Episode 71: Steve Cruises to Mexico

Welcome back to Beyond the Berm for our International Edition Part 2!

As you may remember from our last episode, Matt had gone on a family vacation to Japan, including visits to Tokyo Disneyland and Tokyo Disney Sea. Around the same time, Steve and his wife Laura went on a cruise to Mexico, and that trip is the focus of our discussion for this episode.

Steve and Laura on the Cruise

Steve has been on four Disney cruises, but this was his first non-Disney cruise, this time choosing Carnival. Why did he do it? Was it worth it? How did it compare to Disney? Would he go back again? How was the food? And why can’t you take a box of cans of Coca-Cola on an escalator?

All these questions and more get answered (except that we couldn’t come up with a good answer for that last one) in this exciting episode of Beyond the Berm!

To hear our podcast:

Tokyo Disney Sea Photo Report

After looking around Tokyo Disneyland in earlier photo report, I’m now going to show some of what Tokyo Disney Sea has to offer.

The sea is something that is an important aspect of Japanese life, being that the nation is an island surrounded by water.  Using that as an underlying theme to tie the various sections of Tokyo Disney Sea is both clever and meaningful.  As we continue to lose theme in many of the other Disney “theme parks,” makes Tokyo Disney Sea more than just a collection of rides and attractions.

BTBTDS01At the entrance to the park is a giant rotating globe called the Aquasphere.  While it is an impressive icon onto itself, for the 15th anniversary of Tokyo Disney Sea, they created a gigantic ship with the Disney characters that actually dwarfs the Aquasphere.  It’s am impressive display for a singular event.

BTBTDS02To enter the park, you actually go under the Hotel Mira Costa, which is inside the park boundaries.  There are an assortment of shops on the ground level, making this entrance much like the more-traditional Main Street.  Note that there is more anniversary decor with banners and such to announce the celebration.

BTBTDS03Once inside the park proper, you come across a massive body of water.  Mediterranean Harbor represents the grand scope that Tokyo Disney Sea offers.  Being performed is the summer entertainment, “Minnie’s Tropical Splash,” a 20-minute show that features music and massive streams of water.  Fantasmic is performed in the Mediterranean Harbor at night.

BTBTDS04The “wienie” of Tokyo Disney Sea is Mt. Prometheus, a giant erupting volcano that houses the Journey Into the Center of the Earth attraction.  It is visible from every one of the ports of call that make up Tokyo Disney Sea.  At its base in this picture is the Fortress Exploration, a full-size fortress that is like Tom Sawyer Island on steroids.

BTBTDS05You actually pass through the mountain to get into the Mysterious Island section of the park.  I loved the steampunk vibe of the area complete with Nautilus submarine.  One thing that struck me about this section of the park was the absence of background music, though there was an industrial buzz about the place.

BTBTDS06Did I mention that Mt. Prometheus erupts?  It’s a really cool effect and one that I would be surprised to find in a stateside Disney theme park that has trouble to maintain or a desire for cost-cutting of such an impressive throwaway.

BTBTDS07There was plenty of 15th anniversary decor around the park to indicate that they were celebrating the milestone.  This marker was located across from the Mermaid Lagoon section of Tokyo Disney Sea.

BTBTDS08Mermaid Lagoon is impressive day or night.  Night shots are more difficult, however, because of the ban of traditional tripods throughout the Tokyo Disney Resort.  I’ve always loved nighttime at Disney theme parks and Tokyo Disney Sea delivers.

BTBTDS09Day or night, the inside of Mermaid Lagoon always looks like you’ve gone under the sea.  It’s basically a giant warehouse filled with aquatic-themed attractions, a theater, eatery and shops.  This was a nice respite from the rainy day we encountered on our visit and was a hit with the littlest member of our traveling party.

BTBTDS10One of the rooms inside Mermaid Lagoon was Ariel’s Grotto, pretty much a life-size replica of Ariel’s secret hiding spot in the movie, complete with thingamabobs and dinglehoppers.

BTBTDS11Perhaps my favorite area of Tokyo Disney Sea was the Arabian Coast.  Again, impressive in size, decor and upkeep, it could easily have been a theme park unto itself and yet here it was as only one part of a more massive theme park.

