Meet the World
|Meet the World|
|Designer||Walt Disney Imagineering|
It was a show which explored the history of Japan over the course of 19 minutes, focusing specifically on the history of Japan's engagement with the outside world. The show featured an animated crane explaining Japanese history to a young boy and girl from Yokohama. The show featured dialogue between a number of audio-animatronic figures (including Sakamoto Ryōma, Itō Hirobumi and Fukuzawa Yukichi) and a movie screen in the background. Park guides and maps said "explore Japan's heritage in an incredible time-travel adventure!"
The show was presented in a rotating theater, similar to the Carousel of Progress at Walt Disney World and previously at Disneyland. However, they were designed in the opposite way. In Tokyo, the audiences sat in the rotating theater inside with the stages built around them, whereas, in the Carousel of Progress the audience sits in the rotating outside with the stages being the center of the building. Meet the World's layout meant less audience capacity but a larger stage area, while Carousel of Progress's format has more capacity but smaller stages.
The "Meet The World" song was written by the Sherman Brothers. The attraction was designed by WED Enterprises Imagineer Claude Coats. The Animatronics and Show Action Equipment were built at Walt Disney World's Central Shops in Florida (adjacent to the huge carriages for the EPCOT American Adventure Attraction being built at the same time.) The show scenes were staged at the WED facility in North Hollywood for integration and show programming. The attraction had over thirty Audio Animatronic figures, nine 70 millimeter projectors and 15 large pieces of show action equipment. There were two large Stewart rear projection screens and three proscenium filling perforated "scrim/screens." The figures were sculpted by Blaine Gibson with the exception of the three Meiji figures who were sculpted in Glendale by a Japanese sculptor from Toho Studios in Tokyo.
The show opens with two young children from Yokohama discussing the ancient creation of Japan. Soon, an anthropamorphic crane appears to tell them the whole story. She takes them back through time to uncover the ancient Jōmon people and the difficult relationship they encountered with the sea and land. But it changed in the next era when Prince Shōtoku devoted his efforts to 'meet the world' and created a constitution, explored Chinese culture and brought Buddhism, arts and writing systems to Japan. The crane then takes them forward through time.
They arrive at Tanegashima where Portuguese traders meet with locals, introducing Japan to new trade opportunities as well as the outside world. Additionally, firearms and Christianity are introduced during this period. However, because of these elements, the Sakoku policy of self-exile is enacted, leaving the country in isolation, apart from limited trade with the Dutch and Chinese at Nagasaki. Only when US Navy Commodore Matthew C. Perry arrives with his Black Ships does the exile end and Japan 'meets the world' again. The shogun retires and signals the time of the Meiji Restoration. However, the ruling power takes the idea of 'meet the world' from a peaceful one to a destructive and aggressive one. As a result, Japan soon enters "dark days", but the crane reassures the two children that those days have ended and that Japan now leads the way of today.
The young boy asks the crane if she is the "Spirit of Japan", but she responds that he and all the other people are the "Spirit of Japan". A final montage of Japan's modern accomplishments brings the show to a close as the children and the crane soar to the skies on a hot-air balloon.
Konosuke Matsushita, founder of the Matsushita Electric Industrial Company, had a strong interest in Japanese history and in Walt Disney's visions and pressed Disney to create a Japanese analog of the American "Hall of Presidents" attraction. It was originally planned as part of the Japan pavilion in World Showcase at Epcot in Orlando, Florida. Planners went so far as to construct the show building, which was never used.
Among other issues, certain politically sensitive issues such as World War II were noticeably under-emphasized in the show. The show mentions that there were some "dark days" between the Meiji Restoration and the "Japan of today", which left Disney management feeling nervous about possible reactions from guests (specifically American veterans and other groups) over such a dramatic conflict in history being 'glossed over' as 'dark days', despite other attractions in the Disney canon having unbiased references to the same time period. Concept art and models were featured in the 1982 book "Walt Disney's EPCOT Center", along with a proposed Africa pavilion. The English soundtrack of the ride had been surfaced on a tribute video, where it was edited with footage from the version sen in Tokyo Disneyland.
The attraction opened at Tokyo Disneyland as one of that park's initial attractions on April 15, 1983, and closed on June 30, 2002. Matsushita Electric was its initial sponsor and subsidized the attraction so that it was one of the few free attractions while the park still used ride tickets. Konosuke Matsushita died in 1989 and Matsushita shifted its corporate sponsorship to the nearby Star Tours attraction around that time; Japan Airlines then took over sponsorship of Meet the World for a short period.
In summer 2006, Meet the World's show building was demolished to make way for Monsters, Inc. Ride & Go Seek.
Meet the World was one of the few attractions in the park that dealt with Japan; the other was a film, "The Eternal Seas", found in the future Magic-Eye Theater. The Oriental Land Company, the owners of Tokyo Disneyland, specifically wanted their park to focus on the American way of life and the American parks of Disneyland and Walt Disney World.
- Grand opening: April 15, 1983
- Closure date: June 30, 2002
- Designer: WED Enterprises
- Sponsors: National-Panasonic/Japan Airlines
- Superseded by:
- Show length: 20 Minutes
- Required ticket: Free
- Ride system: Rotating theater with Audio-Animatronics
- "Japan at EPCOT – Ultimate Tribute - Martin's Videos" (in English and Japanese). Martin's Videos. 2007-07-28. Retrieved 12 May 2012.
- A Tribute to Meet the World
- More Information on Meet the World
- Meet the World Tribute
- Japanese Fan Site