Land of the Rising Mickey - Aug 9, 2001

Land of the Rising Mickey
Page 1 of 13

by Marc Borrelli (archives)
August 9, 2001
Marc Borrelli presents an attraction-by-attraction look - including first-hand reports - from Tokyo DisneySea.

Many thanks to Marc Borrelli for supplying the round-up and reviews of Tokyo DisneySea attractions. For more pictures of DisneySea, visit Marc's site at


I spent a couple of days at DisneySea last week...

It was incredible - beautiful - often awe-inspiring - unparalleled in my experience - really hot and muggy. The first day was 95 degrees and showers, but what did I care - I was inside an up-and-running DISNEYSEA!!

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AquaSphere at DisneySea's main entrance
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I was in a daze as I walked through the entrance turnstile (and it was only partly due to the heat:). I really couldn't believe the moment had finally come. I paused briefly at the Aquasphere to let it all sink in... The years of design, the years of construction, the herculean (but, not surprisingly, successful) effort to complete on time, the area surrounding me... The fact that right through that passage lie all the ports of DisneySea. I was very likely going to ride all those attractions that I had spent the last 15 months learning what little bits I could about... the attractions I had taken so many pictures of from afar.

The first I saw of DisneySea was in May of 2000. It was Mysterious Island. I was riding on a train, bound for Maihama Station, on my way for my first trip to Tokyo Disneyland. When I caught a glimpse of the volcano - from several miles away - I felt as if I couldn't believe my eyes. And there were so many large construction cranes - 13 that I counted on that day. The first time I visited the Disney Gallery in World Bazaar I saw their wonderful preview of DisneySea, bought each of the dozen or so concept art postcards, and thought, "This is too good. How much of this is hype?". So I decided to head out and find out what I could see for myself. I walked (a long way) down a road that leads in the general direction of the park. I didn't know how close I would be able to get, but I was going to get the best look I could.

Long story short, I encountered one massive surprise after another - Mysterious Island isn't "just" the volcano. S.S. Columbia is HUGE. Whatever the heck those things are... they're also huge! (I didn't know what most of what I was seeing was.)

On first sight, Mysterious Island exceeded my expectations. The park's representations at the Gallery exceeded my expectations. What I saw during my walk around the park exceeded my expectations. Each time the scaffolding came down from around something, it... you know.

This park, without exception, is nicer than the concept art... That's a new one on me.

During construction I spoke with more than one Imagineer who had experienced a very interesting problem - They weren't spending enough money! The accounting department was on their backs because they still had money in their budget at the of the month. It was making it difficult to balance the books.

My exceeded expectations have continued in an unbroken string... despite the fact that all along the way they've continued to grow! That didn't change after I walked through that passage. The park is all it's cracked up to be - and more.

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I was there on August 1st and 2nd for the two days of the Press Preview. For that reason, and due to the weather, the attendance was extremely light. By the afternoon of that first horrendously hot and humid day, I would estimate there were easily less than 3000 non-Cast Members in the park! (The park's current capacity is about 50,000.) The weather may have been hellish, but I was in heaven! On the second day it was dry and much cooler (still quite hot, though), but at no point in the day would I estimate the in-park attendance above 10,000.

Despite the very light crowds, there are still numerous places I haven't been in the park, and there are many, many more that deserve a lot more time than I was able to give them.

There has simply never before been created anything possessing this level of picturesque beauty, authenticity, detail, and scale... Many close to the project say a park like this will never be built again. At least they hope not. Pulling it off was over-whelming at times for many. 118 meticulous acres and $3 billion - in one fell swoop.

But the Imagineers, contractors, and thousands of workers did it! They REALLY did it! The credit and congratulations they deserve is immense. Go ahead, let the pride go to your head, people. You deserve it.

And let's not forget Oriental Land Company (OLC) in all of this. Yes, the extraordinary market in Japan is ripe for a new park, and the Japanese have high expectations, not only for a Disney park, but because of their rose colored vision of the "America" it represents. DisneySea needed to be very nice, but I firmly believe it didn't need to be this nice. What OLC has done with this park took real guts and they deserve the utmost praise for sticking to the plan, especially in light of Japan's frustratingly ailing economy.

But one man more than anyone had the most to do with ensuring the grand scale and unprecedented quality of Tokyo DisneySea (and the Tokyo Disney Resort expansion as a whole) - The Father of Tokyo Disneyland: Takahashi Masatomo. It was his lobbying and his decision as president and then chairman of OLC for the company to go as far as it did. Even as his deteriorating health forced him to step down as chairman and take the role of special advisor, he traveled to Imagineering in Glendale, California to observe progress on DisneySea. He was watching.

I wish so much that he had lived to see this day... I wish there was some way I could meet him, even though it would be difficult for me to contain my emotions, so I could give him the most respectful of bows.

Domo arigato gozaimasu, Takahashi-san... for everything.