s going on with the parks, besides big picture stuff covered in press releases. The upside is that we aren’t constantly thinking about changes there, everything is a new surprise when seeing it in person.
While this stunk when it came to finding out that the Mile Long Bar had gone extinct, it’s one of our favorite things about visiting the international parks. Not everything is analyzed to death on Twitter and in forums, so there are plenty of surprises.
Despite Mystic Manor being a huge new addition in Hong Kong Disneyland, I know absolutely nothing about the attraction, besides that it’s their “take” on the Haunted Mansion, it has a monkey, and uses a trackless ride system. If this were an attraction in the US, I’m sure by now I would have inadvertently seen photos from the ride and heard all sorts of reviews of it (as it stands, the only “reviews” I’ve heard are from those who haven’t been on it, and basically just proclaim that it’s “really awesome.”). I like this, and I can’t wait to experience that attraction with a blank slate.
After we left the Westernland Shootin’ Gallery, we headed to Country Bear Jamboree. My expectation was that it would basically be the Walt Disney World’s version (prior to the dreaded 2012 cuts), except in Japanese. Boy, was I wrong.
I am a sucker for pre and post-shows. In many cases, I think these are make or break, and can be more important than the show itself. Unlike unnecessarily convoluted backstories created for lands and general areas, I can’t think of one instance of pre or post-show storytelling not adding something to the experience. By “storytelling,” I don’t necessarily mean anything linear or plot-driven, I just mean the richness that comes from details that convey a sense of character. Perhaps mythos is a better term, but I don’t think that’s quite the right word, either.
My affinity for pre and post-show storytelling often leads to my holding of views that conflict with the majority. For instance, I think Walt Disney World’s Space Mountain is superior to Disneyland’s, and it’s largely because of the pre and post-shows. (There are a couple other reasons.) I think this affinity for mythos/storytelling is pretty natural. If it weren’t, sequels wouldn’t be so popular. Once we see a story we like, we become emotionally invested in it, and want to know more about its world and characters.
I’m mostly obsessed with pre and post-shows when it comes to attractions that otherwise have flimsy or little storytelling (like roller coasters). For attractions like Country Bear Jamboree, I’ve always assumed the story is pretty well self-contained since the nature of the attraction lends itself to telling a story (contrasted with a roller coaster, which almost needs the pre or post-show for its richness), of sorts. It’s not that I oppose storytelling outside of the main show, I’ve just never thought it especially necessary.
When we stepped inside Country Bear Jamboree, I realized just how much Country Bear lore I had been missing out on. Here I had been thinking that the Country Bears simply sipped on whiskey and hibernated when not performing, but as it turns out, they are quite prolific. The entire pre-show area was basically set up as an archive, showing various tidbits from the Bears’ careers.
The extensive details and mythos (and here, mythos is absolutely the right word) about the Country Bears was astonishing and enlightening. A lot of effort had been put into creating each of these little things, which as a whole developed the characters and explained a lot about them. I’d love to know more about the team that created all of these things, as clearly a lot of thought and time went into these artifacts.
I probably could have spent a few hours (for the life of me, I don’t know why I didn’t go back and do exactly that) exploring these details, but the show started, and we went in and watched that.
With the exception of it being bilingual (and by that, I mean it randomly switches between English and Japanese without much reason as to when and why) and the bears having beautiful coats of fur and being quiet Audio-Animatronics, the show was very similar to what was in Florida pre-2012.
The post-show to Country Bear Jamboree was also great, with specially designed doors for each of the performers’ dressing rooms. Don’t worry, I’ll have more photos of this all in a stand-alone TDL Country Bear Jamboree blog post. I extensively documented everything.
I’ve since learned that the design of the Country Bear Jamboree pre and post-shows in Tokyo Disneyland is nearly identical to Disneyland before Country Bear Jamboree closed. This makes sense, as most early Tokyo Disneyland attractions are clones from one of the coasts.
Lots of time (justifiably) spent on Country Bear Jamboree, so let’s jump ahead…
Next we did Splash Mountain, followed by Tom Sawyer Island. We spent a ton of time on Tom Sawyer Island, exploring all of its areas. The coolest part was probably the gorgeous maps we were given while waiting in line for the raft over.
