Japan Day 13: Tokyo Disney Sea

So we decided to go to Tokyo Disney Sea on Monday rather than the weekend. The weather predicted a small chance of rain and partly cloudy, so I had to coax Jamie to go on this day. Aubri also didn’t want to wake up.

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After much coaxing and repeated reminders that she would get to see mermaids, she was finally ready to go.

It’s about a 20 minute train ride from Tokyo station to the park station at Maihama station. Then it’s another about 10 minute walk to the gates. The entire walk is neatly trimmed and beautiful, though, so we suffered willingly.

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Once at the gate, it was 6400jpy/ea for the adults (about $64 right now) and anyone 4 and under is free. Before you choke at that price, realize that as of this writing Disneyland in California is $86/ea for ages 3-9 and $92/ea for ages 10+. Yikes! Now, Disneyland/Disney Sea is technically licensed to the company who runs them, but not actively run by Disney themselves. I’m not sure about the Disneyland side, but I imagine that’s why only older characters are present on the Disney Sea side.

But on to the park.

From the moment we stepped foot inside, the wonder for Aubri began.

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This place has a big map with lots of zones, so we just folded up the map and started walking. If you take a right from the entrance, you’ll walk through a big open walkway and step into the Shipwreck and Castle area (Noted as Fortress Explorations on the map).

I should note that even right here, everything has both ramp and elevator access. The entire park is super easy for both strollers and wheelchairs.

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So we let Aubri go and explore…

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These canons really fired with a little blast of smoke (after a long loading noise) when you tugged the fuse.

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Heading up to the castle portion…

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And then she found this…

 

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This awesome tucked-away play area has a contained weather system with ships. For 100jpy/play (which lasts several minutes) you can steer boats through rain, storms, whirlpools, dangerous straits, and other hazards. It’s super fun and I had to drag Jamie and Aubri both away from it…

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The inside of this castle is done up as though it belonged to a secret society of explorers.

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It has a whole scavenger/clue finding game you can play throughout the castle to “Crack DaVinci’s Code,” but we felt that Aubri wouldn’t have the attention span for that. So we reluctantly moved on from the fortress and found ourselves in the Mysterious Island area. This is about the time we started realizing just how great the attention to detail is here. Every inch of the entire place is not only themed but segmented by zone, down to the lamps totally changing styles. And every single ride has its own style of costume, in addition to each zone having different costumes.

We’ve been to Disneyland California several times, and this totally takes the cake.

So in Mysterious Island we had our first batch of Sea Salt ice cream. We were a little disappointed that it didn’t come in blue on sticks, but it was very tasty (310jpy for ice cream, so around $3).

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Then Jamie and I grabbed Fastpasses for Journey to the Center of the Earth, and we moved on to occupy Aubri for a while.

Now, something we didn’t realize about until later (but would be very handy to use) is the fact that they have “Baby Ride Cards.” Basically, you both fast pass and then ask for the ride card. The first person gives the card to the second person when they come out, and that second person gets to go up the exit line and ride basically immediately. No second fastpass wait. Pretty cool.

We grabbed a sausage bun (basically gyoza meat inside a fluffy steamed bun, 430jpy ea):

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And then moved on to the Mermaid Lagoon area.

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Now, the Mermaid Lagoon has an outdoor area with several rides (all kid themed, but one is a mini-roller coaster which only ages 3 and up can ride), and then it has an additional area “Triton’s Kingdom” that has more rides inside, is dark like the deep sea, and has a giant play area and a stage.

So we rode some rides, all with virtually no wait because the park wasn’t that crowded:

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And then we went inside.

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We rode the Jellyfish ride and then I sent Jamie to go ride on the first Fastpass while I rode with Aubri.

We rode this Blowfish ride…

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And then the “Kelp cups (Teacups)”

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Then played with some lights on the floor…

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And then we found Ariel’s Playground.

