Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Westworld Season One Review

So the first season of Westworld ended this past Sunday, and it is still fresh in my head. For those of you who haven't seen the show, don't worry. There will be a spoiler-free section of this review up front, and a spoiler-filled section towards the end.


For those of you who don't know, Westworld was originally a film that debuted in 1973. For years, as a kid, I thought that the Westworld film had a very similar vibe to Jurassic Park; a park where people can experience things of the past, and then the attractions go wrong and start killing people. I was very much surprised when I learned that the author of the Jurassic Park books, Michael Crichton, actually wrote the screenplay for Westworld and directed the film as well. In the film, there were several different "worlds" that a paying customer could visit. The bulk of the film focused on Westworld, but there was other parks like Ancient Greece. Perhaps Jurassic Park could have been one of those worlds, but I guess we'll never know. 

The premise of the film was very short and simple. One of the robots in the park, always a villain who made fun of the guests until they gained the courage to kill him, got tired of being killed everyday and revolted. It didn't take long before the happy western park film became a terminator scenario. The film didn't try to boast any grand ideas about humanity. It was simply a horror film about artificial intelligence. 

When HBO announced that they would be adapting the film into a series, I wondered just how this would be possible. The film was fun, but it was short and simple. The show would have to either drag the plot out and elaborate on useless details, or they would have to rewrite the story to make it more suited for a television show and a modern audience. They chose the latter, and it turned out spectacular. 

The show follows several characters involved in the Westworld park. We see the park from all angles; guests (both new and returning), the robots (living their lives on a loop) and the people behind the scenes (engineers, technicians, security, narrative development, and management). Experiencing the park from the ground level, as well as the ownership level, did allow the viewer to embrace the entire concept of the park and not be limited to one character's take. 
  The cast is made of up nothing short of a stellar list of actors. Anthony Hopkins, Ed Harris, Thandie Newton, James Marsden, and Evan Rachel Wood lead the show with impressive performances. We see their characters fully develop over the series and truly get a sense of their motivations and desires. Unlike some shows, Westworld balances their large cast list quite well. Instead of episodes dedicated to one character, they seem to all get enough screen time to matter throughout the season.

While there are some nods to the original film, the show contains enough twists from the first episode on to leave the viewer guessing about what might happen next. It is full of intense drama, a bit of romance, and plenty of action and creepy elements to keep you on the edge of your seat. Clocking in at ten episodes, the show is a must see delight. I would recommend it to anyone looking for a good time. 

5 out of 5 stars


Ok, let's get down to the grit of this show. I absolutely loved the original film, and I absolutely loved this show as well. Unlike the film, which featured an artificial intelligence that just eventually came alive, we got to see what it took for such an event to happen in the show. The robots didn't just wake up one day and decide to revolt. In fact, as far as I could tell, only one character actually achieved consciousness while the others were simply programmed to believe they did. 

From the get go, it was clear that not all humans were humans. James Marsden appeared to be a recurring visitor to the park, but we found that he was only programmed to be that way. Ed Harris, who played the man in black, was actually a human instead of a malfunctioning murderous robot. Unlike the happy-go-lucky guests of the movie, HBO showed us the darker side of humanity; some guests were simply there to perform acts that were illegal in the real world (rape, murder, and so on). Ed Harris's character was incredibly interesting to me, as the majority of the show seemed to revolve around him in different stages of his life. Watching him evolve from such a weak and shy person into a murderous killer hellbent on finding the one robot who would break their loop, was a highlight of the series. 

Thandie Newton's character was quite interesting as well. As we were certain that Evan Rachel Wood was starting to find consciousness, it seemed that Thandie Newton was miles ahead of everyone in that department. Using both her charm and viciousness, she quickly turned two technicians into her servants and quickly became aware of her surroundings. The best part about her rise to power, however, was that it appeared to be planned from the beginning. Though quick, there was a scene in the final episode that seemed to hint at someone writing every step of her supposed awareness. 

The process of writing narratives was an ongoing theme in the show. There was a prick who's job it was to manage the requested narratives of V.I.P. park guests, as well as come up with new massive stories that would invite the guests to participate. Anthony Hopkins, however, played the creator of the park who had his own plans for a narrative. Hopkins came across as someone unwilling to let go of the park, as well as an individual plagued by the actions of his former partner in the business. It appeared that his partner, Arnold, wanted to see the potential in developing consciousness in the robots, where Hopkins simply wanted the park to work. When no one would listen to Arnold, he started a chain of events that would haunt the park for decades to come and force Anthony Hopkins' hand into making a delicate decision. 

I felt that ten episodes was the perfect length for the show. It gave the plot time to breathe, but it kept the filler to a minimum. There was a ton of story going on in this show, but it certainly wrapped up nicely. Instead of half the season being a murderous rampage, the robot revolt was held off until the very end, and even then it wasn't fully realized just yet. We got a glimpse of what appeared to be a second park (SW) which featured samurai! As several storylines seem to come to an apparent close at the end of the first season, it is unclear if the second season will be a continuation or another park full of other characters. Either way, I absolutely adored the trip this show took me on, and I'd love to hear what your thoughts are regarding it. 

Keep on Daydreaming!

- Joshua Howell

Monday, November 14, 2016

Tokyo DisneySea Review

Alrighty, here I am back again with part two of the Tokyo Disney review, this time with the other park called Tokyo DisneySea. If you missed part one that consisted of Tokyo Disneyland, you can scroll down the page if you are on the home page of Secrets of DIM, or you can click here -

Tokyo DisneySea in short can be described as this: Absolutely Amazing. This place truly takes your breath away. You can think of all your favorite places in your life and this place could come really close to that. Of all the pictures I've seen and of all the things I've read about this place, I was still overwhelmed entering in through the gates and seeing the harbor with Mount Prometheus looming over everything.

First, you enter through the gates into the DisneySea Plaza and pass under the DisneySea Hotel MiraCosta. Yes, you read that correctly, the hotel is built into the park. It serves as the backdrop of the Mediterranean Harbor, the entry way to the Seven Seas. Yes, there are seven themed areas here (I'm pretty sure their coincidence was intended). You have the Mediterranean Harbor, the American Waterfront, the Mysterious Island, Mermaid Lagoon, Arabian Coast, the Port of Discovery, and my favorite, the Lost River Delta.

After passing through the hotel tunnel, you find yourself at the edge of a massive harbor that shows off Mount Prometheus in all its breathtaking beauty.

As with all Disney parks, you have the park's focal point, and this one to me is the absolute best. The volcano is awesome and makes you feel like your day will be an absolute adventure. Most of the focal points in the other parks are of man-made structures: all of the castles, Spaceship Earth at EPCOT, the Chinese Theater at Hollywood Studios; but like the Animal Kingdom with the Tree of Life, this place has a 'natural' element to it. Sure, this is a man-made volcano, but it looks and acts like a real one (it occasionally "erupts" throughout the day).

At the base of Mount Prometheus you can see the fortress of Leonardo DaVinci in which you can explore and do the DaVinci Challenge where you are given a map and clues and you have to figure out the secret to the mountain. We took part in this, but I caution, the map is in Japanese! The first clue was one that depended on knowing the language, so we were stuck until we saw another group with the same color sheet as us, and after we saw the first clue, we were able to finish it on our own based off of things we found throughout the fortress.

We returned to the kind lady working the start of the challenge as she felt bad the maps were only in Japanese, but once we showed her we finished the challenge correctly, she was overjoyed for us. Figuring out puzzles can feel really rewarding, but trust me, they feel even better when you figure them out in a different language, makes you feel like a real explorer! Also, there is a galleon moored to the side of the fortress that you can also get on deck and explore the ship, and you can even find and get your picture taken with Captain Jack Sparrow!

Another part of the Mediterranean Harbor is all the shopping you can do around the waterfront. This is similar to Main Street USA in its function, but also has a bunch of Italian restaurants as well and features some Venetian gondolas.

Moving into the American Waterfront, the Hotel Hightower looms over this section of the park. This Hotel serves as this parks Tower of Terror.

I will say this, storywise, this is the BEST version of the Tower of Terror. In terms of ride experience, the Disney World version is by far the best. The ride here is similar to Disney's California Adventure version, but as I said, both don't hold a candle to this one with the backstory. Since California's Tower of Terror is being converted to a Guardians of the Galaxy ride (tragic in my opinion), Florida's should drop the Twilight Zone tie-in and adopt this story.

