Monday, February 8, 2016

Within the Island of Mystery

Mysterious Island is every bit what it suggests, and then more.  This spectacular land is the most iconic at Tokyo Disney Sea, and at night, its moody atmosphere is touched off by its rugged and spectacular landscape lit in evocative and magnificent manner.  Those deep blues and purples are so stunning and romantic, and the curving pathways, earth exploration vessels, and overall steampunk aesthetic make for something that is otherworldly and surreal. 

And to think... photos don't really do the place justice.

Mount Prometheus looms even larger from near water level within Mysterious Island.

Sunday, February 7, 2016

Tropical Tokyo

Tokyo Disneyland's Adventureland takes on a bit of a different flair from Disneyland California.  In addition to incorporating New Orleans Square within its territory, it brings a lusher, more tropical Pacific feel to its ambiance.  With tikis and palms and Polynesian architecture, it's quite an escape from the everyday world!

Crossing a bridge to the entrance of Adventureland.

A wide plaza area, with the Enchanted Tiki Room rising prominently in the background.

The actual show building is quite lovely.

And an entry sign, just to make sure you know where you are.

Saturday, February 6, 2016

Below the Deck of the Columbia

With the year-long closure of the Rivers of America for preparations related to the construction of "Star Wars" land, the ships the sail around these waterways have also been docked indefinitely.  Here's a look at the nautical museum below the deck of the ship, depicting life as it was like in 1787 for the first American crew to circumnavigate the globe.

Life on a ship involves getting used to tight quarters.
The galley is spacious by comparison...
But not that spacious.
A few decorations aboard the ship.

Friday, February 5, 2016

It's a Small World in Hong Kong

Hong Kong Disneyland is patterned after Disneyland in California, and as such, it features an It's a Small World attraction housed behind the same Mary Blair style facade as the original.  This is a vast improvement over the Tokyo and Florida versions, which are much less prominent and loaded inside comparatively non-descript buildings.  Even on a cloudy day, the whimsical playfulness and color of the approach is noticeable.  Here are several photos to illustrate the point.

It's a Small World is branched off of the far right corner of Fantasyland.

Guests duck under the Hong Kong Disneyland Railroad to reach the attraction.

The banners flanking the approach are pretty adorable.

Signage. Note the Chinese translation underneath.

And the main attraction building facade.

Thursday, February 4, 2016

The Thunder Mesa Vista

Thunder Mesa is charged with an otherworldly energy unlike anywhere else, and it seems fitting that the weather and clouds follow this phenomenon.  This photo was taken on the same day as and not long after one I showcased last year.  In seemingly an instance, the skies can go from gloomy to grand--and then back again.  No doubt, this is influenced by the grim grinning ghosts that pervade the land!

Dramatic clouds glide over the ominous area of Thunder Mesa.

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Sea Beyond the Space

Disney parks are usually tightly controlled to manipulate sightlines and viewpoints in just the way the Imagineers want. After all, the goal is the fully immerse guests in the illusion of these wondrous lands of dream and fantasy.  But sometimes, guests are afforded glimpses beyond just their park, and sometimes within those sometimes, it ends up being a wonderful surprise--so much so that you question whether or not it was an accident.

The example below was taken from the line of Space Mountain.  I was strolling through the FastPass queue during my Japan trip last November when I happened to gaze up the Tomorrowland concourse in the direction of Toon Town.  The mid afternoon sun was starting to cast a wonderful golden light, but what struck me wasn't just the towering StarJets in the immediate distance, but the glimpse of elements of neighboring Tokyo Disney Sea just beyond!  The rooftops of Arabian Coast, the looming shape of the Tower of Terror, and the dominant outline of Mount Prometheus were all in easy view, and I knew that I had to take a photo of this fantastic layering of park monuments. 

Add the fluffy clouds and blue sky in the background, and you have possibly favorite Tokyo Disney photo I never expected to take!

From the queue of Tokyo's Space Mountain, one can spot the StarJets plus icons from Tokyo Disney Sea beyond!

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Space Mountain by the Bay

Back when I visited Walt Disney World six years ago, I was nowhere near the photographer I am today.  I was still shooting in JPEG, capturing mostly snapshots, and processing with "auto"-everything.  Combined with generally drab weather through most of my trip, and my catalog of Walt Disney World photos is pretty underwhelming.

So until I go back, I need to get a little creative, so enter an attempt to compress a shot in monochrome and really focus on the principal elements of a shot.  In this case, they are the unmistakable outline of Space Mountain and the tropical vegetation of Florida, brought together in a shot that doesn't seem like it should feature these two disparate elements.  I like the contrast, and removing the color (what little there was to begin with) hones in on the point even more.

The iconic spires of Space Mountain above a not-so-expected canopy of tropical trees.

Monday, February 1, 2016

Les Partenaires

I'm not exactly sure why Walt Disney Studios Paris is the only non-Magic Kingdom park to receive a Partners Statue at a resort that features one, but it is.  At the end of the Frontlot entry avenue, there stand Walt and Mickey, gazing upon the happy guests entering the park, surveying the joy that they have brought. 

It is a little odd that this should appear at what many consider the lowest quality Walt Disney theme park, but where the statue is situated is a rare instance of effective framing--a contrast to a lot of the wide open spaces and lack of place-making prevalent in much of Walt Disney Studios.  With the Production Courtyard art deco behind and the Tower of Terror looming either further beyond, there is nice depth and visual texture in the view.  And on a bright and sunny day, the scene certainly presents a nice bit of Disney bliss.

