Tokyo Disney Resort – Duffy and Sinbad

Hi everyone. I just got back from a two week vacation. Before I left, I arranged for several blogs to be published in my absence. Deb Wills was kind enough to post them, but she was unable to respond to everyone’s comments the way I normally try to do. So if you were wondering why I didn’t replied to your email, now you know. But I want to thank you all for the kind words you shared with me. And a big thanks to Deb for posting my blogs and your comments.

So, were did I go on vacation? Tokyo Disneyland, Tokyo DisneySea, and Hong Kong Disneyland. Yea! However, I’m not going to write long involved blogs about these wonderful places. I did that two years ago and if you’d like to learn more about these magical destinations, you can click on the links above and read my previous accounts. However, my vacation did furnish me with some fun adventures that I’d like to share with you in two or three blogs over the next week or so.

Before I get started, I’d like to tell you about an exciting moment that happened on my return home. I had just completed the grueling fourteen hour flight from Hong Kong to Chicago and was relaxing in the Red Carpet Room during my four hour layover. I was wearing a polo shirt with a Disney insignia. A few minutes after getting settled, a gentleman approached me. He said he had noticed my shirt and wondered if I worked for Disney. I told him no but explained that Disney was my hobby and I was returning from the Tokyo and Hong Kong Disney Parks. As it turns out, this gentleman had been on the same flight as me and was returning from his first trip to Hong Kong Disneyland. After a little more conversation, I learned that he was checking out the resort – sort of a “research” trip. You see, his name is John Pepper and he’s been Disney’s Chairman of the Board since 2007. How cool is that? I got to meet the Chairman of the Board for Disney.

Okay, onto my actual blog.

A few years back, Disney came out with a new merchandise line that featured a plush bear whose face resembled Mickey Mouse and the famous three-circle Mickey shape stitched onto each paw. I thought the bears were incredibly cute and bought one for myself. However, they weren’t a big hit in the U.S. and were more or less discontinued. But in Japan this lovable creature caught on. He was even given a name, Duffy, The Disney Bear. As the months went on, Duffy became a phenomenon. Now, it’s the “in” thing to carry your Duffy with you whenever you visit Tokyo DisneySea where he, his girlfriend Shellie May, and their clothes are sold exclusively. Everywhere you look, you see Duffy and Shellie May enjoying a day in the park with their human companions.

Let me give you an idea how big Duffy has become in Japan. A day at a Tokyo Disney Park starts well before the official opening time. The first picture below was taken 65 minutes prior to Tokyo Disneyland opening. At this time, there were already several hundred people patiently waiting at the turnstiles. When the park finally opens, there will be thousands and thousands of people lined up at the gates. This can be seen in the second picture – which was taken 25 minutes before park opening and only shows half of the crowd. And Duffy waits dutifully in line like all of his human companions.

Waiting for the park to open

Waiting for the park to open

Duffy waiting in line

The above pictures were taken at Tokyo Disneyland, but similar crowds gather each day at Tokyo DisneySea which is where Duffy is sold.

Now, after waiting an hour or so to enter DisneySea, many people skip the rides and RUN to one of the two shops where Duffy merchandise is sold, only to get into another long line. You see, these shops get so crowded access must be limited.

Waiting to buy Duffy

Waiting to buy Duffy

Here, thousands of Duffys, Shellie Mays, and their various outfits are sold each day. I’ve heard from a reliable source that 25% of all the merchandising revenue at the Tokyo parks comes from these characters and their accessories.

Duffy Merchandise

Duffy Merchandise

In the parking lot for Tokyo Disneyland, large faces of Duffy and Shellie May have been meticulously recreated out of orange traffic cones.

Parking Log Duffy

Now you might think that this phenomenon is limited to little girls. Nothing could be further from the truth. Duffy knows no age or sex limitations. It’s just as common to see guys and older folks carrying Duffy with them while visiting Tokyo DisneySea.

