PHOTO REPORT: Tokyo Disneyland 2018 Christmas Highlights (Front-Row Parade Pics, Holiday Country Bears, Jack Skellington Sandwich, and More)
This Tokyo Disneyland 2018 Christmas photo report includes:
Ride photos of the new It’s a Small World and Haunted Mansion Holiday Nightmare
A peek at “Jingle Bell Jamboree,” the Christmas version of Country Bear Theater
Full photo coverage from a front row position of the Disney Christmas Stories parade
Juicy intel on a secret spot where latecomers can get front-row seats for parades
A look at seasonal food, like the wonderfully photogenic Jack Skellington face sandwich
Pictures of 35th-anniversary and 2018 Christmas installations and decorations
The Morning Crowd on a Sold-Out Day
On Christmas Day, Tokyo Disneyland wrapped up another year of Christmas festivities. Before the annual Christmas event ended, my wife and I had a chance to visit the park. It was a sold-out day. Planning ahead, we had purchased date-stamped tickets at the Disney Store.
We arrived at the park before it opened and were in through the turnstiles at 8 a.m. prompt. We weren’t messing around, and neither should you when you’re there. Our first order of business was to make a quick stop in Tomorrowland, just to nab Fastpasses for Monsters, Inc. Ride & Go Seek.
My wife’s first pick for a Fastpass attraction was actually Big Thunder Mountain. However, I knew from our previous experience that Fastpass ticketing for the Monsters, Inc. ride would probably end before all others.
Sure enough, the line in front of the Giggle-O-Meters (where you scan your park tickets for Fastpasses) was the longest and densest I’d ever seen it. Ten minutes after rope-drop, the first four hours of Fastpasses were already gone.
Cutting through the park’s central plaza, we next ducked under Cinderella Castle to see the Christmas tree in Fantasyland. Usually, Tokyo Disneyland has a big Christmas tree in World Bazaar (its version of Main Street, U.S.A.). But this year, that spot was filled by a special 35th-anniversary installation, so the tree went up in Fantasyland instead.
The New It’s a Small World
Back in April, a revamped version of It’s a Small World opened at Tokyo Disneyland. It’s now a Fastpass attraction with forty different figures of Disney characters added in among the children of the world.
This used to be my wife’s favorite ride, but the new decor in the queue and loading area gives it a more infantile vibe now. Before you board the boat, it feels a bit like being inside a Disneyfied toddler’s playroom.
On the water, however, it can be fun spotting the various Disney characters, even if some of the non-human characters almost seem to challenge the original Mary Blair aesthetic of the ride. We had already ridden the new It’s a Small World a couple times this year, but we were there early enough that it only had a 20-minute standby wait. So we went ahead and did it again as our first ride of the day.
Hungry Bear Restaurant and Jingle Bell Jamboree
After It’s a Small World, we headed over to Hungry Bear Restaurant in Westernland (Tokyo Disneyland’s name for Frontierland). We had been up since 5:30 a.m. and hadn’t eaten breakfast yet, so we got to the restaurant right before it opened and were the first in line for food at 9 a.m. This had the bonus effect of letting us avoid the lunch-rush crowd, which was sure to be insane on a sold-out day.
During this year’s Christmas event, Hungry Bear Restaurant was serving hayashi (hashed beef) rice. This Japanese winter dish is similar to curry — the restaurant’s usual specialty — only it comes with demi-glace sauce instead. In this case, it was also topped with hamburger, egg, and a potato/vegetable garnish … all the necessary ingredients to fill a hungry bear’s stomach.
Next stop: Country Bear Theater. Here we took in the Christmas show, Jingle Bell Jamboree. Fans of the long-lost Country Bear Christmas Special that ran at the Magic Kingdom until 2005 can take comfort in knowing that it lives on at Tokyo Disneyland under the name Jingle Bell Jamboree. (Why not go all-in on a pun and call it Jingle Bear Jamboree though, seriously?)
The Disney Christmas Stories Parade
Here’s a pro tip for parade-watching at Tokyo Disneyland. I’m going to let you in on my secret spot. Everybody wants to get the best seat, right? Sure, you’ll see people staking out spots along the parade route hours beforehand. But if you want to maximize your time in the park, you don’t necessarily have to do that.
