We’ve seen what was happening at EPCOT Center in 1977, but sometimes it’s interesting to look at where projects were in their development relative to others. In many ways, Tokyo Disneyland and EPCOT Center were twin developments; their design and construction overlapped through the late 1970s and early 1980s, and they opened only seven months apart from each other in 1982 and 1983. This period was a high point for the Imagineers at WED Enterprises; never before or since have they simultaneously devised and executed two projects of such magnitude. But if EPCOT was just a model in an Imagineering office at the time, what was Tokyo Disneyland?
Tokyo Disneyland seemed to have a leg up, as it at least had a cleared site ready for construction. Strangely, though, it wouldn’t open until after EPCOT Center. From the 1977 Walt Disney Productions Annual Report:
During the last week of September, representatives of the Company made a comprehensive presentation to Mitsui Real Estate Development Co., Ltd., Oriental Land Co., Ltd., and Keisei Electric Railway Co., Ltd. in Tokyo covering the results of the phase II work performed by WED Enterprises in close liason with the Japanese interests.
This year-long effort, the expense of which was borne by the Japanese, covered planning, conceptual design, preliminary engineering, preliminary construction, fabrication and installation estimates, operational planning, organizational development planning and marketing and promotional guidelines. This work also developed the areas in which additional information and input will be forthcoming from the Japanese groups covering essential information available to them and based upon their knowledge and information of conditions in their country.
Recently, Oriental Land Co., Ltd. has undergone a major re-organization, with control moving from Keisei Electric Railway Co., Ltd. to Mitsui Real Estate Development Company. Implementation of this change and the necessity for the new organization to appraise the entire project on its own initiative make it probable that a further period of time will elapse before the Japanese and our Company will be in a position to make a decision as to whether the project will go forward.
Further, delays are being experienced in the public access links to the project. The current estimate is that the Tokyo Bay Expressway will not be fully completed until 1982, although the first lanes will open during 1978. The start of construction for the new Keiyo Line Railroad is indefinite at this time.
Assuming a favorable decision to proceed, it would therefore appear that the project could not open to the public before 1982.
As you can see, the Tokyo Disneyland project was in a strange limbo at the time. While a great deal of work was well underway, including preliminary construction, it was still officially undecided whether Disney and the Japanese companies were going to go forward with the project. Even with the delayed opening projected as 1982, the park wouldn’t actually open until Spring of 1983.