Duffy and his Human

Duffy and his Human

Duffy and his Human

Duffy and his Human

Duffy and his Human

And Duffy doesn’t just get mindlessly carried throughout the day. Many have baby straps to give him a comfortable ride. And when Duffy’s “parents” sit down at a table, he is given his own seat and doted over.

Duffy at the Table

Duffy at the Table

As I mentioned earlier, Disney has created a line of clothing for Duffy, but that’s much too limiting. The really cool Duffys have handmade wardrobes or nifty costumes.

Duffy Dressed to the Nines

Duffy in Costume

My Japanese friends Katsumi and Daisuke use their Duffys to help hold a place for the upcoming shows presented at Tokyo DisneySea. And if you’ll notice, their Duffys are not sitting on the pavement. They’re given something clean and cushiony to sit on.

Katsumi and Daisuke waiting for a Show

There are also a number of Picture Spots located around the park where you can pose your Duffys and get a photo of your entire group with this cuddly family member.

Duffy Picture Spot

Realizing that my Duffy back home in Orlando was sitting around naked, I decided I better buy him an outfit. I opted for the Cape Cod ensemble. Pretty cute, huh?

Jack's Duffy

So next time you’re at Walt Disney World or Disneyland in California, and you see someone carrying a smartly dressed Mickey-faced bear, it’s a pretty good bet they’re from Japan and giving their Duffy a well deserved vacation.

The next topic in this blog will be about one of my favorite attractions at Tokyo DisneySea, Sindbad’s Storybook Voyage. This is a boat ride comparable to Pirates of the Caribbean, minus the waterfalls. Disney expected Sindbad’s Storybook Voyage to be a major draw as its scope was large and encompassing. Unfortunately, it didn’t work out that way. From what I understand, the Japanese people aren’t all that familiar with the story of Sindbad and this attraction often has minimal lines while the rest of the park is busy.

To try to remedy this, the attraction was closed for a major refurbishment a few years ago. One of their goals was to change the storyline and soften the foreboding feel. In the original version, Sindbad had a beard. In the second incarnation, he’s clean shaven for a less sinister look. The Giant in the first version was vengeful. Now he’s grateful. And Sindbad was given a sidekick in this second go-round, Chandu. This is a cute little tiger cub that helps Sindbad conquer evil. And finally, a very melodic song (Compass of Your Heart), written by Alan Menken, was added for Sindbad to sing.

To be honest, I thoroughly enjoyed the previous ride, but with the addition of the new song and Chandu, this is now one of my favorite attractions at Tokyo DisneySea. I even bought a Chandu plush.

Chandu Plush

My friend Katsumi tells me the changes have helped and popularity of this attraction is growing. I have created a video of the entire ride so check it out and see for yourself. I’m sure you’ll agree, this is a wonderful attraction.

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23 Replies to “Tokyo Disney Resort – Duffy and Sinbad”

  1. On an online search my husband and I were conducting for “Sinbad Disney”, we found your blog’s link. Just this morning, we took a day trip to Tokyo DisneySea for the first time, and one of the rides we went on was Sinbad’s Storybook Voyage. We had absolutely no idea what Sinbad had to do with Disney, why the ride was so creepy, and what we had gotten ourselves into. Because I’m not all familiar with Disney, and this had been my first Disney Park experience, I decided to wait to go online and check out Sinbad’s connection with Disney. We personally loved the ride because it was both creepy and hilarious, and mainly because we had no idea what the hell was going on (it turns out Disney published a movie in 2003 about Sinbad starring Brad Pitt… who knew?).

    What you said about Duffy is completely correct, though. We even bought into the fad and got a naked Duffy. We couldn’t clothe him even if we wanted to due to the hour-long lines people were waiting in (even on a Tuesday). We both live on an American military base, and are often shocked and amused by the Japanese fads. Duffy is my personal favorite, and he has a special place in my heart for it. Thanks for the hilarious blogging and happy adventures to you.

  2. My daughter will be traveling to Japan next week as part of a foreign exchange program. She will go to Tokyo Disneyland. How much (on average) does a t-shirt cost from Tokyo Disneyland? I want to make sure I send enough spending money.