BTBTDS12Under the dome is a double-Decker carousel.  Though not necessarily an E-Ticket ride of its own, the size and scope of it set it apart from any other carousel I’ve ever visited.  My favorite of the ride characters was the Genie from “Aladdin.”

BTBTDS13Perhaps I like the Arabian Coast the most because it was also the home of my favorite attraction, Sindbad’s Storybook Voyage.  A combination of Pirates of the Caribbean and it’s a small world with an ear bug of a theme song, it was a great attraction that everyone in the family could enjoy.

BTBTDS14And though it looks like we’ve gone into some jungle in Central America, it is only the Lost River Delta section of Tokyo Disney Sea.  This pyramid hosts the Indiana Jones Adventure: Temple of the Crystal Skull.  Like several attractions at Tokyo Disney Sea, it shares the basic ride infrastructure with other Disney parks but with its own particular theming and storyline.

BTBTDS15In Port Discovery was the Aquatopia, a fun, little trackless ride that piloted you around various obstacles in the water.  While it looks like you are in deep water, it is only several inches deep.  We laughed at the fact that they cranked the wetness level up to absolutely soak guests in the summer heat.

BTBTDS16The American Waterfront at Tokyo Disney Sea featured two sections.  This one was themed to Cape Cod and was the home of Duffy, the Disney Bear, and his friends.

BTBTDS17The other section was the New York Harbor and was just absolutely amazing in its scope with full-size cruise liners, bridges, docks, etc.  In the background is their version of the Tower of Terror, though not themed to “The Twilight Zone.”

BTBTDS18Probably the most popular attraction at Tokyo Disney Sea was Toy Story Mania.  A FastPass attraction that was out of tickets early in the day, wait times were more than an hour and a half to ride this one attraction that really is a clone of its American counterparts.  Though the entrance through Woody’s mouth is both cool and creepy.

BTBTDS19And back at the entrance to Tokyo Disney Sea was the Venetian-inspired architecture of the Mediterranean Harbor, complete with gondola rides.  This area was home to Gelatoni, an artistic cat friend of Duffy the Disney Bear.

Many call Tokyo Disney Sea the best Disney theme park in the world and it is hard to disagree.  I think I still prefer the original Disneyland and even Epcot more but Tokyo Disney Sea is beautiful, massively scaled and yet intimately detailed.  We only had a couple of hours of non-cloudy and rainy weather, which is too bad because it is a place screaming to be photographed.

Traveling internationally may not be for everyone but I’m glad that I had the chance to go to Japan itself and the Tokyo Disney Resort specifically.  I would seriously consider another trip there as much as I would consider a trip to Walt Disney World at this point.  And it’s been really hard being back to visit Disneyland and comparing cleanliness and maintenance levels, which really are unmatched as part of Japanese culture vs. American culture.

Hope you enjoyed my very limited photo tours of two amazing places!

Tokyo Disneyland Photo Report

On our last Beyond the Berm podcast, we talked extensively about my trip to the Tokyo Disneyland Resort.  I could easily have continued on for much longer than the hour I covered because there aren’t enough words to convey what it is like to be there.  In this post, I’ll be sharing some of the photos I took around Tokyo Disneyland.  Even if a picture is worth a thousand words, these images also cannot showcase the wonder that is Tokyo Disneyland.  Truly, if you’re interested in a potential visit and have the means to do so, go.  But until then, enjoy these pictures.

TDLEntranceThe entrance to Tokyo Disneyland is unlike entrances to the two domestic Disney parks.  There’s no elevated train surrounding the park with a Main Street Station to walk under.  In fact, there is no Main Street.  Here is their version of the Mickey floral and beyond the entrance into World Bazaar.

WorldBazaar2For all intents and purposes, World Bazaar is Main Street USA.  Same types of shopping and dining that might be found in Disneyland or Walt Disney World’s Magic Kingdom but with some subtle differences.  Notice the lack of tracks running down the middle of the road because there are no horse-drawn streetcars.  No vehicular traffic of any sort actually.  And the most distinguishing feature is the glass canopy overhead, which is helpful on rainy or even snowy days.

WorldBazaar3Another view of World Bazaar showing typical “Main Street” activities of balloon selling and band performances.  Perhaps there is a more elegant way to have a covering over this section of the park but it certainly is unique.  In addition to a straight-away to the main hub, there are also side streets taking you into the Adventureland and Tomorrowland areas.

