Sinbad’s Storybook Voyage

Sinbad’s Storybook Voyage

Episode 37

This week’s podcast we are talking about Sinbad’s Storybook Voyage and why it’s such a favorite of those visiting Tokyo Disney Sea. You may want to see the show notes for part of the podcast on Disney at Work. We also study the attraction’s anthem, Compass of Your Heart, and looks at the personal meaning one can draw not only from the song, but from changes made to the attraction after it opened. You can find the podcast to this episode here on Podbean and here at iTunes.

Who is Sinbad?

Not everyone has a chance to visit Disney’s amazing theme parks located in Tokyo, but those who do often claim that Tokyo DisneySea is the best of the Disney theme parks worldwide. And often visitors report that one of their favorite attractions is Sinbad’s Storybook Voyage.

Sinbad sets sail. Photo by J. jeff Kober.

There are three reasons why this attraction should not work:

#1. Location. This attraction is stuffed in the back of the park almost hidden from Guests. It is in the Arabian Coast section, a land with two courtyards, separated by intimate alleys. If you didn’t know what you were looking for, you could conceivably walk past it.

#2. Language/Culture. It’s a Middle Eastern story sung in Japanese. I don’t know that the Japanese embrace the Middle East in the same way they embrace the American West. Certainly those who don’t know Japanese don’t have the benefit of knowing the words to the story due to language limitations.

#3. Not Disney IP. It’s not Aladdin. It’s not from a film you’ve seen before. It’s not an official Disney intellectual property. Therefore, it doesn’t call out to you because of its familiarity.

With all there is to see at Tokyo DisneySea–and there’s a lot–you would easily miss this attraction. And yet, those who see it find one of Disney’s great treasures. You can watch it below:

So Why Is It Great?

So here are five reasons that I think this is one of my favorite attractions in all Disney parks around the world:

#5. How Cool–No Wait. During summer months it can be really hot and humid in Tokyo. Moving inside a building with great air conditioning is a big blessing. Added to that, there is usually little wait. I think that’s because the attraction is so far in the corner of the park. And, it is capable of moving over 3,000 people an hour. I’ve never waited more than 5 minutes in the middle of the day, and with the attraction as long as it is, you feel refreshed by the time you disembark.

#4. It’s Beautiful. This ride has almost as much color and beauty as “it’s a small world”. There are plenty of details to enjoy as you ride through the experience. I particularly love the fireworks at the conclusion, which are fiber optics in the shape of mosaic designs.

#3. Chandu! You have to love this tiger! He’s so darn cute! Added to this attraction as Sinbad’s wing man when the second version was created, you can’t help but want to go out and buy a plush when the show is over. You can also get a “Chandu Tail” to snack on at the nearby Sultan’s Oasis.

#2. Terrific Animatronics. And lots of them. Not as many as in “it’s a small world”, but a number not too far from that. They are larger than the dolls in that attraction, perhaps by a fourth or a third. And they are much more animatronic, more fluid in their movement. And then there’s the bird, the giant and the whale. All huge. All seemingly bigger than a Yeti in Disney’s Animal Kingdom–and they all work! The crew a Tokyo Disney maintain animatronics–and everything else for that matter–at a level so much better than anywhere else.

#1 Best Song Ever! Compass of Your Heart is to Sinbad’s what it’s a small world is to its namesake. Written by Alan Menken with English Lyrics by Glen Slater, this tune is arguably as compelling as the Sherman brother’s song. You would be singing along by the end of the voyage if you only knew the words. Unfortunately, the entire attraction is sung in Japanese. But the score is still dead drop gorgeous.

I’ve paid homage to this song alone. Visit Disney at Work where you’ll learn that there were two versions of this show, and how the song emphasizes a very different message than what was originally in the attraction.

Is it Popular in Japan?

I’m not sure. The lines are never long, but again, that’s because it’s in the corner of the park, and because the attraction easily swallows up a lot of guests at any time. In the following video you’ll see the song performed live. Look at the faces of the Japanese. They are not only thrilled–they are moved. And it’s not because it’s Menken’s best performance:

You can see a better performance of this on my Disney at Work site.

But would it be popular in the United States?

If you want to reinvent Epcot, this attraction should be placed in Morocco. And Disney should do a film based on this character. Just because Imagineering came up with the concept, doesn’t mean that these characters and stories couldn’t come to life on the big screen. This is a missed opportunity! If you ever have a chance to see it, visit Sinbad’s Storybook Voyage.

What Else?

If you love to learn more about Tokyo DisneySea you can visit our comparison of Mysterious Island at Tokyo DisneySea and Galaxy’s edge. You can also find that here at Disney at Play.

J. Jeff Kober

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