    Jack’s Answer:

    Everything at Tokyo Disney is expensive. I would plan on $30-$40 for a t-shirt. Also, keep in mind, in general, the Japanese people are smaller than Americans and larger sizes are not available. I have never bought clothes there because I couldn’t find anything that fits.

    On a related note… When I was at Hong Kong Disneyland on the same trip, I found a 2X polo-style shirt that fit me (in the U.S. I wear a large). It shrunk so much the first time I washed it that I had to give it to smaller, lady friend of mine. That was $40 down the drain.

  3. Thanks for your update and video! Glad you enjoyed your vacation! LUCKY! Wife and I have seriously considered going to the Japanese Disney parks for several years but always back out because of the cost, fears of the cultural differences. But I have never heard a negative comment from anyone who has visited them! Will have to go back and read your earlier blogs about Japan. RE: Video! I have always thought that the “Pirate” and “Haunted” type attraction was the total complete apex of the Disney quality attraction, no ride design done since has been quite as good in my opinion! Sinbad just serves to reinforce my opinion, it looks awesome, I was especially impressed with the quality of the audioanimitronics figures, even for “cartoonish” figures, the movements were very lifelike!

  4. Hi Jack!

    I never knew that cute bear had a name! My sister brought back a purple/lavender version when her youngest daughter was a baby in 2004 and she STILL carries it around. We never knew it was named Duffy. My niece appropriately calls it “Beary” and my sister and I have always called it a Hidden Mickey Bear. We still regret not getting one for her oldest daughter (and for me!!!).

  5. Hi Jack,

    Welcome back! I was curious as to what was going on with your commenting because you’re normally so great with it. Glad to hear you were enjoying the Asian Disney parks.

    I found your pictures and descriptions of Duffy and Shellie May fascinating. I never imagined that this would go on at a theme park. Seeing stuffed animals sitting at tables and men carrying them in baby carriers is unbelievable. With the popularity of Build a Bear Workshop, I’m surprised the trend didn’t catch on in the States. I have to admit, I would thoroughly enjoy carrying Duffy around. Your Duffy looks great, by the way!

    Oh, and I will never complain about WDW’s lines again. Your pictures are incredible!

    I’m going to enjoy your video later. I can’t tell you how much I want to visit DisneySea after your rave reviews about it.

    -Kirstin

  6. So many things to comment on but I’ll stick to one question.

    Have they started any construction on the three new lands at Hong Kong Disneyland?

    I thought the Mystic Manor preview at D23 was so great and have started saving for a trip similar to yours once it’s completed.

    Jack’s Answer:

    Yes. Construction has begun on the new lands at Hong Kong. In fact, the train that circles the park was only running between Fantasyland and Main Street. The Adventureland side was closed so they can build walkways under the track to the new lands. Also, two large cranes were visible behind Adventureland. These new areas will be opening in phases between 2012 and 2015.

  7. Jack, this is such an awesome story! Thanks for sharing the pics and details of Duffy and how the people carry him around. What a fun idea!

  8. Your story about meeting Chairman John Pepper was interesting. If he had known who you were and what you do, he would have offered you a little commission since you are one of the best (informal) salemen Disney has going!

    I loved your blogs a few years ago with the detailed reports of the Asian parks, so I will look forward to your updates now. Hope you had a nice vacation.

    Thanks, Wendy

  9. Hi Jack,

    I’m a huge fan of your blog and as usual, your blog never fails to enlighten me. I just came back from Japan last month and as I am not residing in the US, I had absolutely no idea that there was an official Disney Bear. Imagine my shock when I went to Tokyo Disneyland and Disneysea and saw almost everyone carrying Duffy and Shellie May! I had no idea who these bears were and it completely baffled why they were everywhere! Some people were even carrying 2 bears at the same time! I wonder why they don’t find it a hassle to carry 2 bears as they walked around the park…

    Also, when I bought popcorn outside the Duffy Bear store in Disneysea, they were selling the Duffy Popcorn container for like 2000 yen, and the strap alone was like 1000 yen if I remember correctly. And it really amazed me how people are willing to spend that much for the container and strap! I mean 10 USD for a strap is really crazy IMHO. Personally, I am not a fan of the bears and it really baffles me why they are so popular in Japan…

    By the way, when I went there in April, sadly, “Monsters Inc, Hide and Go Seek” were closed for repairs. Can you give a brief description about the ride? I would have loved to ride it and I really wonder what it’s like. Thank you so much!

