Japan is home to two of our most-anticipated new attractions for 2020: the Tokyo Disneyland expansion — led by the new Enchanted Tale of Beauty and the Beast dark ride, and Super Nintendo World at Universal Studios Japan.
The pandemic delayed the opening of both attractions, as it did many new rides and shows around the world. However, Tokyo Disneyland opened its expansion this week, while Super Nintendo World remains closed until next spring.
So why did Tokyo Disneyland go ahead with its new attractions for 2020, while Universal Studios Japan delayed? The answer, ultimately, has to do with who owns each park.
It's not a Disney vs. Universal issue here — because Disney does not actually own the Tokyo Disney Resort. Oriental Land Co. owns and operated the Tokyo Disney Resort under license from The Walt Disney Company. While the terms of that license give Disney enormous influence and control over what happens at Tokyo Disney, ultimately, it is OLC's money at stake here.
With the Tokyo Disney Resort now reopen for business and tourists throughout Japan cleared to visit, OLC wasn't about to keep sitting on its money-making new attractions indefinitely, waiting for the Japanese government to allow a planeload of Disney executives, Imagineers, and invited media to fly in from Los Angeles. OLC managed the grand opening on its own, without invited guests from the U.S., but with thousands of eager Japanese fans who snapped up all available ride reservations spots and bought up plenty of newly-released speciality food and merchandise.
Meanwhile, in Osaka — home to Universal Studios Japan — Super Nintendo World remains closed, awaiting what has most recently been announced to be a spring 2021 debut.
Universal Studios Japan opened as the property of USJ Co., Ltd., a separate company formed to own and operate the theme park and surrounding development. However, Universal owner NBCUniversal bought a controlling stake in USJ Co., Ltd. in 2015, taking over the company entirely in 2017. That put Universal Studios Japan under the complete control of Universal Parks & Resorts.
With Universal in charge in Osaka, you'd better believe that Super Nintendo World will wait until those planeloads of executives and media can fly in from Los Angeles, Orlando, and Comcast HQ in Philadelphia for a grand opening.
While by all accounts Enchanted Tale of Beauty and the Beast offers an amazing experience and will rank among the world's top dark rides, it's not a top global promotional priority for the Disney Parks, Experiences and Products segment. No Disney-owned resorts are scheduled to get an installation of the ride. While Walt Disney Imagineering would love for more fans around the world to see its latest effort in raising the bar for theme park attractions, their bosses at Disney are generally more interested in promoting attractions at parks that Disney actually owns.
Super Nintendo World, however, is very much a top promotional priority not just for Universal Parks & Resorts, but for all of NBCUniversal and its owner, Comcast. This is Universal Creative's bid to one-up Disney's Star Wars: Galaxy's Edge and Rise of the Resistance and reclaim the industry accolades that Universal enjoyed after the opening of The Wizarding World of Harry Potter. Universal wants to support that with the biggest possible opening for Super Nintendo World.
With plans to bring the land and its attractions to Universal Studios Hollywood, Universal Orlando, and Universal Studios Singapore, NBCUniversal is not just opening Super Nintendo World for the Japanese market, as Tokyo Disneyland did for its expansion. Super Nintendo World's opening is the launch of a global brand and product, and Universal wants to give it the global press event that such an investment demands.
So that is why Super Nintendo World remains waiting while Beauty and the Beast welcomes its first guests.
* * *
We wanted you to read this article before we make our newsletter pitch, unlike so many other websites. If you appreciate that — and our approach to covering theme park news — please sign up for our free, three-times-a-week email newsletter. Thank you.
This article has been archived and is no longer accepting comments.
Now open, or date announced:
Still waiting on these: