June 22, 2024

Marvel Ride Overlay Coming to “it’s a small world” at Tokyo Disneyland

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Disney has announced that “it’s a small world with Groot” will debut in Winter 2025 at Tokyo Disneyland, as the world's first version of the iconic boat ride with characters from across the Marvel Cinematic




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Disney has announced that “it’s a small world with Groot” will debut in Winter 2025 at Tokyo Disneyland, as the world’s first version of the iconic boat ride with characters from across the Marvel Cinematic Universe. This post shares the announcement and concept art, plus our thoughts on the “The Happiest Cruise That Ever Sailed” adding even more IP.

According to the press release from Tokyo Disney Resort, the attraction overlay will feature MCU characters designed in the endearing style of the Tokyo Disneyland attraction “it’s a small world,” marking the first appearance of Marvel characters in an attraction at Tokyo Disney Resort.

In the attraction “it’s a small world,” guests board boats for the “happiest cruise that ever sailed ’round the world” and are welcomed by Walt Disney Animation Studios’ characters, as well as children and animals from around the world. In “it’s a small world with Groot,” Groot from the Guardians of the Galaxy film trilogy and his friends from Marvel Studios films are visiting Earth for vacation.

Groot encounters his friends in various locations on Earth and experiences their regional cultures and music with them as well as with children from all over the world. Enjoy all the fun moments Groot has spending his vacation with his friends. Guests will continue to see their favorite characters from Disney Animation films throughout the world.

Don’t miss “it’s a small world with Groot” where, for the first time, characters from Marvel Studios will be featured in an attraction at Tokyo Disney Resort. The Marvel ride overlay “it’s a small world with Groot” will last for a limited time, with the current attraction closing temporarily from Fall 2024. How long “it’s a small world with Groot” will run is unknown at this time, as is whether there will be a Marvel seasonal event or if this is just a one-off at Tokyo Disneyland.

Turning to commentary, I can’t say I’m wild about this. I’ve largely come to terms with regular ole Disney characters being inside the ride, recognizing that it’s a way to ensure the attraction’s longevity and comport with current guest expectations. I may not agree with those expectations, but if that’s what keeps “it’s a small world” around for decades to come, then so be it.

This is fairly undeniable, and is especially true at Tokyo Disneyland. That version of the attraction is the most recent to receive a character presence, debuting at the start of the 35th Anniversary back in 2018 with the most major changes of any “it’s a small world” to be updated. And the ride has become significantly more popular since then, commanding a consistent line as opposed to being a perpetual walk-on.

Of course, that was not the first version of “it’s a small world” to receive Disney characters. For those who don’t recall, this was very much a thing back in 2008 when plans were revealed to do the same at Disneyland in California. Dubbed the “Small World War” by fans, the backlash was so fierce and rumors were raging that it resulted in Disney Legend Marty Sklar penning an open letter defending the changes. (If you’re unfamiliar with this, it means you haven’t seen ‘The Imagineering Story’ on Disney+ or have since forgotten it–rather than me regurgitating details–watch or rewatch that excellent series!)

Part of this acceptance is also thanks to these Disney character integrations being tastefully done everywhere and fitting fairly organically with the existing dolls. They’re keeping in the Mary Blair style of the original ride, so it’s not overtly or jarringly Disneyfied. The animated movie characters are noticeable, to be sure, but it’s almost like a bit of a scavenger hunt–you could easily miss some of them because they blend in so well with the original attraction.

I’m skeptical that characters from the Marvel Cinematic Universe can be integrated with the same deft touch. The whole deal of superheroes, at least as I understand it, is that they’re freaks and outcasts. I don’t mean that in a derogatory sense–it’s the secret sauce that gives them power, beyond their powers. But it also makes them stand out. I have a hard time seeing how Hulk or Doctor Strange or any of the Guardians of the Galaxy will be able to blend in as well as the Disney and Pixar animated characters.

Not only that, but the Marvel Cinematic Universe seems to me to be at odds with the message of “it’s a small world.” There is just one moon, and one golden sun. Eh, not sure that’s true in a multiverse scenario. And a smile means friendship to everyone. Does it though? It seems like death and destruction are part and parcel of the MCU, even if the heroes themselves represent friendship and so forth.

With that said, “it’s a small world with Groot” is only temporary. I’m fairly forgiving of seasonal or special event stuff, even if the Pixar Fest at Tokyo DisneySea is still the stuff of nightmares. (I will take “it’s a small world with Groot” any day over that awful event being reprised.) And this is certainly better than swapping out Harrison Hightower for the Collector over at Tower of Terror, so small victory there, I guess?