On the raft back, we encountered an enthusiastic Cast Member who seemed intrigued by us. I don’t believe I’ve mentioned it yet, but during the course of trip, we encountered a lot of awesome things, so it only made sense to “raise the roof” (or “RTR”) said things.
For those kids out there reading this, “raise the roof” is a gesture made popular in the late 1990s by rappers and others. Since, it faded in popularity but has become popularized by dorky people in an attempt to feign “coolness.” Uhh…
The four of us did a lot of raising the roof during the course of the trip. It started out as a discreet gesture to one another to acknowledge that something rocked. Hard. It some point it became more animated, and at a point later than that, Japanese guests began doing it back to us. When we realized the great power of RTR in breaking down cultural barriers and (probably) promoting a global sense of camaraderie, we began RTR’ng other guests in the park, in the hopes that they’d RTR back.
Japanese teens totally embraced this (or thought we were total dorks and humored us out of pity), and typically RTR’d us when we passed them. To cut to the chase, this Cast Member navigating the Tom Sawyer Island raft was probably the most talented RTR’r we encountered over the course of the trip. His passion and suave RTR moves really shined through. As the kids would say, he had moves like Jagger.
Oh, and by the way…sorry for whatever irreparable damage we caused in terms of reducing the Japanese’s opinion of Americans. In this brave new world where global diplomacy is vested in the hands of Dennis Rodman, we figure this was just a raindrop in the ocean. 😉 (Seriously though, everyone loved RTR.)
Moving on, we did some other stuff, including Hunny Hunt and the Cinderella Castle walk-through (some need displays, but it was a long line mostly for posed photo ops) before splitting up to photograph (in my case) the sunset. After the sunset, we met up at Tomorrowland Terrace.
“Never eat in Tomorrowland.” That’s the general advice given to us by a couple of veterans who have been to every park in the world. Tomorrowland Terrace in Tokyo Disneyland had Mickey Mouse shaped burgers, so I planned on disregarding this advice. Initially, the plan was to just go there early in the day to grab a single burger for the sole purpose of a photo idea I had. For some reason, that idea expanded into eating dinner there, the photo idea falling by the wayside.
Henry was pretty amped when he learned that we were going to Tomorrowland Terrace.
What a mistake this was. My burger was okay, but Sarah’s made her nauseous. I thought she was exaggerating, so I tried hers and felt the same way. Just thinking about it now makes me sick to my stomach, so rather than going into more detail, I’ll just strongly recommend not eating at Tomorrowland Terrace. The restaurant is probably the only part of Tokyo Disneyland I’d consider “blighted” in design, so it’s not like you’re missing anything by skipping it.
After dinner, I led everyone else around looking for a spot to view Dreamlights. We were late getting spots, so we were stuck with less than ideal spots. Because of this, I think everyone else just wanted to quickly grab a spot. But we wandered. Sarah has become familiar with this patten of mine, and I think she is accepting of it, because most of the time, it yields shockingly good results. I’m sort of like a Bloodhound, except I can sniff out great fireworks and parade spots (yes, I am bragging about that meaningless skill!).
On this particular night, my wandering resulted in what I believe to be the very best spot for viewing Dreamlights, from a photography perspective, because Cinderella Castle is perfectly positioned in the background. Perhaps the front row of seats here would be better, but I like the inclusion of silhouetted heads. Adds depth to the photos. Here are some shots from the parade:
After the parade, we quickly did Jungle Cruise before I went to meet up with my contact in Japan for night shooting. Big thanks to her for putting up with me for those 4 shoots. Even I was exhausted after the ridiculous pace of those couple days, so I can only imagine how tired she must have been, especially given that she had to go into the office in between! Hopefully the results were worth it.
Here are a handful of photos from that night. Most are nothing special, as I was so exhausted that I couldn’t think of interesting composition to save my life. I have some better ones, but I’ll save those for “Photo of the Day” posts.
