Japanese City Turns to Tokyo Disney Owner After Universal Studios Japan Proposal Fizzles

December 9, 2015, 12:02 AM · Remember when the owner of Universal Studios Japan announced that it was developing plans for a second theme park, in Okinawa?

Despite fans' visions of Islands of Adventure Japan, USJ Co. eventually clarified that the second gate would not be a Universal-themed park. One thing led to another, and eventually NBCUniversal owner Comcast announced that it was buying a controlling stake in USJ Co., giving Universal ownership and control of its Japanese park and its management.

Well, now the mayor of the city in Okinawa is turning to another theme park owner to develop a park in that city — Oriental Land Company, the owner of the Tokyo Disney Resort.

One of the top sites that follows Tokyo Disney in Japan and I tweeted about the report:

Does this mean fans will be seeing a third Disney park in Japan? Don't hold your breath. Even if Oriental Land were to sign on to the project, OLC - like USJ Co. before it- could choose to develop a park without branding from its American partner.

The land in question is supposed to come available following the relocation of a US Marine Corps Air Station. But that move has become a political issue itself in Japan, further complicating any potential plans for redevelopment, especially for something as capital-intensive as a theme park.

An Oriental Land spokesperson told the South China Morning Post that the company "will take time in studying" the Okinawa proposal.

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Replies (8)

December 9, 2015 at 6:05 AM · If Disney couldn't be allowed to use their characters, I doubt they'd sign either. There's more money to be made with IP attractions, hence the modern dearth of original rides.
December 9, 2015 at 9:03 AM · Re-Trexen.

Maybe Disney wouldn't, but they don't run TDR, do they? So who knows? Maybe OLC might be interested in a non-IP-based park. I couldn't answer that though since I don't know much about the company other than that they're some Japan-based corporation that owns TDR but still has to pay Disney for licensing fees.

December 9, 2015 at 9:59 AM · Maybe they plan to do an Okinawan version of Aulani. A resort destination using Disney's hospitality principles. However, I wonder how they would integrate a casino, which I heard was part of the prior plans for the property. They'd probably have to do something like a cruise line where the adults would have dining, entertainment and gambling options in a kids free zone and kids/teens would have their own sector/club and finally a neutral zone for the whole family. I think Okinawa is hoping Disney is able to provide the right mix of activities for the guests. From Disney's standpoint, it could be an opportunity to try something new without damaging their brand since it won't be themed and they'll be portrayed as a consultant. And they could learn valuable lessons using other people's money. If this is the case, I can see why Comcast is dropping out since they'd be more involved and look bad if it goes bad.
December 9, 2015 at 10:36 AM · Comcast isn't going to bother with a non-Universal park, and I suspect that USJ Co going rogue on such a proposal might have accelerated the process of Comcast reining in USJ Co.

That said, I believe that OLC has said in public statements before that it is open to developing a non-Disney park. (Don't have a link handy - just going on memory here.) So perhaps that is what Okinawa is hoping. But Elsa herself couldn't have put any more frost on OLC's reply.

December 9, 2015 at 9:22 PM · Okinawans have lobbied and protested for decades to get the US military bases removed from the island. I am sure they would not want to see a Disney park filled with American popular culture fill an area they considered stolen ground. Best chance might be for an Aulani style hotel and resort dedicated to local Okinawan culture.
December 10, 2015 at 3:36 PM · I wouldn't rule out anything. Universal can still come back to the site after considering their options to put their own IP or licensed IP to work. I think Universal dodged a bullet in gaining control of USJ.
December 11, 2015 at 1:12 AM · I think Comcast/Universal are now more interested in investing in their Beijing project. It is a much bigger market and has huge potential.

Okinawa wants a theme park to boost its tourism industry, but they probably will have to look beyond Universal or Disney to find a willing partner/investor.

December 11, 2015 at 10:51 AM · There is no reason for Oriental Land Co (Disney is there, by the grace of OLC, and not the other way around), which after all is a holding company, to feel obliged to anyone for any new project, being it a shopping centre, a condominium development, or a theme park...
When talking about IP, we seem not being aware how much high quality Japanese anime IP is out there ! Enough to fill 5 theme parks.

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