This installment of our Tokyo Disney Resort Winter Trip Report takes us back to Tokyo Disneyland for our fourth and final day in the park. Today, I want to start with a topic that is perhaps unexciting to just about everyone but me, it seems: construction walls.
I touched on some of these ideas in my post “Let’s Talk About Refurbishments” last fall, specifically sharing my philosophy as it related to an extension of the DINOSAUR refurbishment at Walt Disney World.
This was most definitely “refurbishment season” at Tokyo Disneyland. In addition to a huge wall being up for the removal of Grand Circuit Raceway, there were also large scrims up on World Bazaar, in Tomorrowland, near Cinderella Castle, in Toontown, and Critter Country.
Had this been my only trip to Tokyo Disneyland, I would’ve been (at minimum) bummed by the walls ‘messing up’ photos of Cinderella Castle from World Bazaar and of the Tomorrowland spires.
Since it’s not my only trip, all of these walls got me really excited for the future. They are a signal to me that things will continue to change and (hopefully) evolve. I can’t think of a single Disney fan who doesn’t like new things to do on their regular trips, and you cannot have ‘new’ without construction walls.
Most of my excitement over these walls came from those in Tomorrowland. As for Grand Circuit Raceway, good riddance. The attraction took up a ton of space and was still stuck in the 1980s. Tomorrowland at Tokyo Disneyland is too large and features a mishmash of styles as it has changed over the years.
Cutting down on the size of Tomorrowland via the New Fantasyland/Beauty and the Beast Village is an excellent idea (I never wrote a blog post about the revised New Fantasyland plans for Tokyo Disneyland, but here are some details along with models). For reference, here are a couple views of this area via Google Maps:
Basically, this New Fantasyland area (with the Big Hero 6/Mater’s Junkyard Jamboree ride as a buffer) will consume the former plot of Grand Circuit Raceway, extending out with its entrance where StarJets is, and extending back into the current parking lot. The backstage show building for the Beauty and the Beast attraction will extend behind Toontown.
Here are photos I shot of the construction progress from the monorail leaving Bayside Station (pictured above as the turquoise building at the bottom of the Google Maps graphic)…
Grand Circuit Raceway had closed only a couple of weeks prior to our visit, but progress was already significant. I’m really excited about the Beauty and the Beast attraction.
The levels of hype I’ve heard about it are off the charts, and while I don’t believe it’ll be the lavish production that is Shanghai Disneyland’s Pirates, I wouldn’t be surprised if it has more of a wow-factor than Mystic Manor. As a child of the 90s, I think this strategy of giving love to Disney Animation Renaissance-Era films makes a lot of sense. Many of us now have kids of our own who are becoming “Disney age,” so there’s the extra nostalgia play there.
Moreover, I think the project will help elevate that half of the park to be on par with the Westernland/Critter Country/Adventureland half of the park on a thematic level. Right now, Fantasyland and Tomorrowland have large swaths of pavement, and are lacking the level of immersion of the other half of the park. I suspect this will be remedied in large part by the coming expansion.
Additionally, I’m optimistic that in the meantime, sore spots throughout both lands will be improved-upon. This is (hopefully) starting with Plazma Ray’s Diner replacing Plaza Restaurant. (Given the similarity to Cosmic Ray’s, I really hope Officer Zzzzyxxx, a Sonny Eclipse doppelgänger, makes a reappearance at this restaurant.)
I’m also optimistic that the same will occur with Tomorrowland Terrace, which is woefully outdated even if it is a fun time capsule of Walt Disney World circa 1987. And, even though I will miss them, the removal of StarJets will be a positive change for the park. About the only cosmetic element of Tomorrowland I wouldn’t want to see changed is the spires. I think those have aged incredibly well, and their sleek, quasi-googie style continues to represent a fantasy-futurism.
As for Fantasyland, beyond the addition of a more detailed, immersive area, I’m hopeful that existing facades will receive cosmetic plussing. The fantasy faire tents still found in some places were removed from Disneyland the same year that Tokyo Disneyland opened, and look like they’re from that era. Fixing those and doing some light place-making would go a long way towards thematic parity between the two Tokyo parks.
Okay, back to rope drop. We debated testing another new strategy this morning by going to Camp Woodchuck for the character meet & greets first, but after the disaster the prior day with trying to meet Duffy, we nixed this plan.
Instead, we went for the tried and true: Monsters Inc Ride & Go Seek FastPass followed by Pooh’s Hunny Hunt, which we encountered with maybe a 10 minute wait. After that, it was onward to Peter Pan’s Flight. While I think there is potential for mixing up this plan a bit, it remains the most efficient way to start a day at Tokyo Disneyland.
Actually, before Peter Pan’s Flight, we made a brief stop behind Cinderella Castle, where a few roaming character’s were out, including everyone’s favorite: Fairy Godmother: Talky Tina Edition. (For you youngins, Fairy Godmother: whatever that one dude fromSaw is called Edition.)
There were several other characters out in addition to her, including Captain Hook, who focused his attentions on me. I had just been taking wide angle shots of the Frozen decorations around the front of Cinderella Castle, and didn’t have a chance to change lenses.
Normally, that would be a bad thing for character photos, but I think Hook realized what I was using, and took full advantage…
The above shot is taken at 14mm, and his hook is no more than 2 inches from my lens. These early-morning Fantasyland character encounters are the best. The characters ham it up for the few guests around, and also make an effort to have fun interactions.
A couple of years ago, we saw the Seven Dwarfs march into Fantasyland, doing spontaneous meet & greets with no wait and just generally playing around. (The Seven Dwarfs were also out this particular morning.)
While dedicated meet & greets (including those at the front of the park) draw long waits early in the morning, this area directly behind the castle is an easy place to meet characters right when the park opens. It’s so easy, fun–and predictable–that I’d actually recommend penciling it into your itinerary before Peter Pan’s Flight (our next stop), if you’re into characters.
Next up was Haunted Mansion, which had just reopened after its post-Holiday Nightmare refurbishment. The posted wait was already 25 or 30 minutes, and we had 40 minutes until Queen of Hearts Banquet Hall opened (because of course we were going to rope drop a restaurant…), so we opted to do it.
This was a moderate strategic blunder, as the wait would never get longer than 30 minutes for Haunted Mansion, so we could’ve used that time to do another attraction.
However we didn’t want to criss-cross the park and we had already done almost everything we wanted to do in Tokyo Disneyland.
Guy Selga claims the building on the above-left is a Cast Member break-room. I can’t imagine any reason why he’d make this up, but my natural inclination is towards skepticism about anything he says.
Haunted Mansion is one place where Tokyo Disneyland’s meticulous maintenance may work against it. At Magic Kingdom, some of the figures are a bit dirty, and the scrims in the graveyard are covered in dust, obscuring the Audio Animatronics. Here are some Haunted Mansion on-ride photos:
This might seem like a problem…until you see just how crisp and vibrant everything is in Tokyo’s Haunted Mansion. It turns out that, when ghouls and the like are involved, a bit of real world dust and dirt actually helps out.
It was still fairly early at that point, but that has never stopped us from eating. On page 2, we’ll start with our “First Lunch” at Queen of Hearts Banquet Hall. We’ll also share more from the Happiness is Here parade, win the lottery, and spread Figment awareness in Japan. Click here to continue reading…