Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Guy's Disney Vlog #15 - Tokyo DisneySea Souvenir Map Review

Another Disney Vlog, this time a review of this Tokyo DisneySea Souvenir Map that I found in a dusty corner in Mickey's of Glendale a few years back.

 

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Guy's Disney Vlog #14 - My Disneyland and Walt Disney World Shirt Collection

It's not enough for nerds like me to just be fans of something, we need to show the world that we love things via clothing. Hats, shoes, watches, whatever. Most of the shirts for sale on any given day in the theme parks range from just ok to god awful. Luckily Disney makes more than enough shirts that nostalgic suckers like me enjoy and are willing to drop buckets of cash on. In today's Disney vlog I share my collection of Disneyland and Walt Disney World shirts.

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Tokyo Disneyland and DisneySea Trip Report - October 2014 Part 3

Tokyo DisneySea - Mount Prometheus
Today I'm continuing my Tokyo Disney Resort trip report with my visit to Tokyo DisneySea. Please read my Tokyo Disneyland trip reports before continuing:

Tokyo Disneyland Trip Report - October 2014 - Part 1
Tokyo Disneyland Trip Report - October 2014 - Part 2

There's no room for debate, Tokyo DisneySea is the most beautiful Disney theme park on the planet. I mentioned this in my Tokyo Disney Resort Observations post on TouringPlans and I will say it again here: It’s hard not to be hyperbolic when talking about Tokyo DisneySea. It’s amazing, incredible, and jaw dropping, any superlative you can think of applies to DisneySea. As you enter the park you are instantly hit with this fact. You walk through a plaza with a sculpture of the earth known as the Aquasphere. It's a large model of the earth that represents all of mankind living together on our "water planet." After entering through a breezeway you get you first glimpse of Mount Prometheus, it's a fantastic entrance experience.

Four dumb americans going to DisneySea during a typhoon
Four dumb Americans going to a theme park during a typhoon.
Before I get to my first full day in the park I'll talk about our a short trip we made the night before. You see, as I mentioned in my previous post, Tokyo Disneyland and DisneySea are known for their crowds, Massive amounts of people fill both parks almost every day of the year which can cause long waits for food and rides. So when we found out a typhoon was rolling in on the night we got back from Osaka we knew a trip to DisneySea was something we should consider. During typhoons the trains in Tokyo can have limited service or shut down completely so the locals leave the parks to make sure they can get home. This meant that we had DisneySea to ourselves that night. We purchased ponchos from our hotel gift shop and then made our way to the front gate of DisneySea to buy our Starlight Pass, which is a ticket that can only be purchased after 6 PM at a reduced price. 

Sure, we could have sat in out hotel room and stayed dry but at this point in our trip to Japan we had been in town for 4 or 5 days and had done Tokyo Disneyland a few times and visited Osaka to sight see and go to Universal Studios Japan. My anticipation to see DisneySea was killing me so it was great to finally see this park that is so highly revered among fans worldwide. 

Tokyo DisneySea - Indiana Jones Adventure On-ride Photo
Unfortunately I don't have many pictures from that first night, I didnt want to bring a camera and risk it getting damaged in the rain. But thanks to the low crowds we got our own car on Indiana Jones Adventure which produced this great on-ride photo.

Curry from Casbah in Tokyo DisneySea
We also at Casbah Food Court at the recommendation of Tom and Sarah. Who knew theme park curry could be this good?

Tokyo DisneySea black gyoza dog
We also tried the Black Goyza Dog which is a famous snack at Tokyo DisneySea. I've heard that the line for the gyoza dog can sometimes be an hour long. So ProTip, if you want to try it without waiting in line just go during a typhoon. It was bland but overall not bad.
Indiana Jones Adventure queue at Tokyo DisneySea
The line for Indiana Jones Adventure can get very long so we took advantage while we could. See the picture above? That queue would normally be packed with people but we were the only ones. Besides the queue the ride is pretty much the same as its American counterpart. There's a few changes here and there, like in Disneyland's version where there's a projection effect of rats falling off of a branch, in Tokyo there is a stone idol that blows a fireball in your face. I wouldn't say DisneySea's is better, I like some parts of Anaheim's and some parts of Tokyo's.

