Oriental Land Company (OLC) announced that Tokyo Disneyland’s 40th Anniversary will be the “Dream-Go-Round” celebration, and will start on April 15, 2023 and continue through March 31, 2024. This post shares details about the new parade, concept art for the event theme, plus the latest on Japan’s reopening, when you should plan a visit in 2022-2024, and a rundown of other upcoming additions.
“Dream-Go-Round” represents the happy moments that countless guests have experienced throughout the years at Tokyo Disney Resort, “Where Dreams Come True.” During this commemorative year at Tokyo Disney Resort, the dreams of guests, Cast Members and characters come together to celebrate Tokyo Disneyland’s 40th Anniversary in grand fashion.
At Tokyo Disneyland, the celebration kicks off with the premiere of a new daytime parade, “Disney Harmony in Color.” Entering a harmonious world of vibrant colors, guests will first be greeted by Tinker Bell as the parade opens, followed by many other delightful characters from popular Walt Disney Animation Studios films such as Zootopia, Moana, Wreck-It Ralph, Coco, and more appearing on colorful floats full of fun. In the finale, Mickey Mouse and his friends appear, inviting guests to a world of colors and harmony.
The two parks will feature entertainment programs as well as special merchandise and menu items to enhance the 40th anniversary atmosphere. Cinderella Castle and World Bazaar at Tokyo Disneyland, and the entrance to Tokyo DisneySea, will be adorned with special decorations, commemorating the 40th anniversary of Tokyo Disney Resort.
Additionally, the Disney hotels will also have new programs celebrating Tokyo Disneyland’s 40th Anniversary. Guests can look forward to magical visits at Tokyo Disney Resort filled with smiles, happiness, and excitement as the dreams of guests and Cast Members alike join together to celebrate this special 40th anniversary. (It should be obvious, but these are OLC’s words, not mine.)
The debut of the Harmony in Color daytime parade means that Dreaming Up will likely come to an end in April 2023. This parade debuted for Tokyo Disneyland’s 35th Anniversary, itself replacing the Happiness is Here parade. These are the two best Disney daytime parades I’ve ever seen.
It’s typical for OLC to debut a new parade at Tokyo Disneyland every 5 years for anniversary events. It’ll be interesting to see whether performers are fully-restored for Harmony in Color. Here’s hoping!
We’ve visited for multiple milestone anniversaries at Tokyo Disney Resort, including the 30th and 35th Anniversaries of Tokyo Disneyland. All of them have been fantastic fun, with new parades, evening entertainment, and much more.
It’s likely this announcement is just the start of what’s planned with what’s likely to be a blockbuster anniversary/fiscal year. For reference, the 35th Anniversary rolled out in two phases–one in April and another in summer. Given the circumstances, something similar seems likely for the Dream-Go-Round Celebration.
Unfortunately, we missed Tokyo DisneySea’s 20th Anniversary, but that was for reasons beyond our control: Japan’s border has been closed to individual tourists for the duration of the festivities. Which brings us to a threshold issue: when will Japan reopen?
This week, Prime Minister Fumio Kishida is in New York to deliver an address at the U.N. General Assembly and a speech at the New York Stock Exchange. It is widely believed that during one of these, he will announce that Japan plans to resume accepting individual travel and allowing visa-free short-term visits while scrapping its daily entry cap beginning sometime in October 2022. (My guess is that this will occur at the NYSE on Thursday, September 22, 2022.)
However, this is far from a sure thing until it’s made official. A full reopening has been expected in the past, and instead Japan introduced monitored tours and unguided tours sponsored by travel agencies. Unsurprisingly, neither have moved the needle on inbound tourism.
All of this might seem a bit ‘in the weeds’ or off-topic for a post about Tokyo Disneyland’s 40th Anniversary in 2023-2024, but we mention this because we’ve received a lot of questions about reopening–and also when to plan a first trip to Japan. (It was a surprisingly ‘hot topic’ with people we met at the D23 Expo.)
The core question seemed to be whether to wait for Fantasy Springs or visit as soon as possible?
Our recommendation is visiting Japan as close to reopening as possible. We have booked for November 2022 in anticipation of the reopening announcement, which may or may not happen. (If you go this route, make sure everything is fully refundable.)
We have several reasons for this. First, the yen is hovering around its weakest levels since 1998, with the Japanese currency falling about 25% year-to-date. The strength of the dollar means greater purchasing power when traveling abroad, and to Japan in particular.
Compounding that savings, Japan’s lethargic reopening pace means that pent-up demand has not really played out at scale. Inflation is also lower in Japan than the United States, Europe, or the rest of the West.
Whereas prices are up across the board for domestic travel in the United States, we have not observed the same when pricing out or booking flights or accommodations in Japan. Prices in yen are relatively static or up slightly as compared to 2019, and the same cannot be said for what we’ve seen for the US or France.