    Always a fan,
    Christine

  10. Hello from Buenos Aires Jack. I have to say I was a little worried about you no answering, but now i know you were in vacation I am happy for you. I know Tokyo Dysney Resort for your blogs only (never been there, 20 hour flight from here and a lot of money)and I think i would love DisneySea. I hope you have enjoy your trip. It´s very funny the Duffy thing and i like your Duffy outfit very much. Read you soon!!

  11. It’s always wonderful to hear about Sindbad! The music is perfect and a testament to how important the right score can be to the entire ride experience. With the new music and tone this is a classic Disney attraction through and through.

    I’m wondering if the small yet articulate Audio-Animatronics of Sindbad are any indication of the kinds of figures we’ll see in The Little Mermaid attractions state-side. Their range of movement is remarkably fluid.

    Another great report on a consistently wonderful blog. Keep up the good work!

    Tim

  12. Welcome back to the states!

    Congrads on meeting a member of the board! Any good news or insider stories?

    I never heard of Duffy until now, and I really want one. Any ideas how a gal from the states can get one of these little guys?

    Jack’s Answer:

    I did a quick search on eBay and found dozens.

  13. Welcome back from vacation, Jack!

    What a marvelous first snippet you’ve shared with us. I’m really impressed by this little pair of bears. Duffy and Shellie May get my votes for most popular Disney bears. And everyone who complains about the lines getting into the WDW theme parks should take note of the crowd you showed waiting to get into Tokyo Disneyland (and by allusion Tokyo DisneySea). Sure makes me appreciate WDW even more.

    Thanks for another great blog. I can’t wait to see what else you have in store for us from your vacation. Hope your trip has you rested and prepared to inform all of us for awhile.

    Neil

    Jack’s Comment:

    Americans used to visiting Disneyland and Walt Disney World have no idea how crowed the Japanese parks are. Think 4th of July crowds almost every day. I literally arrived at the parks a full hour early every day. This was necessary in order to secure a FastPass for their new ride, “Monsters Inc, Hide and Go Seek” and ride a few attractions before hour-long lines ensued. It’s crazy.

  14. Jack — How did you understand all of the attractions while you were away???? While at WDW last week, we noticed a number of people wearing red headsets that I would assume was some type of translator…is that what you had????

    Jack’s Answer:

    For any ride that needs an explanation, there are hand-held translators available. In most cases, the cast members recognized me as a non-Japanese (I wonder why) and would offer me the device. But in those cases when they didn’t offer, I would just ask and if the ride offered a translator, it was provided. But in most cases, it’s not really necessary. In addition, all signage at the parks are in both English and Japanese.

  15. Jack! A trip to Tokyo Disney! How fun! I really enjoyed your video of the Sinbad ride. It was very interesting to see a Disney ride that I had never heard about. The one thing that stuck out the most to me was that the animatronics were not ‘lifelike’… I mean, they sort of looked cartoonish… compared to POTC (and the like) I found it sort of odd that the Sinbad characters looked more like the dolls from it’s a small world. There must be a reason for that. Do you know what it is? Can you elaborate?

    always a fan – Julia

    Jack’s Answer:

    I can’t give you a definitive reason why the characters were given this look, but I have an opinion. When Sindbad first opened, it had a much darker feel. Bad guys were after Sindbad. I suspect that the Imagineers chose to give the characters a cartoon look was to soften the sinister story being told. But do not let these deceptive simple characters fool you. These are elaborate AudioAnimatronics figures — much more complicated than any doll on ‘it’s a small world.”

  16. Welcome home, Jack!

    That stuff about Duffy is fascinating! It just goes to show how different cultures respond to different things. I’m amazed at how popular it is over there!

