There's seemingly no limit to the innovative and ground-breaking ways that the folks at Disney Imagineering can bring a story to life. Combined with the quality-driven Oriental Land Company's limitless trust in Disney and its product, Tokyo Disney Resort has created a number of attractions that are simply so outstanding, they must be seen to be believed. Here, at least, we can provide a brief overview of the best of the best - the must-see highlights of each park at the Tokyo Disney Resort.
1. Pooh’s Hunny Hunt
Located in Tokyo Disneyland’s Fantasyland, behind the gentle façade of a giant storybook is the unprecedented Pooh’s Hunny Hunt. Superficially related to the Many Adventures dark rides located in California, Florida, and Hong Kong, Pooh’s Hunny Hunt follows everyone’s favorite yellow plush bear through the hundred acre wood in a whole new way: via trackless, LPS guided “hunny pot” ride vehicles. Three pots enter the attraction at a time, each diverging along different paths, spinning, bouncing, and swirling around each other in synchronized “dances” that are choreographed via satellite with apparent “near misses” at every turn. The attraction features full-scale sets, true audio animatronics, and an adventurously quick pace that the other Pooh rides lack.
The Best Moment: During a particularly dizzying rendezvous with the dream-sequence-induced Heffalumps and Woozles, a fourth ride vehicle joins in on the fun: this one, with the zany, trippy elephant-like creatures on board. In another fantastic scene, a wooded glen morphs into a bouncing adventure with Tigger with a curious mix of tactile and visual sensation.
Inner Workings: The LPS-guided hunny pot vehicles were Disney’s second foray into trackless technology, also utilized in the park next door (more ahead). The same system was implemented in 2013 in the universally-adored Mystic Manor in Hong Kong.
2. Monsters, Inc: Ride & Go Seek
If the rides and attractions at Tokyo Disney Resort are any indication, the Japanese have little interest in reliving the stories they already know and love. Instead, they want to see their favorite characters in new situations that are familiar, but fresh. That trend continues in Monsters Inc: Ride and Go Seek. In lieu of cloning California’s Monsters Inc. dark ride, Tokyo’s version extends the story into new realms by having the monsters orchestrate a company-wide game of flashlight tag. Mike pulls the main breaker and you’re off, through the massive, dark, full-sized rooms of the Monsters Inc. factory with a flashlight in hand, emitting a real beam of light. Striking any of the recognizable blue hard hats worn by the company’s finest reveals a playful monster in hilarious ways. While its location in Tokyo Disneyland’s Tomorrowland is hotly debated (mostly by people who have not been and will never be to Tokyo Disney Resort, by the way), the ride is charming, fun, and like the rest of Tokyo Disney, top quality with no expense spared.
The Best Moment: As is only fitting, the nefarious lizard-like Randall meets his fate in a garbage compactor; Roz, ever glowing, thanks guests for their participation in personalized messages at the ride’s end; and perhaps best of all, even with its “interactive” component, Ride & Go Seek does not keep score.
3. The Western River Railroad
The intensely organized and structured Japanese rail system apparently must follow a time table and charge a fare, leaving a “Tokyo Disneyland Railroad” that encircles the park an impracticality. (Besides, there’s no Main Street Train Station to pass under at the park’s entrance – in fact, there’s no Main Street at all!) Enter the Western River Railroad, a narrow gauge railway that boards in Adventureland above the Jungle Cruise, and encircles Adventureland, Frontierland, and Critter Country before returning to its single station. Announced in the famous call (“Your attention please: the Western River Railroad is now arriving at Adventureland. Booooarrrdd!”), the ride passes the Jungle Cruise, Big Thunder Mountain, a mining town scene, Splash Mountain, the Rivers of America, and through a version of Disneyland’s Primeval World diorama.
4. The Enchanted Tiki Room: Stitch Presents Aloha e Komo Mai!
Though the addition of accessory characters to Walt Disney World’s Tropical Serenade drew the ire of the entire fan community, the rabid Disney base centered around the Tokyo Disney Resort saw no harm in adding one of their most loved characters to this show. In addition to their desire to see characters in new situations, the Japanese also have an odd adoration of seemingly random Disney characters: primarily, the Genie from Aladdin, the Fairy Godmother from Cinderella, Frollo from The Hunchback of Notre Dame, and Stitch. So here, Stitch joins in the fun, painting graffiti on the walls, burping, and playing a ukulele in a Hawaiian shirt straight from Disney’s California Adventure 2001. Is it any more successful than Stitch’s Great Escape? Objectively, probably not. But the Japanese love it – they laugh and participate and stare in wonder at the animatronic Stitch figure that rises from the central pedestal. Their excitement is electric and they genuinely enjoy the show. What more could you ask for?