Written for TheDesignAir by Adam Ralston | Perhaps taking note of EVA Air’s popular and recently expanded Hello Kitty-themed aircraft and service, or from ANA’s recent Star Wars-themed 787-9 announcement, Japan Air Lines have tossed their hat in the fantasy livery ring once again with their domestic Duffy the Disney Bear 737-800 livery.
Playing a relatively minor role in Disney lore in the West among the countless other characters, Duffy has developed quite a following at Disney parks on the other side of the Pacific. Featured as part of Tokyo Disney Resort’s “Journeys with Duffy – Your Friend Forever” promotion celebrating 10 years of Duffy at the Tokyo Disney Sea park, JAL’s “Happy Journey Express” will consist of four specially-painted 737-800s. They’ll begin whisking Disney aficionados around Japan from 14 July, with the inaugural flight slated to be JL435, departing Tokyo’s Haneda airport for Matsuyama, on the island of Shikoku.
In keeping with Tokyo Disney Sea’s general theme, Duffy will appear on the JAL planes in his iconic sailor kit. Though much more subdued than EVA’s or ANA’s designs, adorning merely the rear portion of the fuselage, seats on these planes will undoubtedly be in high demand as Disney-bound – or simply Disney-loving – holiday makers vie for a chance to take flight with Duffy. Further, children on these flights will receive special Duffy-branded goodies while other Duffy merchandise and food items will be on offer at the parks.
Duffy joins an exhaustive list of other special liveries that have graced JAL planes, to include several previous Disney themes commemorating various hallmarks of Disney’s time in Japan. Other liveries include an Adidas soccer theme in 2002 followed by a television-based livery showcasing actor Shingo Katori and the manga series Saiyūki in 2005. More recently the Japanese national soccer/football team was the subject of a special livery on one of JAL’s 777-300ERs, paying homage to the 2014 FIFA World Cup. Even JAL’s current logo, while an updated version of the original, has only been around since 2011, showcasing JAL’s desire to maintain a relevant and fashion-forward brand image – though this is historically seen primarily on wide body aircraft, making Duffy’s domestic-only debut fairly noteworthy.
The Happy Journey Express planes are set to run scheduled domestic flights until April of next year, so expect to see Duffy for a while yet. If you happen to be in Japan and want to join the Duffy-themed fun, be sure to check the JAL website for updates on routes and schedules as the launch date nears.