The story goes as follows, the famous explorer Harrison Hightower collects rare antiquities from all over the world and has put his collections here (set in New York). One item in particular, Shiriki Utundu, a statue from the Congo has a curse and ultimately sets in motion the whole disappearance and fall down an elevator thing that the ride is known for.

The amazing story telling begins here outside in the queue line where you wander through his gardens that are filled with statues of various relics and idols from different cultures throughout the world.

Even though it doesn't look like this line was very long, this was taken first thing in the morning and this was the first thing we did. The lines here get very long, and I will touch a little bit more on that later in the post. When we went on this a second time, we got to stand in these gardens for a good while.

Once you get into the hotel lobby, you see all the different frescos and paintings of Hightower claiming his prize. These I found really funny as they clearly make him out to be the bad guy by showing the indigenous people chasing after him graverobbing them.

You then enter either his study or his library (they are the same experience, just different staging areas to handle larger crowds) where you see the Shiriki Utundu on a pedestal next to the desk. The stained-glass window then changes and the statue begins to talk in only a way Disney effects can make things appear, before the statue disappears completely in the blink of an eye. I have no idea how they create this illusion, but it is awesome.

After this, you then get to the loading area and was is awesome about this part is that you get into what seems to be the warehouse for all the statues he has brought back. All of the items he is shown retrieving in the hotel lobby paintings, you can most likely find down here.

Then you of course board the elevator and the ride goes on like you imagine it would, dropping you down the shaft a couple times. What makes this one even creepier though is that the statue talks to you in its deep and dark voice, and since it is in Japanese, you have no idea what it is saying. It sounds like it is placing its curse upon you. I think not knowing what it is saying just puts the icing on the cake on how awesome this whole experience was.

A couple other things in this section of the park features a massive steamliner called the SS Columbia that has a restaurant in it.

There is also a Broadway Theater here that has a big Disney Broadway Production, but one of the most popular attractions in the park is here and that is Toy Story Midway Mania. If you actually want to ride this, you better be one of the first people in the park and grab a fast pass instantly. The line waits here were over 140 minutes all day long and the Fast Passes were gone within 2 hours of the park's opening.

We didn't ride this as we grabbed Fast Passes first for Tower of Terror, and then when we saw wait times, we said no thanks. We had ridden this attraction in Disney World so we felt we weren't missing out. For those who haven't ridden this, in short, you ride around in a 4D experience where you play mini games throughout and try to get the high score. You pull a string on the back of your 'controller' shooting darts, balls, etc. at different targets. It's a fun experience if you haven't done it before, but not something I'd say is worth a 2+ hour wait.

The next area I will talk about is the Port of Discovery. This area is pretty neat in that it features a lot of SteamPunk action and has a bunch of science based attractions. Aquatopia was closed for refurbishment while we were there (it was also a balmy 60 degrees here and chilly so a water-based attraction where you can get wet isn't that popular I guess). We did however get to go on StormRider, which is a unique ride.

You enter into the Center for Weather Control where they supposedly can control the weather and it is cool how much innovative science they display for you actually get to ride the ride. Of course, it is all fictionalized science in that you obviously can't control the weather, but it is fun to see the possibility. This ride is a simulator as you are in basically a steampunk airplane and travel through tornadoes, hurricanes, underwater, and a lot of cool stuff. There is an moment where an object on the video screen actually becomes reality, which is a clever touch. However, by the time most of you read this, this ride is no longer. It has been closed since shortly after we visited and is being converted into a Finding Nemo/Dory attraction. Sigh.

Next is one of the coolest places I've ever been and that is Mysterious Island. This whole area takes inspiration from Jules Verne and classic literature and film. This entire area is nestled into the side of Mount Prometheus and is embedded into a crater.

That is the view you get walking in from the Mediterranean Harbor side, and notice the large steampunk drill in the side of the mountain tunneling directly into Mount Prometheus. Below is another angle of the crater and shows what lies below the walkway around the edge.

The steamships that can sail around the whole park do pass through here as the entire park is connected by waterways. And your eyes do not deceive you, yes, that is the Nautilus.

20,000 Leagues Under the Sea has always been one of my favorite movies growing up and this is the Nautilus as it should be and in all its glory. Unfortunately, you can't go inside it, but the fact you can see the sub still with your own eyes is awesome, especially after Disney World retired the ride. Well have no fear! DisneySea has their own version of the 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea ride!

This ride isn't like the old version of the ride at Disney World or like the Submarine Voyage at Disneyland in California, the ride system is similar to that of Peter Pan's Flight where you are in a car that hangs below a suspended railing. The system works wonders here as you enter into a small submarine (claustrophobia could come into play for some) and you actually feel like you are underwater seeing all the colorful things. The glass on the subs is concave and gives the illusion of being underwater, and bubbles that float up between the panes and depth gauges add to the environment. And yes, you do get attacked by a Giant Squid!

As a fan of the movie, they have a bunch of memorabilia scattered throughout the queue, and here a couple maps I took pictures of detailing out the Mysterious Island and what you could expect on the ride.

The other attraction in this crater can be found almost directly below the drill outside and in the caves you can find the entrance to the Journey to the Center of the Earth.

This ride catapulted easily into my Top 5 Disney attractions I have ever been on. This ride experience is so unique, it's tough to pick something that comes close. I guess system wise it uses the same technology that Test Track uses that you can find at EPCOT. You make your way down through a bunch of caves and then and elevator that "tells you" that you have traveled deep into the Earth. You then board onto a drill-like car and head deeper seeing tons of amazing animatronics that put Avatar colors to shame. The bioluminescence on this ride and all the weird, wonderful creatures you encounter is impressive.

As you continue to get "deeper", fire starts shooting out of walls and eventually  you come across one of the largest and most awesome robots I've ever seen as this giant snake, centipede, dragon, whatever thing starts to attack you before you launch off into complete darkness and haul the mail back to the surface when you burst out of the side of the mountain and zip around the crater. I would almost have to rank this ride second behind Expedition: Everest as my favorite Disney ride. It is absolutely awesome.

After you make your way through the Mysterious Island crater, you find yourself staring at the entrance to Mermaid Lagoon.

This place is unique as 90% of this area is inside a building, and before I show you what I mean, if you grew up watching Disney like I did, you first have to admire the Little Mermaid statue that depicts one of the famous images of Disney movies at the time.

So then you begin to enter the building and you see you are entering Triton's Kingdom.

And what you will find inside made me take a step back in awe as I didn't expect to see a world that made you completely feel like you were under the sea.

There is so much inside this place for little kids to do, I'm astonished how they fit so much into a place. There are nine attractions in here alone! The environment here is cool how they were able to pull it off. Also, if you are here in the winter, you could come in here to warm up just a tad, and the funny thing is we saw a bunch of adults in the playground area napping on the soft, cushioned floor taking naps while the children ran around on the jungle gyms and such. The one attraction that is outside is Flounder's Flying Fish Coaster that is a steel mini coaster much like Gadget's Go Coaster and we didn't go on it.

After emerging from under the sea, we headed across the bridge to the Arabian Coast that is almost exclusively Aladdin themed, and how can you go wrong with that? The first area you can enter into is the large Arabian Plaza where you can find the Magic Lamp Theater and a double-decker carousel.

This wide open space can give you a brief reprieve from managing to get through chokepoints that are found throughout DisneySea (unlike Disneyland that has paths so wide). But there is a lot of detail in this plaza that will just make you smile. When we visited here though, it was a little bittersweet to see all of the Genie stuff after the loss of Robin Williams, but he will always make you smile. Especially this fountain that had different faces for all of the Genies on it.

There is a little alley way that you can walk through to get to the rest of the Arabian Coast and I liked it as you felt like you were walking through the streets of Agrabah, and had a bunch of Easter eggs hidden all over including a funny shop that belonged to Jafar but had a "Store Closed by the Sultan" sign on the door.

After emerging from this little side street, you come across Sinbad's Storybook Voyage, and this is honestly the It's a Small World you are looking for. This is such a much better boat ride in the same vein that its predecessor, and the robotics are way more advanced.

I also didn't mind having the song from this ride stuck in my head. The music was written by Tony Award Winning composer Alan Menken and is very catchy. Even though the lyrics were transcribed and performed in here into Japanese, the attendant working was kind enough to give me a cute little sheet that had the story projected onto paper and the words in English so we could follow along. The following picture is a map on the wall just before the ride that shows the different show rooms your voyage takes you on.

 The last area of the park is definitely my favorite and is the Lost River Delta. This area features two of my favorite things, roller coasters and Indiana Jones. Crossing the bridge into this area you can find a biplane similar to the one in Raiders of the Lost Ark with a very familiar tail number on it that should make you smile.

Once you get down the steps of the bridge, you come face to face with the Indiana Jones ride's massive temple.

This ride is similar to the Disneyland version in California except has a different story to it. This one is called Indiana Jones Adventure: Temple of the Crystal Skull. Now before you roll your eyes and discredit this ride based off of whatever preconceived movie perception, I will tell you that this ride was designed and built BEFORE that movie ever came out. There are so many great things in this ride and Easter Eggs aplenty for any Indy fan and I was beside myself experiencing this as I haven't ridden the one in California. You are in a Jeep (for Disney World travelers, similar experience to Dinosaur) and you make your way through the temple dodging booby traps and vicious animals after messing with the Crystal Skull. There are indeed snakes on this ride. Snakes, why'd it have to be snakes? And the climax of the ride is one that is very familiar to anyone who has seen Raiders of the Lost Ark.

Below are some pictures of the interior of the temple as the detail put into this structure is amazing.

I like the above pictures as the middle one reminds me of the statue on the Thuggi altar in Temple of Doom and the one directly above is like the Ark of the Covenant shooting out the beams in the book that Indy and Marcus show the FBI agents in the beginning of Raiders.

The other major attraction in this area of the park is a roller coaster called Raging Spirits and it is embedded into Incan ruins. This compact coaster has a vertical loop in it that catches you by surprise as it is shrouded in mist and is located deep in the heart of the coaster.

Even though the ride itself seems short, I really liked riding this coaster. The scenery does it alone for me, we also rode this at night and it was sweet. I would almost recommend riding this after the sun goes down as you wouldn't really see where you are going and the lighting is fantastic.

The other areas around the Lost River Delta are great looking and add to the immersiveness of the area. Across the river from the temples is a great restaurant that we ate at that served Mexican food, and it was delicious. Highly recommend Miguel's El Dorado Cantina.

Well that does it for covering the areas of the park, and just like last post, before I close, I want to post a couple pictures of the major attractions at night time as they looked glorious and like I stated in the other, make sure you stay past sundown to get full experience.

Indiana Jones Adventure: Temple of the Crystal Skull

Raging Spirits

Mount Prometheus

In closing, I find this by far my favorite Disney Park that I have been to. If you have read through this blog and were amazed at some of the photos I have in here, this is only a small snippet of all the things I took pictures of as there is an insane amount of detail here. This park to me is a mix of almost all of the parts of all of the other Disney Parks. I really loved the Jules Verne attractions, as his work makes you want to get out and explore almost like no other, and mixing that with Indiana Jones and then Tower of Terror, this park almost puts you at sensory overload, and it definitely worth the flight to Japan. If you are a fan of theme parks in general, you almost have to get here as you won't find a better place that combines thrills and scenery anywhere.

I hope you had just as much fun reading and looking at the photos in here as I did writing this and reliving the experience of this place. To steal a Jurassic Park quote, but "I was overwhelmed by the power of this place." And I won't ever forget that.

Thanks for reading,

Mike G.

Monday, November 7, 2016

Tokyo Disneyland Review

Before I head off on Asian Excursion Part II, I figured I'd give my thoughts on two of Disney's offshore theme parks. Before I get to quite possibly the best (I think it is, a bunch other people feel same way, but it's all subjective) Disney Park in Tokyo DisneySea, I will bring you Tokyo Disneyland!

Me and my traveling group (consisting of my sister and brother-in-law, as well as one of my closest friends) visited Tokyo Disneyland a couple days before Christmas in 2015. Over in Japan, this nearly coincides with the Emperor's Birthday which is December 23rd, and is quite possibly the biggest holiday over there. Being so close to Christmas, naturally nearly everything was decked out in festive holiday garb.

This park is unique to any of the Disney parks that I know of in that Main Street USA has a roof over it. In this park, Main Street is called the World Bazaar, since obviously we aren't in the good ole' US of A anymore. I will say that I've only been to Disney World and now the Tokyo resort, but I have researched all of the current Disney parks to death. The Main Street is also a little bit expanded here, but like the rest of this park, it certainly caters to massive hoards of people, so the added room is a welcome addition.