SPAM YOUR FRIENDS. We’re into the home stretch of this trip report now (only 2 installments remain) and we want your help. As we’ve been saying, we want to convince everyone to visit Tokyo Disney Resort. It seems like we’re sorta close to this “everyone” goal, as literally everyday we hear from people planning trips to Tokyo, who claim to be doing it because of us. Not to get all emotional on you, but hearing this really makes our day. Anyway, to help us get to “everyone” we’re asking that you spam your friends via social media (or via blog, email, snail mail, courier pigeon, etc.) with the link to the trip report. It’s not like you don’t spam your friends already, and we’re pretty sure they’d rather read this than hear about your latest Fitbit stats or how many sheep you’ve raised in Farmville. 😉 So please click the “share” buttons on the side and help us out. Thanks!
To read the other installments of this trip report, visit the Tokyo Disney Resort Trip Report Index.
What do you think of Country Bear Jamboree (choose your words wisely)? What about breaking down cultural walls through raising the roof? Any thoughts on anything else in this installment? Hearing from you is half the fun, so please share your thoughts in the comments!
Hi Tom and Sarah,
I just wanted to say thank you so much for all these detailed pictures and stories about Tokyo Disneyland. I actually live on this side of the world but have never been to TD. But you have inspired me and I am already a fan. My birthday is coming up in a few months, so I’m planning a trip! Thank you so much, I’m sure your travel and day-planning advice will be an invaluable help. Can’t wait to have some pictures of my own!
Thanks for writing! Hope you have a great trip to Tokyo DisneySea!
In the middle of this report a you took a picture of a smashed coin, was it a Japanese coin or US penny? If Japanese, what value was it?
We’re going in July and staying at MiraCosta on DVC points for 5 nights. Thinking about picking up additional nights at Hilton or Sheraton since it looks like 4 days won’t be enough. How many days did you spend in the parks again and what type of tickets did you need/get?
Reports and Pics are great. Thanks for your time and effort taken to provide this valuable information.
Tom…loving these Trip Reports!!! We have been planning a trip to TDR for June this year…got everything booked up. Came across your blog as I was searching for tips on planning. We can’t wait to go! My wife is from Japan so really the trip’s purpose is to visit her family, but sneaking in 5 days at TDR will be the highlight! LOL!! J/K…we plan on having a great time with the family sightseeing and relaxing. Back in 2010 we had one day to visit TDR and chose to see Disneyland and when we went to experience the Country Bear Jamboree I just about fainted from the awesomeness of the pre-show…very cool! We went in October so they did the Vacation Jamboree version…in June they play the original so we will be excited to see that. Anyways…just wanted to let you know that I’ll be following your blog regularly and look forward to more fun reading.
Thanks for the comment! A lot more TDR planning info is on the way, so stay tuned!
The 2012 edits of WDW’s CBJ are not dreaded! >:(
Another great report. I am going to be so sad when the reports are for Tokyo are finished 🙁 Guess that means I’ll just have to go experience it all myself! 😉
We should have some good reports before Christmas!
Just wanted to quickly note that I have been on Mystic Manor at HKD and it is truly awesome. There are some amazing effects, and the only way I can describe the Monkey is that I imagine he is similar to Chendu from Sinbad. All in all it is an exceptional addition to HKD and the pre-ride show and queue themeing are great as well.
We are both very excited to visit Hong Kong Disneyland in less than two weeks! Based on what we’ve heard about Mystic Manor, I’m sure we will agree with your opinion! I would like to hear more about your trip to HKD; shoot me an email if you care to share: [email protected]!
I LOVED the “Raise the Roof!” bit. Being able to connect with a complete stranger despite a language barrier, even for the briefest moment, is magical in its own way. The idea that a simple gesture between two people from opposite ends of the Earth can tear down barriers of culture and language always gives me the warm and fuzzies (even though I’m a pretty grouchy guy). I find those moments heartwarming and enriching. I’m sure the RTR memories will last much longer than Tomorrowland having mediocre design and subpar food. 😉
On a side note, I’ve wanted to go to Japan for quite some time. Though your blog did not plant the initial seed, it has helped the idea grow. It definitely has made me place Japan higher on the bucket list. So thank you for that. However, I think that for me personally, your blog has helped me enormously with photography. While not technically “right” I tend to see the broad world of photography through a narrow Disney lens. Reading reviews and photography tips from the perspective of Disney parks photography has helped me understand my camera and the basics of photography in ways that made immediate sense to me. Specifically because of your blog I now own the Sigma 30mm f/1.4, Tamron 17-50mm f/2.8, two Rokinon 8mm fisheyes, and I have the Sigma 18-35mm f/1.8 on preorder!!
