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What is Tokyo Disneyland Final Ignition! Space Mountain Celebration

There’s an interesting thing going on a Tokyo Disneyland right now, and it’s called Celebrating Space Mountain: The Final Ignition! Space Mountain at Tokyo Disneyland is closing on July 31st and will not be re-opening until 2027. The plan is to spend many millions of dollars updating this ride, but there are a few differences between this and most of the upgrades and refurbishments that you see at Disney parks most of the time.

The first thing that’s worth noting is the event leading up to the closure, Celebrating Space Mountain: The Final Ignition! Rather than announcing a closing date for the ride either on social media, releasing a press release, or just burying it on their website somewhere, Tokyo Disneyland is making an event of the last few months before the ride closes. They’re releasing special merchandise and promoting it heavily. It’s the first time I can remember Disney building hype over the (long) closure of one of their most popular rides.

The reasons for doing this could be one of many. It could be simply a cultural thing, that celebrating a closure of such a thing is more acceptable in Japanese culture. Having lived in Japan for a short time, there were many such things that happened around me that I found odd, but in the end made a lot of sense. After all, rather than being sad about the ride closing, or being sad that the new one won’t open for several years, maybe celebrating the joy and fun that the ride has given you and the hopes that the new version will bring even more joy is a positive way to look at ride closures. This celebration also feeds into the nostalgia that people have for Disney rides, and it seems like it’s creating a source of revenue for the parks.

Probably the best way to think about this from a western perspective is to compare it to the last episode of a television show. Last episodes can sometimes be the highest rated episode of any television series, so Disney is taking the same idea and putting it towards one of their rides. Needless to say, since the announcement of Celebrating Space Mountain: The Final Ignition! The Disney blog community has been eating it up and so have Disney fans.

The question that I wonder is if Disney will continue this tradition, both in Japan and maybe in other parts of the world. Rather than a ride closing being a sad event, it can be turned into a celebration. Rather than the focus being on what’s coming, maybe a bit of time celebrating what’s leaving. Disney seems quick to promote the new rides, even before the gates close for the old version. Maybe now they’ll slow things down a bit and let those who enjoyed the attraction have a joyous last few months remembering and some last few rides.

The other thing worth noting about the update is the fact that they’re putting a huge amount of money into it, but it’s still going to be Space Mountain. Disney has recently been very good at gutting a ride and throwing on a new theme entirely rather than just updating the ride with the same theme. The best and most current example is the Splash Mountain’s transformation into Tiana’s Bayou Adventure. There are a lot of changes happening to Splash Mountain, but instead of making Splash Mountain better, they’re making into a new ride entirely. Frozen Ever After is another good example of this kind of change that updates the ride with a brand-new theme, rather than just updating the ride.

It appears that this is going from Space Mountain, to a better Space Mountain. There is already some speculation about some of the changes, and pieces of the new version are already arriving and being spotted by visitors. So, there’s a celebration of a ride leaving, and an improvement being made without an entire re-theming to a more current/popular intellectual property.

Personally, I really hope this isn’t a Japanese cultural thing. My hope is that all of the Disney parks are watching this, and if it’s a success, maybe they’ll do it in the other parks as well. Wouldn’t it be nice to shut down the Journey into Imagination with a 3-month farewell. Then invest a good deal of time and money into making it a better version. Not that I fall into the group that hates the current version, but I do think it could be an amazing ride, instead of just fine. Before closing, paying respects to an old attraction, then investing in making it into something better sounds good to me.

I’m not guaranteeing that this new version of Space Mountain is going to be so much better, but Tokyo Disneyland has a pretty good reputation for making great improvements. I love that they’re treating the old version with great respect, and I can only hope that Disney continues this with every ride they close.

This isn’t the only ride that could use an improvement, but also maybe a fond farewell before it closes for an upgrade. Here’s my choices for rides that were great, and have potential to be the best rides ever:

Peter Pan’s Flight – There are a few of these in many parks, and parts of this ride are really cool, but it could be better. It’s a classic Disney ride that deserves a great farewell, but it could also use some big upgrades to make the pixie dust even more magical.

People Mover – This is another ride that I love, and has a great deal of love from many others. It could use a great upgrade, as long as they don’t ruin it like they did in California. Can you imagine if they kept the speed and basic ride vehicles, but made the track a little longer as well as adding some great dioramas? You would also have to give this attraction all the credit it deserves for bringing joy to so many Disney fans, so a great farewell would be in order.

Tomorrowland Speedway – There’s already rumours/news that they’re going to upgrading the cars into electrical vehicles, but an update on the track would be great as well. While these cars gave so many kids the chance to drive before they were of age, there could be even more fun to be had (check out Autopia at a few of the other parks). It would be great to acknowledge that this ride was innovative for its time and provided people with great joy, but a full upgrade would be great as well.

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