Report: Tokyo DisneySea Opening Ceremony
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On October 22, 1998, Michael Eisner and Tashio Kagami announced that the Walt Disney Company and the Oriental Land Company (OLC) had reached agreement over the development of the second gate on further reclaimed land on Tokyo Bay. The theme was unique; a new park with 27 attractions and only one from an existing Disney theme park. Seven port of calls would comprise Tokyo Disney Sea (TDS). My partner and I were relieved that Tokyo was to receive a totally unique park. We continued to follow the development for the next 3 years.
Media Gathered for the Ceremony
Fast forward to September 4,, 2001. Thanks to the excellent reports from Marc Borrelli, we were acutely aware of the scale and attention to detail that the imagineers had achieved with TDS. We were also aware of the fanatical following that is unique to the residents of Tokyo towards their Disneyland. No other Disney park in the world has such fervent dedication from its guests. This is evidenced by the cold hard fact that Tokyo Disneyland (TDL). TDL alone attracts around 17 million guests a year, considerably more than any other Disney park. We were worried that the first day would be a sell-out. For the Grand Opening of Disneys California Adventure, we were extremely fortunate to be invited to the Opening Ceremony and braved the cold weather to wait for a truly beautiful ceremony that was both elegant and simple in its execution. However, we had been warned that the Grand Opening for TDS was for the guests and that all who wished to attend could do so up to the parks reported capacity of 55 000.
Opening Day Flag
The night before September 4, 2001 we had visited TDL. TDL guests often arrive early and disperse by late afternoon. Therefore the park operates an After 6 passport, where for approximately half the cost of the days admission, guests can visit the park until closing. We had planned to see the new Electrical Parade Dreamlights that evening. Unfortunately, the heavy rain typical of Tokyo in September kept Dreamlights firmly under wraps for the evening. However, a delightful surprise was around the corner. As we moved towards the Poohs Hunny Hunt attraction, the crowd parted and a short Rainy Day parade proceeded down the walkway. Just one long float with each of the Fab Five and Roger Rabbit dressed in slicks from head to foot (even Mickey and Rogers ears were enclosed!), it was a pleasant surprise and one that maybe the folks at Disneyland Paris could learn from! We took the new Resort line (the first full size monorail at a Disney resort) back to the Tokyo Disney Sea station at around 11pm. Despite the efforts of TDR security, the crowds had already camped out with their plastic mats and raingear for the night. Fortunately, friends of ours, Tetsuya and Yukari had already started queuing, despite having a room in Disneys Ambassador hotel! By this stage, we were extremely jet-lagged after a 12 hour flight from London. We had no choice but to crash and save our energies for the next day.
At 6am ,we joined our friends at the head of the queue, just feet away from the turnstiles. I have attended the openings of the last 4 Disney theme parks, and the high level of anticipation and excitement of those events simply could not match the fervent excitement generated by the some 13 000 Disney fans that had waited much of the night to be inside TDS on September 4. Many of those queuing had already experienced the new park on shareholder, cast and invited guest days for the 6 weeks prior to the park officially opening. Rumours had spread throughout the night that the official ceremony was to be conducted in private before the guests arrived. However, at 7:45am, the security bars slipped silently up into the recesses above the turnstiles and we all flooded through into the Aquasphere plaza.
OLC executives were personally on hand to greet every guest and hand out special flags commemorating the important date. We were held back under the Hotel Miracosta for a few minutes and then allowed to run under the hotel and out into the Mediterranean Harbor. For both of us, who had avoided the pictures that appeared on the internet from the previews, the sight was like nothing either of us had experienced at a Disney theme park. The sheer scale and attention to detail was breath taking and phenomenal stimulation to all our senses.
Executive on the Balcony