I can’t thank you enough for all the practical and valuable information that you have provided in your blog. And a special thanks for keeping it witty and humorous.
Thanks Tom and Sarah!!
I’m glad someone picked up on this. The “raise the roof” thing may just seem goofy and childish, and it partly was, but it’s impossible to put into words how it helped us connect with other guests, and how much THEY enjoyed it, too.
It was truly the perfect thing for Japan. Now, I would never do or recommend something like this in Disneyland Paris, as it wouldn’t fly with the culture there. But, it worked perfectly with the culture in Japan. I am so glad we did it, and some of our best memories were from raising the roof.
Thank you for the TLT tip! I was planning on getting a Mickey burger there. I’ll avoid that now. I’m glad CBJ has Disneyland’s old lobby, I miss that. Great advice for Dreamlights viewing. How far in advance should I stake-out a spot for the parades?
The Mickey burger is worth grabbing for the novelty, but stop and grab it for a snack rather than eating there for a full meal.
There was… BLOOD ON THE SADDLE.
That is my favorite part of the whole show!
Raise the roof!
Those photos are great as usual. The Country Bears was always a must-see when we went as kids at WDW. I also used to love the Vacation Hoedown, and I believe they still make the switch in Japan (I could be wrong). I know the WDW version is shorter, but I’m still looking forward to taking my kids there the next time we go. I think my four-year-old will get a kick out of it.
Japan still does all three versions of Country Bear Jamboree!
I’m not a Disneyland person (I’m from New York and have only been to Disneyland a few times). Regarding what happened to the Mile Long Bar – it was addressed in the Yesterland article you linked to:
When Splash Mountain opened –
“To go with the Song of the South theme, Mile Long Bar became Brer Bar, named after Brer Bear.”
The article goes on to say this:
“Pooh Corner took over Brer Bar, Teddi Barra’s Swingin’ Arcade, and the retail space around them, resulting in “the ultimate Winnie the Pooh destination for apparel, souvenirs, plus, and candy.”
So, the Mile Long Bar has been swallowed up by Pooh Corner.
I always enjoy reading your blog – keep up the great work!
I know what happened to the Mile Long Bar in Disneyland–I was questioning what happened to it in Tokyo Disneyland.
…and I now have my answer, per someone who is very familiar with Tokyo Disneyland:
It was absorbed into Hungry Bear Restaurant, which has continued to increase in popularity in Japan, and needed the additional capacity.
One also wonders if you got “jiggy wit it” or “bust[ed] a move.”
Don’t be foolish. OF COURSE WE DID.
The only complaint I have is that there are only 2 more installments of this trip report! Sadface…lower the roof
Don’t get too sad. There are a couple of trip reports that should be pretty good that will be coming before the end of the year! 🙂
Another great report. I love how they make the first few rows sit down for the parades. It makes it so much easier for everyone to see everything. Very civilized.
Awesome trip report! Why is it ending already?
Anyway, I just wanted to say that my entire family reads your trip report and one night we all collectively decided that we needed to go back. We’re booked for next April, so thank you for convincing us to do our once in a lifetime trip again!
Another pretty good viewing spot for the electrical parade is up by the statue of Walt & Mickey. The parade goes directly in front of it, and there also aren’t many people up there. If you get there early enough before the parade, you can set up right behind the railing, making sure there is nobody blocking your view of the parade.
Another amazing trip report as always. Can’t wait to read the last 2 installments!
I love Country Bears too, and agree, the details in pre and post show at TDL are amazing (I have a whole album of pics I took there).
The Tomorrowland dining note cracked me up! I had pizza once or twice that was okay (albeit with strange toppings) but yeah…we probably ate at Hungry Bear Restaurant for curry 9/10 times going to TDL when I was growing up 😉