At Euro Disney, the Partners Statue is at the non-Magic Kingdom Park.

Sunday, January 31, 2016

Flo's Rainy Cafe

Flo's V8 Cafe is already so naturally photogenic and easily spectacular.  It doesn't really need any help on that end.  But catch it at night, after a rain storm, and the glamour increases tenfold.  The neon reflects off the wet pavement with a lovely glow, and the ever-vibrant colors feel even more amplified by the glistening ambiance.  It's so serenely magnificent, isn't it?

Flo's V8 Cafe glistens after a spring rainstorm.

Saturday, January 30, 2016

The Turn Around Tom Sawyer Island

By now, you have probably heard about the year-long closures that will be impacting the west side of Disneyland Park as part of the infrastructure and land-moving work required for the construction of "Star Wars" land.  The Disneyland Railroad will be closed to allow for re-tracking to occur around the back corner between Critter Country and Fantasyland, while the Rivers of America will be drained and reshaped to accommodate the large footprint of the new expansion.  This also means the Mark Twain, S.S. Columbia, and Tom Sawyer Island need to be shut down, plus the suspension of the ever-popular FANTASMIC! show until next year.

All of this is a lot swallow, and while these aren't high capacity attractions, they are still beloved.  Most painful will be the loss of FANTASMIC!--still my favorite Disney show of all time, for over a year.  But I believe "Star Wars" land will be worth it, and I can't wait for everything to reopen.  In the mean time, here's a look at Tom Sawyer Island at the very end of last year, shortly before its closure.

An almost head-on view of Tom Sawyer Island.

Rounding the front edge of the island on the way toward the back of the Rivers of America.

Friday, January 29, 2016

The Horrific End of Harrison Hightower

At Tokyo Disney Sea, the Tower of Terror is not themed after the Twilight Zone.  No, Japanese audiences aren't as familiar with that series, so their Tower features an original story featuring one Harrison Hightower, member of the Society of Explorers & Adventurers (S.E.A.), a group that comprises a hidden storyline that runs throughout the park and has even spread to Hong Kong Disneyland (but more on that another time).

Harrison Hightower III was a greedy and ruthless "collector" of priceless artifacts from around the world.  And by "collector," he pretty much exploited and stole his way to these treasures.  Scoffing of local traditions and cultures, he used his wealth and power to take whatever he wanted, which ultimately led to his doom when he plundered the cursed idol Shiriki Utundu.  This story is relayed in the Tower of Terror pre-show at Tokyo Disney Sea...

Guests entering Harrison Hightower's study will encounter a stained glass window featuring the late Hightower's portrait, various articles and furnishings, and the statue of Shiriki Utundu himself.

After guests file in, the lights dim, and the window comes to life--with Hightower relaying his tale. (There are two pre-show rooms, which are mirrored, which is why some of these photos will feature Shiriki on opposite sides.)

Returning to New York after securing his latest prize, Hightower threw a grand party to show off Shiriki Utundu.

Thursday, January 28, 2016

The Tokyo Tower of Terror

The Tower of Terror calls itself home in four different Disney parks around the world.  Disney Hollywood Studios has the original, or "good Tower," as my friends and I like to call it.  Disney California Adventure and Walt Disney Studios in France have what are essentially clones of each other (except for the building's structural system).  And in Tokyo Disney Sea, there is "Shiriki Tower," which might be the most mystifying and visually spectacular of them all.

The Tower of Terror at Tokyo Disney Sea shares the same skeleton and guts as its Anaheim and Paris counterparts, but the exterior is completely different, taking on a sort of Gothic Revival style that better suits its American Waterfront setting (particularly the New York-ish section).  The detail here is absolutely stunning, and pictures really can't do it justice.  There's a richness that grows more and more impressive the closer you zoom in, and that's already after starting from a rather spectacular overview!

I'll be posting plenty more photos from Tokyo's Tower of Terror in the future to prove my point, but here's an overview to whet your appetite.

A beautiful day by the Hightower Hotel belies a sinister force inside.

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

In the Streets of Agrabah

As I briefly touched upon in my first post about the Arabian Coast at Tokyo Disney Sea, there is a section of the area that really strikes me as something out of Disney's Aladdin.  The tight-knit streets and exotic architecture curving around each corner really reminds me of Agrabah, specifically the bustling city portion in which Aladdin originally called his home.  At night, the scene is a stark contrast to the bustling daytime pedestrian traffic, but the colors and ambiance make the scene even more evocative of the classic movie.  This is one of seemingly infinite ways Tokyo Disney Sea brings incredible fantasy into real life.

A portion of the Arabian Coast that is very reminiscent of a scene from Disney's Aladdin.

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Panorama Along the Harbor

Mediterranean Harbor is as breath-taking of an entry land as I've seen at any theme park I've visited.  This stunning re-imagination of Portofino and Venice is ornate, grand, and romantically magnificent, and a large part of that has to due with its sweeping waterfront perimeter, which provides countless photo opportunities and beautiful angles from which to view the rest of the park.  The whole area is so vibrant and spectacular, it's hard to avoid being paralyzed with amazement (which happened to me often).  Here's a sweeping overview of the area, just to give an idea of what I mean.

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