“It all started in 1983…” The first international Disney park opened in Tokyo to adoring fans on April 15th, 1983. I had the pleasure of joining the festivities as Tokyo Disney Resort celebrates its 35th Anniversary “Happiest Celebration” this year.
Tokyo Disney Resort (TDR) is known for excellence: unique attractions, one-of-a-kind parades, unique seasonal food, and an unmatched passion for everything Disney.
Tokyo Disney’s “Happiest Celebration” Begins on the Monorail
The Tokyo Disney Resort Monorail system is a separately-ticketed mode of transportation with four stations, connecting:
- Tokyo Disneyland
- Tokyo Bayside Station, with official resort hotels such as the Sheraton Grande Tokyo Bay and the Hilton Tokyo Bay
- Tokyo DisneySea and Disney’s Hotel MiraCosta
- Ikspiari – their equivalent to Downtown Disney – and the JR Mahaima train station connecting TDR to the rest of Tokyo
Many of the monorails are themed to seasonal events. The 35th Anniversary monorail is festively decorated both inside and out – with characters and confetti.
There are even fireworks on the ceiling. However, unlike the charming witch hats for Halloween and Santa hats for Christmas, there were no toppers for the Mickey hand-grips. Mickey and friends are pictured in their official “Happiest Celebration” costumes, as reflected in the new parade.
35th “Happiest Celebration” Decorations Welcome Guests
One of the things I love most about Tokyo Disney Resort is that they go ‘all out’ in decorating for each season. Whether it’s Easter, Halloween, Christmas, or their Anniversary – everything is perfectly themed from the moment you enter the Parks. Mickey and his pals really rolled out the red carpet for guests this year.
Disney magic decked the halls of the Grand Bazaar. The centerpiece is a massive ribbon tree with golden Mickey mascots from anniversaries past. It’s quite a spectacle as you walk around, as the view changes constantly.
In the evenings, the entire street is bathed in sparkling lights and ‘snow’ on the buildings. What makes this continuous light show even more magical – multiple musical soundtracks.
Mesmerized by the choreographed projections and lights on the buildings and the ceiling, I found myself saying ‘oooh’ and ‘aaaahhhh.’ It was enchanting. Here is a brief glimpse, although it’s so much better in person:
“Happiest Mickey” Statues
In honor of the 35th “Happiest Celebration,” Tokyo Disney Resort had multiple Mickey statues placed throughout the Parks. ‘Mickey marks the spot’ on the Disneyland Park map. Here are some of my favorites, complete with nicknames.
Cowboy Mickey greets you with a friendly ‘Howdy’ near Big Thunder Railroad.
Banjo Mickey entertains in Frontierland.
Mickey sits a spell, enjoying a cup of tea in Critter Country near Splash Mountain.
‘Adventure is out there!’ Jungle Cruise Mickey points out.
Taking it slow on the bayou – Mickey sits in his rocking chair near the Mark Twain.
Royal Knight Mickey stands guard in the Castle hub…alongside Prince and the Pauper Mickey.
Between them is another great 35th “Happiest Celebration” spot – right in front of Cinderella Castle!
“Dreaming Up!” Parade Debuts
The “Dreaming Up!” parade debuted at Tokyo Disneyland for its 35th Anniversary celebration on April 15th, 2018. I loved it. From the first glimpse of Mickey and Pluto on their Fantasia float, to the beautifully orchestrated Mary Poppins / Peter Pan float.
While there are some who miss the retired “Happiness is Here” parade – in residence since Tokyo Disneyland’s 30th Anniversary – I found a lot to love about “Dreaming Up!” I’ll give you a detailed look soon!
“it’s a small world” reopens for the 35th Anniversary
Japan has an insatiable appetite for everything cute, or ‘kawaii.’ The reopening of “it’s a small world” seriously dialed up the cuteness level. In addition to adding Disney characters for the first time, the entire queue space has been redesigned. It now features custom art from Southern California artist Joey Chou (@choochoojoey)
Some Disney characters have already settled into “small world” attractions domestically. Among them: Alice, Aladdin and Jasmine, Ariel and Flounder, and the Three Caballeros. New to the cast in Japan: Moana, Hercules, Rapunzel, Anna and Elsa. I loved how they were incorporated into the countries. I hope to bring you lots more to come!
Attention to Details
During the high occupancy (aka sunny) days of my visit, I explored attractions with higher through-put while waiting for my Fastpass times to come up. This drew me onto the Mark Twain.
The steamship was beautifully adorned with festival ribbons and banners. Cruising down the Rivers of America, I noticed the background music. Perhaps more so because I didn’t understand the Japanese narration. It was a Dixieland jazz rendition of the “Happiest Celebration” parade music. Amazing attention to detail.
Fireworks in the Sky…
“What about fireworks?” you may ask. Fireworks are launched from the backlot wedged between Tokyo Disneyland and Tokyo DisneySea. Therefore, they can’t be on the ginormous scale that they are at Disney World.
I saw the short 35th Anniversary fireworks show once and enjoyed it. But, it was cancelled due to weather (likely wind) conditions on subsequent nights.
Celebrate! Tokyo Disneyland
Have you enjoyed “Once Upon a Time,” the castle projection show at Disney World’s Magic Kingdom? Tokyo Disneyland had it first. The show played at TDL from 2014 until its closing in November 2017. So, what’s next?
“Celebrate! Tokyo Disneyland” is the new nighttime spectacular slated to premiere July 10th, 2018 for the 35th Anniversary. It, too, will showcase precision-mapped castle projections, lasers, water fountains, and much more “for a performance on a grander scale than ever before.” I can’t wait to see this on my next visit!
Of course, a visit to Tokyo Disney Resort would not be complete without exploring the festivities at Tokyo DisneySea, getting a glimpse of the exclusive Tokyo Disney merchandise, and salivating over a dizzying array of seasonal food items. Ready for a glimpse? Follow along as I take a closer look at these aspects of the Tokyo Disney experience.
Gloria Hasler is a freelance travel writer and photographer. She is a professional travel consultant, owner of Chrysalis Travel, and – together with her husband – co-founder of the Six Castles Club.