CinderellaCastleTokyo Disneyland shares Walt Disney World’s Cinderella Castle.  It’s large and impressive, as is the entire Tokyo Disneyland park.  In the forecourt, there is tons of seating for performances in front of the castle, which have to be won via lottery.

SummerFestivalTokyo Disneyland has quite a bit of seasonal entertainment and decoration.  The banners and lanterns were part of their Summer Festival.

SummerFestival2These full-sized displays were quite popular with guests wanting to take their picture in front of them.  I like them because, with Cinderella Castle in the background, they gave a nice sense that you were someplace other than Walt Disney World.

PoohsHunnyHuntI’ve been hearing for ages about Pooh’s Hunny Hunt and its trackless ride system.  It is quite impressive and the “cute” factor that the Japanese love make it a popular ride.  I know they weren’t working with the same space (or budget) but Disneyland’s and Walt Disney World’s Winnie the Pooh rides definitely pale in comparison.

MonstersIncThe other truly unique attraction that is considered a must-see is Monsters Inc. Ride & Go Seek!  The queue for this place was awesome as it truly looked like you were preparing to visit Monsters Inc. headquarters and head towards the Scare Floor.  A cute ride and the interactive nature of using flashlights to activate figures is a nice touch.

SmallWorldAs I mentioned in the podcast, it’s a small world’s entry is somewhat of a hybrid of Disneyland’s and Walt Disney World’s.  There’s the iconic clock tower, complete with marching children, but the flume is inside the building where you load.

NOSGiving more of a deja vu feeling to Tokyo Disneyland is a replica of New Orleans Square, even though this section of the park is in Adventureland.  The Blue Bayou restaurant is like Disneyland’s as it overlooks the Pirates of the Caribbean attraction.  Walt Disney World’s Castle?  Disneyland’s New Orleans Square?  In the same park?  Takes a bit of getting used to.

ROATDLTokyo Disneyland may not have a Main Street USA but they have a Rivers of America as part of their Westernland (not Frontierland).  In this picture is Tom Sawyer’s Island, Big Thunder Mountain Railroad, the Mark Twain and the Beaver Brothers Explorer Canoes.

MississippiAnd even though they don’t have a railroad around the perimeter of the park, there is a railroad within the park.  The Western River Railroad goes through Adventureland, Critter Country and Westernland.  It has only one station where you have to board and unload.  And it goes through Primeval World, like at Disneyland, though not the Grand Canyon diorama.

TrixieTokyo Disneyland also has the Country Bear Jamboree, though all the bears speak Japanese.  You haven’t lived until you hear Trixie sing “Achy Breaky Heart” in Japanese.  What was really impressive about Tokyo’s version, as with much of the parks, was that it was in pristine operating condition.  All the lights worked as intended, figures moved like they should and the sound system was flawless.

DreamLightsAnother familiar-yet-unfamiliar attraction was Tokyo Disneyland’s Dream Lights Electrical Parade.  Hands down the best parade I’ve seen at a Disney park.

GenieAnd perhaps most impressive of all the impressive floats was the Genie, whose LED lighting allowed him to turn multiple colors and into several other characters, such as Pinocchio, Mr. Incredible and others.

VendingMachineI mentioned that Japan is a vending machine-based society and to get bottled drinks at Tokyo Disneyland, you had to use a vending machine rather than buy them at an outdoor cart.  This one was outside of the Queen of Hearts Banquet Hall in Fantasyland.  Well themed!

DumplingsWe enjoyed a lot of food offerings available at the Tokyo Disneyland Resort and these might have been our favorite — Little Green Alien mochi dumplings.  The outside is pounded rice and the insides were chocolate, strawberry and custard cream.  Very cute and delicious.

DearDannyI mentioned how the Japanese love their minor characters, especially animal friends.  In a store in World Bazaar, there was an entire display of “Dear Danny” merchandise.  Danny is a lamb from the little-seen Disney movie “So Dear to My Heart.”  The variety of merchandise was impressive, as was the fact that much of it was only available at specific locations rather than the same stuff at every store like we tend to see Stateside.

PrinceJohnAnd speaking of minor, or seldom-seen, characters, Chelsea and I couldn’t help but take my picture with Prince John from “Robin Hood.”  He, the Sheriff of Nottingham and Friar Tuck were all meeting guests at the front of the park.  I loved the Japanese love for these characters.