    Once again, your attraction videos are top-notch, absolutely the best I’ve seen. Now that song is going to be stuck in my head for days, and I don’t even know any Japanese!

    Thanks again for all that you do for this site – it’s fantastic and much-appreciated!

  17. Hi Jack. Always enjoy your blogs, but this one was of particular interest. You see, I’ve been a collector of Disney bears for years…all different sizes and colors. I’ve also sold several of the Disney Duffys on ebay to wonderful Japanese buyers. The ones that they especially prefer are the original 2003 large pastel-colored ones. I recently sold a pink one for $1,500!
    So I know the Japanese are very serious in their love for Duffy. And yes, I have recently bought a Shellie May from a Japanese ebay seller. Can’t wait to get her! Thanks for such an interesting article, and keep them coming!

    Jack’s Comment:

    When Disney sold the Disney Bears at Walt Disney World, they came in several colors. But at Tokyo, Duffy is pale brown and Shellie May is a little lighter. Those are the only two colors available. And Shellie May’s bow is also drab. I’m surprised more choices aren’t available. I know they would be popular.

  18. Welcome Back Jack!

    A few years way back I bought a similiar looking bear at the PO Gift Shop. It was wearing a bib and said ” My Very First Disney Bear”. It has the same looking paws and face as Duffy. I didn’t see this bear anywhere else on Disney property. At the time my children were college aged so in 2006 I finally was able to give my first grandchild this bear. He joined all the stuffed animals living at the end of his bed.
    I really enjoyed reading about Duffy and I loved all the outfits. Duffy is Flat Stanley so the next time you visit across the ocean take your Duffy!
    I still have another bear I bought at the Disney Village which is now DTD. His one paw says Bearly Country and the other paw says WDW.
    Now his face looks like Duffy too. I just might dress him up now!
    Have a beautiful day!

  19. Aww, I’m so jealous! I can’t wait to see more from your trips.

    Thanks for explaining these two phenomena. I’d love to pick up one of those Bears some day!

  20. You are so fortunate to have traveled to the Disney parks in Asia once again. And we as readers are fortunate that you share your experiences with us (especially those of us who will not be able to afford a trip to those parks for another several years). Thank you for chronicling your observances.

    Also, I adore the photos of Duffy and Shellie May dressed as superheroes! And your Duffy was looking pretty sharp as well. It kind of makes me want one now. They are so cute. However, I am surprised that the Japanese do not seem to find the Duffys cumbersome to carry around the parks.

  21. Hi Jack, my oldest daughter bought a Disney Bear-shaped backpack a few years ago (at the outlet near WDW) along with the book about Mickey and Disney Bear in the Magic Kingdom (which we still read a few times a month). As you said, they haven’t been found much at WDW but on our trip in May 2010 we found several versions of Disney Bear dressed up for various activities. We bought two (one for each of my daughters). The cast members also told us that the clothes made for some of the other plushes would fit Disney Bear too (what good sales people!). Thanks again for the blog!
    Paul

  22. Oh Jack, I am so pleased that you have revisited the oriental Disney Parks, thanks for this and future blogs. A conversation my hubby and I had with our very nice dining buddy, Brian, on The Disney Wonder 4 night Bahamian Cruise (2008) has encouraged us to take a vacation to Tokyo for our 30th Wedding Anniversary in 2012. We were discussing/debating the question “what is your favourite Disney Park?” and he answered “without doubt DisneySea”. Well up to that point we had never heard of it so Brian kindly enlightened us and then low and behold you featured some wonderfull blogs a couple of years back to entice us even more. Soooooo…….watch this space as they say!

    2012 seems such a way off tho but your blogging sure helps, thanks again, Nicki

    Jack’s Comment:

    Anyone who has been to Tokyo DisneySea agrees, it is an amazing park. I tell people that they can buy their admission ticket, never ride on one attraction, and they will still get their money’s worth. The park is so magnificent that just “being there” is pleasure enough. It is without a doubt, my favorite Disney Park. GO!