We discovered a trick for how to consistently get front-row seats for the parades. This has worked for us even on sold-out days and busy weekend days where we entered the park with 3 p.m. Starlight Passports—just in time to catch the last parade of the afternoon.
In the central plaza at Tokyo Disneyland, double-decker “Omnibuses” run along the loop until about thirty minutes before parade time. There’s an area off to the side, in front of Cinderella Castle, where they won’t let people sit down until the buses have stopped running.
Unless something changes, that’d be the place to go on your visit. We’ve done it a number of times over the last two years. That explains these unobstructed pictures of the Disney Christmas Stories parade.
If you’re not in the front row or the first standing row, it can be tricky trying to get good ground-level parade pics. Park guests are expected to keep their cameras at head level. Cast Members will even come around and ask people to take off big hats. If I didn’t know about that secret spot, I probably would have been stuck behind people, trying to shoot between their melon heads the whole time.
Our first two Fastpasses of the day were the aforementioned Monsters, Inc. and Thunder Mountain rides. For our third and final Fastpass, we did Haunted Mansion Holiday Nightmare.
This was practically an obligation. After all, 2018 marked the 25th anniversary of Tim Burton’s The Nightmare Before Christmas. There was no better way to celebrate that than by riding Haunted Mansion Holiday Nightmare. This seasonal version of the ride operates for the duration of the park’s annual Halloween and Christmas events. It’s similar to the overlay that California’s Disneyland does each year, giving the Haunted Mansion a full ride makeover themed to The Nightmare Before Christmas.
In the pre-show room with stretching portraits, a giant image of Jack Skellington’s face appears in the cupola overhead. In the graveyard scene toward the ride’s end, Jack can be seen dressed in a Santa outfit. Covered in white snow and glowing with orange jack-o-lanterns, the spiral hill Jack walked in the movie now dominates the graveyard scene.
The ride is so jerky and dark that my non-flash photo attempts on Haunted Mansion Holiday Nightmare mostly turned out blurry or fuzzy. However, I did manage to snag one (hopefully halfway decent?) shot of that snowy spiral hill with the glowing orange jack-o-lanterns.
Jack Skellington Sandwich at Sweetheart Cafe
After Haunted Mansion, eating a Jack Skellington sandwich was also a must. These were being sold in Sweetheart Cafe. When you bit into Jack’s face, you’d find yourself chewing egg salad and teriyaki chicken. It wasn’t half bad.
Then the Rain Came
We’ve had bad luck with the Theatre Orleans in Adventureland at Tokyo Disneyland. We’d been hoping to catch the new show, “Let’s Party Gras,” which started running there over the summer. But this was our second time sitting down in the outdoor show venue, only to have it start drizzling right before showtime.
They canceled the show at the last minute, so we were left twiddling our thumbs until the Disney characters came out in raincoats to do a short consolation greeting from the stage.
Tokyo Disneyland’s 35th-anniversary parade, “Dreaming Up,” was also in rain greeting mode. They were only running the floats with characters in raincoats and no dancers.
Having already seen “Dreaming Up” twice this year (again, from the front row), we skipped it this time in favor of indoor rides like Snow White’s Adventure and Pirates of the Caribbean. The lines were much longer than usual, but that was to be expected.
Christmas and 35th-Anniversary Decorations
Finally, we spent some time just walking around, checking out seasonal decorations. As mentioned, World Bazaar didn’t have the usual oversized Christmas tree this year. During Tokyo Disneyland’s year-long 35th-anniversary celebration, the street has an installation called Celebration Tower as its centerpiece instead. Celebration Tower is sort of shaped like a Christmas tree, so it did somewhat lend itself to the Christmas atmosphere.
Before we left for the night, I was happy to catch the “Celebration Street” projection-mapping show in World Bazaar. It’s a quick little show, but this was my first time seeing it. The storefronts came alive with Christmas images, and it was a great way to end both our day at the park and the Tokyo Disneyland 2018 Christmas season.