It’s hard to believe we’re already at the end of 2019! Gosh, it feels like only yesterday we were saying goodbye to 2018. The year’s flown by! But even then, it’s important to remember that some incredible things are ahead! In 2020, we’re saying hello to the Games of the XXXII Olympiad, also known as the 2020 Tokyo Summer Olympics! And we’ve got an incredible expansion on the horizon at Tokyo Disneyland, opening April 15th, 2020! There’s four new attractions (including the E-ticket The Enchanted Tale of Beauty and the Beast), a beautiful stage show, and so much food and merchandise that your head might spin! But before we charge headlong into the new decade and this new era for Tokyo Disney Resort, let’s reflect on the year that has passed, and its ups and downs!
Winter 2019 (January-March)
Tokyo Disney Resort 35th Anniversary “Happiest Celebration”: Grand Finale! (January 11th-March 25th)
Oh, how many wonderful things can I say about the Grand Finale? Tokyo Disney Resort is well-known for going absolutely all-out on their yearlong anniversary events, and the 35th Anniversary was no exception. Dubbed the “Happiest Celebration”, the event featured a new daytime parade, three new stage shows across the resort, a new castle projection show, and decorations galore! Top to bottom, both Tokyo Disneyland and Tokyo DisneySea, as well as all four hotels, were covered with special 35th Anniversary decor. But the giant celebratory atmosphere combined with excellent merchandising and delicious food are what really make these celebrations shine. During the Grand Finale, a special version of the celebratory mini-projections on World Bazaar was implemented, which even featured confetti raining upon the streets if you were lucky! Additionally, Dreaming Up! received a special show stop tag in the middle to the celebration’s theme song “Brand New Day”. You can take a look at that below.
One of the most prominent features of the 35th Anniversary was the Celebration Tower at the center of World Bazaar. On each level was a statuette of Mickey Mouse in his anniversary costumes all the way back to the grand opening of the park in 1983! By far and away, this was my favorite event this year. That’s not to knock some of the other things I saw, but the Grand Finale was pulled off so spectacularly that it was incredibly difficult to top.
Pixar Playtime (January 11th-March 25th)
The Pixar Pals returned for the second year in a row to take over Tokyo DisneySea this year. There were special games, four (yes, four!) special entertainment offerings, adorable decor, and delicious treats to eat!
You could catch Lightning McQueen making his victory lap through the American Waterfront, learn to cook with Chef Remy in front of Zambini Brothers Ristorante, or meet and play with the Pixar Pals during Pixar Playtime Pals on Mediterranean Harbor!
And you could sometimes spot friends from Toy Story or Monsters, Inc. making their greeting voyage around the entire park! I will say, this isn’t the most fitting event for Tokyo DisneySea, but I’ll take it over nothing. I think the execution was done fairly tastefully. And if you want to experience it for yourself, you can! For the very last time, Pixar Playtime will be returning for winter 2020. It’s your last chance!
And I couldn’t talk about Pixar Playtime without talking about the excellent monorail wrap. There wasn’t anything outside, but the entire interior of Monorail Yellow was covered in Pixar Playtime decorations, and it played Pixar music along your journey!
Mickey & Minnie’s Face Change (March 26th)
Much to the chagrin of many die-hard TDR fans (including myself), the new Mickey and Minnie faces introduced at Shanghai Disneyland in 2016 finally arrived this year. Tokyo was a notable holdout, as the other resorts transitioned through 2017. To this day, long-time fans of Tokyo Disney Resort lament the loss of the beloved Mickey and Minnie faces they grew up with. I can’t stand the new faces, personally. I think the old ones were far better and I see no reason why they were changed.
Out of Shadowland Closes (March 31)
I’m probably one of about fifty people that adored this show, and I was heartbroken that it left so soon. The show opened during Tokyo DisneySea’s 15th Anniversary in 2016 to mixed reviews and featured a girl named Mei, whisked away from her friends to the mysterious Shadowland. The only way for her to return home is to find her inner confidence and save this mystical land. The show featured completely live vocal performances, a projection-mapped set, and dancers whisking across and above the stage (and audience)! Music and score were by famed film scorer Joby Talbot, with lyrics by J-Pop star Angela Aki. It was a master class in blending live actors with props and projection mapping on stage. Unfortunately, it wasn’t a hit with most Japanese audiences. In fact, up until its final month, you could easily walk up and get a great seat just 15 minutes before a show. That’s absolutely unheard of at these parks. Faced with lackluster response and a better idea, the show closed. If you want to watch for yourself, I’ve included a link below.