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In Ariel’s Grotto

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Climbing through a dark tunnel of evil squids

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And then Jamie found us in the play area and I tapped out to go ride. The Journey to the Center of the Earth is fun, and the detail even in all the displays leading up to the ride is pretty cool. Alas, I left the camera with Jamie. It took me about 20 minutes to get out to the ride, get through the Fastpass line, ride and get back.

Then we rode the blowfish again.

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And it was time for lunch. We ordered the chicken and salsa set lunch for 1080jpy and the scallop sandwich set plate for 960jpy.

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While I found the apple tea soda weird, the sandwiches weren’t bad. The scallop sandwich is mashed scallop fried into breading. Overall filling enough for roughly $20.

There was a show coming up at 2 that we wanted to see, so we packed Aubri into the stroller and headed out to grab a fast pass first. We grabbed a Stormrider Fastpass from Port Discovery since it’s a quick walk from the Mermaid Lagoon. Naturally Aubri passed out just before the show started, and slept through the entire show:

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They had dragon-styled jet skis and they were flying kites from them…

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So we watched the show and she slept on. Then we headed back toward Port Discovery and Lost River Delta. In Port Discovery we stumbled across a Japanese Steampunk Brass Band. Seriously:

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They were really fun to watch, but they woke Aubri up (of course). So we took her grumpy self over to take a picture with the Goofy Inventor.

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And then it was time to go see the show at the Hangar Stage in Lost Delta. Along the way we saw some plane wrecks:

I love that this plane is called C-3PO.

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The stage was too dark to take pictures, but the show is basically this story of the various element spirits. Lots of cool special effects and great acrobatics, definitely a great surprise. We felt like we’d just watched a small segment of a Cirque du Soleil show.

Afterwards we left to go ride Storm Rider, which is a virtual reality storm chaser ride. It’s fun, but Aubri had to sit in her own seat so she got a little nervous (we also had to tell them she was 3 *koffkoff* because she is over 90cm tall and thus tall enough to ride).

But then we grabbed a Fastpass for Indiana Jones and the Crystal Skull. We moved on to the Arabian Coast, and the Flying Carpets, to kill time.

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We also had time to run through Sinbad’s Storybook Voyage, which is exactly the same ride as Pirates of the Caribbean, but set in the desert with camels. Aubri enjoyed it. The paint jobs are a little newer, for sure…

So we headed to go ride the Indiana Jones ride, and found out about the baby ride cards. So Jamie rode first while I entertained Aubri by the sales carts. So far she’d been a totally awesome well-behaved kid. Naturally I was about to change that.

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The Indiana Jones ride was exactly like the one in California too, except that the model did look older (Harrison Ford ages!).

We caught sight of the full moon rising over Jasmine’s Palace:

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And decided we had time to ride the carousel before we needed to head back toward the front of the park (to catch the big show, Fantasmic).

So we jumped onto an elephant and a purple genie…

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Snapped a picture under the watchful eye of another Genie…

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Ran off to the front of the park (Mediterranean Harbor) to find Aubri a souvenir and grab a snack before the show. It was only about 6:40pm and people were already laying claim to real estate, so we tried to hurry. We did find Aubri a cool hoodie as her souvenir, and then grabbed a Mickey snack:

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And then we found ourselves a patch of the side street on the bridge to watch the show. Our view was pretty good. The show was similar to Fantasmagoria in Disneyland, but with some character variation and a lot of extra frill dancing.

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After the show (for which Aubri was enthralled), we joined the throngs of people rushing back. It was a little after 8:30, and with the walk and the trains we didn’t get back to our host family’s house until just after 10pm. But I would say the trip to Disney Sea was totally worth it, and probably the best experience I’ve had at a theme park. There was stroller parking available at every ride, the only line frustration we had was the swarming of characters (ignoring lines etc), and Aubri was even a little rockstar. High five, Japan Disney.

Tomorrow’s post… Matsumodo Castle in Nagano Prefecture.

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Frozen: A Whole New World for Disney

So, I know this movie came out a little over a month ago. I should have posted my thoughts then, but since several people have asked me recently, I wanted to open the discussion now.

