Tokyo Disneyland: Bizarro Magic Kingdom
I love Tokyo Disneyland. However, having visited Walt Disney World all of my life, there are some times when I almost stop in my tracks and do a double-take as I walk around the lands of Japan’s castle park, since parts of it feel like a “Bizarro Magic Kingdom.” (Updated April 15, 2020.)
Elements of Tokyo Disneyland borrowed liberally from Walt Disney World’s Magic Kingdom, and to a lesser extent, Disneyland. Certain parts of the park mirror present day Magic Kingdom, other parts (like Tomorrowland) look like the Magic Kingdom of years past, other areas feel like out of place versions of the Magic Kingdom, and other parts still incorporate a dash of Disneyland.
Then, of course, there are the entirely original areas of Tokyo Disneyland, which tend to be the most interesting of all. These original areas are pretty much everything of consequence that has been added to Tokyo Disneyland since the mid-1980s, and what really make Tokyo Disneyland a world-class theme park and not just “the Magic Kingdom, but in Japan.”
This focuses primarily on the similarities that make some areas of Tokyo Disneyland feel eerily familiar, so don’t underestimate Tokyo Disneyland based on the cloned or near-cloned parts of the park covered here. You don’t get to be the best Disney castle park, as Tokyo Disneyland is in my opinion, by being nothing but clones!
If all of this doesn’t make sense via text, don’t worry. The photos tell the story a lot better, and offer a fun to take a look at the areas of Tokyo Disneyland that are like Twilight Zone versions of the Magic Kingdom and Disneyland!
I could do an entire blog post discussing Tokyo Disneyland’s Tomorrowland–in fact, I already have!
Tokyo Disneyland’s Tomorrowland was modeled after the original 1971 Tomorrowland in the Magic Kingdom, and although it has changed over the years, a lot of its key aesthetic stylings remain the same.
While much of the Magic Kingdom’s Tomorrowland looks different than Tokyo Disneyland’s due to the Magic Kingdom’s 1990s relaunch as “New Tomorrowland,” this should look familiar to Walt Disney World guests.
This is the outdoor terrace to Tomorrowland Terrace, which is a restaurant very similar in design to Cosmic Ray’s Starlight Cafe.
The StarJets are one of my favorite features, and while they may look unfamiliar to some Walt Disney World fans, anyone who has been going since the 1970s or 1980s should recognize them.
(Note: Tomorrowland has changed significantly since this article was originally published. Sadly, the StarJets have been retired to make way for an all-new Beauty and the Beast mini-land.)
This is perhaps my favorite example of Disneyland meets Walt Disney World in Tokyo Disneyland. Tokyo’s castle is modeled after Cinderella Castle (there are some minor differences, but it’s basically a direct clone) and the area around the castle mostly embraces the landscaping of Walt Disney World.
However, this area to the west of Cinderella Castle, called Snow White Grotto is actually modeled after Snow White Grotto in Disneyland (and now, Hong Kong Disneyland). While these elements of Tokyo Disneyland are cloned from Walt Disney World and Disneyland, I’d say it got the best of both worlds.
For some reason, The Walt Disney Company is found of giving The Oriental Land Company statues as gifts to celebrate milestones. In the case of Partners and Sharing the Magic, these statues work well and fit in Tokyo’s parks, even if they are placed in different locations.
Sharing the Magic is located just inside Tokyo Disneyland’s entrance and Partners is located at the edge of a reserved parade seating area between the end of World Bazaar and the hub. In the case of a Storytellers, the ‘young’ Walt Disney and Mickey Mouse statue, the location in Aquasphere Plaza in Tokyo DisneySea is not quite so logical.
The Haunted Mansion is close to a direct clone of the Magic Kingdom’s Haunted Mansion, with most of the exceptions being in the queue, and in terms of a few different effects (many of which were part of Florida’s Haunted Mansion until its 2007 refurbishment).
It’s even rumored in fan circles that the Haunted Mansion Holiday Nightmare (Nightmare Before Christmas) overlay was actually designed for the Florida version of the Haunted Mansion before ultimately ending up in Japan. Oh, the biggest difference here? This Haunted Mansion is located in Fantasyland, right behind Dumbo!
Tokyo Disneyland’s Crystal Palace is a carbon copy of the Magic Kingdom’s, right down to its location (more or less) in the park and the fact that both are buffets.