DuffyMonorailI had also mentioned that the monorails that took you around the resort were themed to different, for lack of a better word, promotions.  Though he’s never really caught on here in the U.S., Duffy and friends are huge at Tokyo Disneyland, as is evident from this Duffy-themed monorail.

TeddyBearPeltsAnd as I mentioned, the seats of the Duffy monorail are covered in teddy bear pelts.  Kathy and Chelsea are sitting on fluffy, furry and clean teddy bear pelts in the Shellie Mae section of the monorail.  I love the themed hand grips too for those that have to stand.  (And yes, the window is a silhouette of Mickey Mouse.)

Again, words and pictures don’t do Tokyo Disneyland justice.  The place truly is amazing.  I’ll post more pictures soon of Tokyo Disney Sea.

Episode 70: Matt Goes to the Tokyo Disney Resort

Hello again from Beyond the Berm! We have been traveling the world to bring you the best that we can bring you! Literally. Matt went to Japan on a family vacation, and Steve went to Mexico on a cruise. The lengths we go to so that we can entertain our listeners!

This episode is all about Matt’s Japan trip, specifically focusing on his experiences at Tokyo Disneyland and Tokyo DisneySea. He went to some other places in Japan as well, but who really wants to hear about those? Actually, we will cover those later on, because we ran out of time in this episode!

Matt Tokyo Disney


How do these parks compare to the American parks? Do they live up to the hype that you may have heard about them over the years? How was the food? What were Matt’s favorite attractions? All these questions and more are answered in this International Episode of Beyond the Berm!

(Hopefully, Matt won’t mind that Steve swiped one of his Facebook photos for this post.)

To hear our podcast:

Episode 69: Let It Go

It’s time once again for another thrilling episode in the Beyond the Berm saga, so here we go!

To start with, Matt brings up several theme park rumors of the very juicy variety that have been popping up in the last week or two. Is Universe of Energy at Epcot going to be replaced by a Guardians of the Galaxy attraction? Are the Muppets coming to Liberty Square in the Magic Kingdom? Is theme park life as we know it about to end? Well, the answer to the last one may be pretty clear, but the answer to the first two questions is a little more murky. But that doesn’t stop us from talking about them. Hear what we have to say!

Beyond the Berm Episode 69 - Let It Go

During the show, we also discuss some upcoming and recent movies, many of which are either sequels or reboots. Finding Dory, the just announced Wreck-It Ralph sequel, the Pete’s Dragon reboot, and some others. And with some of these (looking at you, Pete’s Dragon), are they taking what we have loved and changing it entirely?

And then, with all of the rumors and reboots and such, we start to realize that the things that we have loved are either going away or have already gone. The original EPCOT Center concept, character-free lands in the Magic Kingdom, a non-fuzzy dragon named Elliot. Maybe it is time to just Let It Go, as a certain song says, whether we want to or not.

Agree? Disagree? Not sure? Listen in as we discuss all of this and more in the latest episode from Beyond the Berm!

To hear our podcast:

Episode 68: Vacations, Theme Park Openings, and More!

Hang on to your hats and glasses, because Beyond the Berm is back!

To start off Episode 68, Steve tells about his recent Florida vacation. Cocoa Beach, Disney Springs, Epcot, hotel visiting, Spirit of Aloha, and even a tropical storm – it’s all in there! Listen in to hear his thoughts.

Epcot for BTBNext up, we discuss a new theme park that just opened. Maybe you have heard of it – Shanghai Disneyland. Of course, neither of us was there for the grand opening, but we also talk about other park openings, including Matt’s story of going to Disney California Adventure on its opening day.

We also discuss some recent movies we have seen, such as Zootopia, Alice Through the Looking Glass, and The Jungle Book, as well as giving our thoughts on Finding Dory, which opens this weekend.

Join us for all the fun in Beyond the Berm Episode 68!

To hear our podcast:

Episode 67: We’re Back!

Beyond the Berm is back with Episode 67! Did you miss us while we were out time travelling? Or whatever else it was we were doing? If your answer is “No,” you don’t have to say it.

Anyway, we have lots to cover since our last episode, and we go over a wide range of topics, jumping around from one thing to the next.


