Despite being constructed at the same time as the much higher-profile Walt Disney World resort in Florida, the Tokyo Disney Resort has grown to become the company’s most successful overseas outpost. Its popularity was boosted still further in 2001 with the opening of Tokyo DisneySea, a second theme park that sits alongside the original Tokyo Disneyland. Built at a cost of some $4 billion, DisneySea is the most expensive theme park ever built.
Fans of Disneyland and Walt Disney World will recognise many of the attractions at the Tokyo theme parks, such as Big Thunder Mountain, the Tower of Terror and Peter Pan’s Flight. The Tokyo Disney Resort, though, offers much more than mere clones of rides at the US parks. It features an extensive line-up of unique attractions, and 5 of the very best are highlighted below.
5. 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea (Tokyo DisneySea)
Various different attractions based on Jules Verne’s 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea have operated at Disney theme parks over the past five decades. However, Tokyo DisneySea’s version is the last one remaining that uses a “submarine” ride system to bring the story to life.
After boarding one of the submarines, guests travel around a number of recognisable scenes from the book (and the Disney movie that was inspired by it). This includes a spectacular set-piece in which a giant squid attacks riders, and a final section based around the lost city of Atlantis.
Unlike previous incarnations of the ride, the Tokyo DisneySea version features a number of interactive elements. This includes the ability to control a searchlight using a joystick, to highlight some of the bizarre inhabitants of the underwater world.
4. Pooh’s Hunny Hunt (Tokyo Disneyland)
Winnie the Pooh has provided the inspiration for a number of Disney dark rides, although few of these could be described as ground-breaking. However, Pooh’s Hunny Hunt broke the mould when it debuted in 2000 at a cost of more than $130 million.
Most dark rides feature vehicles that ride on a track as they whisk guests past a number of scenes. Pooh’s Hunny Hunt, though, uses a unique trackless system to guide its “honey pots”. This is made possible by a local positioning system which features some randomisation, so that the ride experience is slightly different each time.
The effect on the ride experience is stunning. The storyline becomes almost irrelevant, with the simple of thrill of riding in a vehicle that seems to have a mind of its own becoming the key selling point of Pooh’s Hunny Hunt.
3. Sindbad’s Storybook Voyage (Tokyo DisneySea)
Based on the popular Sinbad stories, Sindbad’s Storybook Voyage takes guests on a boat ride through a variety of exotic Arabian scenes. Those familiar with classic Disney rides such as Pirates of the Caribbean will find a lot to like here, with the company’s Imagineers having applied their usual attention to detail.
A variety of audio-animatronic characters help to bring the story to life, and the action is accompanied by an excellent original score from famous composer Alan Menken. Pirates feature heavily, with Sinbad attempting to thwart their treasure-stealing plans.
2. Monsters, Inc. Ride and Go Seek (Tokyo Disneyland)
While it shares a similar storyline to Monsters, Inc. Mike & Sulley to the Rescue at Disney California Adventure, Tokyo Disneyland’s attraction is vastly superior. Built at a cost of $88 million, it uses the same ride system as the Toy Story Midway Mania attractions that have opened at several other Disney parks (as well as at Tokyo DisneySea).
Up to 4 riders board cars that carry them around a number of locations in Monstropolis, the city that features in Pixar’s Monsters, Inc. movie. Each guest is equipped with a flashlight “weapon”, which is used to search for audio-animatronic monsters. The more monsters guests spot, the more points they score.
Following complaints after the ride’s 2009 debut that there weren’t enough monsters to aim for, Disney added more in 2010. The monsters’ helmets now light up when riders catch them with their flashlights, making it easier to know when a successful discovery has been made. These enhancements have improved an already excellent ride, which remains unique to the Tokyo Disney Resort.
1. Journey to the Center of the Earth (Tokyo DisneySea)
The second Jules Verne-inspired attraction at Tokyo DisneySea is one of the best theme park attractions in the world. Journey to Center of the Earth uses a similar ride system to Test Track at Epcot, with guests boarding “steam-powered” mine vehicles before embarking on rip to the planet’s core.
The vehicles are able to move at variable speeds, allowing guests to fully enjoy the stunning interior of the attraction. Highlights include a cavern dotted with glowing crystals, a stormy subterranean sea, a mushroom forest and a final encounter with an enormous lava monster.
As with all great attractions, the ride itself is only part of the experience of Journey to Center of the Earth. Guests will also enjoy travelling to the start point, housed inside a mock volcano. To reach it, they must board a “Terravator” – an exotic version of a traditional elevator.
In addition to the many original attractions on offer at Tokyo Disneyland and Tokyo DisneySea, a number of the park’s versions of classic Disney rides feature their own unique elements. Don’t be fooled into thinking these are mere clones of Disney’s US parks – the Tokyo Disney Resort stands in its own right as one of the world’s leading theme park resorts.