Although demand for domestic travel in Japan has been up in recent months and is nearing 2019 levels, international travel remains nonexistent. The number of foreign arrivals in Japan is currently just over 100,000 per month, down ~96% as compared to 2019.
This brings us to our third reason for wanting to visit, and recommending it, immediately: tour groups won’t be back! This doesn’t really matter for Tokyo Disney Resort or the city itself, as groups are mostly a non-factor in the Disney parks and in Tokyo. However, they’re a huge deal in Kyoto, Nara, and other tourist destinations. For us, not having to deal with these groups is huge. YMMV.
It’s impossible to forecast when these tour groups will return, but given their primary country of origin, my guess would be not until the second half of 2023. Even for individuals, there’s the reality that very few people travel internationally with only a few weeks or months notice.
So you have some time if you do want to wait. There’s a strong chance next sakura season will also see lower-than-2019 crowds at Japan’s popular tourist sites. In fact, I would probably view March/April 2023 as the “sweet spot” for visiting Japan for reasons we’ll discuss below.
Finally, the most obvious and overwhelming reason that we are visiting as soon as Japan reopens is simply because we’re incredibly eager to return. Japan is our favorite country in the world, Kyoto is our favorite city, and Tokyo DisneySea is our favorite theme park. It’s entirely possible you won’t share our same affinity for the country, culture, parks, places, and its people–but Japan is still a country worth visiting at least once.
With that said, we have heard time and time again from others who planned trips as one-and-done bucket list experiences…and have been back several times. (That describes us!) It’s possible that your “only” trip to Japan will really end up being your first trip to Japan, in which case, timing around Fantasy Springs doesn’t much matter.
With that in mind, there are also a few wild cards. First, ticketing policies at the parks. Tokyo Disney Resort is currently only selling 1-day tickets, which cost $55 to $65 for a full day. At some point, multi-day tickets and Annual Passes will return. From the outside, it appears that there are a lot of locals sitting on the sidelines, waiting for that to happen. That will likely have a colossal impact on crowds.
We are going in with the expectation that a wider range of tickets will be available by November 2022, and so too will larger crowds. This is where pent-up demand will most definitely be a thing impacting a visit to Japan and Tokyo Disney Resort.
However, pent-up demand is unlikely to end there. (Assuming it even starts there.)
If you can believe it, Tokyo Disney Resort fans are even more diehard than their Disneyland counterparts, and some haven’t visited for over 2 full years. Whenever regular tickets and some form of Annual Passes do return, the parks are likely to be bonkers for a while. (Just look at Disneyland and Walt Disney World starting last spring!)
It’s more likely that pent-up demand will arrive with the kickoff of Tokyo Disneyland’s 40th Anniversary celebration. It’s a complete certainty that the parks will be back to normal and crowds will be intense by the debut of Fantasy Springs.
Assuming, arguendo, that Fantasy Springs opens on September 4, 2023, the crowds will likely still be chaotic from October through December 2023. (Mid-November through early December is the best time to visit Japan, in our opinion.) This would mean waiting until March/April 2024 if you want to visit during the second-best season in Japan. Even then, crowds might still be heavy due to the blockbuster expansion and whatever is left of pent-up demand (which very well might get a second-push from Chinese tourists).
While I’m still holding out some hope we can beat the rush, I’m skeptical. With Christmas plus a new nighttime spectacular starting in early November 2022, it seems increasingly likely that OLC will want to increase capacity and ticket sales. The downside of that, as covered above, is larger crowds.
The upside is more entertainment and operational normalcy. While we will be happy just to be back and accept the compromises that entails, I’m not so sure I’d want my first visit to Tokyo Disney Resort to occur in the current operational environment. Right now, TDR sounds as if it’s a lot like Walt Disney World, circa July 2020. Low crowds are great, but I doubt that was the first-time experience that made for many lifelong fans for the Florida parks. Same goes for Japan.
That’s probably a lot to consider, so let’s boil it all down to a specific yet highly-speculative recommendation: late March into early April 2023. That’s probably the sweet spot, to the extent something like that can even be predicted at this point given the uncertainty and variables.
This would come before the rush of Tokyo Disneyland’s 40th Anniversary and also before Fantasy Springs. You’ll probably still be dealing with some amount of pent-up demand in the parks, but that’s difficult to predict or plan around at this point, and could last for years.
You could also start in Kyoto in late March or early April and head to Tokyo for the kickoff of the 40th Anniversary, hitting the parks before and at the start of that celebration. Alternatively, you could wait until mid-May 2023 for another sweet spot after the initial rush of the Dream-Go-Round celebration–just be sure to go after Golden Week.
