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Little Known Facts about the Foreign Magic Kingdoms

Little Known Facts about the Foreign Magic Kingdoms

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Up for a little Disneyland Paris and Tokyo Disneyland trivia? Well, then, let me share some of the stories that I've heard over the years about these two Magic Kingdoms:

A Trolley Tale
Many of you JHM readers probably already know about Eddie Sotto's first concept for the Main Street USA area at Disneyland Paris. Where the theming for that part of the theme park wasn't going to be turn-of-the-century America. But -- rather -- the United States circa 1925, at the height of the Jazz Age. So Main Street was going to be loaded with flappers, gangsters and speakeasies. Not to mention its very own elevated rail line.

So why didn't this version of Main Street USA ever get built? Well, while this theme park was still in its development phase, Disney CEO Michael Eisner supposedly caught a rerun of "The Untouchables." And after learning about how brutal gangsters supposedly really were during this era in American history, the Mouse House's Big Cheese decided that characters that behaved like that really didn't belong in a Disney theme park. Which is why Eisner ordered the Imagineers to roll Main Street's odometer back to where it used to be: turn-of-the-century America.

Of course, now the time period for this part of the park had been shifted back 25 years, an elevated train line really didn't fit in this timeline. Which is why Main Street USA's overhead trolley got dropped in favor of the old fashioned horse-drawn trolley that had been featured in all of the other Magic Kingdoms.

Still, the Imagineers wouldn't give up on their idea of recreating a vintage overhead rail system inside of a Disney theme park. So -- when design work began on the American Waterfront section of Tokyo DisneySea -- guess what design component was followed into this part of the park almost immediately? You guessed it: An elevated train line.

Thankfully, this time around, this particular ride idea didn't get cut out or downsized as TDS went through its design permeations. Which is why -- every day -- visitors to this theme can enjoy a trip from Port Discovery to the Americant waterfront aboard an elevated electric trolley. All because the Imagineers refused to give up on this idea. And -- by hook or by crook -- they were going to eventually get a recreation of this turn-of-the-20th century transportation built in one of the Disney theme parks.

Sharing Sky Rockets
The Tokyo Disneyland and Tokyo Disney Seas theme parks are so close together that they actually share a fireworks display. Over on the TDL side of the resort, "Fantasy in the Sky" features its standard soundtrack. But given that this nightly fireworks display can also be seen from inside TDS, the Imagineers opted to come with a unique solution to this situation. Rather than pipe TDL's "Fantasy in the Sky" soundtrack into TDS (and potentially impact the story telling in that theme park), they created an entirely different soundtrack for this fireworks display.

The TDS version of "Fantasy in the Sky" is called "Buona Sera Serenade." As TDR guests gather in the Mediterranean Harbour area, the fireworks show that they're watching is synced up to a melody that features the Tokyo DisneySea theme, "Part of Your World" from "The Little Mermaid," "Arabian Nights" from "Aladdin" as well as John Williams' "Raiders of the Lost Ark" march.

So that's two shows really for the price of one. And -- just in case you're wondering -- TDR's nightly fireworks display are actually fired off from the roof of the Oriental Land Company (the Japanese land management firm that actually owns and operates the Tokyo Disney Resort)'s back stage offices.

One attraction. Four different theme parks. Four different locations.
Talk about your restless spirits! "The Haunted Mansion" is the only attraction to be found in a different land in each of the Disney theme parks worldwide. The original mansion is located in Disneyland's New Orleans Square area, while WDW's version is located in Liberty Square. Meanwhile, over in Tokyo Disneyland, that park's Haunted Mansion is found in Fantasyland. And DLP's "Phantom Manor" was built at the outermost edges of that theme park's Frontierland area.

And - if the Imagineers have their way - Disney's "Haunted Mansion" will continue its wandering ways. For -- among the many ideas that are currently being considered for "Phase II" of Hong Kong Disneyland's construction -- is putting a jungle-themed "Haunted Mansion" into that park's Adventureland section. Which (in theory) would give Hong Kong tourists a reason to return HKDL in 2010 (which is about when this proposed "E Ticket" attraction would be going on line at that theme park).