Many of my close followers know that I was particularly frustrated shortly before Frozen came out because of the crass comments by a Disney lead animator, basically suggesting women all look alike. That’s obviously true with Disney, since all you need to do is change the hair color and the freckles and you have basically every Disney lead female animated basically ever. I was also frustrated because I felt that they weren’t really advertising this movie, and probably because it was more about girls than normal.

But since I am a guilty enjoyer of Disney, I decided to go see it on the day after Thanksgiving anyway.

In case you don’t know, Disney’s Frozen is a liberal reimagining of the Snow Queen story. Basically everything from this point onward will be spoilers. Lots of bullet points and numbered lists here!

The MAJOR issues with this film are also prevalent in a lot of other Disney movies, but here we go:

1.  I have 4 sisters. You can’t take our hair, swap it around, and get a different sister. Women don’t all look alike, seriously. The sisters look exactly alike, but since the animator was whining about that we kinda assumed this would be the case:
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2. Apparently girls can’t have an interesting story without being estranged from their parents or orphaned entirely. Both parents die shortly in the film, leaving the sisters emotionally stranded and without any adult supervision really.

3. There are NO MINORITY CHARACTERS in this film. AT ALL. Unless we assume the trolls are minority characters, because they are made out of rock so their skin is grey. And they have a shaman. Jamie did point out to me that it’s likely set in Sweden or something and it IS set in 19thish century wherever, so I suppose it might make a little sense for basically everyone to be white and blue-eyed… But really, Disney? The snowman is your token black guy?
*Note that we know the reason this happens is because their market share in Japan is huge, and Japan historically prefers pale characters.

4. The music is weirdly Broadway-esque and consists of a lot of songs about the characters doing whatever it is they are doing. They have interesting music but the lyrics are generally unimaginative and subpar compared to the rest of Disney’s musicals. The song “Let it Go” is the only real exception, though the lyrics are a bit weird there too.

5. All the grownups are all-knowing, and the characters always know what’s happening next. Except Anna and Elsa, who are naive and stupid compared to everyone else, apparently.

6. Not surprisingly, the story revolves around the idea of True Love, Disney’s trademark.

 

My nitpicky and frustrated additions to this list include:
7. The fact that Anna (the redhead) apparently falls in love instantly with the first male she meets outside of the castle. And then they share a really awkward song about sandwiches. This song was probably the main thing that shut down the members of my friends list that hated this film.

8. Both of the female main characters are emotionally stunted and clueless (but this could be attributed to being locked in a castle since early childhood).

9. The second Elsa decides to just be her Ice Queen self, she stops walking like a girl and starts sashaying her hips like a sexy woman–creepy, Disney! This one was really jarring.

10. Why are there so many orphans? The lesson that kids can’t have any adults in their life or they will grow up emotionally stunted seems pretty blaring. Even Kristoff was apparently an orphan, except for his Troll family and his dog-Reindeer? By the way, Disney, Reindeer aren’t that big. I think you meant to make Sven a moose.

11. My least favorite part: Anna feels her “True Love” must save her from certain death and rushes off to get him to kiss her. Because she needs a male to save her, right?

12. GIANT PLOT HOLES like why did Anna need to have her mind cleared of knowing her sister had ice powers?

13. Most frustrating possibly, the fact that all the adults keep telling Elsa that she’s not allowed to have emotions. Any emotions. No feeling, no contact. Otherwise she’ll hurt other people. Is this Disney’s way of highlighting children’s emotional abuse?

14. Anna is obsessed with the idea of falling in love. But most teenagers are obsessed with relationships on some level (male or female) because this is when hormones+society expect us to start being sex crazed. Disney just left the sex out. This did make the first part of the movie REALLY uncomfortable though.

15. I can’t get over how much I feel like the trolls were thrown in to give us a minority character.

16. I have mixed feelings about the Trolls’ song because it seems like it borderlines on encouraging dysfunctional relationships. The song says “we’re not saying he can be fixed, but maybe you can work it out together.” What??

Now let’s talk about what Frozen did right, because there are some things I really appreciated about the movie.

