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Exclusive Attractions At Tokyo Disneyland?

While thoughts of building a Disney Park overseas had been going on since Disneyland first opened its gates, it wasn’t until 1983 that the first park was actually ready to go. Most people think the first overseas park was in Europe, however the plans never came together, and Tokyo Disneyland ended up being the first Disney Park outside of the United States. The park itself was unique in that it was (and remains) a collaboration between the Walt Disney Company and the Oriental Land Company.

Being the first park outside of the USA, the main plan was not to innovate something totally unique but instead create something similar to the two parks that already existed. The main differences however came about when dealing with Japanese culture, as well as the characters and movies that were popular in Japan at the time. It wouldn’t really make sense to theme an entire land around Main Street USA when most of the guests visiting the park wouldn’t really have any nostalgia for that time and place. Instead, World Bazaar was used to greet guests into the park.

The other lands and many of the attractions were taken from Disneyland and Walt Disney World at the time. Disney realized that what Japanese people wanted was a look into western culture, albeit a slightly cartoon version of this culture. In some ways Tokyo Disneyland is not just a theme park, but it’s a sample of Americana on display. Both while designing the park and a few years into opening, a few adjustments had to be made in order to appeal to Japanese culture and tastes. However, on the surface the rides and themes are very similar to what you would find in the North American parks, with some slight adjustments.

Because of this, this park doesn’t really have too much that can be considered unique. Much like the Magic Kingdom is a Disney Park for the east coast of the United States, Tokyo Disneyland is there to service the Japanese population. This park is absolutely beautiful and has a few unique touches, but other than the change from Main Street to the World Bazaar, you’ll find many familiar attractions that you can find at other Disney Parks.

While many of the attractions have slight twists, for the most part there are no distinctly different attractions at Tokyo Disneyland except World Bazaar. The main difference you’ll find is that some of the attractions that have been updated at Disneyland and Magic Kingdom have not been updated at Tokyo Disneyland.  You’ll also find that many attractions are slightly different than the versions at many other parks because of the cultural differences. These differences however don ‘t really make these rides unique.

One of the ways I describe the cultural differences at many of the Asian Disney parks is to explain a very important detail. There is a certain timeline that Disney movies, television shows and even Disney attractions have been presented to most of the western world. We think of Snow White as being the first film, Mickey as being the main character, Little Mermaid as being the great renaissance, and Pixar characters as being the latest big thing. In many Asian cultures, they have many other characters from childhood or onward which brings about nostalgia. Depending on the country, they may or may not have had access to Disney properties and characters in their entirety until fairly recently.

There are also many occasions where popular Disney movies or TV shows just didn’t appeal as much in Asia as they may have in western cultures. So, this means that what a park like Tokyo Disneyland might focus on has less to do with nostalgia from many years ago, and more to do with what they consider fun and cute today. This can clearly be seen with the popularity of Duffy and friends. 

Duffy was originally going to be the main character featured exclusively at Epcot. The idea was that he was going to be a character that travelled the world and would tell stories of his adventures (he would be found mainly at World Showcase). In Florida that concept flopped, and Duffy disappeared entirely from Epcot. This is fine with me as it means more Figment. Duffy wasn’t erased from Disney entirely though. A few products made their way to Tokyo Disneyland, and it totally caught on with Japanese Disney fans. They didn’t see Duffy as pushing out other Disney characters, but instead saw a cute bear that fit perfectly with the kawaii (Japanese for cute) culture.

So, one way to describe the differences between Tokyo Disneyland and many of the other castle parks is to say that Tokyo Disneyland doesn’t have the baggage of nostalgia, and in some ways can create new stories without having to focus on the stories created by Disney in the past. 

Tokyo Disneyland is a unique experience, and I would highly recommend checking it out if you can. While there aren’t any specific original attractions at this park, there is a very different vibe. There are many more people dressed up, and not just around Halloween. There are also many different characters featured in new ways. While many of the rides are similar, there are also some subtle differences too. You might get to ride Splash Mountain again (now that they’re both closed at Disneyland and Magic Kingdom), but it’s not the same as what was once in the two US parks.

Most of all you get to see Duffy, and I mean you’ll see a lot of Duffy. You’ll see Duffy’s friends, you’ll eat Duffy desserts, and you might even find yourself loving that bear by the time you leave.

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