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A Few Controversial Opinions from a Disney Lover

Tokyo Disneyland is the place that American parks should mimic

Image: DisneyQuick, where is the best Winnie the Pooh ride in the world? It’s certainly not at Magic Kingdom or Disneyland. How about Monsters, Inc.? No, Walt Disney World has only constructed an improv comedy building thus far. Meanwhile, Disney California Adventure has a solid dark ride, but it’s vastly inferior to a similar version elsewhere.

Yes, the best versions of Winnie the Pooh and Monsters, Inc. attractions are at Tokyo Disneyland. Pooh’s Hunny Hunt was the first attraction in the world to employ trackless technology, something that we’re still waiting to see at Walt Disney World. Monsters, Inc. Ride & Go Seek is a delightful dark ride that even comes with a flashlight! 

Image: DisneyIn fact, I can take this idea a step further. Do you love Radiator Springs Racers or Test Track? This type of ride design is fabulous, but Tokyo DisneySea’s Journey to the Center of the Earth stands apart as the most excellent iteration. Why does Tokyo Disneyland claim superiority to the original American Disney parks?

Part of the problem is motivation. The Walt Disney Company can charge whatever they want for theme park attendance. They can also build new attractions and amenities if/when they feel like it. Conversely, The Oriental Land Company owns and operates Tokyo Disneyland. They've licensed the right and must adhere to stringent requirements to move forward with projects.

Image: DisneyDisney has right-of-refusal on attractions, giving Tokyo Disneyland attractions a higher hurdle to clear. Unbelievably, the standards are thereby higher at a non-Disney park with Disney in the title than at the ones managed by The Walt Disney Company. The result is that the original Disney theme parks keep getting surpassed by attractions constructed by The Oriental Land Company.

Disney executives should take more time to study what Tokyo Disneyland does well. Yes, I recognize that the companies interact on a daily basis, but we’ve reached a point where the licensed products have surpassed the originals. It merits additional consideration so that we’ll get the best Disney theme parks possible in the United States.

Character meetings should be everywhere

Image: DisneyHere’s my final vent for today. Why aren’t character meetings more ubiquitous? During recent hurricanes, Disney has shipped characters to resorts to engage in meet-and-greets. These events have created timeless moments captured on video and shared on social media. It leads to an obvious question. Why isn’t that the baseline?

At Walt Disney World, Disney owns and operates more than 25 hotels. Why don’t these places have character meetings available in or near the lobby all day? The expense of having cast members engaged in these interactive events is negligible.

From a customer perspective, moving more character meetings to resorts is a way to keep guests engaged while reducing some of the crowd traffic that Disney is so worried about. You may quibble that Disney has the incentive to get guests in the parks as much as possible, but that's not necessarily true.

Image: DisneyWhen guests are at official resorts, they’re still in the Disney bubble. The company gets all the revenue spent at the stores and restaurants. When guests spend more time at the hotel, they also spend more money. That’s just common sense.

Right now, Disney’s mentality seems to be that they should save character interactions for their expensive character meals. That’s understandable, but there’s a corollary to it. They may only serve a few thousand guests daily at these meals. Everyone at the hotel would like character meetings, which leads to an organic rise in the number of PhotoPass packages sold, too.

I honestly don't understand why Disney doesn't do this. All they'd need is a photographer, a costumed cast member, and one or two organizers per character greeting. In exchange, they'd have lines of 50+ guests from the resort participating in something constructive. To an extent, I get why Disney wouldn't do this at water parks (or hotel pools), but it's an obvious choice at hotels. Disney just isn't doing a good enough job of exploring its deep library of IPs as a means of satisfying theme park tourists.


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