1. First of all, despite being completely isolated and experiencing the boy-crazy-puberty at 16, Anna is actually a very powerful character in terms of her impact. She takes charge of the castle in a time of crisis, refuses to let any adults (even the one she thinks she loves) tell her that she can’t help her sister, and sets out to climb a mountain by herself. She does a poor job of it, but she IS a sixteen year old girl who was raised in a castle. She doesn’t exactly have mountain climbing experience.

2. Elsa refuses to let Anna marry the guy she met ten seconds ago. Because you don’t really love a guy you just met, little sister.

3. Kristoff and Sven keep getting into trouble. Chased by wolves, chased by a giant snow beast. Anna lights the wolves on fire and cuts the rope to save them from the snow golem. She’s quick on her feet and never looks back after making a decision.

4. Anna never knew (thanks to the Trolls) that her sister had ice powers. But when her sister goes a little overboard and freezes everything, Anna chases after her despite having been unable to see her until five seconds before that. Because she can’t let her sister be alone.

5. Elsa is faced with lots of armed bad guys and doesn’t falter. Despite the fact that she’s being hunted by a ton of adult males, she refuses to let them take her down.

6. Disney actually pulled a fast one, because (EXTRA SPOILER) the guy Hans that Anna thought she was in love with is actually the Bad Guy! He’s been plotting to steal the throne and he leaves her to die! I was gleefully pleased by this because “HEY GIRLS, ATTRACTIVE MEN YOU MEET WHO PROFESS THEIR LOVE MIGHT NOT HAVE GOOD INTENTIONS!”

7. The absolute low point of the movie is when Anna feels like everyone has abandoned her and she’s going to die because she was betrayed. The cheerful snowman tells her to buck up and she realizes Kristoff is trying to save her. In normal Disney movies she’d let him come to her, but in this case she drags herself half-Frozen (ah hah) into the snow and tries to find him, despite the snow storm. In other words, she gets off her ass, throws aside her depression and overcomes.

8. And THEN she sees Hans about to kill her sister, the one who pierced her through the heart with ice, and steps in to intervene–losing her chance to get a True Love Kiss from Kristoff and become a Real Girl again.

9. The reason I find 8 so interesting is because Disney broke their own traditional norm of True Love. They let two girls exhibit True Love to overcome “The Curse.” This is awkwardly incesty, but a step toward understanding that the heterosexual norm is not the only valid form of love. When they hugged (and did this weird nose thing that made it look like a preemptive kiss) Jamie got this look on her face, and I was like “Shutup-they’re-sisters-you-creep.” Naturally the whole theater heard me, yikes.  

10. In the end, Elsa realizes that her emotions aren’t what is causing her to freeze everything. She really just needs to overcome her own fear in order to control her powers. Overcoming fear is a powerful message.

11. Elsa doesn’t end up in a relationship! The trailers made Jamie and me think that we were setting up for both girls to have a boyfriend in the end, but Elsa gets to be herself and Queen without interference.

12. It’s about time a recent Disney movie (not Pixar) failed to end in a wedding.

13. The characters were almost all of “adult” age. This is mostly a sign of the times and acceptability, however.

14. Neither Anna nor Elsa exhibit ANY “womanly” characteristics of housekeeping etc. No cleaning, no cooking, no sewing, no painting. Anna is a bookworm with a wild imagination, and somewhat like I imagine Belle would have been if she’d been written with more modern sensibilities.

15. I expected the snowman (Olaf) to be really irritating, and he turned out to just be a cute insightful sidekick.

16. At the very end Anna punches the Bad Guy in the face. Just clocks him one. BAM! She’s got a good right hook.

Ultimately, Brave and Mulan are the only other Disney movies so far that have proven to have strong female characters that take their destiny this much into their own hands. But Brave wasn’t about True Love, it was about family bonds. Mulan had all kinds of other stuff to overcome, and her story was also ultimately about responsibility.  Frozen has the potential to tell girls that it’s OK for them to be themselves and be brilliant and talented, regardless of their circumstances. It doesn’t do the best job of it, but considering Disney’s track record, it’s off to a better start.