The first area of the park we ventured into was Tomorrowland since it is located in its traditional place to the right of the entrance like almost every other Disney park in existing (except you Shanghai...). This park also has the FastPass system installed and if you are familiar with Disney's current system in Orlando, and what they are currently trying to roll out in California is the Magic Bands. This park utilizes the old way of going to a kiosk, inserting park ticket, and getting a time on a little pass piece of paper. I really liked this old way as I collected the ride logos on the top of them (I know, I'm a nerd), but the Magic Band thing works pretty slick. I call it a toss up between the two.

So our plan was to snag some Fast Passes for Space Mountain and then hit up some of the other rides while we waited for our time. After getting passes, which ended up being the wrong ones because I messed up (Yes, the Disney expert still screwed up), we went straight for one of all of our favorites, Star Tours.

Yes, now before you say anything, the signs are in English. That makes it very easy to get around, but this ride is a perfect example of what lies ahead for anyone traveling to any of the Tokyo parks, or what I would imagine at any other Disney park in the world, the rides are not in English. But to me, that doesn't matter at all. At least not here in Tokyo Disneyland that if you have ridden them here in the States, you get the gist of what is being said here.

Now with Star Tours, I love the fact that C-3PO speaks in Japanese. He IS fluent in over 6 million forms of communication, so the fact that he speaks Japanese to me just makes sense. It is fun hearing all of the other characters speak the language as well, especially Darth Vader. He really does want to be terrifying to everyone! (Note: I am not terrified of Darth Vader.)

Instead of going around the park in the way we did it, I will stay in Tomorrowland and cover the other attractions we did. Of course we rode Space Mountain, and naturally a couple times as we went on it again after we did indeed get the correct Fast Pass later.

This Space Mountain I would guess is pretty similar to the California version as it is a single track, which is unlike the Orlando version with the Alpha and Omega tracks (PSA: If you visit Orlando, always request Omega, it's much better). The loading platform is pretty awesome, and I know the following picture is a little blurry, but hey it was dark.

One attraction we did that we didn't intend of doing, but I grabbed wrong Fast Passes, was the Stitch Encounter. This is not the same as the one in Orlando (that thankfully I haven't been on, ALIEN ENCOUNTER TIL I DIE!) This one is like some of the attractions in Orlando where a video screen of a character interacts with the audience by answering questions and talking to people. This is where we ran into a problem. None of us are fluent in Japanese, and yes, Stitch speaks perfect Japanese (Stitch is extremely popular in Japan). So this was about 10 minutes of kind of just playing along with the crowd reaction and hoping Stitch didn't pick any of us to talk.

The thing we did in Tomorrowland was later in the night as the line was long all day. This is a common theme in Tokyo Disneyland, don't be afraid of long waits. Fast Pass makes all the difference here compared to the parks in Orlando as you definitely would prefer to use them in Japan. Orlando there are times you might not need such a pass. This ride was the Monsters, Inc. Ride and Go Seek and can only be found in Tokyo.

Yes, it is housed in a seemingly replica version of the Monsters, Inc. headquarters, and that alone is worth the wait. I took the photo during the day but we didn't ride it until near 9 pm, and it was really dark outside. And I mean really dark, the sun goes down at almost 3:30 pm in Japan in December. It's really odd for those of us with Daylight Savings Time. The paths are so wide in Tokyo Disneyland that at night they seem like they aren't lit because the street lamps are so far apart.

But alas, back to Monsters, Inc. The waiting queue takes you through the entryway and you get to see stuff that makes you feel like you are actually in the movie (which is of course a Disney trademark feeling). Some of these items include the logo in the center of the atrium and the secretary's desk.

The ride itself, like I stated earlier, is very unique. You sit in a little vehicle and you go through dioramas and instead of using a laser gun to shoot things, you have a flash light that you shine at characters and things to make them move. Mike and Sully are looking for Boo before Randall gets her and of course they get into crazy hijinks and you activate all of them by shining them with your flash light. My friend was only concerned with shining her light at Boo all the time and she almost cried for joy every single time. Being only found in Japan, this ride is definitely worth the wait.

Heading across the park, of course you have to stop and admire the castle in each Disney Park. This one also featured Cinderella's Castle, which is also found at Orlando. A lot of people comment that Tokyo Disneyland is the best castle viewing park, and I guess I can't argue with that. There is way more room in and around this castle than there is in Orlando.

Venturing over into always one of my favorite parts of the park, Adventureland, was the second thing we did after Star Tours. This area of the park had all of the classics there including Pirates of the Caribbean, the Jungle Cruise, and the Enchanted Tiki Room. My favorite thing about this area is how you definitely feel like you are in the jungle or on a Polynesian island. They also had a section depicting New Orleans here next to Pirates, as in California.

Starting with Pirates, which was by far our shortest wait the entire day. The line took only about 5 minutes (as I've read this is usually the case). That seems odd given the immense popularity of the ride in the States, but one thing to consider is that this boat ride has an extremely high rider per hour threshold. The capacity of each boat is large and the boats are continuous which cuts down line lengths dramatically.

This version of Pirates is drastically different from Orlando (which Disney enthusiasts say is the worst version, but honestly there is no BAD version of this ride). This one seems to be closer to the 'Pure' version of the California one. I will say I highly enjoyed this version of the ride and that started right at the beginning as it started in a bayou and into a drop into the caves featuring loads of treasure and skeletons. I know I stated earlier that the rides are in Japanese, but lo and behold, this is the only ride that is entirely in English! So don't worry, you get to hear Yo Ho Yo Ho in all its glory!

Next we did always one of my favorites, the Jungle Cruise. The only thing greater than hearing all those awesome puns throughout the ride is hearing them in Japanese. I think I've ridden this ride so many times in Orlando that I could almost recite the jokes told, which maybe is my Rosetta Stone to learning Japanese. Despite not really listening to the Skipper, its just neat to see all the animatronics on this ride, especially when they occur in a different order than what I've always known. Even the temple was a little different as this one had a bunch of effects embedded into the walls differently than Orlando.

Next up, all aboard to Westernland and the wildest ride in the west, Big Thunder Mountain Railroad! Yes, it is called Westernland here, which makes sense to me. Compared to Japan, the things represented here are by far the most West thing from them! This version of Big Thunder is identical to the California version (which is a mirror image of the Orlando version). So this one includes the cave explosion and everything. We rode it in the twilight and it was awesome. Having rode the one in Florida many times, I say it is best at night with the way the lighting is all set up. But nonetheless, Big Thunder is always a great time.

They also have Tom Sawyer's Island here as well and is the same in that you have to take a ferry to get out to it. This Island was a lot of fun as it had a number of different things to do than the Orlando version. This one had many rope bridges and a bunch of rock formations that doubled as a splash pad for kids. The trails here were a lot of fun to hike, but the downside here was that there weren't as many caves to explore.

Fort Sam Clemens here has an actual little treat shop in it that sold various drinks and dessert items. My sister and brother-in-law got some little twinkie looking Mickey Mouse treats here that were on a stick and were delicious. They were like pancake batter formed to the stick, simple but elegant.

After we got back to the mainland of the park, we ventured through Critter Country before heading through Fantasyland and ToonTown. Orlando doesn't have a Critter Country, but California does, and like there, Splash Mountain can be found here. We rode Splash Mountain the absolute last because we didn't want to walk around the park wet in mid 50 degree weather. Yes, in late December, Tokyo is about mid-50s. I was walking around in jeans and a long sleeve t-shirt and was comfortable most of the day (until the night, which as I said starts at 3:30 and it started to get cold). I get however get a bunch of odd glances as the locals were all bundled up in heavy winter coats yet here I am in just a shirt. Ah being from a place that gets extremely cold in the winter!

Splash Mountain is always really fun, and is way more than just 'The Drop'. I argue that the drop that is technically a double-drop that puts you into the Laughing Place deep in the caves is just as fun as it is in complete darkness. The queue line for this version of Splash Mountain is awesome as it is almost entirely in a cave system. Just walking through these caves gives you a sense of wonder that these are man-made, but they seem so much more than that.

The Fantasyland here has a bunch of the usual suspects here that we didn't spend the time to wait in line or get Fast Passes to since we've ridden the counterparts in the US. Here you can find Peter Pan's Flight, Snow White's Adventures, Mickey's Philharmagic, Pinocchio's Daring Journey, Dumbo, Castle Carousel, and Alice's Tea Party.

There are a couple of things here that don't exist stateside, like the Queen of Hearts Banquet Hall, shown below, that technically adds a second castle here (hey if Magic Kingdom claims three, this one has two!). We didn't eat here, but alas, had to take a picture since it's different.

The other attraction that we didn't get to do was Pooh's Hunny Hunt. This is another Tokyo exclusive and is from what I've read one of the more advanced rides they've created. The wait time for this was over 2+ hours all day long, and Fast Passes were all gone by the time we could have even attempted to get some based off our other passes. The premise is that you are in a honey pot and it doesn't follow a track like most rides, and seemingly gives you a different experience each time. You join Winnie the Pooh as he searches for honey, but other than the ride system, I couldn't tell you much about the story besides my basic premise.

Despite glossing over most parts of Fantasyland, we actually did go on two rides in this area! Of course, what is a visit to any Disney park and not going on It's a Small World?! As much as I dislike the song for always getting stuck in your head (it's in yours now, your welcome), I feel like going on this ride is always a must. The thing about it as well as is that no matter what language you speak, this ride will always speak to you as there are so many represented in here. Plus this ride is my friend's favorite ride, so she made us go on it.

The other is one of Disney's masterpieces, the Haunted Mansion. If you don't like this ride, then I can't talk to you. It is so good, I can point you to dozens of articles by fans like me that detail almost every thing in the mansion and the thoughts that went into it. Despite going on this ride dozens upon dozens of times, I experienced something entirely new here. Despite the ride being in Japanese, it was in its Nightmare Before Christmas theme.

What Disney does during this time is re-theme Gracey Manor into almost everything about Tim Burton's classic. The outside is decked out in ghastly looking pumpkins and scarecrows and is just absolutely awesome.

Inside the ride, they incorporate the Nightmare Before Christmas songs into the ride and put a ton of the characters in there as well. Don't worry, a ton of the classic elements of the Haunted Mansion are intact, including all of the amazing special effects of the ghost ball. But the cemetery is redecorated like the spiral hills of Halloweentown and even all the stretch portraits near the beginning are of characters from the movie. The attic was neat as it had that snake sandworm looking thing that eats the Christmas tree in it. The Grim Grinning Ghosts song does appear in this version as well, albeit briefly, as most of it is filled with songs from Nightmare. I'll leave you with one last awesome image taken from the entrance foyer (before I couldn't take anymore pictures!).

The last section of the park is ToonTown, and we briefly journeyed into here to see the sights and get a quick bite to eat which featured Mickey Mouse shaped burgers. This section of the park is similar to other ToonTowns with all of the classic Disney characters having their homes here but also Gadget's Go Coaster, which is a steel mini coaster.

We did go on Roger Rabbit's Car Toon Spin, which was a lot of fun. I liken it to the old Mr. Toad's Wild Ride at Magic Kingdom before it was closed down because of giving people whiplash. This ride flung you around (part of it is your own doing) and was filled with bright colors and Roger Rabbit characters. Disclaimer: I'm a huge Roger Rabbit movie fan. The queue line for this was filled with Easter eggs from the film, as a bunch of shadows of the characters filled windows throughout the line, but also, as seen in the picture below, a chamber filled with the notorious DIP.

The last couple of images I will post show how the park changes at night. This is not a Tokyo exclusive thing by any means, all Disney parks do this and is why I love taking photos of attractions both during the day and the night. I highly recommend anyone who visits any Disney park stay for both parts of the day. Things are different, and by that I mean you will notice things you didn't during the day, and vice versa. The two pictures below are of ones I included above so you can see the difference. First is Cinderella's Castle.

And second, Space Mountain.

In the end, my advice to anyone thinking about visiting Tokyo Disneyland is this, if you have to the time at the resort or want to visit a Disney Park outside of the US, go here. If you are running short on time and have to choose between DisneySea and this park, I without a doubt say DisneySea. I will post that review as well and let you be the judge (I know you will pick DisneySea...).

The only reason I say to not go here if you have to pick between them, is that if you have been to Disneyland or the Magic Kingdom, then you could do probably 85% of what you could do here. If you've never been to either, well you would get to experience the classics in a foreign language than the originals and provide you with a unique outlook on them.

But another great thing about visiting here is that despite experiencing some of these things thousands of miles away on the other side of the world in the US, it is awesome to see that those same things exhilarate and bring upon absolute joy to people just as much as they do back home.

Thanks for reading,

Mike G.