Towards the end of 2020, Orien-tal Land, which operates Tokyo Disney Resort, announced at a press conference that it expected a loss of about 51.1 billion yen for the year. Tokyo Disney has been on a long-term truce since late February, affected by the new crown outbreak that has ravaged the world. Although the park has been reopened since July, the company was ultimately unable to turn the tide in the face of strict demands from industry associations to keep visitor numbers below half of the pre-epidemic level.
On the other hand, Oriental's first loss since it went public in 1996 is a testament to Disney's long-standing popularity in Japan. In fact, as early as the park announced its closure, good media have calculated that even if there are no tourists from now on, Tokyo Disney can continue to support the eventual closure of about two years. The then Disney Global President also said at the park's 10th anniversary event that the head office's failure to directly operate "Dundee" was probably the biggest decision-making mistake in history. His joke actually tells the biggest difference between "Dundee" and other Disneys. Of the six existing Disney theme parks in the world, only Dundee does not have a majority stake in its headquarters. In addition to paying Disney a certain annual copyright fee, Oriental Park is fully responsible for the construction and operation of the park. This "localization" must also be one of the reasons why Tokyo Disney can become one of the world's most successful theme parks. But the concern of this article is not as a business model of "Dundee", but the Japanese around it a series of words. Tokyo Disney, a composite space, has provided Japanese researchers with endless inspiration in the nearly 40 years since its birth. And their analysis not only turns "Todi" into a new window for us to observe Japanese society, but also helps us rethink the complex relationship between power, capital and culture at a time when globalization is still advancing.
Postwar Peace "Black Boat": A Brief History of Tokyo Disney
The Japanese Disney Resort, known as "Tokyo Disney", is actually located in Pu'an City, Chiba Prefecture. "Todi" should be the closest of all Disneylands to the city by regular tram from Tokyo Station in just 15 minutes. The resort is divided into Tokyo Disneyland, which covers an area of 510,000 square kilometers, and Tokyo Disney Sea, which covers 490,000 square kilometers. According to 2019 data, the former welcomed 18 million visitors a year, while the latter reached 14.6 million. If you don't repeat it and simply overlay the number of visitors, Tokyo Disney Resort's total number of visitors even exceeded the U.S. "home" of Florida Disney, the world's No.
To review the history of "Todi", one inevitable topic is the existence of the United States in post-war Japanese society. In his book "The Geotics of Visual Cities", the Japanese scholar Ji-Jun-jung has opened a chapter to begin with. Yogi pointed out that in the early post-war period, the Japanese people's impression of the United States was overwhelmingly dominated by the occupied forces. Beginning in the 1950s, this direct power inequality was gradually replaced by a softer cultural image. Disney's business empire played an important role. As early as 1957, the famous department store San Yue set up a small amusement park called "Happy Kingdom Disney" on the top floor of its store in Bridge, Japan. Disney-licensed rides, including rotating teacupes, are a favorite of middle-class kids who come shopping with their parents. The next year, a show called Disneyland officially began airing on NTV.
The 14-year-old program not only airs the latest animation, but also introduces California Disneyland, which opened in 1955. These dreamy contents were undoubtedly only in the imaginary world for the Japanese who were still "embracing defeat". Interestingly, Gisser points out that the show was first broadcast every other week at the same time as a live broadcast of a professional wrestling match. One of the main elements of the latter is that The Japanese Reiths use traditional martial arts skills to defeat the physically superior American players. Thus, Japan in the face of the United States, "low self-esteem" and "aplasm" two mentality in the television medium alternately appeared.
In the 1960s and 1970s, as Japan's economy gradually recovered, Japan-U.S. relations and Disney's role in Japan changed again. On the one hand, through Japan's growing media industry, American culture in magazines, books, movies and other forms of output is more intense. On the other hand, if pre-war Brigadier General Perry's black ship came and modernized Japan from a macrostructure, the postwar American popular culture changed Japanese society in micro and everyday terms. In 1971, McDonald's opened its first store in Japan. This standardized restaurant, represented by hygiene and efficiency, is beginning to make the American way of life a material choice that the Japanese can actually obtain. These changes have laid a solid foundation for the final landing of Disneyland. Since 1972, Japanese representatives have made frequent visits to the United States to try to secure Disney's settlement. But at the time, he devoted all his energy to the newly completed Florida Disney headquarters, which was completely negative about going overseas. Thus, the opening mention of providing only image copyright regardless of the way of operation became the final compromise between the two parties.
