Fantasy Springs

May 16, 2024 • Louie Mantia

Sometimes things really work out in the best way. I’ve been eagerly anticipating the new area at Tokyo DisneySea, and expected it experience it for the first time in absolute madness. So I was shocked when Cabel messaged me a link that Fantasy Springs was soft-opening as a test day. I quickly rearranged my day, called someone I knew would join me, and made my way over to the park.

Having been waiting to visit since I moved here, walking right into the area that has been blocked off for its construction period felt like a dream. The entrance to the area is really beautiful. I had doubts when I saw the concept art but they really pulled off this vision of sculpted rockwork featuring main characters of the area like Rapunzel, Peter Pan, Elsa, and Anna.

The amount of plants (both props and real) cannot be overstated. This area is lush, especially compared to many other Disney park areas around the world. It’s refreshing to have area that feels more like a park.

The way various sculptures are incorporated into this space is really novel and nice. You probably noticed Elsa and Anna have a little snow, Pocahontas is paddling a canoe through a waterfall, and Bambi and his mother are snuggled in a cave.

One of the first views I got was this one, through the trees, of Never Land. I love Peter Pan, Captain Hook, the whole gang. I love the pirate adventure genre. Seeing a space thoroughly dedicated to this feels just like how flying into Never Land should feel.

The Arendelle area is not Disney’s first, but it’s also not their last. They’re building several of these to different degrees around the world, and I think this one is very special. This building is a restaurant. It’s massive.

There are four attractions inside Fantasy Springs. Anna and Elsa’s Frozen Journey leads with an impeccable queue. There are lots of really lovely handmade items. Painted wooden bowls and boxes, sculpted figures, miniature castles with moving parts.

The attraction itself is terrific. Frozen is a great film with great music, and though I think its popularity directly led to the overabundance of Frozen things in the parks, I’m really happy to see an attraction this well-crafted. The ability to time the boat’s movements through the attraction is really a breakthrough that I think began with Shanghai Disneyland’s Pirates of the Caribbean. It really allows them to present a linear show really well.

The castle courtyard leads from a bridge into the town, which is quite small and mostly houses the restrooms. Nevertheless, the use of color and—again—the sculptural work is commendable.

On top of that, the views you get from this point in the area are extremely nice.

There’s also a very cute handwashing station (a staple of the Tokyo parks).

Back to the Never Land area, there are tons of moments captured in the set design, like this wooden target of Smee and Tick-Tock (the crocodile), with suction-cup arrows hitting both the targets and the light fixture above. All across the curbs in the area are small drawings with vibrant colors, like this little tic-tac-toe.

Along with some meticulous railing design, the entrance also has the vending machines, which—as always—are beautiful, with a nice detail of springwater running directly into buckets on the roof of the machines.

How about this oar used to indicate the end of the standby entrance? I love it.

I really cannot express how joyful this queue is. All the objects strewn about are done thoughtfully and playfully. The deadeye equipment with teeth painted on it? Cute.

At several places in the area and the queue you’ll see little footsteps of the Lost Boys, which really places how childlike this area is made to be.

One of my favorite features is the railing design in the queue, with several types of bamboo and wood constructing the fence with netting. It’s incredibly charming and really well-painted. I’m glad I got to see it in its very new state before it gets worn in more, but I bet it will still look great for years.

The lighting in the queue is diverse, but my favorite are these damaged half-barrels. The standby clock is cleverly masked on the reverse side with a map.

As you get further into the queue, it becomes darker, with treehouses, lanterns, and toys scattered.

Tinker Bell occasionally is seen as a silhouette behind the big leaves on the outside of the space, just like in the film. I also have to say that placing even a little distance between the queue and the wall helps a lot to sell the idea of being much deeper. Peter Pan’s Never Land Adventure is a 3D film, which I think will turn a lot of people off. I don’t mind them, but I also don’t usually love them. This one, however, I think did a lot differently. The integration of the physical set and the video screens in the space really seal the deal. I think the key to this ride concept is matching the lighting, color, and style of the set with the animation of the film. And they nailed it. The 3D is also subtler, and—to my eyes—a bit brighter. I’ll be happy to ride this again and again.

Back outside, I got some popcorn—and guys, you will not believe the flavor.

That’s right. Roast Beef Popcorn. I loved it. What a great flavor. Fun and silly and feels appropriate for this area.

The link Cabel had sent me about the area being open early was from Chris, who runs TDRExplorer, a website and YouTube channel to help—specifically—English-speakers navigate theme parks in Asia. I’ve occasionally referred to Chris’s website and feed myself, and I kinda always keep a eye out for him in the parks, but never manage to actually see him. That is, until I looked up from my popcorn.

I’m really glad I said hello. Chris is a great human and I hope to see him again soon!

Inside Lookout Cookout, the classic Lost Boys outfits are hung up on a clothing line. In the dining room, there’s this hand-painted map of how to get to the restrooms. A clever solution when you only have to make one of these. Why print a digital drawing?!

If you walk toward the deepest end of the area, you’ll end up at the Fantasy Springs Hotel (also brand new and not open yet), which has a store with some typical items alongside Fantasy Springs-specific items. (They weren’t available to buy yet, however.)

Can you just look at that sign? Imagine fabricating it. The lettering design, the chiseled type. The dimensional floral treatments in and around it. The lighting perched on top, paint. That’s what I walked away amazed with from this entire area. Just... how much artistry is on display.

There are also some sculptural rockwork in this spot as well. There’s also no bad angle to the Arendelle castle keep.

The third section of Fantasy Springs is themed to Rapunzel’s story. Walt Disney World fans, move aside with your Tangled Restroom area.

The scale of Rapunzel’s tower finally feels accurate, and up in the window, you can see and hear Rapunzel singing, which is the opening scene to her attraction as well.

It was around this moment that I met Kim Dao, an Australian YouTuber, who was talking with Chris. We formed a little group (four of us in total, now) and spent the rest of the day together, which was very pleasant.

Just a group of foreigners (American, Taiwanese, Canadian, and Australian) frantically pulling to refresh the available Standby passes on our phones. (We got very lucky with our Rapunzel passes.)

I’m already fairly vocal about this, but Disney’s obsession with indigo nighttime lighting has to stop. It looks unnatural and makes photos hard to edit. It makes everything look so flat. The advent of blue LEDs has really destroyed natural lighting in theme parks, and I’d like to see it go back. It can be fun when used sparingly but they’re overdoing it now.

Fantasy Springs is great, and I’m elated that I could see it early. I’m looking forward to many more visits in the future, hopefully with some of my new friends.

Fantasy Springs opens on June 6, 2024.

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