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Konnichiwa! A look at Disney in Japan
Special: A look inside the Tokyo DisneySea attractions!


Part Five: The Magic Lamp Theater & Sinbad's Seven Voyages (continued)

Across the courtyard is the Magic Lamp Theater. Here is another attraction with ties to existing Disney parks. This is a 3-D movie based show, however it incorporates live actors and stunts much more extensively than any past similar Disney attraction. Where as Honey I Shrunk the Audience and It’s Tough to Be a Bug use many in theater effects and anamatronics, and the Muppet 3-D show incorporates a live costumed character, Magic Lamp goes a step farther. The show features live actors on stage interacting with each other as well as the audience. Behind the actors is the 3-D screen which acts as a backdrop as well as a stage for the Genie to make several appearances.

The Magic Lamp Theater & Sinbad's Seven Voyages

After passing through the entrance doors visitors to the Magic Lamp Theater will find themselves is a very nicely detailed waiting area. It is a large circular room surrounding a central platform filled with vases, baskets and rolled carpets. Around the perimeter of the room are many movie screens that appear to be windows looking out onto the night sky. The ceiling is draped in fabric and the floor is an elaborate mosaic.

The Magic Lamp Theater & Sinbad's Seven Voyages

This room is more than simply a holding pen, it in fact serves as the stage for a preshow. Once the audience fills the room the lights dim and a very articulated king cobra raises from the central basket. He is a cartoonish fellow who spins around and hisses a tale of a great magician and a magic key. He speaks only in Japanese but to help aid his story telling the windows around the room display an animated slide show illustrating his story. We are introduced to the magician as well as his humble assistant.

The Magic Lamp Theater & Sinbad's Seven Voyages

The snake itself is quite well done. Not only does he move and speak but his eyes are made out of two small video screens. Therefore his pupils dart around with a freedom not possible otherwise. Sure, he looks a bit like Kaa from the Jungle Book, but we can forgive that. A story of how the magician captured and locked away the Genie is told and the lights fade back on. We are now asked to head into the main theater, 3-D glasses in hand.

Like the preshow room, the theater itself is wonderfully themed and detailed. It feels as if you are in a giant tent, silken and velvet fabrics drape from the ceiling and walls. Rich deep shades of reds and purples give a certain regal feel, as if in a royal palace.

We rest ourselves on deeply cushioned theater seats and turn our attention to the traditional stage which sits before us. Soon the assistant we met in the reshow shuffles on stage. This is a live actor in costume and speaking live dialogue, unfortunately for the non Japanese speaking people in the audience (basically myself and my wife) the show is 100% in Japanese. The assistant speaks to the audience a bit and eventually introduces the magician. The magician is also a live actor.

Together they perform several simple magic tricks as well as a decent stage illusion. The story of the magic key is interwoven throughout the show as the assistant tries to steal it back from the magician, thus freeing the magic genie. The show proceeds in a cartoonish, almost Keystone Cops manor. Lots of slapstick comedy that is easy to understand regardless of what language you speak.

Eventually the assistant gains control of the key and frees the Genie. The Genie is in fact the same character we know from Aladdin. While Jasmine and Aladdin are not featured here, the Genie becomes the star of the show. He is represented as a 3-D computer animated image that appears on the large screen behind the stage. This screen has prior to this only displayed images of the back of the tent and stage area... now the genie floats and flies through it with aplomb.

He is very well animated and the 3-D effects worked very well for me. I often have trouble with the Disney 3-D movies. While Muppets looks great to me Bugs is often a blurry mess. I am happy to report that the Genie always was in sharp, crisp focus, even when he appeared very close to your face.

The genie proceeds to do several gags and stunts before wreaking is revenge on his captor, the evil magician. There are a few modest in theater effects such as bursts of smoke and so forth and at the end of the show we get a literal kick in our seats, a gentle reminder that it is time to get out!

