There’s not a lot of consensus among Disney parks fans. Everybody has a different favorite resort or attraction or snack, and if you’ve never spent any time on a Disney message board, you have no idea how heated those disagreements can get. The closest Disney parks fans get to a consensus will probably surprise those who aren’t deep in the weeds of fandom, but is a total no-brainer to those in the know, and that’s that the Tokyo parks, especially Tokyo Disney Sea, are the absolute best in the world.
It looks like Tokyo Disneyland, the first of Tokyo’s two Disney parks, is about to get even better. A brand new attraction, The Enchanted Tale of Beauty and the Beast, is set to open on Oct. 1. Set inside a huge recreation of the castle from the movie (it’s almost 100 feet tall), and surrounded by shops and a restaurant that look like they’re plucked straight out of the animated classic, this first ride based on the beloved movie seems like another amazing experience for a resort already overflowing with them. And yes, it’s another unique attraction, too, with no current plans to bring a version to any of Disney’s American theme parks.
It’s not officially opening for another 10 days, but there’s already a full video of the ride in action up on YouTube. It was posted to the Disneyphile channel earlier today, and if you don’t mind ride “spoilers,” it’s absolutely worth a watch.
Quick thoughts: uh, I love it?!? Okay, so the trackless ride system is something Japanese Disney fans have been enjoying for two decades now, but that still feels fresh and exciting to Americans because we didn’t have any rides that used that system in the American parks until the last few years. And really, until Rise of the Resistance, which just opened last December, there was no major attraction that used that system over here. Trackless ride vehicles glide gracefully through space, with a wider range of movement across a less predictable path than a ride on rails. It can make a ride feel more alive, like in the blustery day scene of Tokyo Disneyland’s Pooh’s Hunny Hunt—swirling through that vignette as the scenery and characters sway is an almost breathtaking experience if you’ve never been on a trackless ride before. In the video you can see the ride vehicles, which are shaped like teacups, dancing around the castle’s banquet table, as animatronic housewares sing “Be Our Guest” (in Japanese, of course), and yep, I want to just go hang out in that room for a few hours or weeks.
The set piece after that might not try to overwhelm the senses the way the banquet hall scene does, but fans of larger animatronics will no doubt love it. Look at Beast, up there playing with them birds! Look at Belle’s horse, who has a name (Philippe), and whose mane rustles softly in the breeze! Those are my kind of robots.
The magic really kicks into high gear around the 13:00 mark, though. Somehow a Beast animatronic turns into a human one right in front of our eyes. Through screens that look like windows we can see the Beast’s dour gothic castle turn into a brighter, warmer, more inviting space, before a final send-off with Belle, the former Beast, and all of his servants, who are once again human.
It’s all pretty dang glorious. So much so that I imagine some of the typical complaints about so-called “book report” rides—rides that simply condense the plot of a movie into a handful of scenes, instead of trying to incorporate characters and themes from the movie into a new work—will be cut off by the sheer quality on display.
On the long list of reasons this world desperately needs a vaccine to end the pandemic, “flying to Japan to ride a theme park ride” is insanely low on the list. But I can’t deny that the first thought I had while watching this video was that I absolutely wish I could be there, like, immediately, so I could ride this thing for myself. Hopefully I’ll be able to waltz my way through this real-life fever dream at some point in 2021.
Senior editor Garrett Martin writes about videogames, comedy, music, travel, theme parks, wrestling, and anything else that gets in his way. He’s on Twitter @grmartin.