Interior decor differs slightly, but the main differences are operational: Tokyo Disneyland’s buffet has a time limit, doesn’t feature Winnie the Pooh characters like the Magic Kingdom, and offers superior cuisine.
Here’s one place where it might seem like Tokyo Disneyland has a restaurant that was cloned from a Disneyland restaurant, but this is in name only. Both parks have “Hungry Bear Restaurant,” but beyond the name and the loose connection to bears, they have absolutely nothing in common.
From the design of the restaurant to the menu, these two restaurants are about as similar to one another as World Bazaar and World Showcase. (Which is to say, not similar at all.)
Tokyo Disneyland has a Winnie the Pooh attraction that was added in the late 1990s, much like Disneyland and the Magic Kingdom, but as is the case with just about every addition to Tokyo Disneyland after its original construction, this is unique.
Pooh’s Hunny Hunt is arguably one of the best theme park attractions in the world, and the only thing it has in common with The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh is that they both are centered around Winnie the Pooh characters.
Tokyo Disneyland doesn’t have a New Orleans Square “land” like Disneyland, but it does have a New Orleans Square area in Adventureland. Think of this sub-land as the equivalent to Caribbean Plaza in the Magic Kingdom–not recognized as a land of its own on park maps, but having its own distinct style that differentiates itself from the rest of the land.
The reason why New Orleans Square is rolled into Adventureland is unclear, but my guess would be because the bayou was “adventurous” in the view of Japanese guests, and it was unlikely that they’d recognize New Orleans as a real-world location.
Tokyo Disneyland’s New Orleans Square-ish area draws a lot of inspiration from Disneyland’s New Orleans Square, but ultimately is much smaller than the actual New Orleans Square.
Nevertheless, Tokyo’s version has its own unique wrinkles. For instance, we love the counter service Cafe Orleans crepe restaurant!
Here’s the second sub-land in Tokyo Disneyland’s Adventureland. This area is known as Coral Landing, and was one of the first areas added to Tokyo Disneyland in the early 1990s.
The goal was to increase dining capacity, and it did exactly that with China Voyager (a ramen shop) that has one of the largest seating areas in the park. In addition to that counter service restaurant, two snack stands also were added with this expansion. (Including Squeezers, an international treasure.)
This area ostensibly doesn’t have anything in common with either the Magic Kingdom or Disneyland, but it does share some bloodlines with another, albeit surprising, Walt Disney World location…Typhoon Lagoon!
Coral Landing debuted shortly after Typhoon Lagoon, and some of the water park’s design team also worked on this area of Adventureland with the intent of giving it a Typhoon Lagoon feel. It may not be apparent from this one photo, but any Walt Disney World fan who has walked through this area of Tokyo Disneyland will likely feel a Typhoon Lagoon vibe.
Another addition built after Tokyo Disneyland opened is Critter Country. The anchor of this land is Splash Mountain, which is obviously a clone.
However, the unique wrinkle here is that the rest of the land is woven into Splash Mountain, making everything an extension of that attraction. Both Grandma Sara’s and Rackety’s Raccoon Saloon are interconnected with Splash Mountain, providing a dramatically different overall experience. (See our “Inside Disney’s Splash Mountain Restaurant” for a closer look.)
This has been Tokyo Disneyland’s approach with almost all of its additions in the decade since the park originally opened. Subsequent expansions have replaced clones and flat areas of often inconsistent design, providing something unique and engaging.
The biggest example of this is the New Fantasyland/Beauty and the Beast mini-land expansion, which cuts away cloned and dated areas of Tomorrowland (plus a parking lot) to add something fresh and original!
These are just a few of the similarities (and differences) between Tokyo Disneyland, the Magic Kingdom, and Disneyland that might stop you in your tracks while in Japan. Although Tokyo Disneyland started as a checklist style clone park of the existing castle park, it has grown and evolved in the last several decades, and now stands apart as a distinction destination.
While there are also attractions that are direct clones–as is the case at every Disney castle park–there’s also enough that’s completely different in Tokyo Disneyland to make it well worth visiting. Couple that with the superior maintenance and incredible courtesy displayed by Cast Members and other guests, and Tokyo Disneyland is an absolute must-do theme park for any Disney fan!
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.
If you’ve been to Tokyo Disneyland, what other similarities did you notice? What about differences? Have you found yourself doing a double-take based on similarities or differences between other Disney theme parks? Any questions? Share your thoughts in the comments!
