American Waterfront can be divided into three sections, New York City, New York Harbor, and Cape Cod.
The time? Just after the turn of the 20th century.
Let’s start with New York City. This is the first section of American Waterfront that you come to when leaving Mediterranean Harbor. McDuck’s Department Store greets you as you start your walk down either of two streets.
The street to the left would be considered the “better neighborhood” of the two. Here, the buildings are nicely kept and the paint is fresh. Take the time to read some of the advertisements in the windows. There are so many clever signs and very often, the same name pops up again and again as a story starts to emerge.
The street to the right is closer to the docks and part of it runs underneath the elevated railway. These aspects contribute to give this area a seedier feel. The street has a more run-down atmosphere to it. The detail here is outstanding. Both of these streets are far superior to the “Streets of America” at Disney’s Hollywood Studios.
The New York City section of American Waterfront is also where you can board one of the Big City Vehicles. These are old fashioned automobiles that take you on leisurely drive through the City, along the Harbor, and finally ending in the Cape Cod section. This is a one-way trip so plan accordingly.
One of the big attractions in this area is the Broadway Music Theatre. This is a first-rate theatre. The kind you’d actually find on Broadway – not what you’d associate with a theme park. The stage has multiple elevators, a huge fly area, and seating for 1,500 people. The shows produced here are top notch and professional in every sense.
Currently playing at the Broadway Music Theatre is “Big Band Beat.” An energetic group of tap dancers and singers are backed up by a twelve-piece orchestra that sits at the back of the stage. The thirty minute production is presented in English and climaxes with Mickey Mouse on the drums and then he joins the dancers in a big finale. This is a “must see” show!
Close to the theatre you will find the DisneySea Electric Railway. This is an elevated electric trolley reminiscent of those found in many east coast American cities in the early 1900’s. The trolleys run from American Waterfront to Port Discovery. This is a one-way trip and you must exit and re-queue to return.
One of the most recent additions to Tokyo DisneySea is the Tower of Terror. However, this tower varies in several ways from its cousins in other Disney parks. In Paris and California, the exterior of the buildings have a Spanish motif while in Florida the building has a Moroccan flavor. The Tower in Tokyo is built of red brick and has a gothic feel. To me, the Tokyo Tower is the most elaborate and beautiful of the four.
Another change to the Tokyo attraction was necessitated because the Japanese are not familiar with the Twilight Zone television series. To remedy this, the Imagineers came up with a completely new storyline. Since the tours of the hotel are presented in Japanese, English speaking guests are given a handout explaining the storyline. The following five paragraphs are a direct quote from that handout.
“Welcome to the ‘Tower of Terror’ tour, presented by The New York City Preservation Society. On New Year’s Eve in 1899, explorer, antiquities collector and multi-millionaire Harrison Hightower III held a press conference in the luxurious Hotel Hightower to announce his latest find – a statue called ‘Shiriki Utundu’ which he had acquired in a remote region of Africa.
That very night, the hotel’s main elevator crashed to the ground with Hightower and the idol inside! Shiriki Utundu was recovered from the shattered elevator, but of Harrison Hightower III there was no sign. He had vanished. After his disappearance, Hotel Hightower was closed. People began calling it the ‘Tower of Terror.’
Rumor has it that Shiriki Utundu is a cursed statue, and that it may have something to do with the disappearance of Mr. Hightower.
As you tour this magnificent building and view Harrison Hightower’s collection of rare art from across the globe, you will also hear about the mystery of his disappearance.
The tour climaxes with a ride on the service elevator up to the top floor to see Mr. Hightower’s penthouse. Please enjoy the ride.”
In the pre-show room, we see a stained-glass likeness of Harrison Hightower and a statue of Shiriki Utundu sitting on a pedestal. As the story unfolds Mr. Hightower’s image changes from an arrogant robber-baron to a very fearful man. Then the lights dim and Shiriki Utundu disappears from sight. The effects are excellent and sets the stage for the terror to come.
From here we enter the storerooms that house Mr. Hightower’s vast collection of art that he’s commandeered from around the world. Eventually, we’re taken to an elevator for our journey to the penthouse. An interesting note, the elevators in Tokyo’s Tower have shoulder harnesses as well as lap restraints.
The exterior of the building also adds a bit of excitement to the show. Before each elevator drops, a flash of green light erupts from Mr. Hightower’s penthouse and then the light travels to the window of the next elevator to fall.
Photographs of Harrison Hightower can be seen throughout the attraction. A keen eye will notice that Mr. Hightower bears a striking resemblance to Joe Rhode, designer of the Animal Kingdom.
I can’t say that the Tokyo version of this attraction is better than the other Towers around the world. But with the storyline being so different, it does add a new excitement level. The Tokyo attraction does not have the 4th dimension room like the one in Florida. Instead, the elevator makes a second stop on its way to the top as do the Towers in California and Paris.
To give you an idea of how detailed Tokyo DisneySea is, check out the excavation site in the Lost River Delta section of the park. You might stumble across some crates address to Harrison Hightower.
My next blog will discuss the New York Harbor and Cape Cod sections of American Waterfront.