On April 27th, The Oriental Land Company surprised everyone with the announcement that they would give Tokyo Disneyland’s popular Space Mountain ride and Tomorrowland a new modern look. Space Mountain will close in 2024 and reopen three years later at an estimated cost of 56 billion yen (about 429 million dollars with the current yen depreciation). That’s an exorbitant amount to change a current attraction, The Oriental Land once again showing that they are always willing to spend a lot of money in the parks.
Just for reference, The Walt Disney Company spent about 100 million dollars turning California Adventure’s Tower of Terror into Guardians of the Galaxy – Mission: Breakout! And let us not forget that the current Fantasy Springs being built at DisneySea has a jaw-dropping price tag of 250 billion yen. So, yeah, The Oriental Land company spends a lot of money on the Tokyo Disney Resort, so it really should not come as a surprise that the Tokyo Disney parks are often considered the best ones in the world; which is quite funny since they are the only Disney parks not owned by The Walt Disney Company, but I digress.
For a better understanding of just what’s happening here and why the massive budget to renew Space Mountain and Tomorrowland is so important, we have to look at what Universal Studios Japan (USJ) spent when building Super Nintendo World. The popular and beloved USJ area that opened in 2021 ended up costing between 50 and 60 billion yen, meaning that the Oriental Land Company allocated a very similar budget for the Tokyo Disneyland area.
Competition has always been great for consumers, ensuring that companies keep investing in new technologies and providing better services. That’s what makes monopolies so dangerous for customers. When one company has all the market share, then there is no need for them to provide something better. We have seen how JAL and ANA’s competition has resulted in the airlines constantly delivering among the best services in the skies, and the Tokyo Disney Resort’s competition with USJ does the same.
As such, the decision to renew Space Mountain and Tomorrowland can be seen as The Oriental Land Company’s response to USJ’s Donkey Kong expansion. When it was announced that DisneySea would see its most significant expansion with the opening of Fantasy Springs, The Oriental Land Company put a lot of pressure on its rivals. The addition of Fantasy Springs was necessary since DisneySea, long considered the best Disney park in the world, started seeing more competition from USJ when the Osaka park opened the Wizarding World of Harry Potter.
This competition has been more palpable in recent years. Disneyland knew that opening Enchanted Tale of Beauty of the Beast would continue making the park the powerhouse it was without much competition, but shortly after the opening of the Beauty and the Beast area, USJ opened Super Nintendo World. Then USJ announced the Donkey Kong expansion, which they expect to open before the Expo 2025 (held in Osaka) and just a bit after DisneySea opens Fantasy Springs.
It was just a matter of time before The Oriental Land Company responded with another announcement. Fantasy Springs is the resort’s biggest expansion, being bigger and costlier than all the Nintendo expansions at USJ combined. With the limited space both Disney parks have (Fantasy Springs is being built in what used to be a huge parking lot for the Tokyo Disney Resort), The Oriental Land Company needed to do something to an existing attraction or area, and they chose Tomorrowland.
Tomorrowland was an interesting choice since no other Disney park has made any announcements indicating they want to renew the area, while the American parks are transforming Splash Mountain into a Princess and the Frog ride. However, Tomorrowland also made perfect sense since it’s the land that “ages” more poorly. By “ages”, I don’t mean that the attractions show their actual age rapidly, but rather that since Tomorrowland is supposed to represent something futuristic, as technology evolves, the look of Tomorrowland is at constant risk of being perceived as being dated. That’s one of the reasons that Disneyland Paris’s steampunk-looking Tomorrowland works perfectly since it makes it easier for visitors to understand that Tomorrowland is not meant to depict what tomorrow will look like.
In 2027, Tokyo Disneyland’s Tomorrowland will have a new plaza and Space Mountain, showing how The Oriental Land Company is constantly investing in the Tokyo Disney Resort and ensuring they continue to be the fantastic places they are. This announcement is also a perfect move that lets people see that the newest “land” in Japan won’t be the Donkey Kong area at USJ, but Tomorrowland.