Skeletons on Indiana Jones Adventure
Even the Skeleton Friends get to ride! I talk more about these guys later.

IMG_1567
We had a 4 hours in the park the night before and were ready for our first full day at Tokyo DisneySea. We could see Mount Prometheus from the monorail station at our hotel so I again found my anticipation building!


Tokyo DisneySea- Canal

Like I said in my last trip report post, rope drop is no joke. Thousands of people running to their first attraction, just like in Tokyo Disneyland, but in this case they are all running to Toy Story Mania. It's only a couple of years old at DisneySea so it's still very popular with guests. Luckily this means it's easier to get to the other attractions for people like us who have no plans to ride Toy Story Mania.

Tokyo DisneySea - Mediterranean Harbor


Tokyo DisneSea - Journey to the Center of the Earth entrance
Our rope drop plan was to have a "runner" go and retrieve Tower of Terror FastPasses and then meet everyone else at Journey to the Center of the Earth. This ended up working perfectly, we got an early return time for ToT and had a minimal wait on Journey.

Journey to the Center of the Earth had a good level of mystery to it, sure everyone knows it's in a giant volcano, and the ride vehicles look like a steampunk version of a Test Track car. But other than that I didn't really know much about the ride. I knew from pictures that at some point you encounter a giant lava monster but wow seeing it in person was very impressive.

I never was able to get a good picture of the lava monster but here's a video I took with my cellphone. 

Details in Journey to the Center of the Earth at Tokyo DisneySea

One of my favorite details I saw on my entire trip was this in the Journey to the Center of the Earth queue. It's a drinking fountain but one of the bowls has some dried lava in it. Zoom in on the picture and you can see there's even a little water spout in stuck on the side of the lava. So creative! It's a minor detail but it's one of the thousands of little things that make DisneySea so great.
Pumpkin Churro at Tokyo DisneySea
Later we found cart selling pumpkin churros so you know I had to have it. I think I ended up buying every pumpkin snack we ran in to. So good.


American Waterfront Donald Duck (Tokyo DisneySea)
The Disney characters have land-specific costumes for each land in DisneySea. Here's American Waterfront Donald Duck.

Tokyo DisneySea - McDucks Department Store

Speaking of American Waterfront, this ended up being one of my favorite lands in Tokyo DisneySea. It's themed after a turn of the century waterfront town. One of my favorite aspects of it was that almost every building had a really nice interior to explore. Pictured above is McDuck's Department Store.

Tokyo DisneySea - McDuck's Department Store

McDuck's Department Store's decorations are lavish but then next door is McDuck's Pawn Shop.

Tokyo DisneySea - McDuck's Pawn Shop
 The pawn shop is run down and dingy. The upscale department store and the drab pawn shop go great together and are faithful to the Scrooge McDuck character.

Tokyo DisneySea Electric RailwayAnd now on to the meat and potatoes of American Waterfront, IT'S FILLED TO THE BRIM WITH TRANSPORTATION RIDES!!! Above is the DisneySea Electric Railway. It's a trolley that takes you from American Waterfront to Discovery Bay. The views are to die for.

Tokyo DisneySea - Big City Vehicle
American Waterfront also has a fleet of vehicles known as Big City Vehicles. Anyone who knows me knows that I love Main Street transportation vehicles at Disneyland and Magic Kingdom, so you better believe that I was freaking out when I saw them at DisneySea.

Tokyo DisneySea - Big City Vehicles
People seem to really enjoy them!

Tokyo DisneySea - Big City Vehicles

Transportation attractions are not only fun to ride, but they add a lot to the environment. Plus they're nice to look at.

Oswald hoodie

American Waterfront is also home to a store that stocks a ton of exclusive Oswald merchandise. I wanted this hoodie SO BAD. But unfortunately it was not in my size. I wear a Large in American and this was labeled "3L" which was their biggest. I assume that's their version of XXXL but it still didn't fit me.

Big Band Beat lottery tickets

At this point we needed to try our luck at the Big Band Beat ticket lottery. Tom and Sarah had been hyping this show up quite a bit so it was on my must see list. I'll talk more about that later. Anyway the lottery is actually a pretty cool system. You make your way to a location and scan your ticket, then a slot machine-style animation comes on screen and it tells you if you "won" a seat or not. A stand by line is also available but Tokyo Disney guests line up hours before almost any show. Luckily we won and had our seats locked in for the 5th performance of the night.

Tokyo DisneySea panoramic
With our Big Band Beat tickets locked in it was time to make our way back to American Waterfront and get some food. I'll cover that and a whole lot more in the next chapter of this trip report!

Monday, October 27, 2014

Tokyo Disneyland Trip Report - October 2014 - Part 2

Tokyo Disneyland Tomorrowland
If you missed it, please see part 1 of this trip report.

After lunch we headed over to Space Mountain to use our Fastpasses we obtained earlier. The Space Mountain structure is interesting in Tokyo Disneyland because the entrance is like Disneyland's version where you have to go up to a second level to get inside the mountain. There is no Magic Eye Theater under Space Mountain in Tokyo, you just have to go up a speed ramp (like they had in Disneyland from Space Mountain's opening until 1997 when it was removed).

Tokyo Disneyland - Space Mountain
As for the ride itself, the layout is an exact copy of Disneyland's. The only differences are the loading area has a slightly different theme (it's more alien-ie, if that makes sense), and there is no on-ride audio. The on-ride audio in Disneyland's version definitely adds a lot to the experience but it was cool to ride it the old fashioned way in Tokyo.

Tokyo Disneyland - Happiness is Here
A bit later we were walking through the hub and saw thousands of people sitting and waiting for the parade. Parades are a huge deal in Tokyo Disneyland but we hadn't planned to view any of them. I looked at the entertainment guide for the day and saw that the parade was about to start in about 10 minutes, and we saw some pretty good seats available, so we grabbed them to see what all the fuss was about. I'm glad we did, I got to see up close how much joy the parades bring the visitors to the park. I saw a ton of people clapping and singing along, and waving, one recurring thing I kept seeing during the trip was how much Japanese people love to wave. Look at that picture above, notice how everyone is sitting and therefor everyone can see? Sitting is required when watching a parade at Tokyo Disneyland. It makes for a great parade viewing experience, why can't the other parks do this?

Tokyo Disneyland - Happiness is Here
Tokyo Disneyland's parade is called "Happiness is Here" and it was added last year for the park's 30th anniversary. It's a typical Disney park parade with a ton of characters, dancers, and a ridiculously catchy theme song that we were singing for the rest of the trip. An impressive aspect of this parade was the huge size of some of the parade floats. I'm not a parade person but I did enjoy Happiness is Here, especially after seeing the reaction from the crowd.

Tokyo Disneyland popcorn bucket
With a parade out of the way I decided it was time to continue the Tokyo Disneyland experience by trying a box of one of their famous flavored popcorns. Popcorn is huge in Tokyo Disney Resort, we saw lines of over 30 minutes in length at each popcorn stand. Many people have the very cool, but very expensive, themed popcorn buckets (which I forgot to take a picture of, oops), but those can be as much as $20. I had to desire to lug on of those buckets across the pacific ocean so we got a standard box of popcorn for about $4.

Tokyo Disneyland popcorn flavors
This is the list of all the special popcorn flavors in Tokyo Disneyland, DisneySea has a few different ones. The first flavor we tried was curry which was quite good, and ended up being my wife's favorite. I personally enjoyed the Honey popcorn, but even then it didn't blow me away. I was expecting an explosion of whatever flavor the popcorn was advertised as, but instead the taste was more subtle. But don't get me wrong, it was nice having a bunch of options.
Pirates of the Caribbean in Tokyo Disneyland
Pirates of the Caribbean is one of those Disney rides that is so familiar to me. I've been on it hundreds of times back home at Disneyland (and a few dozen on the unfortunate version in Magic Kingdom), but it was great to experience Tokyo's Pirates. All the praise I gave Haunted Mansion in the last trip report can also be applied to TDL's Pirates of the Caribbean. Everything was crisp and well maintained, animatronics had fluid motion and looked great, and the sound was crystal clear. I should also point out that Tokyo's PotC has the same entrance facade as the original at Disneyland, but it's missing the bridge that was added in the 80s, it's also missing the stairs that lead up to what is currently the Dream Suite in Disneyland (formerly the Disneyland Gallery). It's a cool little throwback for long time Disneyland visitors.

Tokyo Disneyland - Cinderella Castle as seen from World Bazaar
At this point in the day the lines were long and all Fastpass tickets had been distributed so we opted to slow down a bit a take and walk around the park. World Bazaar has always been one of those strange Tokyo Disneyland oddities to me, I mean a covered Main Street is just so weird. But it makes a surprising amount of sense when seeing it in person. I never noticed until Tom pointed it out but the roof looks like the old Exhibition structures from the old World's Fairs (like the International Exhibition of 1876 section of American Adventure at Epcot). It just works really well.

Tokyo Disneyland - Mark Twain and Splash Mountain
We headed over to the Rivers of America to take a sunset ride aboard the Mark Twain riverboat. Tokyo's Mark Twain is pretty much an exact copy of the one in Disneyland, which is fine because it's a beautiful ship. Rides like the Mark Twain (and railroads and Main Street Vehicles) are what I think the quintessential Disney experiences are in any park. Things like boats and trains are why Walt wanted to build the parks in the first place so I consider them a must ride.

Tokyo Disneyland - On the Mark Twain
Tokyo Disneyland's Rivers of America does not disappoint. There was plenty of beautiful scenery to take in, and like RoA in other Disney parks, it makes you feel like you're in a different world.

Tokyo Disneyland - Burning Cabin
And they still have a burning cabin! That's been missing from Disneyland and Magic Kingdom for years, it was great to see that again.

Tokyo DIsneyland - Splash Mountain
Coming back around the river we got a great look at the Western River Railroad and Splash Mountain. Westernland is one of the most beautiful lands in all of Tokyo Disney.

Tokyo Disneyland - Seafood Stew
Time for dinner, like I mentioned in the first part of this trip report, lines for quick service restaurants were all over 30 minutes. Just by chance we walked by a little spot called The Gazebo and saw that they had seafood stew in a breadcone. The stew had a thick rich and creamy base with shrimp and scallops. Very good, but due to its size it’s definitely more of a snack than a full meal.

A photo posted by Guy Selga (@guyselga) on
Also at The Gazebo was this delicious Pumpkin Custard dessert. The cone part is chewy and a bit sweet, and it’s topped with a creampuff, marshmallow, and a chunk of dried pumpkin. The real star of the show is the pumpkin custard that fills the bottom part of the cone. Overall, a great dessert.

Enchanted Tiki Room Aloha E Komo Mai
Our last stop of the night ended up being *long title incoming* The Enchanted Tiki Room: Aloha E Komo Mai. Unfortunately this ended up being the only dud of the trip.

Enchanted Tiki Room with Stitch
Basically Stitch is the boss of the Tiki Room, or is mistaken as the boss of the Tiki Room. I couldn't get a clear idea of the show because it was in Japanese. Listening in English also did not make it any more clear and didn't make me enjoy it any more or less. The Stitch animatronic is impressive but the songs fell flat with me.

Tokyo Disneyland - Halloween floral
That ended our first day in Tokyo Disneyland. Overall it's a great park with a lot of familiar rides as well as some great new ones.

Tokyo Disney Resort - Hilton Tokyo Bay
Before I end this part of the trip report I wanted to mention the great room we had at Hilton Tokyo Bay. We booked one of the standard "Celebrio" rooms.

Tokyo Disney Resort - Hilton Tokyo Bay
The room was large, a little bit bigger than a standard room at a deluxe Walt Disney World hotel.

Tokyo Disney Resort - Hilton Tokyo Bay
The bathroom also had plenty of room and a great shower.

Looking out at Tokyo Bay
Our view of Tokyo Bay. Overall this was a great hotel, and was less than half the cost of the official Disney hotels. The one complaint we had was that there was only 5 power outlets in the entire room. This was fine with 2 people but when we were splitting the room with Tom and Sarah we had a severe shortage of outlets with everyone trying to charge their phones, mobile wifi routers, and portable chargers. Otherwise Hilton Tokyo Bay was great and we will definitely stay there again in the future.

