This past November, my family and I had the chance to visit two international Disney Parks. First, we visited Shanghai Disneyland just a few months after its grand opening. Just a few days afterwards, we hopped on a flight to Tokyo to visit another.
Tokyo Disney Resort is actually split up into two parks, Tokyo Disneyland and Tokyo DisneySea. We decided to only go to DisneySea because their version of Disneyland was almost identical when it came to attraction and show offerings. But even before stepping foot there, there was already a lot of hype that was shared with us regarding how great it was.
And long story short, it was a very enjoyable experience. Tokyo DisneySea is something quite special in the fact that it’s not Disney-fied. In other words, I didn’t see so much Mickey and his pals or even Hidden Mickeys lurking on attraction facades and landscaping. I just saw an entirely new place.
Japan’s seaward theme park has a simple purpose. It’s a place where people can be immersed in exploration, discovery, and adventure. They are things that you get in environment like the ocean, and since Japan very much is connected to the sea, it was only appropriate to create a park that dedicates itself to all that.
Attractions like Journey to the Center of the Earth, Raging Spirits, and even their version of the Indiana Jones Adventure were all prime examples of how theme park rides could heighten those adventurous spirits that are tough to find in everyday life. And I thoroughly enjoyed every adventure in my one day there.
Not once did I miss seeing Mickey or want to experience a franchise-powered show during my visit. It was kind of actually a beautiful thing really. Everything was just so original and fresh that I didn’t have to be lured into it.
A lot of the things I saw and experienced were things that I couldn’t associate with, like franchised brands. Due to their popularity and in turn the financial results that it gives, Disney is really hard pressed at putting their popular movie franchises into its theme parks. But is there a level where it becomes too much? Is #FranchiseLand a good thing? Would Tokyo DisneySea see the same fate in the future?
While Walt Disney originally created Disneyland to bring his animated films to life for fans of those films, I think his vision for creating such a place was deeply rooted in being able to create something that hadn’t been seen before. Flying over London in a pirate ship hadn’t been seen before. Deciding to build a grand castle in a former orange grove would make anyone thing look crazy. Toward the end of his life, he was planning an experimental city where people could actually live (now EPCOT at Walt Disney World).
In effect, these places were the result of thinking big, but also originally. To this day, I think the reason why people are enamored by places like Disneyland and enjoy original Disney movies (and may become a franchise) are because they are truly unique.
Tokyo DisneySea reminded me so much of that, shown in various ways like their attractions and even the food (the best Disney popcorn in the world lives there! Google it). There was nothing Disney about it in one way and everything Disney about it in other. I truly hope that it remains to be a place where the ideas and feelings you get when traveling into a place as vast and empty as the sea come first. Franchises – second.