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

ONE | TWO


MousePlanet is blessed with some wonderful readers, many of whom write in, offer suggestions, give tour reports, and generally help out so we can assemble our content for you every weekday. Sometimes we get something really special from those nice folks - and we want to share it with you. A few weeks ago a kind reader, Ted, sent me the following note:

Al, In surfing the web I have found several good photo essays of Tokyo DisneySea including the one you have run on MousePlanet. However, I have seen very little information on, or reviews of the actual attractions. There has been a little information here and there, but nothing that really examines each ride or show in depth. If other fans are anything like me, there is some pent up demand for this type of thing.

As part of a longer trip through Japan my wife and I will be spending 5 days at the Tokyo Disney Resort , staying at the Hotel Mira Costa. Would you and your readers be interested in ride reviews and a peek inside the attractions of Tokyo DisneySea?

Were we interested? Of course we were, and thanks to Ted, we now have a new series of photos and reviews to share with you from this terrific new park - showcasing the attractions themselves. As this series will run as Ted's time permits, keep checking back for his latest installments. I'm sure you'll agree with me that's he's done an absolutely spectacular job, and the staff here at MousePlanet thanks him for allowing us to present his tour to you here.

And before I forget, YES THERE ARE SCADS OF SPOILERS HERE. In fact just close this browser window right now if you don't want to know anything about this ride. I assure you Ted gives it all away here, so don't say we didn't warn you!


Part Three: Aquatopia & StormRider

Photos and text by Ted
(Please note that he retains the copyright to all photos and they may not be used without his
permission.)

Before continuing with part three of our series of Tokyo DisneySea reviews I would like to take a moment to thank everyone who has written with kind words and encouragement. I am happy to hear that so many people are enjoying these reviews. I've tried to be very specific with the details of each attraction assuming that many people will not get a chance to visit Tokyo anytime soon (though I would encourage you to do so).

Yet I am surprised that people have asked for even more details and more specific descriptions and photos from the rides. Therefore, in an effort to please, this review has a series of video screen grabs in addition to the normal photographs. The screen grabs are of a lower quality but show the ride in clear chronological order. If you are visiting the resort anytime soon please skip this review as it will spoil much of your enjoyment by eliminating all the surprises.

StormRider

Port Discovery is Tokyo DisneySea's answer to Tomorrowland, or to be even more specific here, it is the Japanese answer to Discoveryland at Disneyland Paris. It shares the same general feel as its French counterpart, however gives up much of the future as seen by past visionaries theme in lieu of a more straightforward approach. Port Discovery is also the smallest of the lands (or "Ports of Call" as they like to call them) at DisneySea. Two attractions call Port Discovery home and it is fairly locked in with little room for expansion.

StormRider
Photo by Todd Meigan

The most striking feature of this area is how half of Port Discovery does not border on a neighboring attraction or land but rather on the Pacific ocean (above). Tokyo DisneySea is built on reclaimed land and in essence sits in Tokyo Bay. This opportunity affords the park to do some truly unique things, this is the case here in Port Discovery. What looks like a retaining wall and dam actually hides an access road just outside of the park, beyond which are uninterrupted views of the ocean. The Imagineers have created a body of water within the park that runs throughout Port Discovery and lines up with the Pacific. From the correct angles the park's water looks as if it flows directly into the ocean. The effect is mesmerizing as it truly feels as though the ocean enters the park and laps up at the shores of Port Discovery.

Aquatopia

The first attraction visitors encounter in Aquatopia. Aquatopia features the same ride system Pooh's Hunny Hunt utilizes across the way in Tokyo Disneyland. It is a technologically fascinating setup which I could not possibly begin to understand or explain, but the end results are amazing. The system uses no tracks, rails or wires of any type to guide the vehicles. Rather the cars are remotely controlled and move as if by magic. In the case of Pooh's Hunny Hunt that means the vehicles (themed to be giant honey pots) glide smoothly and effortlessly through the attraction. They stop, spin, cross paths with each other and accelerate and decelerate with such a freedom of movement that it leaves one breathless. This ride system is a breakthrough which adds tremendously to the enjoyment of the attraction and is really something special.

Aquatopia - Promotional photo  Disney
Promotional photo Disney

It was a wonderful idea to use this same system in DisneySea, however a great attraction needs more than just a great ride system to really shine (remember Disneyland's Rocket Rods?). Aquatopia is an outdoor attraction that features scads of hovercrafts cruising across a large lake, and it looks like a ball... The boats dodge rocks, drift past whirlpools, narrowly avoid hitting each other and even pass water falls and geysers. It all looks very kinetic and random, almost out of control. Sometimes the crafts stop and spin in place, other times the boats plow full speed ahead. The passengers are idle, they have no control over the movements at all... they are simply along for the ride.

Aquatopia

Alas, the ride is in many ways more fun to look at than it is to ride. Unlike the Pooh attraction Aquatopia is not smooth and graceful. The boats do not really float at all, the water is in fact only a few inches deep. They drive on hidden wheels over a rough surface hidden beneath the water. This causes the boats to rumble and the ride to be surprisingly rough. You feel as if you are riding over a never ending series of speed bumps. In addition, any surprises you may of had from narrow misses are diminished as you have already seen the entire attraction while waiting in line.

Aquatopia

However the attraction does look great. In the end that is the real purpose of Aquatopia; to be set dressing for the area and perhaps provide an attraction suitable for children. In this regard it reminds me a great deal of the Orbitron attraction in Tomorrowland. It looks like a lot more fun than it is, but man, it really does look cool.

Aquatopia
Aquatopia as seen with the water drained, notice how there is no track system or guides of any kind

Aquatopia is by no means a bad attraction, and it really isn't meant to be a blockbuster. Still it could be so much more and has the base elements to be something special. Out of four stars Aquatopia gets two, and a special pat on the back for doing great job in making the place look lively, futuristic and fun.


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