That's it for this time. In the next installment I will talk about my first trip to Tokyo DisneySea! See you later this week!


Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Tokyo Disneyland Trip Report - October 2014 - Part 1


Introduction: 

After years of salivating over the thought of visiting Tokyo Disney Resort, I finally made the long trip to Tokyo in October of 2014. My wife and I had been talking about a Tokyo trip for years now and earlier in 2013 we began to finally make an effort to save money so we could actually take the trip. I have to admit that I am to blame for us taking so long to visit the Tokyo parks. Even though we've wanted to do it for a long time, I kept going to Walt Disney World because it was an easy vacation to plan and take. From 2008 to 2013 we went to Walt Disney World twice a year, basically whenever I could find airfare for under $250. Airfare combined with renting DVC points and/or splitting the cost with friends made a WDW vacation doable, not cheap by any means, but it wasn't breaking the bank. It got to a point where my wife told me "Guy, seriously, I'm done with Florida for now." By the time 2013 rolled around I completely agreed with her. It was time to get serious about Tokyo.

In Janurary 2014 my boss called and informed me of a plan he was thinking about doing where he sent a TouringPlans team member to every Disney destination on the planet. By coincidence the property he chose for my was Tokyo Disneyland. It couldn't have been more perfect. I could visit my dream destination and produce content for work while doing it. Full disclosure before I continue, my full time job TouringPlans.com paid for 4 days of the trip and I paid for the other 5.

In July 2014 I wrote a TouringPlans blog post about some initial thoughts on the trip:
Tokyo Disneyland has always been a bit of a mythological and mysterious place to me. In the late 80s and early 90s (before I had the internet in my home) I would always see glimpses of it in the old Disney News Magazines. The pictures I saw of the park made it look similar, but different enough that it always held my curiosity. Tokyo Disneyland continued to stay on my mind in 2001 when Tokyo Disney Resort’s second gate opened, DisneySea. Every picture I’ve seen of DisneySea make the park look absolutely spectacular.

I've decided not to go in to any non-Disney details of my trip in this series of blog posts. We visited various parts of Tokyo and spent a couple of days in Osaka (including a ride on the Shinkansen bullet train!), but I'll stick to my bread and butter. I will say this, Japan is a beautiful and fascinating country.



Day 1 - Tokyo Disneyland:
Our first day in the park began bright and early at Tokyo Disney Resort's Bayside Station. The monorail system at Tokyo Disney is extremely efficient. For most of the day, and even late at night, the trains arrived every 4 minutes. Inside they are clean and have plenty of room for the tens of thousands of people that make use of them every day.

My wife and I had landed in Tokyo 2 days prior. The previous day was spent sight seeing around Tokyo, but we were careful not to wear ourselves out. At this point I was beyond excited to experience the parks and couldn't wait another minute. We were up and ready to walk to Bayside Station at 6:30 AM.

We stayed in Hilton Tokyo Bay which ended up being surprisingly affordable considering it was a nice hotel with huge rooms AND located less than a 5 minute walk away from a monorail station.



We arrived at the front gates around 80 minutes before opening and found large lines had already formed. I always heard about Tokyo Disneyland's legendary crowds so I had somewhat prepared myself mentally, but seeing them in person was a whole other ballgame. By the time the park opened the lines were huge. I couldn't even fit the beginning and end of the line in my panoramic picture above.

Even with the crowds being so large I was impressed with how quickly they got everyone through the turnstiles. All that is needed for entry is a simple scan of a bar code, which the guests does themselves. Unlike Disneyland and formally WDW where guests hand their tickets to a cast member, in Tokyo everyone just waves their ticket over a bar code reader.

After about 10 minutes we were in the parks running to our first destination. Yes, running. Opening time at Tokyo Disneyland is insane. People run, like full on spring to their first ride of the day. I soon realized why. Wait times can quickly rise for headliner attractions. If you don't ride in the first 30 minutes of park opening you're looking at waits of over 90 minutes or more. Fastpasses are available but run out by early afternoon. On this particular day all Fastpass tickets were sold out by noon.