For starters, we talk about the new Pirates of the Caribbean attraction at Shanghai Disneyland. Not that we have seen it in person, of course, but there are several YouTube videos out there if you want to check them out.

We also talk about some of the movies we have seen lately, including The Jungle Book and Captain America: Civil War, giving our thoughts on those.


Some sad news from the world of television, since ABC decided not to pick up Agent Carter for a third season. We discuss that decision, along with a look back at the most recent season of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., and what the future might hold for that show.

Matt tells about his latest RunDisney experiences, including a quick trip to Walt Disney World, and we wrap up with some quick talk about upcoming movies “Alice Through the Looking Glass” and “Finding Dory.” And some other stuff, too, but you will have to just listen in to catch it all.

Be sure to join us for Episode 67 of Beyond the Berm!

To hear our podcast:

Episode 66: We Are Cheap Sheep, Or Just Thrifty

Beyond the Berm is back! Did you miss us? Then take a listen to Episode 66!

For starters, Matt brings up the recent tiered ticket prices for the Disney Parks, with different prices for Peak, Regular, and Value seasons, whatever those happen to be. Is this a good thing or a bad thing? If you have listened before, you probably already know how we feel about that. And then there are other new fees, alternate charges, proposed fees, and so on. Such as paying extra for preferred parking, or a possible resort fee at Walt Disney World. Is it getting to be too much? Yes, it just might be. Listen in as we talk about it all.


Also, along those same lines, we discuss if it ever is worth it to pay extra for extra things. Extra park benefits, closer parking spaces, more Blu-Ray features, better Blu-Ray picture versus DVD, and more. Maybe there are some things that we think it is worth paying extra for, as long as the extra charge isn’t all that much. Maybe.

And then we end on some slightly happier notes, such as a long awaited sequel or two (and not just Princess Diaries 3), thoughts about the newest trailers for The Jungle Book and Pete’s Dragon, a brief review of Zootopia, and more!

Listen in to hear all the latest from Beyond the Berm!

To hear our podcast:

Episode 65: Birthdays and Anniversaries

Beyond the Berm returns with Episode 65. 65 episodes! Does that make us eligible for podcast retirement? No? Okay, then.

For starters, Matt brings up someone’s birthday, which leads to our reminiscing about past birthday and anniversary celebrations at the Disney parks, both for the parks themselves and for some of the characters. We talk about which ones we liked the best, and which ones weren’t quite as good. Which one wins? You be the judge.


Somehow or other, that all leads to some further reminiscing about the good old days of when we worked at the Disney Stores. How did we get started in our respective Disney Store positions? Why did we leave? What did we like about it all? Listen in to find out.

Next, we talk about some of the rumored business decisions going on at Disney right now. The rumors involve the idea that because Shanghai Disneyland is over budget right now, cuts are being made to offerings and cast member hours at the domestic parks. We aren’t sure if any of that is true, but that doesn’t keep us from talking about it.

And then we end up with a quick discussion about the upcoming movie Zootopia from Walt Disney Feature Animation. Does it look too much like like all of the others? Maybe. But maybe it will still be good. Maybe.

All this and more in the latest from Beyond the Berm!

To hear our podcast:

Episode 64: Visiting Disney Parks and Other Places

Beyond the Berm rolls back around with Episode 64! Do we see our shadows? Oh wait, that only applies to the groundhog.

Anyway, we kick things off this time with Matt’s story of visiting Disneyland and breakfast at the River Belle Terrace restaurant one more time before the menu is changed. And that leads to a discussion about several of the changes coming to the park as a result of the new Star Wars Land. Here is some concept art, in case you haven’t seen what we are talking about:

rivers of america concept art

After that, Steve asks the question, “If you were going to only one of the Walt Disney World parks for only one day, which one would it be?” We think the answer is rather obvious, and you can listen to our reasons why. If you have some other reasons for other parks, we would be glad to hear them!

Matt then talks about his upcoming trip to Japan, including a few days at the Tokyo Disney Resort. As neither of us have been to any of the foreign Disney parks, this is all quite exciting. But then seeing the real Japan is exciting, too. Is visiting “real” places better than visiting “fantasy” Disney places? Hear our thoughts on this subject.

All of this and more in the newest episode of Beyond the Berm!

To hear our podcast: