Most Important International Disney Theme Park Stories of 2019
Some of the most exciting things happening at Disney theme parks this year occurred overseas. Disney operates four international theme parks, all of which you should have on your vacation bucket list.
Michael Eisner once proudly proclaimed that the sun never sets on the Disney empire. You can’t possibly have kept up with all of the happenings in the rest of the world, though. Here are the most important international Disney theme park stories of 2019.
8) Shanghai Disneyland Annual Pass
As a Disney fan living in the western hemisphere, you take for granted the fact that you can buy an annual pass at your favorite theme park. At Shanghai Disneyland, this wasn’t the case until recently.
When the park opened in 2016, visitors only had a finite number of admission ticket options. And an annual pass certainly wasn’t one of them.
Shanghai officials wanted to control the number of times that guests entered the park. After all, most attendance projections qualified as little more than guesstimates. Annual passes could lead to a heavily congested park in a city of 26 million.
After a couple of years, park planners possessed more detailed attendance data. So, Shanghai Disneyland added three kinds of passes. The everyday one cost the equivalent of – you’re gonna hate this — $230. Folks, if you catch an airplane deal for flights to Shanghai, the total cost of a park vacation might surprise you.
7) Snow Day at Tokyo But Then Typhoons
The weather at Tokyo Disneyland seemed especially mercurial during 2019. For starters, the park only gets snow every few years as a rule.
However, in February, Japan’s social media feeds included tons of snow day park photos. Strangely, it was the second straight year that Tokyo Disneyland got snow. But it wasn’t the strangest weather event.
Typhoon Hagibis shut down most of the city of Tokyo in October. While typhoons, unfortunately, aren’t rare in Japan, Hagibis became the strongest of its kind in 60 years. City officials wisely prioritized precautionary measures, closing bullet trains, the airport, and all non-essential Tokyo activities that day.
Tokyo Disney Resort followed suit by preemptively deciding not to open on October 12th. Then, gates remained closed until noon on the following date. This closure marked the first time that the park hadn’t opened since 2011.
6) Ant-Man and The Wasp: Nano Battle! Opens
I don’t want to sound jealous, but Tokyo Disney Resort famously receives some of the best theme park rides ever built. The park’s resort budget borders on limitless, and so the management team gets anything that they want.
During 2019, what Tokyo Disneyland wanted was a new attraction similar to Buzz Lightyear rides around the world. And it needed a Marvel theme. So, Imagineers came together and came up with a new approach. They took the gamified carnival shooter aspects of Buzz Lightyear Space Ranger Spin. Then, they changed the theme to Marvel superheroes, Ant-Man and the Wasp.
The new attraction seems much shinier and more high-tech than the old one. Under the hood, it’s nearly identical, though. Since it looks so much better and has a Marvel theme, it’s a much more desirable ride now. Hopefully, Disney does the same thing at one of its North American parks.
5) Soarin’ Fantastic Flight Opens
Tokyo DisneySea hosts so many phenomenal rides that adding any more feels like overkill. However, Tokyo Disney Resort has always had one noteworthy absence. It’s never operated a version of Soarin’ until now.
Obviously, Disney wouldn’t wait this long for Soarin’, only to build a lousy version. That’s just not what Tokyo Disneyland is about. The Japanese version of Soarin’ employs most of the standard parts of Soarin’ Around the World. But the real reason to ride it happens before you ever leave the line queue.
Many paintings adorn the walls of the inner chamber of Fantastic Flight. The amazing part occurs when one of these paintings springs to life. At the risk of mixing theme park companies, it may remind you of Harry Potter posters, only it’s real technology. This line queue element embodies everything great about Imagineering.
4) Phantom Manor Returns at Disneyland Paris
In early 2018, one of the most iconic attractions at Disneyland Paris closed for refurbishments. Phantom Manor at Frontierland, the park’s fascinating gothic Western take on Haunted Mansion, needed repairs. At the same time, Imagineers enjoyed a rare opportunity to plus the entire attraction.
Disney changed the portraits in the Stretching Room and restored the original narration by Vincent Price. The company also added more scares to the attraction, and they even cleared up a long-running mystery.
For the first time ever, Phantom Manor revealed the identity of the Phantom. And it was the person everyone always suspected, Henry Ravenswood, the father of the bride.
3) Hong Kong Disneyland Attendance Issues
The next two stories are sadly grim. Reality sometimes bursts the Disney Bubble, and there’s nothing that any of us can do about it.
For example, Hong Kong Disneyland traffic collapsed over the last few months. This happened at the same time that park officials had begun a massive overhaul to improve all lacking elements at Hong Kong Disneyland. Even the castle is getting a rebuild right now.
Why aren’t people coming with so many positive changes ongoing? Sadly, the city of Hong Kong has become turbulent in recent months.
More than 20 years ago, China regained control of the city from the British. For many years, the citizens of Hong Kong had experienced a kind of autonomy that made the Chinese government uncomfortable.
Conflicts arose between the locals and the authorities, first in August and then more seriously in November. The idea of a theme park visit seemed trivial and frivolous in the wake of these events, although I would argue that the citizens of Hong Kong definitely deserve a bit of Disney happiness.
During an earnings report, Disney’s Chief Financial Officer, Christine McCarthy, indicated that the company could lose $275 million in operating income through September of 2020. The situation is that dreary. If you’re thinking about a visit to a Chinese theme park, you should pick Shanghai over Hong Kong for now.
2) Disney Donates to Notre Dame
One of the saddest global stories in 2019 occurred in Paris, France. The famed Notre-Dame cathedral caught fire, causing irreparable damage to the landmark.
People around the world watched in horror as livestreams showed the flames shooting into the sky. It seemed so impossible that most of us had a difficult time accepting that the fire was real.
Within days of authorities extinguishing the final embers, French officials swore to rebuild. For Disney employees, the situation struck close to home. Disneyland Paris resides 20 miles away from the cathedral.
Just as importantly, one of Disney’s best 1990s animated movies, The Hunchback of Notre Dame, takes place at Notre-Dame. Company executives acted quickly to show sympathy and compassion for those impacted by the catastrophe.
CEO Robert Iger announced that Disney will donate $5 million toward the reconstruction of Notre-Dame. And the company confirmed that it’s working on a live-action remake of the film, too!
1) Eighth Port Confirmed at Tokyo Disneyland
Most of the stories that make the Best of/Worst of lists involve things that have already happened. However, sometimes a story carries such importance that it deserves a spot, too.
I’ve already mentioned here that Tokyo DisneySea has become the gold standard in the theme park industry. Many analysts believe that it’s the best Disney gate on the planet already. But Tokyo Disney officials are never satisfied.
For years now, speculation has centered on a third park coming to Tokyo Disney Resort. Now, we know those park officials have something else planned. Tokyo DisneySea will construct an eighth port by the end of 2022.
This new port, the park’s equivalent of a themed land, will focus heavily on Disney intellectual properties. Frozen, Peter Pan, and Tangled will all have a presence here. And this area will introduce a new luxury hotel as well. Given the fact that Tokyo Disneyland hotels claim occupancy rates near 100 percent, this might be the most crucial part of the expansion.
Don’t be surprised in 2022 when theme park analysts spend a lot of the year raving about Tokyo DisneySea. It’s already phenomenal. Three new attractions and a hotel can only make it that much better