Although, who knows, maybe this is a test run for a permanent Marvel attraction overlay somewhere else at Tokyo Disney Resort. If this proves popular, a different ride could receive the reimagining treatment. That, or this could be a trial for Marvel characters in other versions of “it’s a small world.” In case you don’t remember, the first version to get the IP injection was Hong Kong Disneyland.

Nevertheless, given that it’s temporary, I will admit that I’m looking forward to “it’s a small world with Groot.” That’s largely because I want to see how convincingly Imagineers are able to pull it off. This will be a real challenge, and maybe they’ll perfectly stick the landing. Or perhaps not. Either way, it’ll be interesting to see and it’ll go away in due time.

What might be most interesting about “it’s a small world with Groot” is the motivation for doing it in the first place. As you might know, the blockbuster Fantasy Springs expansion that’ll bring big budget Frozen, Tangled, and Peter Pan attractions to Tokyo DisneySea opens in June 2024. In addition to that, Space Mountain at Tokyo Disneyland closes in July 2024 for a massive reimagining/rebuild likely to bring the Cosmic Rewind ride system to that attraction when it reopens in 2027.

This means that Tokyo DisneySea has a colossal new draw and Tokyo Disneyland not only has nothing brand-new (the Beauty and the Beast area is now 4 years old), but it’s losing an attraction. This may not seem like a big deal to you. Anyone reading this is probably more likely to visit both parks thanks to Fantasy Springs. But it’s important to remember that Americans are not the core demo of Tokyo Disney Resort.

Locals are. The demographics of Tokyo Disney Resort are nothing like Walt Disney World; they’re even more extreme than Disneyland in California, skewing towards the local fanbase that is very passionate. (Anecdotal, but I’d argue that the TDR diehards are much dieharder than even Disneyland fans. Yes, really.) With there currently being no Annual Passports at Tokyo Disney Resort, the huge population of diehard Disney fans in Japan must purchase single-day tickets.

Probably doesn’t take Rocket Raccoon to see where I’m going with this. In case it’s not clear, locals will disproportionately buy tickets to Tokyo DisneySea, skipping Tokyo Disneyland since there’s nothing new and less to do. This is precisely why Tokyo Disneyland has started hosting the Disney Pal-Palooza series of events, and why “Donald’s Quacky Duck City” looks so awesome. It’s counterprogramming aimed at enticing locals to visit Tokyo Disneyland and not just ‘bank’ visits for Fantasy Springs.

I’d expect a lot more like this for the rest of 2024 and in 2025, and now that apparently also includes the “it’s a small world with Groot” Marvel ride overlay. It’ll be interesting to see what else OLC does to increase the drawing power of Tokyo Disneyland. My hope is that the seasonal events get good again, and there’s finally a new Christmas parade. Speaking of which, I’d also love to see the return of the holiday overlays for both “it’s a small world” and Country Bear Jamboree.

I also wouldn’t be surprised to see the return of an Annual Passport, but only for TDL and with more blockouts than before. Of course, I could be overestimating the degree to which TDR will need to lure people into Tokyo Disneyland; it is historically the fan-favorite park, so simply trotting out fan favorite characters could suffice. Regardless, it’ll be interesting to watch what else happens, and I’m at least curious about “it’s a small world with Groot.”

Planning a trip to Tokyo Disney Resort? For comprehensive advice, the best place to start is our Tokyo Disneyland & DisneySea Trip Planning Guide! For more specifics, our TDR Hotel Rankings & Reviews page covers accommodations. Our Restaurant Reviews detail where to dine & snack. To save money on tickets or determine which type to buy, read our Tips for Saving Money post. Our What to Pack for Disney post takes a unique look at clever items to take. Venturing elsewhere in Japan? Consult our Ultimate Guide to Kyoto, Japan and City Guide to Tokyo, Japan.

YOUR THOUGHTS

What do you think of the “it’s a small world with Groot” Marvel ride overlay at Tokyo Disneyland? Looking forward to experiencing this limited-time version of the attraction? Think this sounds better or worse than the normal ride? Have you experienced IASW at Tokyo Disneyland since the 2018 character injection? Thoughts on that? Do you agree or disagree with our commentary? Any questions? Hearing your feedback—even when you disagree with us—is both interesting to us and helpful to other readers, so please share your thoughts below in the comments!




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