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.


Anonymous said...

Hunter ..we've had this bubble bursting talk before so here we go.

I agree that the detail at Tokyo Sea was amazing on every level. The park attractions are another matter. I truly think Aquatopia was the most fun and would work great here.

Now as for the others..a big yawn. The rides were boring ..some did not make sense and others like Indy were not as good as the original.

The reality of how Disney Sea
came about though is another story. So here we go..As we know Disney Sea is a direct result of the failure of Long Beach project.

Yes..the Japanese wanted a second gate..but probably not this. WDI was stuck with a lot of design work and money used for the dead Disney Sea and had to justify it.

Then someone suggested Tokyo. How could they refuse!

Now Japanese culture plays a big role here and WDI/Eisner knew this.
The Japanese do not want to cause offense or reject things outright in case they may "lose face".

As a former Imagineer said..they can take months to make a simple decision and it this type of cultural quirk WDI exploited.

As I understand it..should something fail... it falls back on the shoulders of the person who authorised it . Now here it may result in firing but not over there. Remember that asian executives have been known to do themselves in as a result of poor decisions.

So knowing this, Disney presented Tokyo Disney Sea. The OLC could not say no... they wanted a second gate and Disney served it up.

So the reality is ..they dumped the project over there.

Bottom line..great design detail..poorly themed rides and when I go back will be a one day thing. RWR

Unknown said...

Great article, Honor!

I appreciate all of the work that you do.

Anonymous said...


I appreciate the passion that you write with but we'll have to disagree on TDS.

You're the first person I've ever heard refer to the rides there as boring. I happen to love them. particularly Mysterious Island. I don't find Journey to be a boring ride at all. The Mermaid Lagoon has wonderful rides for children and families and I don't know which areas you refer to as poorly themed? They're all layered in theming. Almost to the point of too much theming. The only thing I can think of is Arabian Coast? Perhaps because it's an Aladdin land and the movie wasn't near water? But it takes the characters and puts them in a wonderful coastal Arabian atmosphere.

As for Indy, it's the exact ride. Not any worse than the one in Anaheim. The setting is changed from India to South America, but the ride is almost exactly the same. There are blue lighting themed areas instead of red and the idol that he's pursuing it different, but overall it's a clone. The one thing that is different is the "blow-dart" corridor. Instead of a painting from which the darts fly out there are actually statues which I believe to be better than the original.

As for executives giving in and building anything Disney throws at them? They're not going to swallow 3 billion dollars because they don't want to offend Disney. I've seen many things they've said no to. Remember Disney Creative Entertainment’s Snow Queen project for Tokyo DisneySea? It was cancelled because of the cost. They had no problem pulling the plug on that one and several others.

I know you love Disney like the rest of us, but I just have to disagree with you and side with Honor in this one.

Anonymous said...

Great article. One typo did you mean which not witch? :)

Alain Littaye said...

I don't agree, too, that the TDS rides are boring. I was there for the grand opening press event, and i think that most of the rides are just great - and Mysterious Island is a dream come true.
However i have to disagree with the "no cuts" in the original concept. Some cuts were done, one in Port Discovery where WDI cancelled a big show theater ( i think you can see the building on the model picture reproduced in the imagineers-hyperion book ).
The other one is not known at all, and it's about Sindbad seven voyages. The first concept designed by an Egyptian artist at that time a WDI imagineer didn't have at all this kind of "small world sindbad" AA puppet look, it was a fantastic concept with AA almost as big as the one in Pirates of Caribbean. It is supposed to have been abandoned because of its cost , but i am not sure that the final version that we know with hundred of small AA was finally less expensive. The other reason is that they needed a major attraction for young kids. Well, probably it was a mixed of the two reasons...
But anyway, TDS is a splendor and i wish any Disney fan to discover it one day!

Anonymous said...

I wanted to respond and add to the discussion again. I do love Disney dearly. However, the real issue with TDS is that it is a boxed in concept that does not lend itself to great expansion.

While the Magic Kingdom is a great blended concept which has much more latitude for diversity. TDS is not.

Mysterious Island is visually stunning and the lava monster is neat, albeit too short in time to fully grasp his meaning.

I had to think back about Indy again. Perhaps it was the lack of the fireball effect for the tornado that made it seem less fun.

But hey..Stormrider had to be the worst thing I ever saw.

Sinbad's Voyage was real bad although, I have seen the new version on video and love the new music and effects.

I did enjoy the Aladin 3D show with Genie.

But I have to say the most disappointing by far and the one I really wanted to see was 20K and the "dry" /"wet" hoopla.El stinko, nothing beats a real sub.

In all fairness , Ariels Grotto exterior was neat although the interior felt like a shoppping mall or Chuckie Cheese on steroids. I realise that weather played a key role in this design though.

An interesting note for some may be the "floating" world globe out front. That concept had been pushed by the late magician Doug Henning as the focal entrance for his proposed Niagara Falls "Maharishi Vaderland" spirtual park. Hope I spelled that right.

The only other thing that I can think of was that the ride vehicles were small. I'm over 6 feet and could not comfortably fit on most. Journey to the Center of the Earth and 20K required me to sit sideways to fit in...and I am relatively thin. But then everthing in Japan is smaller.

I appreciate the effort and passion that Honour brings to the table. I also appreciate the ability to discuss things so that they are realistic and not candy coated. ..RWR

Honor Hunter said...


I agree with you that there are some areas in which some cuts were made. I was speaking in general... and was focusing on some areas that Imagineers thought would be cut which were actually expanded.

I also wish they would have gone with a "Pirate" type of Sinbad ride instead of the Small World type Sinbad. Although I enjoy it and understand them wanting to have more family/children rides, I would have loved a darker and more realistic Arabian adventure. That being said, I find it an amazing place where I could just set back and enjoy the details.

I enjoy your blog, btw and your book on DLP is great.

Spokker said...

"Sinbad's Voyage was real bad although, I have seen the new version on video and love the new music and effects."

I never rode the original version, only the "storybook" version, and it was my second favorite ride in the park, second to only Journey actually. We went on it many, many times during the course of our week in Japan, and it reminded me of the old grand AA extravaganzas Disney used to do in the US in Pirates, Tiki Room, Carousel, and all that.

The art of the AA has sort of been lost in the American parks, making way for projections and cardboard cutouts. For example, the Hunny Hunt AAs have more range of motion than the ones in The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh. Similarly, the AAs in Sinbad move fluidly, like some kind of small world on steroids.

Stormrider was okay. You have to expect a simulator ride in a theme park. It's the law I think. While it didn't entirely disappoint, it didn't move me much, emotionally that is.

Aquatopia was kind of pointless to ride, but nice to look at.

I was sort of dreading the 3D movie because I hate 3D movies, and after seeing two of them at DCA I wasn't really in the mood for more. I was pleasantly surprised with this one though. I loved how the actor performed with 3D Genie and added a lot to what would otherwise be a boring 3D movie.

I have to disagree with the other comment about 20K Leagues. I absolutely loved this ride. Aside from it being cramped, everything about it felt detailed to me. I love submarines and ocean lore. The little light you could control was a nice touch and helped with the immersiveness.

For any criticism about the attractions, the entertainment offerings more than make up for it. BraviSEAmo, Mystic Rhythms, Big Bang Beat, The Legend of Mythica, and all the little stuff that goes around in little nooks and crannies of the park really make the experience.

Anonymous said...

The art of the AA has sort of been lost in the American parks, making way for projections and cardboard cutouts.

I disagree. They're NOT abandoning AA's in Disney's American parks.

It's just that some attractions work better with projections, which allow feats that even the most advanced AA will never be able to achieve.

Paging Honor Hunter...

Spokker said...

"It's just that some attractions work better with projections, which allow feats that even the most advanced AA will never be able to achieve."

The only application of the technology that I've experienced is the Finding Nemo Submarine Voyage and it was very disappointing. I felt that the Subs were turned into an "underwater movie", and greatly diminished the reridability of the attraction. It felt like a retelling of the movie. "Nemo is lost... AGAIN!" It was, to put it bluntly, awful.

I don't know what it is, but if it's on film, I really don't want to ride it more than once or twice. Star Tours, I might go on once a year, but I'm always down for Haunted Mansion and Pirates.

You can even see the bloom around the projections on many of the screens. It sort of takes me out of the experience.

The minimal AA that Nemo does have is static and uninteresting. It didn't move me at all, much like the turtles in the middle of the experience.

I want to sail through detailed environments, not movies. The coral reefs at the beginning of the ride are the most enjoyable part. I even liked the crabs at the end more than the projections. I loved the experience of being underwater and in the subs again, but the meat of Nemo is a whole lot of nothing.

Anonymous said...

I disagree with you as well, spokker.

Paging Honor Hunter...

Spokker said...

I would love to hear what Honor Hunter has to say. Maybe I'm just not getting these projections or seeing their full potential.