We favor late March into early April because that would put your trip during the height of sakura season in Japan, ahead of most pent-up demand for international visitors, before tour groups return in full force, and while the yen is still weak (presumably given the divergence between the Fed and Bank of Japan).
All things considered, that’s probably the best balance. While we personally prefer fall colors, cherry blossom season is spectacular–and a more realistic recommendation than dropping everything to visit this year, and a safer bet than November/December 2023.
With that out of the way, let’s take a look at what’s on the horizon at Tokyo Disney Resort.
First, we mentioned a new nighttime spectacular. That’s “Believe! Sea of Dreams,” which will debut on November 11, 2022 at Tokyo DisneySea. “Believe! Sea of Dreams” will be performed once nightly in Mediterranean Harbor and is about 30 minutes long–it’s the permanent replacement for Fantasmic, and is a ~$70 million addition.
Following that, there’s the blockbuster Fantasy Springs expansion that’ll bring big budget Frozen, Tangled, and Peter Pan attractions to the park. This is the biggest addition to any Disney park in the world during the current decade. Bigger than whatever’s going on in the EPCOT dirt pit and the Walt Disney Studios Park overhaul.
Fantasy Springs is likely to open during the second half of 2023, but it could debut before March 31, 2024 and technically meet its “fiscal 2023” target. Based on recent construction footage, it appears that tremendous progress has been made on this as it prepares to open in the next fiscal year, along with its park-adjacent luxury hotel.
Over in Tokyo Disneyland, the large scale expansion slated to debut ahead of the Olympics opened after about a ~6 month delay with minimal fanfare in late 2020. Most of this expansion is New Fantasyland, and most of that is a Beauty and the Beast mini-land. It also includes redevelopment and additions to both Tomorrowland and Toontown. (This will also be the source of some pent-up demand, as this expansion never had a “proper” opening and many Japanese visitors still haven’t seen it.)
Next on the horizon for Tokyo Disneyland is a New Tomorrowland project that revolves around rebuilding Space Mountain. That $437 million project has a big enough budget that has led to some speculation it’ll use the same ride system as Guardians of the Galaxy: Cosmic Rewind. That won’t open until around 2027, and it’s not worth waiting for that.
With that said, we don’t want to paint an overly rosy picture of Tokyo Disney Resort, as if it’s full steam ahead and business as normal there. Much like the US parks, Tokyo Disneyland and DisneySea have dramatically scaled back entertainment in the last two years. While some parades and spectaculars have returned, they’re scaled back and lacking in performers.
Seasonal events have similarly been lacking, with this upcoming Halloween the first to finally have a parade–but again, it’ll be scaled back without ground-level dancers and performers. Tokyo DisneySea still hasn’t had a proper harbor show, and probably won’t for Christmas given that “Believe! Sea of Dreams” will be the big draw then.
As intimated above with the country’s lack of a proper reopening, Japan has been much slower to return to normal than North America or Europe. Physical distancing markers were just removed, while most other health safety measures remain in place.
Strict limits are in place for stage show viewing, masking is still required indoors and expected in most outdoor scenarios. There’s probably a lot I’m missing; this is simply what Japanese friends have said, plus what I’ve seen in walk-around videos and on social media.
Ultimately, we’re hopeful that Tokyo Disney Resort will be in a better position come Christmas 2022. If not be then, certainly by the start of Tokyo Disneyland’s 40th Anniversary celebration in April 2023.
Just like at Walt Disney World and Disneyland, it’s not going to be like flipping a switch and everything going back to normal overnight, but it’s certainly a start. We expect the parks will start to recover attendance with the relaxation of health theater measures and greater operational normalcy. The debut of “Believe! Sea of Dreams” could be just what’s needed to kick the comeback of Tokyo Disney Resort into high gear. If not, the “Dream-Go-Round” celebration might make the dream a reality.
Planning a trip to Tokyo Disney Resort? For comprehensive advice, the best place to start is our Tokyo Disneyland & DisneySea Trip Planning Guide! For more specifics, our TDR Hotel Rankings & Reviews page covers accommodations. Our Restaurant Reviews detail where to dine & snack. To save money on tickets or determine which type to buy, read our Tips for Saving Money post. Our What to Pack for Disney post takes a unique look at clever items to take. Venturing elsewhere in Japan? Consult our Ultimate Guide to Kyoto, Japan and City Guide to Tokyo, Japan.
What do you think of this news? Excited for Tokyo Disneyland’s 40th Anniversary “Dream-Go-Round” celebration, or do you not care? Think this could be what kickstarts Tokyo Disney Resort’s return to normalcy, or will that take several more years? Anxiously awaiting Japan’s reopening? Do you agree or disagree with our commentary? 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.