Thursday, January 31, 2008
Tales Of The Orient 2...
In the early 1990's the OLC began negotiations with the Walt Disney Company about adding another park to their popular resort and also adding an entertainment center and possibly Disney branded hotels. Its initial plan was to expand the resort for around one billion dollars(Again, in mid-1990's numbers). This figure was to be for the park, hotels and shopping district... sounds a lot closer in monetary value to what Disneyland in Anaheim got, doesn't it?
Now, the OLC began to use the Imagineers to come up with concepts for a second park and the company wanted their second gate to be different. They didn't want a Disney-MGM Studios or Epcot like the American parks had. They wanted something that would set there resort apart from their American sister parks. The Imagineers, realizing they could work on something different than a clone of an existing park, proposed a variation of the park they had planned on building in the Long Beach Port Disney project: "Disneysea." The executives of the OLC loved the idea of a Disney park designed around the sea... something that plays deep into the Japanese culture. They immediately approved going forward with concepts for the park and resort. As Imagineers are, they planned big and bold... knowing from their history with the Mouse that things eventually get cut. So they planned an elaborate park that they knew would have an abundance of well themed attractions that would survive whatever the OLC decided to cut. When the Imagineers presented there plans to the OLC company executives they were shocked. Not only did they not cut the park... the OLC Executives actually wanted more detail added. And Imagineers gladly obliged. They hadn't done anything like this since the planning of Euro Disneyland, which, while amazingly detailed turned into a financial mess for the Mouse and head cheese Michael Eisner.
Now the budget for the resort grew and grew until the price tag for this little jewel rose from around a billion, to over three billion dollars(well over two billion would go for the Tokyo DisneySEA park alone). Now, the Oriental Land Company had not planned on spending so much money, but it had no intention of scaling back the cost either. So the OLC devised a plan to go public. Since it was owned by two companies, it was beholden to them for financing, but going public would allow it to generate the cash it needed for paying for this massive new expansion. And so, the OLC started on it's road to becoming a publicly traded company in Japan...
On December 2, 1996 the Oriental Land Company went public to raise the money to turn Tokyo Disneyland Park into the Tokyo Disney Resort. It sold over eleven and a half million shares generating over a billion yen for the OLC to use in the new resort's funding. The company went from a privately held company to one of the largest publicly held in Japan, overnight. The planning continued and OLC and the Walt Disney Company moved forward with the plans. Both companies announced on October 22, 1998 that they had finalized an agreement to development a Second Gate, shopping district and two Disney branded hotels on reclaimed land on Tokyo Bay. The new park, "Tokyo DisneySEA would have 27 attractions at opening and only one of them would be a clone(Indiana Jones, although Jumpin' Jellyfish would also come to DCA but in a much cheaper design). Unlike Disneyland, the park would not have lands but ports themed to various ocean designs and emphasizing exploration and progress.
The addition of a Downtown Disney-like shopping district known as "Ikspiari," which is like a Disney themed small town or community. A large souvenir store designed to look like a giant piece of luggage, known as "Bon Voyage". A Disney Resort link, which would be the new monorail system since Tokyo Disneyland didn't have one when it opened(unlike its American monorail, you have to pay to ride the Tokyo one). Two new hotels would be built. The first, "Disney Ambassador Hotel" would be designed in the 30's Art-Deco style that Hollywood would be famous for. The second, "Tokyo DisneySea MiraCosta" would be the premier hotel designed in an old world, Italian style and would be within the walls of the Second Gate. Much like DCA's Grand Californian, the MiraCosta would let guest actually stay the night in the park. Can you imagine waking up to the view of Mount Prometheus?
The Resort would be opened on a staggered release... meaning that parts would open as they were completed, not all at once. The monorail and Ambassador Hotel opened in 2000 to be followed in September of the following year by Tokyo DisneySEA and the Hotel MiraCosta. It was an instant success when it opened. The TDS park had well over 10 million people when it opened, but the result of opening a park next to the original has a similar effect that WDW was familiar with: cannibalization. For it's first year or so the attendance at TDL suffered as guest were curious about the new park. While TDS is great and amazing it's not perfect. There have been complaints about it not having enough for families to do. Although truth-be-told, you could spend a day walking around just looking at the detail and not riding a thing. It also has it's attendance drop over a couple years, something that DCA has not had happen. Also, the OLC has funded two additional attractions. The Tower of Terror in the American Harbor and Raging Spirits in the Lost River Delta were added to boost the ride count and counter a downturn in the attendance. This was unexpected, since the OLC didn't foresee any additional attractions until after the park had at least been around for half a decade. For the most part though, the Resort(which is bigger than the Disneyland Resort) has been a huge success. The Resort continues to grow as well... a new theater is being built for Cirque du Soleil show that will open in 2008. Also, in July the OLC will open their third Disney branded hotel, the aptly named "Tokyo Disneyland Hotel" will greet guest with its Mictorian Splendor. What's next? Well, we'll see over the next few years, but suffice to say, late 2010 and 2011 will play big roles in the Resort's expansion and the OLC's expansion as it builds it's first Disney experience outside Tokyo.
Most Americans don't know much about the parks, but as the proliferation of the internet grows, so to does knowledge about the Tokyo Disney Resort and its fabulous Tokyo DisneySEA. In the 80's it was easy for the Walt Disney Company to not worry about what was going on in Tokyo as most here in the states knew very little about it. With the net expanding people's knowledge of what's available the WDC has had to worry about comparisons between the two parks and others around the world. This will hopefully prove to be a motivating factor in any plans for a new park here in America or around the world as Bob Iger advances his international plans. Comparisons will no doubt be made and rightly so... Tokyo DisneySEA is a shining example of what is possible when great ideas are allowed to be realized... the Disney Way.