To catch up…
I’m not saying that the Tokyo Disneyland Hotel is a bad hotel. I was there just before it opened and I haven’t been inside it yet – so I can’t judge it fairly as a hotel.
What I’m saying is that this hotel doesn’t follow the “old” Disney tradition of building immersive recreations of imaginary places. Resorts like the WDW’s Polynesian, Contemporary*, Dixie Landings are all designed to give you a sense that you had stepped into a movie.
When you’re watching a really good movie, haven’t you ever noticed that the world outside of the screen simply disappears? You don’t feel like you sitting with hundreds of other people, you don’t notice the glaring EXIT sign or the curtains or the people wandering up and down the aisle. And why do you feel anxious or nervous or afraid when a character slowly walks down the long, dark cobwebbed filled hallway?
It’s because the “magic” of movies are their ability to let our imaginations replace our rational thinking for a few moments. We place ourselves in the story, we feel like we are in the story. We feel like we’re in the water with the shark, or hanging over the cliff, or racing down the street.
That’s what Walt was trying to do with the parks: to make a “real life” place that let’s you feel the same as when you watch a movie. The ‘Haunted Mansion’ makes you feel like you’re exploring a supernatural house, ‘Pirates of the Caribbean’ brings you along for the adventure. That is the “magic” of the Disney parks.
The Mira Costa Hotel follows this concept. Everything about the place is there to evoke the feeling of being in an Italian palace. The marble, the long hallways, the “I’m a rich noble; look at how much I can spend on wall decorations!” flair of the design. You can easily imagine the Galileo having supper there and then returning to Fortress Exploration across the bay for his nightly observations.
But, from what I’ve seen, the Tokyo Disneyland Hotel doesn’t have that philosophy behind its design. The hotel is not there to make you feel like you’re about to bump into Sherlock Holmes or to transport you to a different time and place. The hotel is meant to be elegant, lush and expensive.
That’s fine, but that’s not why I like Disney. There are a lot of hotels that are elegant and lush. And if I really wanted to be impressed with expensive then I’d had to Las Vegas. But no one else can recreate the “movie experience” like Disney does.
Clearly it’s not simply the amount money spent, but how it’s spent that determines success or failure. ‘Peter Pan’ is about as cheap of a ride as you can get, but it draws a lot more people than the mondo-expense ‘Mission: Space’. Had Disney been willing to do the hard work, they could have created a place at Disneyland just as impressive as DisneySea for the DCA’s original cost. It’s just the same that you can make a movie for $10 million dollars that have people cheering in the aisle or you can spend $350+ million on a movie that people don’t remember once they hit the parking lot. It’s just that Disney chose not to create a place that fulfilled why people go to Disney parks in the first place; they thought they could con people into spending money just on the strength of the Disney brand.
Disney’s Animal Kingdom was meant to both increase the number of guests visiting WDW and to increase the length of stay. It didn’t do either. All that seems to have happened is that people spend a half day less at the other parks. It has rearranged the guests’ visit but hasn’t brought in additional revenue to Disney.
* The Contemporary was the resort counterpart to Tomorrowland. The hotel was designed in the late 1960’s when soaring atriums, clean expanses of concrete and monorails zipping through the lobby were the future. Believe me, in 1973 it really felt like the future. Now – decades later – the place seems commonplace (expect for the monorail part) is both a testament to the designers’ ability to “get” the future, but also to later days Disney’s refusal to keep the place fresh and interesting.