So -- since there's a "Haunted Mansion" in New Orleans Square, Liberty Square, Frontierland and Fantasyland (and one supposed on the way for HKDL's Adventureland section) -- how soon will it be 'til we see a ghost-based attraction popping up in Tomorrowland? Well according to some of the wags at WDI: Given the large number of attractions that are already closed in Disneyland's Tomorrowland area, technically this section of this Anaheim theme park already qualifies to be a ghost town. (I'm kidding. Just kidding.)

Really putting yourself into your work
Eddie Sotto, WDI's lead designer on the Main Street USA section of Disneyland Paris, really wanted to "be part of the magic" in that theme park. "How badly did Eddie want to be 'part of the magic' in that theme park?" you ask. Well, Sotto's voice can be heard as part of the Main Street soundtrack. Those weird little bits of dialogue you hear floating out windows as you wander up the street.

Eddie can be heard as the dentist who seems to be accidentally torturing his patient, the barking dog as well as one of the people talking on the party line. Over in DLP's Frontierland section, it's Sotto's voice you hear in the pre-boarding spiel for Big Thunder Mountain Railroad (I.E. "Howdy folks!").

Mind you, Tokyo Disneyland guests also get to hear Eddie's golden tones. For he helped provide crowd noises for that theme park's new "Enchanted Tiki Room" show, "It's hot-hot-hot!"

Or -- if you'd prefer to see Mr. Sotto, rather than eyeballing Eddie -- you can see this ubiquitous former Imagineer in the "Star Tours" pre-boarding video (He's the guy who's seated next to Chewbacca). Sotto also makes an appearance in the "Space Mountain" pre-boarding video which can be seen at Disneyland and Walt Disney World.

That Eddie. He really gets around, doesn't he?

Will you guys please make up your minds?
Back in the 1960s, when the Imagineers were originally designing Disneyland's "Haunted Mansion," they had to get guests from ground level down to 20 or so feet underground. So that these Disneyland visitors could then walk along a tunnel that would take them under the railroad tracks that circle the entire theme park. Whereupon they'd actually be inside of the massive "Haunted Mansion" show building and could begin the ride proper.

In order to do this, the wizards at WED overlaid some weird story elements on top of a somewhat standard elevator. And -- Presto Changeo! -- what once was an operational necessity became one of the real highlights of the attraction: the Stretching Room.

Of course, given that Disneyland guests had responded so positively to the Stretching Room section of that theme park's "Haunted Mansion" attraction, the second version (which the Imagineers were prepping for installation at Walt Disney World's Magic Kingdom) had to have one too. The only problem was ... Florida's version of the "Haunted Mansion" didn't need to take its guests underground in order to safely transfer them to the attraction's main show building. The Imagineers had plenty of room to work with in Central Florida. More to the point, given that the theme park was basically being built on top of swampland, the theme park's construction crew wanted to build everything as high about the groundwater line as they could.

But -- given that they really wanted to keep this story moment as part of WDW's "Haunted Mansion" -- the guys from WDI came up with a unique fix. Instead of riding in an elevator that was actually going down, Disney World visitors would remain where they were standing. While all around them, the ceiling and the walls would slow move up, recreating the look and feel of Disneyland's memorable Stretching Room sequence without the need to really lower the room.

Of course, given that Tokyo Disneyland opted to have a recreation of WDW's "Haunted Mansion" built as part of that theme park, guests in that Stretching Room don't actually go anywhere. They just stand still as the room slowly deforms around them.

Whereas -- in the case of Disneyland Paris' "Phantom Manor" -- it was Anaheim all over again. The Imagineers had to get DLP guests down below ground so that the Disneyland Paris Railroad could safely pass overhead. Which is why this theme park used an elevator to lower visitors to the tunnel that will take them directly to the main show building for DLP's "Phantom Manor."

So -- for those of you who are keeping count -- that's two versions of Disneyland's "Haunted Mansion" that actually feature elevators in their Stretching Rooms and two versions of the attraction that do not.

Of course, just to be contrary, I bet if the Imagineers actually do go forward with construction of an Adventureland-themed "Haunted Mansion" for Hong Kong Disneyland that they'll use some combination of a working elevator and slow rising walls to drive the illusions in that version of the attraction's Stretching Room.

Only -- in this incarnation of this venerable Disney them park attraction -- the walls of the Mansion will expand outward, instead of upward. You know those Imagineers. Always trying to play with our minds.

Club 33 - Version 2.0
I'm sure that a lot of you Disneyana fans dream of the day that you'll be allowed to dine at Disneyland's Club 33, that oh-so-exclusive restaurant that's located upstairs in the park's New Orleans Square section. Of course, the only way that you're ever allowed to dine at this hoity-toity establishment is if you're a member or a guest of a member. Which is why so many of us spend time (whenever we're visiting the Anaheim theme park) staring longingly at the restaurant's understated entrance (Which is located -- not-so-surprisingly -- at 33 Royal Street).

If it's any consolation, it's not just stateside Disneyana fans who are feeling deprived at not being able to gain access to this elegant & exclusive eatry. For Tokyo Disneyland too has its own Club 33 (Which is located at 33 Centre Street in the World Bazaar section of that theme park). And -- just like the Anaheim original -- it features the same sort of understated décor and top-notch service.

The only real difference between the Anaheim & Tokyo versions of Club 33 is that the floor plan of the Japanese eatery features many more private little function rooms. Which -- given that TDL's Club 33 is a favorite spot for Japanese businessmen to take clients that they're trying to impress -- just makes sense. By dining in a small group in one of the restaurant's smaller function rooms, these Japanese businessmen can impress their clients with the restaurant's excellent service and exquisite décor without having to worry about who might be listening in on their potentially delicate negotiations.

Do you look like Tarzan? Well, if so, how would you like a ticket to Tokyo?
Here's an interesting bit of trivia at the Tokyo Disney Resort: Only non Japanese performers are allowed to play face characters in TDR's theme parks. By that I mean, characters that are usually portrayed in Disney's theme parks by performers who are NOT wearing masks. Your Snow Whites, your Cinderellas, Your Pocahontases, Prince Erics and Tarzans.

This translate into an unusual career opportunity for Disney cast members who are working at the Anaheim theme parks, Walt Disney World and Disneyland Paris. For the Tokyo Disney Resort always seems to be recruiting attractive performers to portray face characters at both of their theme parks.

On the other hand, the "zoo crew" positions (I.E. Disney characters who are portrayed in the theme parks by performers dressed in full body costumes) are usually played by Japanese cast members. Who are just as gifted as their American and European counter-parts when it comes to playing Mickey, Minnie, Donald, Goofy, etc.

Disney Deja Vu
Everyone knows that Disneyland Paris wasn't exactly a smashing success when it first opened in April 1992. But how many of you realize that Tokyo Disneyland had similar attendance problem when Disney's first overseas theme park initially opened in April 1983?

Strange but true, folks. But -- during its first year of operation -- Tokyo Disneyland appears to be on the brink of becoming a massive failure. All because the citizens of Japan refused to initially embrace the idea of "a Disneyland for the Japanese."

It took until 1986, when TDL opted to relaunch the theme park with a brand new marketing campaign, which reportedly gave Japanese tourists the impression that visiting Tokyo Disneyland was just like taking "a trip to the USA," before things finally began to turn around.

This new way of marketing the theme park was obviously a roaring success. Even today, the lingering effects of that "Just like a trip to the USA" ad campaign can still be felt. Particularly on the retail side of things, where Japanese tourists still purchase TDL souvenirs to give their friends and neighbors upon their return home from the theme park. Which is just what they'd do if they'd actually made a trip overseas.

Well, that's enough Disney trivia for today. Here's hoping that you enjoyed these stories about Tokyo Disney and the Disneyland Paris resorts. And that you'll now be able to see these resorts and their theme parks through different eyes.

Until next time, "ciao, ciao!"

Mickeyfantasmic

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