Tokyo Disneyland6th September 2005
The first thing that needs to be said in any report for me of Tokyo Disneyland is the sad credit whore comment. For the next six days at least I can claim to have visited all the operational Disney resorts in the world. And yes, I'm entirely aware of how sad that is.
Our morning began with a ride on Space Mountain (#605). Our unofficial tour guide had told us that this ride was like a time capsule back to the original version in Disneyland before any changes were made to it, which made it particularly interesting for those like me who'd never seen the original. The single tracked ride was surprisingly good considering its vintage, and a good lengthy track helped things along too. Of particular note was the frightening efficiency of loading; the train was dispatched almost before the restraint was closed.
We had also been told not to miss the Pooh's Hunny Hunt under any circumstances, no matter how long the queue should be. What on the outside might appear to be a normal dark ride turned out to be something really special; the vehicles inside this one hundred million dollar attraction were completely trackless and followed apparently random paths through the ride. The complete freedom of movement this provided was remarkable, as was the sight of these cars moving around on carpet.
I found myself trying to figure out how the vehicles were powered. There were two basic possibilities I could come up with; one was batteries on board, and a fair few would be needed here; the other was some form of induction through the carpet. Careful examination ruled out the possibility of carefully hidden wires in the ground; there was nothing there. In the end, I gave up and asked; it turned out that there were in fact batteries on board, which were topped up every time the vehicles were in the loading station (and presumably recharged fully overnight).
The next stop, at Gadget's Go Coaster (#606) was the obligatory credit whore stop, noteworthy only as the first occasion I've seen this model of coaster operating two trains. This was followed up with the third and final coaster in the park, Big Thunder Mountain (#607). This felt better than the two American versions of the mountain, although for me the magnificent version in Paris still tops the bill.
At this point, we proceeded on a whirlwind tour through just about every major attraction in the park:
- Splash Mountain. I was wearing my waterproofs anyway, not that they are really necessary. I did take quite a bit of flack for putting up my hood for the splashes, but as anyone who wears one will know, waterproof jackets are just as effective at keeping water in as out!
- Jungle Cruise, a boat ride past animatronic animals and tribal indians. I am reliably informed this is the best of any of the Disney parks, but having never done another I don't know for sure.
- Pirates of the Carribean
- Mystery tour, located inside the park castle, which no doubt would have made far better sense if I could have understood the narration, all of which was in Japanese.
- Snow white and Peter Pan, both basically equivalent to the same rides in the other Disney parks, but run at a much faster speed, resulting in riders being unable to properly appreciate each scene. Presumably this was done to increase capacity, but badly, given that several vehicles formed a queue at the end of the ride waiting for an operator so people could disembark; why not just slow the track down by 10% so this can't happen?
- It's a Small World, an obligatory stop and a somewhat less offensive one than usual, given that the nauseating theme tune was being played at a lower volume. This is probably the first time I have ridden one of these attractions without the tune lodging itself in my brain for the rest of the day.
- Pinnochio, which suffered from the same issue as Peter Pan, namely vehicles stacking at the exit. It seems that the tuning on these rides is not quite right; hopefully it'll be fixed at some stage.
- Car Toon Spin, a new attraction to me. A dark ride with a certain amount of interactivity, in that riders can control how much their cars spin.
- Queen of Hearts restaurant (we had to eat some time!)
- Tiki Room. In all my visits to Disney I had somehow managed to miss out on this attraction, consisting of singing animatronic birds. The enthusiasm of this attraction is difficult not to enjoy for a first time viewer, though I imagine that it would get very old very quickly.
- Buzz Lightyear's Astro Blasters. I had a vehicle to myself for this so I took a blaster in each hand. It is a testament to my aim that the left hand gun, which I was firing aimlessly in all directions, received a better score than my right, where I was actually concentrating on the targets.
There is no doubt that the coaster gods were with us today given the very short lines throughout. Disney parks are not known for their short waits, but they were certainly in evidence here today. Hard as it may be to believe, we had completed every major attraction in the park (and certainly everything on my shopping list) by the early part of the afternoon, allowing some of us a late change of plan.
