Come with us as we preview the hotly anticipated new magical worlds before their grand opening. 

After being closed for a good chunk of the year due to COVID-19, Tokyo Disneyland has sprung back with their biggest expansion ever, creating new fantasy areas dedicated to Baymax, Beauty and the Beast, and Minnie Mouse.

The new areas are set to open on 28 September, but our Disney-obsessed Japanese-language reporter Daiichiro Tashiro was lucky enough to get a special preview invitation ahead of the grand opening.

So let’s join Disney superfan Daiichiro as he takes us through all the long-awaited areas, with insider tips and info on how to enjoy the new fantasy worlds at the “happiest place on Earth”.

▼ Wearing bright blue suspenders and Mickey ears is optional.

As soon as Daiichiro arrived at the park on a rainy morning, tears of joy sprung from his eyes. He’s not ashamed to admit they kept welling up throughout the day, as the warm reception he received from staff everywhere really touched his heart.

It’s not easy to keep the happiest place on Earth open during a frightening global pandemic, so Daiichiro was really moved by everyone’s efforts to make visitors smile while also keeping them safe during their visit.

The first place Daiichiro wanted to see was The Happy Ride with Baymax, located in the Tomorrowland section of the park. As Tokyo is now the first Disney theme park in the world to feature a ride dedicated to the movie Big Hero 6, this was something Daiichiro was eager to experience, and when he arrived he immediately felt like he was stepping into the world of the film, with Baymax there to greet him.

This rotating ride sees visitors being pulled around by an adorable Baymax of their very own. The unpredictable movements of the carts makes it seem as if the robots are truly alive, dodging other drivers and crossing their paths in a haphazard fashion to create a truly exciting and thrilling experience.

Spun around by centrifugal force, Daiichiro couldn’t stop grinning and laughing the whole time he was on the ride.

And when he exited the ride, he felt the tears return to his eyes as he saw the sweet handprints of Baymax and his human companion Hiro Hamada.

Next up on Daiichiro’s whistle-stop tour of the park was a visit to Big Pop, Tokyo Disney Resort’s first popcorn specialty store.

Walking inside, the interior looked like a space station, with dim lighting making the spotlighted areas pop out from the walls.

There are some whacky popcorn flavours on sale here: Caramel and Cheese, Strawberry Milk, and Cookies and Cream.

What really blew Daiichiro away was the stunning array of popcorn “buckets” available. How gorgeous are the Baymax and Beauty and the Beast buckets???

While the “Regular Box” is the lowest in price and arguably less spectacular than the others, it still comes with a surprise Mickey concealed on the outside of the box.

Daiichiro got to try all three popcorn flavours and he loved them all… but chose Strawberry Milk as his favourite.

After filling up on popcorn, Daiichiro headed off to Toontown to visit Minnie’s Style Studio, the first character greeting area at the resort where you can meet Minnie Mouse.

While Minnie wasn’t there to greet Daiichiro when he visited, he could see her cute style dotted throughout the building.

This is where Minnie will be greeting fans and taking photos with them while showing off her fashionable wardrobe in a variety of seasonal outfits.

▼ A sneak peek at her sewing studio, where those cute outfits are made.

The final stop on Daiichiro’s tour was also his most anticipated, as it was the largest new addition to the park, promising to whisk visitors away to the magical world of Beauty and the Beast.

▼ As soon as he stepped into the village area, he felt like he’d entered another world.

▼ The buildings here have been recreated with beautiful attention to detail.

▼ And look! Belle’s magical carriage from the castle is here in the town!

▼ Daiichiro pulled his best Gaston pose at Gaston’s fountain…

▼ …before heading into Gaston’s tavern, or “La Taverne de Gaston” as it’s officially named.

As he entered the tavern and went over to a table, Daiichiro’s head spun left and right as he took in all the amazing details. From the animal heads on the wall to the giant chair and antler-adorned picture frame, everything looked just like it did in the movie. It was as if Gaston himself had snuck out of the animated world to decorate the tavern for his real-world fans.

“I use antlers in all of my decorating…”

▼ Of course, Gaston’s numerous awards and trophies were on display as well.

Daiichiro channelled the proud swagger of Gaston as he bit into his apple-caramel flavouredLe Fou Churros” and was tempted to get up and break out into song and dance like Le Fou.

Impromptu musical moments in real life don’t have quite the same magic as an animated movie, however, so Daiichiro decided it was time to head out to see what the village gift shop had to offer.

▼ There are plenty of Beauty and the Beast goods here for fans to choose from.

▼ Some of the sections look as if they were decorated by Belle herself.

▼ Even the cash register areas are gobsmackingly gorgeous.

The attention to detail is really impressive, and diehard fans will be able to find deeper meaning in the “Musique A&M” sign outside the gift shop. The “A&M” is a touching tip-of-the hat to Howard Ashman and Alan Menken, who created the music and lyrics for several animated feature films for Disney, including Beauty and the Beast.

The only thing left for Daiichiro to do now was to try the area’s pride and joy: a ride called The Enchanted Tale of Beauty and the Beast, which was housed inside the magical castle. Heart pounding with anticipation, Daiichiro approached the gates…

▼ …and took his first peek at the castle, which instantly took his breath away.

As the Beauty and the Beast Castle appeared, shrouded in mist before him, Daiichiro felt those tears welling up again. It was far more beautiful than anything he had ever imagined.

Crossing over the bridge to the castle gave Daiichiro goosebumps and he began to feel jitters of nerves and excitement fill his belly… because he was about to take a ride on The Enchanted Tale of Beauty and the Beast.

▼ Daiichiro felt that in these magical surroundings, anything could happen.

To calm his nerves before the ride, Daiichiro got a lesson in how to pose like a perfectly poised castle servant.

He was then shown to a giant cup, which would take him on his magical thrill ride through the castle. The clear screens are in place as a coronavirus countermeasure.

With no other ride like it in the world, people everywhere have been wanting to know what it might be like to take a ride on The Enchanted Tale of Beauty and the Beast. So, how was it, Daiichiro?

▼ Well, he couldn’t reply immediately because his chest was filled with emotion and his eyes were filled with tears.

He’d been gently spun through the world of Beauty and the Beast and come up close to Belle, the Beast, and all the loveable characters from the movie. The animated scenes, exquisite props, life-like settings, and moving soundtrack made Daiichiro feel as if he’d truly escaped reality and gone off to a magical world filled with nothing but love, enchantment and happy endings. It was an overwhelming ride of emotions, and one that he highly recommends to Disney fans of all ages.

▼ By the time he left the castle it was dark, and it looked even more breathtaking in the glow of the lights.

Crossing over the bridge to the castle really does make you feel as if you’re entering a magical animated world.

The new areas at Tokyo Disneyland open to the public on 28 September. Needless to say, Daiichiro highly recommends paying a visit to the park to experience the magic of the new worlds when they open, and he plans to take his jaded colleague P.K. Sanjun along for the ride in future.

Because, as he’s proved in the past, Daiichiro’s burning enthusiasm for all things Disney can melt the ice around the heart of even the grumpiest visitors to Tokyo Disneyland.

Photos: ©SoraNews24
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[ Read in Japanese ]