PHOTO REPORT: Tokyo Disneyland 35th Anniversary Grand Finale (Green Alien Mochi, Horseshoe Round-Up Lunch Show, Zootopia Characters, ETC.)

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Tokyo Disneyland is winding down its year-long 35th-anniversary event. The park’s “Happiest Celebration!” Grand Finale ends on March 25, 2019. In this Tokyo Disneyland photo report, we’ll take a look at things such as:

  • Crowd levels in March (one of the busiest times of year!)
  • The return of the ever-popular Green Alien Mochi snack
  • The tricky process of booking lunch and dinner shows
  • A review of the Horseshoe Round-Up show at Diamond Horseshoe
  • Character greetings in Toontown and with Zootopia characters

Surviving the March Crowds

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A word to the wise: be prepared to deal with large crowds if you visit Tokyo Disney Resort in March. The new Japanese school year starts in April, so March is when a lot of students head to the parks on graduation trips. The resort usually runs a special campaign offering discounted tickets for students during this time, too.

In my Christmas photo report, I talked about how Monsters, Inc. Ride & Go Seek is usually the most in-demand ride for FastPasses in the morning at Tokyo Disneyland. With so many students at the park, however, it skewed demand toward the three main mountain rides: Space Mountain, Splash Mountain, and Big Thunder Mountain.

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In the morning, we spent about ten or fifteen minutes just waiting to get through the line to get FastPasses for Big Thunder Mountain. The FastPass line wrapped all the way around the corner, past the smoked turkey leg Chuck Wagons, to the Western River Railroad train tracks.

It was so long that we overheard the people behind us comparing it to the morning line for Toy Story Mania Fastpasses at Tokyo DisneySea.

In the Toy Story Mood

In less than two months, my wife and I will be making a trip from Tokyo to Florida to see my family and visit Walt Disney World. It will be my wife’s first time in any of the Florida parks.

It will also be my first time visiting Disney’s Hollywood Studios since The Great Movie Ride closed and Toy Story Land opened. We’ve already got our FastPasses for Slinky Dog Dash.

Planning this upcoming Florida trip put us in the Toy Story mood when we were at Tokyo Disneyland. For our second FastPass, we did Buzz Lightyear’s Astro Blasters (Tokyo Disneyland’s version of Space Ranger Spin).

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While we were in Tomorrowland, we also popped over to Soft Landing (between Pan Galactic Pizza Port and the Star Tours exit bridge) to snack on some Green Alien Mochi.  In 2017 and 2018, during the Star Wars: The Last Jedi and Solo: A Star Wars Story promotional period, they were selling Stormtrooper Mochi at Tokyo Disneyland. Now they’ve reverted back to the popular Green Alien Mochi.

These cream-filled rice cake dumplings are a fun and photogenic snack. My wife and I split a 9-piece order, so we got three of each flavor: chocolate, strawberry, and custard.

Booking Lunch and Dinner Shows at Tokyo Disneyland

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Here’s an important note for anyone hoping to catch a lunch or dinner show at Tokyo Disneyland.

There are two venues at the park where you can see such shows. One is The Diamond Horseshoe in Westernland. The other is the Polynesian Terrace Restaurant in Adventureland.

In the past, I had been able to book a last-minute reservation at both of these venues simply by walking up to the will-call window on the day of my park visit. We tried to do this again at The Diamond Horseshoe but the Cast Member there said that the only way to make reservations now is by doing it online.

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Unfortunately, the booking website is only in Japanese. A few years ago, I was able to use Google Translate to navigate the website and book a reservation for a character dining breakfast at the Crystal Palace Restaurant. It is doable, if you don’t mind pre-paying and being locked into a specific day.

If you’re trying to do it on your smartphone at the park, however, that could be a problem. My wife is Japanese, so she was doing it for us on her phone. However, to make matters more difficult, the website is ill-equipped to deal with heavy traffic.

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We tried it right at 9 a.m. when the system first opened up, but my wife kept getting the same message, again and again, saying the website was “temporarily busy or unavailable.” I tried it on my phone and got the same message.

We had given up already and moved onto other things, but later we decided to try it again one last time. Finally, we were able to get through and book a reservation for the Horseshoe Round-Up lunch show.

Horseshoe Round-Up at The Diamond Horseshoe

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Our table at The Diamond Horseshoe was up on the second floor, off to the left of the stage. It wasn’t the best vantage point, but we felt lucky to see the show at all.

The food was a weird, but enjoyable mix of Tex-Mex and French cuisine. Our meal consisted of horseshoe-shaped bread, coleslaw, smoked chicken legs, pork burritos, shrimp, Lyonnaise potatoes, ratatouille, and hot vegetables. In addition to “frontier punch,” the meal also came with all-you-can-drink fountain beverages.