To me, the real standouts at TDL are the true Preventative Maintenance Program, which results in nearly all show elements working all the time, and the incredible cast members, whose enthusiasm and energy is almost unbelievable.
If I’m evaluating purely based on attraction offerings, I’ve got to give Disneyland (California) my vote for top Castle park. But when you factor in the entire experience, Tokyo Disneyland wins!
After reading the comments, I am not alone in the fact the photos here appear to be missing or there is an issue with the page itself.
Phew! I thought it was just my phone for the last month or so! I thought maybe it was from all the pop-up ads. But everything seems to be working today.
I was directed to this article from your updated park rankings article. I was really excited to see the photos, but they seem to be missing. Is there a way they could be added again? Thanks!
What I find bizarro is that Americans will actually travel to foreign countries like France and Japan, and then waste time they could spend actually experiencing the authentic culture of the country instead visiting very American Disney culture that is not markedly different from that found in Anaheim or Orlando. I’ve been to Disneyland several times and Walt Disney World twice, and go to the “castle parks” of both resorts every time. I’ve also been to Tokyo Disneyland twice, the difference is, I went when I was working for a Japanese company and for a two-year period was spending two to three weeks every other month in Japan. After I had seen many of the sites on Honshu – Kyoto, Nara, Nikko, Kamakura, Enoshima, Kawagoe, Hakkone, Tohoku, etc, I would sometimes get homesick and crave American culture. Having been to the US Parks so many times, Tokyo Disneyland was familiar to me. It served its purpose, but generally it is a similar but weaker experience to Disneyland or Magic Kingdom. It has much of the same theming, and same rides, but you lose some of the experience, such as with the Jungle Cruise and Haunted Mansion rides, where if you don’t speak Japanese (I have some proficiency), you won’t understand the narration. There is so much more to see in these countries than any person could do in one trip, don’t waste your time at a theme park that has nothing to do with the experience of visiting these countries
I don’t know if its exactly a waste of time. I just visited EPCOT and Animal Kingdom just the other day for the first time and I was a bit disappointed to realize how big of a difference the cast members make the experience. The cast members at Disney World were between mediocre and good, while cast members at DisneySea and Tokyo Disney have been between fantastic and phenomenal.
To be fair, Tom & Sarah’s blogs always encourage readers to NOT just go for the Disney parks and always encourage people to venture out and experience the country. For some folks who’ve never traveled outside of the US, something familiar like a Disney park can be the security blanket they need to encourage them to also venture out and about once they’ve gotten their feet wet. So I wouldn’t say visiting TDR or DLP is a waste of time… it might be a building block to a more adventurous trip.
Bizarro indeed. While it is strange seeing familiar rides in a different setting & layout. The thing that got me was how the lands seemed to blend together with almost no separation in between them (Snow White’s Grotto is practically in Westernland). I’m sure it’s because of the need for wide walkways & guest flow.
Is the difference in the Cinderella fountains that she’s got her head turned down and to the right in the Tokyo Disneyland one, but in Disney World it’s more or less down and straight ahead?
Nice blog as always, Tom. … Some history: when the OLC and what was then Walt Disney Productions agreed to built the park, OLC powers went to Glendale and basically went thru a list of what they wanted from both the MK and DL.
So, in 1983, it was very much a ‘best of’ park. It opened with two unique attractions that are long gone: The Eternal Seas (a motion picture that focused on Japan’s relationship with the ocean) and Meet The World (an AA Carousel of Progress like show) about Japan’s history. The former was only around for a few years. The latter, which was also planned for EPCOT, was around until it was removed for Monsters Ride and Go Seek. It was a very sanitized view of Japan’s history that glossed over the aggressive history and WWII.
It also had a MK transplant in the Mickey Mouse Review, which was replaced (sadly IMHO) by PhilharMagic in early 2011.
TDL started to gain more of a unique flair with the opening of the Castle Mystery Tour, which was under Cindy’s and was a walk thru that featured Disney baddies, including characters from the Black Cauldron.
I love the fact I can get a New Orleans Square plus a MK Tomorrowland before it became a mess as well as all the unique features from the Western River RR to Pooh’s Hunny Hunt.
It’s just a great park and, unlike WDW, run to the highest of standards.
