Disney might be working to help Tokyo steal one of Orlando's biggest claims to fame

Disney might be working to help Tokyo steal one of Orlando's biggest claims to fame
By Rob Young from United Kingdom (Tokyo Disneyland Entrance) via Wikimedia Commons
Walt Disney World is getting a ton of new attractions over the next few years but a major new expansion was announced for another Disney resort, and it might mean big things for WDW.

According to numerous business news sites in Japan, Tokyo Disneyland’s parent, the Oriental Land Company (OLC), is close to announcing a $2.7 billion expansion of the resort.

This is on top of the new updates already underway at the resort. Those include a new Beauty and the Beast trackless dark ride inside its own mini-land in area that was formerly the TDL go-karts, a Big Hero 6 whip ride in Tomorowland that's similar to the Little Green Men ride currently under construction in the Toy Story Land at Disney’s Hollywood Studios, and the flying theater attraction Soarin’ opening next door at Tokyo DisneySea.

Another expansion was announced a few years back, one that would include a Frozen mini-land and a new Alice in Wonderland mini-land, but that development now seems to be on indefinite hold. The Frozen mini-land planned for Tokyo DisneySea has been mentioned as part of this rumored new expansion but with how bad Olaf’s short before Coco has been received many with an insider’s knowledge of Disney now say the company is reevaluating Frozen’s assumed popularity moving forward.

This new expansion will open in the mid-2020s and will be part of OLC’s post-2020 Olympic plans. Japan Today, a Japanese news site reporting on the rumors, stated that one of the new areas might have a Japanese theme with unique attractions. This move to have unique attractions isn’t a new one for the OLC, which has numerous one-of-a-kind rides not found at other Disney parks, but the focus on Japanese culture would be a new one for a resort that more areas currently dedicated to American and European cultures than Asian ones. The embracing of Japanese culture, according to Japan Today, is part of an attempt to draw in more foreign tourists.

Universal Studios Japan had planned a Japanese focused park in Okinawa, but those plans were first announced in 2015 and haven’t been updated since Comcast NBCUniversal bought out the full ownership of Osaka resort earlier this year. NBCUniversal is now currently building the world’s first Super Mario World mini-land at that park. It’s believed that the new Nintendo area and the numerous other recent additions, including Harry Potter and Despicable Me, have impacted Tokyo Disneyland.

According to Nikkie, Universal Studios Japan sees about 10% of its attendance from foreign guests while TDL only sees an estimated 8.5% of attendance from the same group. OLC hasn’t seen any sales growth since 2013, the year before the Harry Potter area opened at USJ. Tokyo Disneyland Resort also saw attendance decline last year. This may in part be due to the new Shanghai Disneyland resort that opened in June, 2016. China is a significant competitor for foreigners visiting Asian theme parks, with over 300 parks currently open and over five dozen more in the work including a new Universal Studios resort under construction in Bejing.

Few details on the new Tokyo Disneyland Resort expansion have been announced, but that hasn’t stopped many from theorizing that this will be a brand new separate ticketed park. (To be fair, the mainstream media also called Pandora at Animal Kingdom, Hogsmeade at Islands of Adventure, and Star Wars at Hollywood Studios a new theme park while none of them actually are.) Some, like Tom Bricker of Disney Tourist Blog, have pointed out that Tokyo Disney doesn’t have a lot of land to work with, so an entire theme park isn’t likely. One possibility is a smaller, boutique park concept similar to Ferrari World or the Cirque du Soleil park in Mexico.

The more likely scenario is an expansion of the existing parks, which regularly hit capacity on the busiest days. The parks are also infamous for their hard to get theater productions. A lottery system is used for tickets to shows and for Fastpasses for parades. By some estimates, Tokyo Disneyland alone sees well over 100,000 guests per day during the busiest times of the year. This expansion would allow for the parks to better control crowds and would allow for an increase in capacity at the park.

That increase in capacity could mean big things back here in Orlando. For decades Magic Kingdom, with an estimated 20.3 million visitors last year, has remained the most visited theme park in the world with Tokyo Disneyland usually ranking in the top five. With the increase in capacity, it is possible that Tokyo Disneyland will surpass the Magic Kingdom. Tokyo Disneyland ranked third in 2016 (just behind Disneyland in Anaheim) with an estimated 16.5 million visitors. Universal Studios Japan came in just behind Tokyo Disneyland with an estimated 14.5 million guests, Tokyo DisneySea rounded out the top five most visited theme parks with an estimated 13.4 million guests.

While OLC hasn’t shared many details of the rumored expansion they have confirmed a new parking structure and a new entrance plaza. The $107 million redesign would include an increase from 48 turnstiles to 54, facial recognition for Annual Pass holders, an update from the older flap style turnstiles to the new RFID based ones like what is found at WDW, and a new three-level parking structure. The redesign will also include new touchscreen ticket vending machines that will have options for Japanese, English, Chinese (both Simplified and Traditional), Korean, Thai, and Indonesian. The focus will be on these new automatic ticket booths with staffed ticket booths decreasing from 32 to 6. All of this aligns with the push to draw in more foreign visitors to the two Tokyo Disney parks.

According to Nikkie, the new expansion will likely be announced in mid-2018 while others have pointed to as early as during a Japan-based D23 Expo in February.


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