Spring 2019 (April -June)
Disney’s Easter (April 2-June 4)
Ah, Easter. One of my favorite and least favorite times of the year. Let’s talk about the plus side first: Easter at Tokyo Disneyland. This year saw the return of the massively popular Usatama on the Run! seasonal parade. The story goes that one day, Minnie and Daisy were painting Easter eggs in Toontown, when one they painted with bunny ears came alive. They started making copies of themselves and went to wreak havoc across Tokyo Disneyland! But the best part by far was the insanely fun soundtrack and wonderful Guest interaction between performers and anyone with Usatama merchandise! I rank this probably in third place on my list of TDR events, just because of how wacky, zany, and just plain fun it is. You’d never see this sort of thing in the domestic parks. If you want to watch the full parade, including show stop, the link is contained below:
One more positive about TDR in spring: April and May (except for the hellish Golden Week that bridges the two months) is a slow period. The parks are quieter, the weather is warm and pleasant, and Easter comes to put a spring in your step after a cold winter!
Now let’s talk about my least favorite event at TDR this year: Easter at Tokyo DisneySea.
First of all, I recognize that the Usapiyos are absolutely adorable… on paper. The concept art, decor, and merchandise are so freaking cute, and it really was a great idea! The problem came on the entertainment side. Let’s talk about Tip-Top Easter.
Tip-Top Easter is Very-Bottom Bad pic.twitter.com/YvpAnGavY8
— Tom Unscrupuless (@TomAmityCorless) April 4, 2019
Tom speaks it pretty well. Tip-Top Easter is probably the worst harbor show I’ve ever seen, and I’ve gone back and watched the vast majority of them. The story goes that Mickey and his friends are hosting a spring funfair and have brought the baby Usapiyos (those chick/bunny creatures) along with them. And in it we see a singing contest (all lip-synced by the way), a cheesy magic show, and a lackluster dance-off, before the Usapiyos are crowned winners of the funfair. The show was boring, cheesy, and overall just dragged. Unfortunately, this is the Easter event OLC has chosen to return next year. Tokyo Disneyland will be taking a break due to the New Fantasyland expansion’s grand opening. If you’d like to put yourself through Tip-Top Easter, you can view it below. But proceed with caution.
Celebrate! Tokyo Disneyland Closes (April 26th)
This wonderful show was introduced in summer 2018 as part of the 35th Anniversary celebration. Think of it as a modern day reimagining of Disneyland’s Remember… Dreams Come True. Mickey Mouse joined Guests as they journeyed through all eight lands of Tokyo Disneyland, visiting beloved attractions of the past and present! It was the most moved I’ve been by a nighttime spectacular since Wishes played at the Magic Kingdom. Unfortunately, we lost it in favor of a summer stage show, and ahead of the ongoing construction on Cinderella Castle. I truly hope we haven’t seen the last of this show. Who knows what will come once construction ends? For now, it lives on in our memories and on YouTube.
Tanabata Days (June 6th-July 7th)
Tanabata Days is a much more low-key affair compared to Disney’s Easter, which takes over the entirety of spring. Through June and July, Mickey and Minnie greet guests in traditional Japanese garb to celebrate the festival of wishes. Tanabata (七夕, which means “Evening of the Seventh”) celebrates the meeting of the deities Orihime and Hikoboshi. Legend says the Milky Way separates the two lovers and are only able to meet on the seventh day of the seventh month. So at both parks, you can write your wishes down on a card and post them at special “wishing places”. It’s a lovely tradition that’s taking a break in 2020 in lieu of the Olympics.
Greetings take place at both Tokyo Disneyland and Tokyo DisneySea. At the latter, the main theme of the greeting is “Wishes”, from the eponymous fireworks show formerly a staple of the Magic Kingdom at Walt Disney World.
And that’s the first half of the year at Tokyo Disney Resort! There’s so much that happened that we’re actually splitting this recap in two. Keep an eye out for the other half in the coming days! Did you see your favorite part of the year? Let us know below or on Twitter!
Are you considering or planning a visit to Tokyo Disney Resort? Visit TDRPlans for every detail (and more) that you’ll need to make your trip the best it can be! Did I mention it’s 100% free? Oh, and stay tuned to WDWNT for up-to-date news on Tokyo Disney Resort, Walt Disney World, and Disney Parks worldwide!