Event 22: Tokyo Disney…Parades, Engagement and meeting Woody

When in Tokyo go to Disney…of course I did. Enjoy a blog, which is more like just a teasing snapshot of what Disney for me is…

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What was the event?

Tokyo Disney – a destination for thousands on a daily basis to immerse themselves in a world of perfection and lots of different organised and constructed moments for all to enjoy. I was there on the 9th of April – the easter season had just began and the sky was blue with a beautiful sun shining in the sky…here is my take on how Disney. 

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What happened at the event?

Firstly it is important to state that Disney is an event in my opinion because in my 12 hours in the park I experienced: two organised parades, one organised show, a cancellation of a parade (which was very interesting to watch from a show stop point of view) and the construction of engagement moments (including the one where I met Woody – life made).

The blog I write is just a snap shot – because if I was to write everything I experienced it would be a book (on sale next year – literally Disney will be an amazing chapter to read…get your copy) or sign up for newsletter (link here with some more information on Disney from an events point of view:     ). The blog will focus on three key components:

  • Engagement
  • Parades
  • Disney as a magical experience

Firstly, let me introduce you to Tokyo Disney. Tokyo Disney is owned and operated by The Oriental Land Company. Walt Disney have creative control over the park. However, it was funny because when I first entered I was a bit like “this doesn’t feel like a true Disney experience”. A few things were evident. Some of the areas in the park were slightly run down. The paint was coming of the wall, technology was no where to really be seen and some of overall management styles of queues was hectic at times with slight confusion about what was happening. Signage is also a miss but they want you to engage with the staff. But don’t get me wrong – I am still in Disney. Tokyo Disney is approx.. 13km and after two trains I arrived at 8:45am the queues were phenomenal. Of course it is Disney after all. The audience was similar to walking through the United Nations.

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When I entered the barrier line a cast member told me very quickly to put in my QR code. However the ticket (passport) had two QR codes and only one works to allow you to enter. So as you can imagine everyone had a 50% chance of making it work which would cause slight delay in getting in. But with this I was in. Staff – known as cast members – were very approachable and always doing one thing. Waving. Even if you were not looking they were always waving with big smiles on their face. I think this was probably more of the integration of Japanese culture – rather than Disney. All of them had a blue belt around their waist. It had everything from pens (different colours), notepads, maps in different languages. When I say everyone had them – each cleaner going around the site had everything they needed to deliver a perfect customer journey – because they were just as much the face of Disney as those standing at the information boards. The information boards in fact they were not electronic and the timings for all the rides were large blocks which got changed by the cast member when they got a message through there phone or radio. And there was only two of them on the whole site. But enough about that (more in the book next year). Overall engagement was positive but I wouldn’t say it was the ultimate Disney experience that we all have read in books published 10 years ago.

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Parades are interesting concepts. For a certain amount of time they shut down the normal activities and allow people to watch a choreographed experience. In Tokyo the behavior of those waiting for the parade was exemplary. Sitting on the ground they waited at least 2 hours before it began to ensure they got the best spot they could get. There was no pushing and when the cast members said please put your feet behind the imaginary line or back from the kerb – no problem it was done and they did not move. No standing was allowed for everyone that was at the parade front and seated – I mean at least 2000 thousand people were sitting along the parade route and if you were lucky to look over the hedge you could see just a glimpse. Lots of people knew the dance moves for the parade songs, which was fascinating to watch. They were bright, colourful, perfect in everyway. It was a fascinating to observe from an events point of view – because everything was constructed and had a place and a time. The night parade was just absolutely amazing. Over 20 floats that were at least two stories high and had every Disney character you could imagine. The night parade was a spectacle to watch and for me I was just in awe watching my whole childhood go past. Float after float. Some of the pictures below highlight the amazing spectacle that it was.

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Anything else happen at the event?

Disney is a magical experience that controls your emotions, your experience and your pockets. Every area of the park is designed for you psychologically buy in – whether that’s take a photo, stand and watch or even buy something that really in your life do you actually need it – like a tissue holder? Or a sun cream dispenser with mickey on it? Or basically anything that you would need in life – is there for you to consume. In an academic review done in 2012 Disney was described as “locus of control”. It looked at how the park is a destination that influences the behavior due to the architectural manufacturing and also the approach of the design ensures customers forget about everything externally. This is why in a way there is no resort wifi. They don’t want you to tap in to the outside world. They want you to be immersed and ensure they regulate your engagement. The parades, the rides, the food – everything was immersion. Even the A2 map that you are provided – its not on your phone – they want you to hold a map, walk inside the map and allow yourself to be fully immersed in every possible way.

To conclude in very simple times. Tokyo Disney is an event that happens every day. People purchase a ticket, enter, engage, immerse, watch, observe, touch, taste, feel and all the other elements of to create a positive psychological experience. It was great I loved it – I saw so much, done so much, even went aboard my first rollercoaster (which I think my stomach is actually still there) and enjoyed the overall experience – I didn’t want to leave as such. 

One thing to take away…

Disney 20 years ago was the absolute best in everything to do with immersion, event engagement, customer experience and so on. However, in my opinion and in comparison to the events I have attended so far and looking around the events world – Disney is falling slightly behind. Still delivers amazing experience – but it ain’t what it used to be…and that’s an opinion that may be disputed but I look forward to the discussion…

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