A photo posted by Guy Selga (@guyselga) on
 Our first task was to obtain Fastpasses for Monsters Inc: Ride & Go Seek. This is one of the parks most popular rides and is usually one of the first to run out of Fastpasses. This is one of 3 rides that people run to first thing in the morning, along with Pooh's Hunnt Hunt and Jungle Cruise. With Fastpasses obtained we ran to Pooh's Hunny Hunt. This strategy paid off as our wait for Pooh was only 15 minutes. By the time we were off the ride it had gone up to 70.

My thoughts on Pooh's Hunny Hunt is that it lives up to every bit of hype that it has received over the years. It's fun, charming and endearing, but also a technological wonder. The ride uses a trackless ride system that gives it a feeling of organized chaos. In one room you're bring blown around by the wind, in another you're bouncing with Tigger, and in the final act your car or "Hunny Pot" is dancing with other pots in a giant Heffalumps and Woozles fever dream that Pooh is having. It's no doubt one of the best rides Disney has ever done.





Even the queue has some nice details. It looks like Christopher Robin's room!




 On-ride is even better, check out all the details in the first two photos. The last picture is of Pooh's fever dream I was describing earlier.
Next up we went back to Monsters Inc: Ride & Go Seek to redeem our Fastpasses. This was a ride that I haven't heard many great things about on the internet. But I was pleasantly surprised at how much I enjoyed it. It's mostly a standard dark ride but the twist is that each rider has their own flashlight. Riders use the flashlight light to shine on monsters that are hiding throughout the ride. Some monsters trigger gags when the they are hit by the light. For example at one point you may shine the light on a monster hiding in a locker, when he knows he's been seen he'll reveal himself make a wacky face.

What stood out was how great all the monsters inside the ride look. As you can see in this picture it looks like Mike, Boo and Sully jumped right out of the movie.


Next up was Haunted Mansion, which like Disneyland, currently has its seasonal holiday overlay installed. Again, I wasn't expecting much from this because I had seen it so many times in California. But there were enough differences to make it worth riding a couple of times. Unfortunately I don't have any good pictures from on the ride due to it being so dark. The most notable difference is how much Sally appears in this version of the ride. In Disneyland's version she is notably absent (with the exception of appearing next to the exit ramp), in Tokyo she appears three times, two of which are full sized characters.


Sorry for the picture quality in that one, But I had to show my favorite appearance by Sally. Shes sitting there watching the little cat thing frantically playing the piano. It's a funny little scene. The outside of Tokyo's Haunted Mansion resembles Florida's version.



But there are some neat little differences like rock work and this side house.


After Haunted Mansion we really started to notice how busy the park had become. Luckily even with the large crowds, guest flow was fast and crowd control was excellent. This is also helped by the fact that walkways in the parks are large enough to handle the crowds that parks receive. Plenty of cast members were on hand to make sure that queues and crowds moved at a steady pace, without feeling rushed. 

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At this point in the day we were getting hungry and so was everyone else in Tokyo Disneyland. All of the quick service restaurants in the area has decent sized lines so I picked Queen of Hearts Royal Banquet Hall. I am a big Alice in Wonderland fan but the only reason why I wanted to eat here was to get a picture of the heart shaped meat patty. Yes, it may be strange to wait a half hour just to get a picture of heart-shaped meat, but I'm a Disney blogger and these are the kind of poor life decisions we make.


At least Queen of Hearts Royal Banquet Hall looks really nice inside! Everything colorful and looked like it was straight out of the movie.


The visual menu which was in almost every restaurant inside and out of Disney. I'm a big fan of these.


The kitchen area has oversized pots and pans and a giant cartoonish oven. Everything looks great. The order process is buffet-style, kind of like French Market or Plaza Inn at Disneyland. You pick the food you want and then bring it to the register.

And there we are, the heart meat patty! It looked better than is tastes. The potatoes and brown sauce were good, but the patty itself reminded me of microwave dinners my grandma would give me as a kid. Luckily we had much better food during the rest of the trip.

Stay tuned for part 2 of my Tokyo Disneyland trip report! I'll be posting it on Monday, October 27.