By your host, J. Jeff Kober
One of the real treats during my trip to Tokyo Disneyland last summer came about mid-day when I was tired and needing a break. I was at the end of Westernland (that’s what they call Frontierland at Tokyo Disneyland) and had just experienced Big Thunder Mountain (which is a very different ride than the other Thunder Mountains in the Disney parks). I was exhilarated and exhausted at the same time. Looking for some place to take a break, I took a step underneath a train trestle on the right side of the mountain, and then wandered left to a very special place–The Lucky Nugget Cafe.
For those who are Disneylanders, the Lucky Nugget is Disneyland’s version of The Hungry Bear Restaurant. But it’s a different restaurant at Tokyo Disneyland. To those who love Disneyland Paris, the Hungry Bear Restaurant is pretty much the equivalent to The Lucky Nugget at that park. Confusing isn’t it! Let’s just say that the Hungry Bear Restaurant at Tokyo Disneyland sits at the exit to the Country Bear Jamboree–which would logically make sense.
The Lucky Nugget at Tokyo Disneyland has all the charm of the Hungry Bear at Disneyland. It dead ends at a quiet turn of the river looking across at Tom Sawyer Island. Because of Big Thunder Mountain, the restaurant manages to stay hidden, so there aren’t too many guests like across the park at the Tomorrowland Terrace. Full of shade trees, it is its own little section of the park.
One of the big things Walt Disney World has done over the last several years is taken the simple character meet ‘n’ greet that occurred randomly out in the parks and created enhanced experiences. Pete’s Silly Sideshow and Princess Fairy Tale Hall are examples. Some of them even utilize FastPass+ to accommodate the number of guests. They have become more of a fantastic experience, than simply a magical moment.
This really isn’t something that has been done much at Tokyo Disneyland. There is a meet ‘n’ greet at Toon Town for Mickey, but most characters are out and about, if they are available at all. You see them in the parades, but very little out on the streets. It seems like this is a big miss for Tokyo Disney, as I think people would wait in line–and even get a FastPass for the opportunity to meet these characters. It was beautiful walking through the new and elegant Cinderella’s Fairy Tale Hall at the castle, but I was really surprised to see that there was no meet ‘n’ greet with Cinderella.
So it was with interest that last week Tokyo Disney Resort announced plans for a new character meet and greet–and where no less–but at the Lucky Nugget Cafe. Actually, the restaurant will close as such, and will reopen with a two-story indoor dining area, as well as a campfire style setting.
They’re spending some $25.6 million in U.S. dollars to re-build and re-theme the restaurant in the style of a Junior Woodchucks of the World campground. And who will be appearing? Donald Duck and his nephews Huey, Dewey and Louie. That’s a lot of investment in remodeling a restaurant and adding a character show/meet ‘n’ greet. But that’s Tokyo Disney.
While other locations in the parks do have character meet ‘n’ greet shows, this one will probably be more on the scale of the popular “My Friend Duffy” show in Cape Code at Tokyo Disney Sea. It’s more of a “watch while you eat”, as opposed to a dinner show like “Lilo’s Luau & Fun” or The Diamond Horseshoe’s “Mickey & Company” show. Those offer character experiences, but they are very expensive and require reservations.
I’m excited for this new development. The downside is that it won’t quite be the hidden hideaway it once was, but it will be well done. Everything Tokyo Disney does is very well done. Moreover, it will allow more opportunities for guests to interact with the Disney characters, plussing not just a restaurant, but the way guests interact with Donald and his nephews. Of course, Tokyo Disney has announced additions far grander than this as they prepare to completely re-do their Fantasyland. But the fact that they even plus up their offerings in a small location such as this one, is what makes Tokyo Disney so amazing.
Walt Disney noted: “The park means a lot to me, in that [Disneyland is] something that will never be finished, something I can keep developing and adding to. Not only can I add things, but even the trees will keep growing. The thing will get more beautiful every year.”
Plus up your offerings–that’s what Walt Disney lived by. It’s what has made Disney theme parks even more amazing 60 years later. Great organizations plus up their offerings. How do you do that in your business?