In 1981, the park broke ground. Two years later, on April 15, 1983, "Dundee" officially opened. Although The Oriental Park Company has great enthusiasm, but at first the Japanese society is not optimistic about the future of the park. The perimeter of the park has been completely unable to attract investment from the accommodation industry for some time. After all, the goal of 10 million visitors a year - equivalent to one-tenth of Japan's population - was unrealistic for most people. But these negatives are clearly understate Disney's appeal or the spending power of the Japanese after the economy took off. More than a month after the opening of the park on May 23rd, "Dundee" welcomed its 1 millionth visitor. On April 2, 1984, the target of 10 million people per year was reached about two weeks ahead of schedule. Since then, with the opening of hilton and other high-end hotels near the park, as well as JR East Japan Railway Dance Station, such as the new establishment of many good, "Todi" operation on the track to success. Disney itself has gradually precipitated as an integral part of modern Japanese popular culture.
"Exotic" on Tokyo Bay: Tokyo Disney's Space-Time Strategy
In addition to the important "other" of the United States, Disneyland's own spatial and time strategy is also an important reason for its success.
According to Ji's point of view in the book, the two most important characteristics of paradise space are its confinement and flatness. First, unlike other amusement parks, Disney strategically set up only one entrance. This ensures that visitors will "go back" in the park according to the logic set by the manager in advance. At the same time, external media, represented by traffic and money, are prohibited from entering the park. The park's mobility tools are limited to visitors' feet and limited-coverage buses wrapped around Disney characters. Dundee did not start setting up cash-using vending machines in the park until 2008. Not so long ago, the possibility of taking an external diet to Shanghai Disney became a controversial topic. In the view of giggle researchers, measures such as the ban on take-aways are more effective than profit-making in excluding everything unrelated to the dream kingdom, allowing visitors to immerse themselves more thoroughly in the park. Another powerful example is that both Japan and the United States considered opening the park at the foot of Mount Fuji in the early days of the site. But because it was too easy for representatives of Japanese culture to break the story of the park's closure, the site, which eventually floated on Tokyo Bay, was adopted.
Naturally, the second characteristic plane of paradise space is also served for the same purpose. Ji see that as a theme park in three-dimensional space its ultimate goal is to achieve Disney movies like the "secondary." For example, almost all of the buildings in the park shrink in proportion to the upper floors. This technique, which is often used in animation to make houses appear three-dimensional, continues to be added to the real world. What's more, he pointed out the absence of the "lookout" perspective at Disney. Although the symbol of "Dundee" is "Cinderella Castle" in the heart of the park, visitors can't really climb the distorted tower. Thus, neither the real city outside the park nor the park's various components at a glance visitors can grasp only the current play plane and its fairy tale narrative.
On the other side, this spatial strategy is complemented by the hidden sense of time behind disney parks. At the time of Ji's writing, in addition to the "World Market" at the entrance and the "Dreamland" where Disney's classic animated images can be seen, the main rides were located in three themed areas from west to east: the "Westland", which recreates the Great Western of the Pioneering Era, the "Adventure Park" of Pirates of the Caribbean, and the "Tomorrowland" with space travel as its theme. Ji pointed out that these three parts are the United States, The Earth and the universe on the three spatial dimensions of the frontier /frontline. Although different Disneyland sections and names vary, this largely global distinction has long been criticized by researchers everywhere. They argue that as tourists come to the "future" from the first two regions of indians and pirates, a linear view of time that encompasses colonialism is also subtly in people's thinking. Disney's model of historical progress is in fact the same as the 19th-century capitalist fairs represented by the Paris and Chicago Expos. Mr. Ji agrees in part in his article, but he also reminds us of Disney's unique complexity in time. The extent to which visitors can read the progress of this time is unknown, linked to the overlooking commanding heights that are missing from the park. Conversely, the vertigo effect of co-existence in the same space over time may be an effective device for allowing visitors to further abandon their daily judgment and fall into a state of intoxication.
Disney's Space at Large: The City's Paradise and Its Transformation
While confinement is seen as an important prerequisite for Disneyland's establishment, it is clear that the "Disney-style" space itself did not stop at the park, but gradually began to occupy other urban spaces. As Baudria says, The existence of Disneyland is a proof that the whole society has been completely Disney-like.
The scholar Xiaoda Beida provides us with a very detailed example in his book "Advertising City Tokyo". In the book, he examines how Japanese retail giant Siwu Group began a Disney-style transformation of Shibuya in the 1970s. The group's attempt to build a new Parco shopping centre because of its distance from Shibuya station has operators worried that it will not attract enough guests. The solution for policymakers is to "theme parks" the streets. Mr Bei believes this strategy can be broken down into two tiers. First, traditional street and street markets are actively absorbed into department stores. Different floors are given different street themes, and shops on each floor choose and furnish goods accordingly. As a result, department stores that aren't afraid of the sun and rain, and don't worry about the quality of their goods, have become a more perfect store street than the ones in Japanese cities, just as the crocodiles seen in AdventureLand are more real than the real crocodiles. Second, the company projected its ambitions on the city outside the department store. The roads stretching from around Shibuya Station to Parco are also divided according to a certain theme. For example, shops near "Spanish" have the illusion of being in Madrid, both in decoration and in the food they provide. Whether it's the building's facade or the guide sign, as long as it's pedestrians, it's occupied by the company's carefully selected commercials that fit the "Parco aesthetic." It can be said that customers at the station into a seemingly open in fact early by the commercial capital closed the theme park. As in "Dundee" can not overlook the inside and outside consumers only actively into it and in line with the space of consumer behavior can achieve immersive satisfaction. And the clothes they wear, word-of-mouth movies or exhibitions become "secondary advertising" to continue to regenerate the output of no gaps in the consumer paradise.
With the city covered by "Little Disney", consumers with nowhere to go can only - and more often actively - throw themselves into a commercial maze without exports. But just as Disney's story doesn't tell the audience what a prince and princess might experience after they're together, the seemingly perfect park-style consumer city is about to take on a new turn. If Disney-style spaces fled from amusement parks to cities in the 1970s and 1980s, we have witnessed the escape and disintegration of the "Dundee" space from the 1990s.
In his book "Disney's Sociology," Mr. Shin, a scholar who worked part-time at Disney, details what he calls the phenomenon of "Tokyo Disney de-Disney." Among them, the opening of Disney Sea in Tokyo in 2001 was one of the most obvious indicators. First of all, Disney Sea didn't intend to close its space from the start. It's even a selling point for the park to see Tokyo Bay and the city in the distance. Second, the park breaks the strict prohibition of alcohol trafficking by Disney around the world in order to create a family atmosphere. Although the variety of drinks is still named Disney-style fantasy, but when you are in the Disney Sea restaurant from time to time will be mistaken for a restaurant in Tokyo Lane illusion. At a higher level, Shinjing comments that the common reason behind these changes is that the theme of "Dundee" is beginning to become thinner. A good example is Disney's iconic event, the Joy Parade. Xinjing points out that in the 1980s, the "Dundee" parade had a very clear theme, and each float and square had a complete story set. But a sense of chaos after the 1990s shrouded the performance team. Not only are not the characters in the story randomly arranged on a float, but some images that have nothing to do with Disney also appear on both the performer and the audience. The point is that this confusion gives visitors a whole new sense of entertainment. He thus proposed that the traditional theme of self-fulfilling gradually lost its appeal at the turn of the century. With the development of new media such as the Internet, it is very easy for tourists to separate the physical and mental "present". Thus, trying to trap them in a space covered by a complete story becomes an impossible delusion. The right solution is to provide as many and as many sources of information as possible so that individual visitors can find the pieces they want for DIY assembly. For example, people who like "Snow and Ice" as early as in the online forum to know which "Dundee" shop has Elsa's surroundings and the first few flower cars and sisters reunion scene.
Similarly, the rupture of the closed "information crust" of "Dundee" can be found in the actual urban space. And then back to Shibuya, where Beitian Xiao made a lot of money. As began in the 1990s, Xiwu's "urban advertising" strategy began to crack. Although people continue to gather in Shibuya, their reason is no longer to look for "Shibuya" goods, but because Shibuya has enough goods so they can always find their favorite. On the way from Shibuya Station to Parco's department store, the once-flooded Xiwu fixed billboards on the building's facade have been replaced by electronic displays that reflect the flow in real time. But these researchers also remind us that it would be naive to think that big capital's efforts to control cities and consumers have failed. In fact, the self-fulfilling "Dundee" seems to be running more smoothly than the American family, which still adheres to the orthodox dream kingdom. Tokyo Disney's original image has been welcomed and even resumed overseas, while the return rate and per capita consumption of tourists throughout the park have been on the rise.
Although Dundee made its first operating loss as a result of the outbreak, it is clear that the operator and the market have not reduced their outlook in any way. On September 28th, after the reopening of the park, it spanned three campuses (breaking the integrity again!). The big renovation, which has invested nearly 75 billion yen, has officially begun to welcome tourists. In addition, new projects with an estimated 250 billion yen in an area of 140,000 square kilometers will begin as planned before the outbreak. Several major themed rides, including Universal Studios' Nintendo World, Gibra Park and Harry Potter, are now under way on the island. What new consumption habits and spatial practices will transnational capital and local culture bring to Japan, which has completed its industrial transformation? And what's the difference between the momentum of ordinary people and even resistance? The answers to these questions, whether as a mirror of the front car or as the stone of his mountain, will surely bring a different revelation to other societies.
Source: WeChat Public Economic Watch Network (eeojjgcw),author: Huang Qiuyuan, original title:Disney Japan: A Paradise on the Scars of Postmodern Society.