Tokyo Dome City6th September 2005
Many people may argue that it is sacrilege to leave Disneyland early to head to another nearby park, especially on a day with short queues. However, the fact was that we had ridden all the major attractions, and another major one beckoned just down the road. I wasn't the only person to head down to Tokyo Dome City for a second time; George and Chris came down too, and indeed by the end of our visit something approaching two dozen participants had made the trip. The reason, naturally enough, was Thunder Dolphin (#608).
A full report on this ride is quite a challenge to write, and for this reason it seems best to begin with the positive. Thunder Dolphin is an upper class coaster, arguably a top ten ride, and it has without question the best visuals of any coaster I have ever ridden. Seeing the city scape of Tokyo rushing past you, especially at night, is truly magical, and adds more to a ride than any ordinary theming would. Some readers might think the experience is similar to the coasters of Las Vegas, but in reality nothing could be further from the truth. The scenery in Vegas is gaudy lights everhwere, with each casino trying to outdo the next for tackiness. Tokyo at night is a maze of skyscrapers with office lights lit up everywhere as the Salarymen advance their careers.
The layout features a superlative first drop, followed by bunny hops over the roof of a building and an overbanked turn through the middle of a hubless ferris wheel. There is no doubt that the terrain here is the among the most awkward of any coaster out there, and rather than come up with something boring the designers have gone completely outside the box and come up with something the like of which can be found nowhere else in the world. Additionally, the ride operators signalled each train dispatch with synchronised gestures indicating what the ride was about to do. This is better witnessed than explained, but suffice it to say that they had a lot of the guests laughing at their antics. There was a voice over for this, which was almost certainly the ride statistics followed by something like any last words in Japanese.
The only black mark against the ride itself was the second pass over the building roof, where the track wobbles from side to side causing riders with their hands up to give a simulated mexican wave. This can only be described as a complete dead spot; it's boring, and it really doesn't do much; it would have been far more effective if it was right on the building edge making people think that they might fall off. As it was, it was the weakest moment of the ride by far, not helped by the fact that a lot of speed has been burnt off at that stage.
This brings me to the ride operators, or to be more specific, the rules that the ride was being operated under. It is highly probable that the staff were not to blame for these policies, and my comments should not be taken as a criticism of them; see two paragraphs above for my impressions there. With that caveat out of the way, here goes; at the end of each ride, the operators were waiting for the station to be emptied of exiting riders before even assigning oncoming riders to rows (forget about choosing your seat here; it is decided for you). This procedure, which took a minute or so, could easily have been accomplished when the train was on course. Already capacity was being hurt substantially.
Additionally, no objects of any kind were allowed on board the ride. This is not unusual, but what was strange was that this covered coins, wallets, phones, and similar including those in closed zipped pockets. That's right folks; I had some change in my back pocket, zipped shut, which I was sitting on; I was forced to remove it from there and leave it in one of the lockers beside the ride. After all, they could easily have gone flying from there, right? Fortunately this is Japan and nothing is going to be stolen, but nevertheless it is utterly ridiculous. Nothing is going to come out of a pocket that is zipped shut, and certainly not one that a rider is sitting on.
I had removed what I thought was everything from my pockets and closed my lap bar when one of the operators came to check my restraint. There was a slight bulge in my front zip pocket, and I was told to remove whatever was in it. I moved the fabric around; as far as I could tell it was empty. The operator insisted it be opened. Sure enough, it contained a stub for a Japanese Rail ticket. A small piece of paper, about five centimetres by two, in a zipped pocket, which no doubt could have caused half a dozen fatal injuries should it have mysteriously managed to break through the zip lining. After a few rides we were joking that one should shave before riding, just in case a facial hair should fly out and hit someone.
The craziest thing of all about this neurotic policy was its application, or lack thereof, to glasses. Regulars here will know my views about parks that will not allow secured glasses on a ride (see Strasswalchen for more). However, the operators here were allowing all glasses, secured or otherwise. That's right folks; items in zipped pockets were dangerous and could fly out, but loose glasses on the head were not. Go figure.
At any rate, we managed to achieve a total of fifteen rides in a little under three hours before the ride closed down. We had been on every second train for the most part, indicating dispatches of about one train every six minutes. Hardly ideal for such a huge ride, but what the hell, at least we'd been able to ride it.