Home » Imagineering Update: The 3 BIG Changes Coming to the Tokyo Disney Resort

Imagineering Update: The 3 BIG Changes Coming to the Tokyo Disney Resort

Disney characters

This is the first in a series of monthly updates on Disney Imagineering projects around the world. This month, we’ll start by looking at the new developments at Tokyo Disneyland and Tokyo DisneySea.

For the first time in a long time, changes are afoot at Tokyo Disney Resort.

After being the king of Asian theme parks since the day Tokyo Disneyland first opened in 1983 (not to mention being the third most-visited park in all the world, after Magic Kingdom and Disneyland), the resort has had the unthinkable happen to it:  it’s lost attendance.

The Oriental Land Company, which owns and operates Tokyo Disney, announced earlier this month that attendance at the resort has dipped some 1.7% in the first half of the current fiscal year (which runs from April 1 to March 31); for the period stretching from April 1 to September 30, approximately 260,000 less guests visited than in the same period last year.

(Although the good news is that this is still the second-highest figure ever recorded for the first half of the year for the property.)

Disney characters

One theory (put forward by Disney and More), is that attendance is being impacted by Universal Studios Japan, which had its Wizarding World of Harry Potter – the first of what will likely be many clones across Universal’s international holdings – just open in July. USJ was already the crown jewel in the company’s global tiara, and adding the power and presence of the Boy Who Lived has already had demonstrably positive effects for its growth.  (See our guide as to how the Japanese Hogsmeade could be the best version yet.) Of course, there are other potential explanations as to why attendance has dipped at Tokyo Disney Resort, which are unrelated to Potter.

The Oriental Land Company has quickly drafted a series of improvements for Tokyo Disneyland and Tokyo DisneySea. All throughout 2015, several new shows and experiences will be deployed, highlighting holidays (both Western and Japanese) and, of course, unleashing that unstoppable force that is Disney Princesses.

It’s interesting to note that this counter-attack is a play directly out of Walt Disney World’s book, emphasizing items that are quick to turn around and comparatively easy to implement (just take a look at the resort’s recent spate of Frozen events) – the exact opposite, obviously, of the costly and tedious process of designing and constructing new theme park rides (something which, to be fair, the Tokyo Disney Resort has hardly shief away from over the years).

With that in mind, let’s take a look at what changes are being lined up for both Tokyo theme parks.

1. Seasonal shows

According to Disney and More, which ran a comprehensive write-up of the Japanese additions, the vast bulk of the new experiences will be shows celebrating the various slew of holidays that densely populate the Japanese calendar, with a smattering of the traditional (read:  American) holidays being either thrown in or beefed up for good measure.

In this way, ironically enough, Tokyo Disneyland will simultaneously be made more Eastern and Western (perhaps the best summation of modern Japanese society).

Disney Halloween
  • Disney Easter – April 2-June 23, 2015. An event which should be similar to the Easter Egg hunts, Easter Bunny meet-‘n-greets, and special meals at both Disneyland and Disney World Resorts – though far longer in duration.
  • Disney Tanabata Days – June 24 to July 7, 2015. Guests will be able to fill out “wish cards,” true to Japanese custom, and watch a special show reenacting the famous legend of Orihime and Hikkoboshi, “two deities separated by the Milky Way who are allowed to meet only once a year.”
  • Summer Festival (Natsu Matsuri) – July 9-August 31, 2015. Being held at both parks, the Disneyland version is expected to be a traditional Japanese affair, while the DisneySea’s will incorporate a number of Western elements, including music, dances, and, but of course, new and exclusive food and beverages.
  • Disney Halloween – September 8-November 1, 2015. Tokyo’s version of Halloween is presumed to have more in common with Halloween Time in Anaheim rather than Mickey’s Not-So-Scary Halloween Party in Orlando.
  • Christmas Fantasy/Christmas Wish – November 9-December 25, 2015. In Japan, the holidays of Christmas and New Year’s are switched, with the former being more social and the latter being more familial and/or religious.  As such, Tokyo Disney is promising its X-mas events will be a more romantic time for couples to visit.
  • New Year’s Eve – January 1-January 5, 2016. The Disney characters will be decked out in traditional Japanese attire, ringing in the New Year with the appropriate traditions.

2. Featured shows

Beyond the holiday-inspired (or otherwise -infused) shows, the Oriental Land Company is also planning on incorporating a number of now-standard Disney elements into a small series of additional attractions or events.

This is actually a rather huge development:  rather than continuing to try and separate its resort from the rest of the Disney canon, as the company has been attempting to do more and more in the past few years, OLC is now looking to jump on the attendance bandwagon as quickly – and as thoroughly – as it possibly can.

Little Mermaid
  • King Triton’s Concert – opening April 24, 2015. As previously reported, this new show located at the Mermaid Lagoon Theater in DisneySea will be a state-of-the-art attraction that looks to incorporate some “dynamic performances,” such as can currently be seen with Turtle Talk with Crush at Epcot (and, of course, DisneySea).
  • Tokyo Disney Electrical Parade – opening September 7, 2015. A new nightly parade that would seem to have much in common with Tokyo Disneyland’s still-running Electrical Parade: Dreamlights.  This could be a replacement for that still-popular parade, or it could end up going next-door in DisneySea.
  • Anna and Elsa’s Frozen Fantasy – January 12-March 18, 2016. Sounding suspiciously like Hollywood Studios’ various Frozen events this year (Summer Fun and the Holiday Premium Package), the Japanese version will see a similar array of shows, decorations, and food inspired by the film.
  • Welcome, Little Princess – January 1-March 18, 2016. Capitalizing on the other huge trend that’s been sweeping all the other Disney parks, this event will allow little (or not-so-little) girls become a princess for the day.  It is unknown how much of an additional charge this will be, if any at all.

3. New attractions

There may be only one, and it may only be a copy of a pre-existing Disney attraction (which is itself, ironically enough, a clone), but it nonetheless represents the single biggest expenditure Tokyo Disney Resort is making in its mad scramble to have 2015 (and ’16) be its biggest year yet.

Stitch Encounter
  • Stitch Encounter – opening summer 2015. A clone of the Hong Kong Disneyland original (and yet another variation on the Turtle Talk theme), Tokyo Disneyland’s version represents the only true attraction in the current burst of Imagineering activity.