The Magic Lamp Theater & Sinbad's Seven Voyages

Though the Magic Lamp Theater clearly borrows from past Disney efforts it really does not feel like the other 3-D movies in Disney’s arsenal. It is in fact more of a live show than a movie. Not speaking Japanese is clearly a hindrance, while it is not hard to catch what is going on, you still feel a bit like you are missing the more subtle jokes and gags.

In the end the Magic Lamp Theater is not as technically impressive as a show like It’s Tough to be a Bug. It does not feature animatronic figures nor particularly elaborate special effects. However it breaks new ground for Disney by incorporating live actors, stage magic, audience participation and 3-D film all in one solid attraction. It is not the highlight of a trip to Tokyo DisneySea but it is a well done production that avoids feeling too similar to the other Disney 3-D attractions. It earns 3 out of 4 stars.

Anchoring the furthest corner of the Arabian Coast, and the entire park, is Sinbad’s Seven Voyages, the main attraction of this land.

The Magic Lamp Theater & Sinbad's Seven Voyages

The tales of Sinbad have been told many, many times over the years. His stories have made it to the big screen so often that one could hold an all-Sinbad film festival. Movies with Sinbad as the star date back to the 30’s and have been made as recently as 2000. There have been comic book interpretations and popular television shows based on the adventures of Sinbad as well. Perhaps the best known images of Sinbad to today’s audiences are the series of films made in the 60’s and 70’s featuring the magnificent work of stop motion special effects master Ray Harryhausen.

Harryhausen was responsible for famous pre-computer effects such as sword wielding skeletons warriors or the mighty Cyclops. In films such as the Golden Voyage of Sinbad, Harryhausen and producer Charles Schneer created a world of wonder, myth and adventure in which Sinbad sets sail. It is the image from these movies that I think of when I hear “Sinbad.” I imagine a swashbuckling adventure filled with magical creatures and beasts, seat of your pants adventure, and tongue in cheek humor. To some extent this is what you will find at the Tokyo DisneySea attraction, but with a decidedly younger, more family friendly twist.

The Magic Lamp Theater & Sinbad's Seven Voyages

When I first heard of this attraction I was hoping for a Pirates of the Caribbean style ride. Instead of a Caribbean raid I imagined full scale audio animatronics of Sinbad and his crew battling Centaurs and Gryphons across the seas. Disney has decided to take the basic stories of Sinbad, his adventures and his encounters, and depict them in a more cartoon-like manor. Gone are the human actors, replaced by small scale cartoon figures. However the attraction does not shy away from some of Sinbad’s scarier adventures and tales.

The attraction is housed in an impressively large show building. It is designed to look like an ancient desert fortress of sorts, now crumbling with the passage of time. Upon entering the queue leads us past a series of paintings and mosaics depicting Sinbad’s travels.

(Note: In an effort to show as much of the interior of the attraction as possible most of the following shots were taken as video grabs from my camcorder. As a result the quality is a bit lower, but this allows you to take a peek at the queue and most of the ride itself.)

The Magic Lamp Theater & Sinbad's Seven Voyages

The interior carries on the detail found on the buildings exterior. Stone walls are supported by wood beams, lights flicker in brass and copper lamps and wood railings guide you on your way. The attraction is very high capacity so in a short period of time we arrive at the load area. As with Pirates or Small World, Sinbad is a water based attraction. In fact the boats themselves are virtual clones of the Pirates boats, only this time they are nicely themed.

It has always bothered me that on Pirates of the Caribbean the boats you ride in are just generic fiberglass vessels. Why not make them look like life boats dropped from a pirates ship? Why not add some sort of detail? I’m happy to report that they have done just that here. In keeping with the overall feel of this richly detailed park our boats appear to be made of wood planks (though they are, of course, fiber glass) the decks are decorated with ropes and we carry a cargo of stolen loot.

Upon our departure the first thing you will notice is how the realistic, aged and weathered feeling of the building, queue and load area quickly give way to a brightly colored, almost comic book like world. Gone are the muted tones of browns and the rock textured walls in favor of bright blues and greens on mostly smooth surfaces. It is clear that this attraction is not trying to replicate reality, rather it is creating a fun cartoon world.


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