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Three years ago at The Diamond Horseshoe, I did manage to snag a center table with a better view of the whole house and stage (as you can see in the picture above). That time, I was also able to get a couple of the characters to stop and pose tableside when they came out into the audience during the show.

Usually, the characters are moving so fast that they never stop. The Horseshoe Round-Up lunch show stars Woody, Jessie, and Bullseye from Toy Story 2.

Below, you can see the part where Jessie and the show’s lead cowgirl do a song on stools over at the bar. Again, this picture is from three years ago.

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Circa March 2019, we were seated right above the bar area, so during that part of the show, we could only see straight down to the top of the performer’s spotlit heads if we looked over the rail.

It might be easier if you have a vacation package, but for some foreign park guests, I imagine the experience of trying to see a lunch or dinner show at Tokyo Disneyland could be frustrating and/or disappointing. This is one of the ways where you can really feel how the park caters more toward Japanese guests.

Character Greetings

Elsewhere in Westernland, they were doing a special character greeting with Nick and Judy from Zootopia. This was going on in front of the Plaza Pavilion Bandstand, the old venue for the extinct kids’ show “Super Duper Jumpin’ Time.”

This greeting required a special timed ticket, basically its own FastPass. People lined up early to get them. By the time we got over there, tickets were already gone for the day.

One nice Japanese girl approached us and offered to give us her ticket since she had to go meet her friends and couldn’t be there for her scheduled time. Unfortunately, a Cast Member witnessed the whole exchange between us and wouldn’t let the girl give us her ticket.

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I guess they really take the whole idea of “non-transferrable” tickets very seriously? As fun as it can be, there are times when visiting Tokyo Disney Resort feels like living in a police state. (I say that in jest, but they do have a way of policing people’s picture-taking.)

Thankfully, they had an area off to the side of the official line where they were letting people without tickets stand and poach pictures of the characters in-between greetings. Later that day, we also happened to stumble across a big group of free-roaming characters doing greetings in Toontown, including Uncle Scrooge, Daisy and Donald Duck, Goofy, and Pluto.

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Rides & 35th Anniversary Wrap-Up

One other little disappointment for us this day was that the new show “Let’s Party Gras!” in the Theatre Orleans was only available by lottery. We’ve been to the park three times now since this show opened, but between rain cancellations and losing the lottery, we still haven’t been able to see it.

It was drizzling in the afternoon, so the 35th-anniversary parade, “Dreaming Up,” was operating in raincoat mode without the usual dancers in-between floats. We had already ridden the new It’s a Small World three times before, so while it was fun to chow down on some Its a Small World-themed pizza at Captain Hook’s Galley, we skipped the actual ride this time in favor of others.

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Other than that novelty pizza, they didn’t have a whole lot of other new 35th-anniversary stuff going on for the Grand Finale period. Our third and final FastPass was Monsters, Inc. Ride & Go Seek, and we also did the Country Bear Theater and Star Tours on standby.

The Grass Is Always Greener

It’s funny because I sometimes hear veterans of the Florida parks speak longingly of Tokyo Disney Resort. I’ve read different Disney bloggers give their impression about how the service and overall experience is better in Tokyo.

My own humble impression is that the rides and theming of the individual parks are, in some ways, better in Tokyo, while the big-picture experience of the resort is better in Florida. Keep in mind, Tokyo Disney Resort is contained within a much more compact geographical area, so it doesn’t have nearly as much to offer in the way of hotels.

Maybe it’s one of those things where the grass is always greener on the other side. All I can say is, our upcoming trip to Walt Disney World somewhat overshadowed this trip to Tokyo Disneyland for us.

After visiting Tokyo Disney Resort half a dozen times over its 35th-anniversary year — plus numerous other times in the years preceding that — both my wife and I have reached a point where the Florida parks now seem fresher and more exciting. If we lived in Florida, it would probably be the other way around.

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Having said that, construction is rolling right along on Tokyo Disneyland’s New Fantasyland expansion. With new Beauty and the Beast and Big Hero 6 rides on the way, Spring 2020 will bring a whole new infusion of life into Tokyo Disneyland.

About the author

Joshua Meyer

Josh is a Floridian turned Tokyoite who also contributes to /Film and GaijinPot. Growing up, all his family vacations were to Walt Disney World. His parents and sister are still WDW Annual Passholders, but now he finds himself reporting from the far-flung outpost of Tokyo Disney Resort. Previously, he wrote for TDR Explorer as "The Gaijin Ghost" (the name of his TDR-heavy photoblog). Give him incentive to tweet by following him on Twitter @TheGaijinGhost.