I read in Tales from the Laughing Place (that, or Lindsay Cave told me this) that this was quite literally done checklist style, with the lists being faxed back to Tokyo while the project was already underway. I think there was more to the story than that, but I can’t recall it. I’ve heard several very, very interesting stories about Tokyo Disneyland (and the struggle over DisneySea). It sounds like there’s a DisneyWar caliber book that could be written, but I wonder if a single (English-speaking) source knows enough of the stories…
I can’t fault Tokyo Disneyland too much for Meet the World being sanitized. We gloss over unpleasant times in our history (although arguably not to that extent) in American Adventure. I think to a degree it’s fair that theme park attractions focus more on the positive, especially when it comes to that nation. (And I’m sure Disney had to walk on eggshells with that attraction, given that it would be perceived as Americans telling the story of Japanese history to the Japanese…do we want to be viewed as rubbing their noses in it?)
Until last week, I had no idea that Castle Mystery Tour went UNDER Cinderella Castle. I would have loved to see that. The current walk-through is unimpressive.
The story you heard from Lindsay is quite accurate. … It literally was a pick one from DL, pick one from the MK.
That’s how you got a BTMRR that more closely resembles the MK version and a Small World and Space Mountain that were largely DL clones etc.
Awesome job! I know that Tokyo Disneysea is the big draw, but I’m as interested to see Tokyo Disneyland if I ever get there. It’s on the bucket list, but it’s going to be a while.
what is the difference between the fountains (La Fontaine de Cendrillon) i’m struggling!!
It looks like it’s on the other side (L vs R) of the castle? That’s about all I’ve got as a guess.
That’s my guess, too. It’s on the opposite side.
That is correct!
Interesting post! I really like the picture of Snow White’s Grotto and the Castle.
I also found the Grotto interesting since it seemed to be relying less on forced perspective, so the odd scale (or lack thereof) of the statues stood out more, so even the Grotto on its own feels a bit bizarro.
speaking of parallel universes, would you consider applying your aesthetic sense to Universal Studios,.. or else point us to critiques which you consider valuable? Is she a cousin you really should visit while in town or is it best to just pretend the entire trip was so last minute you hadn’t time to set up a lunch date?
We haven’t been to Universal Orlando in a number of years, so I don’t have an entirely informed opinion on it, but a lot of the new stuff they’re doing there looks REALLY exciting to me. We haven’t gone largely because it would require renting a car, which is something we don’t want to do.
If you’ve already rented a car, I would strongly consider doing it.
I was fortunate to be stationed in Japan with the US Air Force during the 80s, and when we learned of Tokyo Disneyland, we almost immediately purchased our tickets to be there on it’s opening day! We’ve been to both parks in the U.S. as well as Disneyland Paris, and the biggest difference here at Tokyo Disneyland is the covered Main St. (actually called World Bazaar)! This was done to protect visitors during Japan’s many rainy seasons! The entire Main St. is covered by a glass roof, but done quite nicely so you can still see Cinderella’s castle in the distance.
Of course, our first visit was very different from the park as it is today – back on opening day there was no Disney Sea theme park, and the train station was a bus ride away rather than being right at the front entrance to the park. Also, there were no hotels on site back then!
We could best describe Tokyo Disneyland’s appearance as a cross between Walt Disney World and Disneyland – it has a bit of each. It’s a Small World looks more like the Disneyland version. Of course, watching the Country Bears perform in Japanese takes some getting used to (some of the songs are in English).
Being there for opening day must have been awesome! It sounds like you’re still in Japan…how has watching the park grow over the years been? Any insight into its evolution? Changes for the better or worse?
Opening day was wonderful – even if it did rain for most of the day!
We haven’t lived in Japan for some time, but as my wife is from there, we visit frequently! We’ll be there again next summer. The changes I’ve seen through the years have been very good! The train station addition was very nice since the other station was quite a distance away! The park, while not owned by Disney, does a great job of staying true to Disney! Believe it or not, we haven’t been to Disney Sea, yet, and haven’t stayed in one of the properties on the site – we intend to change that next year!
Love reading your posts, and as photography is my hobby, I love reading those posts, too!
Awesome blog a great way to “celebrate” Tokyo’s Birthday!
I guess I didn’t realize that New Orleans Square wasn’t a land, is it still where the Club 33 is???
I also have been to the Magic Kingdom more times than I can count and I had never heard of Caribbean Plaza!
No, Club 33 is on one of the side streets in World Bazaar (the one that leads towards Adventureland).
Caribbean Plaza used to be more of a recognized “thing” than it is today. A lot of that area has been swallowed up by various other expansions. Still one of the most beautiful areas in the Magic Kingdom, in my opinion!