Could this international Disney Park have dethroned Walt Disney World?
Walt Disney World is one of the most popular tourist locations globally. With its four theme parks, numerous resort hotels, premiere dining, and shopping at Disney Springs, there’s plenty to see and do at the “Most Magical Place on Earth.”
Although Walt Disney World is the second Disney Resort ever built, with Disneyland in California being the first, its flagship park, Magic Kingdom, remains one, if not the most, popular place for international travel.
Guests from all over the world flock to the Orlando-based resort to enjoy Cinderella Castle, the renowned Main Street, U.S.A., and plenty of family-friendly rides and shows such as Haunted Mansion and Pirates of the Caribbean.
Even without Magic Kingdom, Disney’s other Florida-based theme parks, Animal Kingdom, Hollywood Studios, and EPCOT, offer an array of world-class entertainment, high-tech fun, and thrilling experiences. Disney World, although not the original Disney Park, is the mecca for joyous, family-friendly fun and excitement.
Immersive Themeing of Disney Parks
It’s difficult for some to understand why Disney World or Disneyland is such a desired vacation destination, especially if they’ve never been there. We’ve heard many scoff at the idea of visiting Disney on vacation as it’s just a theme park to them.
However, Disney is much more. Imagineers for Disney Parks have done a fantastic job creating something entirely immersive. It doesn’t matter if it’s foreign or domestic Disney Parks; visiting places like EPCOT, Magic Kingdom, Disneyland, or California Adventure all have one thing in common: they’re exquisitely themed.
Unlike your typical theme park, Disney goes above and beyond in ensuring their guests are stimulated by smells, sounds, and sights. They accomplish this goal by creating incredibly detailed environments that are familiar to guests who’ve seen them through film and television. When it comes to details, Disney is king.
Disney Takes Their Park Operations Global
Disneyland, the original home of Mickey Mouse, opened to the public in 1955 in Anaheim, California. Despite a few mishaps on opening day, guests in attendance immediately realized that something was different the land Walt Disney had built.
Years later, Walt Disney announced a plan to open an experimental community in what he called “The Florida Project.” Although Walt would never see this newest addition to Disney’s growing empire come to fruition, his brother, Roy, would oversee the massive project of building Walt Disney World, which opened in 1971.
Disney World was an immediate hit with guests and quickly grew into what we know today. Not only did Walt Disney World grow, but its popularity led to a boom in theme park development and economic increase around Orlando, Florida, creating a desire for many US-based cities to crave their own Disney Park.
Although the United States would not see a new Disney resort or theme park anytime in the future, with Virginia coming very close to being home to an American history-themed Disney resort that was different from the rest of the world.
Disney isn’t just an entertainment juggernaut in America. I’ve often said that Mickey Mouse is a famous and iconic character because he transcends culture and borders. Disney’s brand, full of beautiful stories, princesses, and quirky characters, is also internationally beloved.
The market for Disney Parks would go global under the leadership of Michael Eisner, with Tokyo Disneyland opening in 1983 and Disneyland Paris opening in 1992. Disney would extend their global reach in later years, opening theme parks in both Hong Kong and Shanghai as well.
A 115-acre theme park Urayasu, Chiba Prefecture, Japan would open its gates to 3000 guests in 1983, becoming the first Disney Park outside of the United States. Constructed by W.E.D. Enterprises, Tokyo Disneyland and its companion park, Tokyo DisneySea, would operate much like Magic Kingdom in Florida; however, there was one unique difference.
Unlike other global parks that would come to be, Disney would not solely own nor operate Toyko Disneyland. Instead, The Oriental Land Company would run the parks and utilize licensing agreements with Disney for operation. This still is unprecedented as Disney is extremely protective of their brand.
However, Tokyo Disneyland operates successfully to this day, even outearning US-based parks so far in 2023. Much like what you’d find at Disney World or Disneyland, Tokyo Disneyland offers remarkably similar options while trading in Main Street, U.S.A., for the World Bazaar. The Japan-based theme park even is home to famous U.S. lands such as Toontown.
However, what really sets Tokyo’s Disney Parks apart from its U.S. counterparts is Tokyo DisneySea. The 2001 extension is an immaculately built world of wonder, highlighting beautifully designed sets and landscapes. Featuring immaculate waterways and an astonishing featured castle, unlike anything else you’ll find around the world, Tokyo DisneySea is quickly becoming one of the most sought-after Disney Park destinations for international travelers.
Guests are Skipping Disney World for International Travel
Sure, you can travel internationally at the World Showcase in EPCOT, but it seems that although Disneyland and Walt Disney World haven’t faired well in terms of earnings this year, foreign parks, including Tokyo Disneyland, are doing just fine. Why? Well, partially because COVID-19 restrictions lastest longer in most Asian countries, leading to a later “post-COVID vacation crowd,” but also because people are beginning to recognize that the beauty associated with Disney Parks isn’t just limited to the United States.
A recent Reddit thread posted by u/waldesnachtbrahms in r/disneyparks suggests that as Walt Disney World changes, Tokyo Disneyland is becoming the premiere Disney Park globally.
“For context, my second language is Japanese, and I definitely feel like WDW just isn’t the same anymore. I am pretty tired of having to wake up to get virtual queues and whatnot. TDR is also just unbelievably cheaper right now. TDR is just such a special place, it reminds me of what there used to be before it was lost to time,” said the user.
Wildly enough, many who chose to comment are in agreement that Tokyo Disneyland Resort is where the magic happens. As many Walt Disney World faithful claim that the current state of the resort has gone downhill, even announcing that “magic is gone,” it seems that many who are visiting the Japan-based resort feel as if the magic is alive and well.
“DisneySEA is just remarkable. I love all the parks, but if I could only stroll the streets of one for the rest of my life, it’s no contest. The level of commitment and world-building is phenomenal and truly hard to capture in pictures,” responded user Calm_Entrepreneur_83.
User Matcha_Maiden added, “We just did Tokyo Disneyland and DisneySea. Every ride at Tokyo Disneyland that is in American parks is superior in Tokyo. I was even shocked at how superior their NBC overlay on Haunted Mansion was compared to California.
Disneysea was visually stunning, but the rides weren’t really for us with the exception of Sinbad. Sinbad was stunning, and I’m so envious we don’t have it stateside. Also, even though Soarin’ was basically the same as the US (with some small differences), the pre-show is amazing and I very much so prefer it.“
It would seem that many are dusting off their passports as Tokyo Disneyland’s popularity is growing. And for good reason: the parks in Japan are immaculate, incredibly themed, and extremely well-kept. In fact, most guests cite ease of use, with direct travel through Tokyo’s train system heading right to the gates. As Disneyland and Walt Disney World continue to increase ticket sales, foreign guests are shocked regarding the relative affordability of Disney’s international parks as well.
What do you think? Is Tokyo Disneyland on your bucket list?