A Tribute To Meet the World

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Meet the World ExteriorMeet the World was one of the few attractions unique to Tokyo Disneyland. It opened with the park in 1983, and closed in 2002. Although it could never have won a popularity contest, it was still one of my favorite places to visit. Back when Tokyo Disneyland was still using ride tickets it was one of the only free attractions in the park.

Located in Tomorrowland, Meet The World was an 18-minute chronicle of Japan's history of diplomacy and trade with other countries. Officially, it invited you to, "Explore Japan's heritage on an incredible time-travel adventure!" The format was a rotating circular theater, similar to the Carousel of Progress in Disney World. There were four parts to the show, and after each part the seating area would slowly rotate 90 degrees to point the audience in the direction of the next stage. Each part lasted about 6 minutes, although during the first and last parts the show itself was only 3 minutes long, the other 3 minutes used for guest loading and unloading. (For those familiar with the Carousel of Progress, there was an interesting difference in configuration between that attraction and Meet the World. In the Carousel of Progress the audience sits in the rotating outside ring with the stages in the core of the circular building. In Meet the World the audiences sat in the rotating inner core with the stages in the outer ring. The first configuration meant more seating but smaller stage area, while Meet the World's format had less seating but larger stages.)

Your guide was an animated talking crane who lead two curious children on the time-travel journey, complete with representations of prominent Japanese and Western figures from the history books. Filmed sequences played an extensive role in the Meet the World presentation, with Audio-Animatronic characters appearing at key moments during the story to help recreate a particular event. The dialog was in Japanese (although characters from other countries spoke in their native languages); however, there were headphones in the back row where you could listen to an English or Chinese translation.

When I used to tell my Japanese friends that Meet The World was one of my favorites, they usually gave me a puzzled look. I can't really put my finger on the source of my affection for the attraction; I guess I just loved the uniqueness of it. One thing I can say for certain is that I loved its theme song, which was written by the legendary Richard & Robert Sherman (who also wrote It's a Small World, the scores for Mary Poppins and Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, and countless other classics).

Postscript: After its closing as an attraction, the Meet the World building served on and off as a guest-services area for several years. It was finally demolished in 2006 to make way for a new attraction based on the Disney movie Monsters, Inc.

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