Tuesday, 21st November 2006

A Disney day out for UNICEF’s Frimousses

(Marne-la-Vallée, France) In the place where dreams come true, Christmas is the season for not only magic, but also for generosity. On 18 November, just a few days before the anniversary of the Convention for Children’s Rights, 150 disadvantaged children from the Seine-et-Marne department were the special guests of Disneyland Resort Paris.

Together they helped assemble Frimousse dolls for UNICEF under the watchful eye of the event’s patron, Laëticia Hallyday. The Frimousse operation was created in 2001 to provide children in developing countries with vital vaccinations.

Like their creators, each Frimousse doll is unique. Aided by volunteers from Disney and UNICEF, the young people of Seine-et-Marne will use their creativity to bring hope to other children. All of the dolls will be given to UNICEF, who will then put them up for ‘adoption’ for a minimum donation of 20 euros – the equivalent of a child’s vaccination program. Disneyland Resort Paris hopes to offer 250 dolls.

This exceptional event seals the almost fifteen year partnership between UNICEF and Disneyland Resort Paris. Disney Cast Members had been working several weeks on making this an unforgettable affair, with many of the special Frimousses already crafted by Disney VoluntEARS.

News from Euro Disney SCA.

You can find out more about UNICEF here, and see the 2003 Disneyland Resort Paris charity CD Single “needmag?c” here.

Sunday, 19th November 2006

The desert before the Cars & Crush takes shelter

Dude! This Parisian climate is like totally cool, but totally not in a good way for my shell!

As Winter sets in, some welcome shelter has been given to the quickly progressing outside queue for Crush’s Coaster. Much like Buzz Lightyear Laser Blast, opened at Disneyland Park earlier this year, Crush will be given an extended outdoor queue in addition to a smaller, highly themed indoor queue space. Unlike Laser Blast, however, this one will thankfully be almost fully covered.

Grandmath at Disney Central Plaza forum has just posted the latest construction photo, showing the new corrugated metal roof. Sure, it doesn’t look glamorous yet, but this is a Hollywood attraction – all the beauty will be on the outside… well, sort of. Preliminary concept sketches showed a queue themed to a dried-up Australian fishing pier (you can see an image of this at WDSFans.com), but, as you can see the concept, the corrugated look is destined to still be there in the final design. Either this will be a way of explaining the attraction is only a filmset, or the fishing pier will be more industrial – the lights drawn on the roof appear similar to those at Armageddon: Special Effects.

The flooring of the queue has also progressed this week, with the outline of the path and some turquoise pieces now visible in the concrete foundations.

There has been a remarkable touch of progress at Cars Race Rally this week. Despite the ride system, vehicles and general attraction area still being a long way from ready, the first real signs of desert themeing have already arrived.

The brick wall WDSFans.com reported being built back in October was later given an extra layer of wire mesh and themed to a sandy desert rockface in a similar way to the rocks at Crush’s Coaster. Now, before the ride itself or any real infrastructure (paths, etc.) arrives, the sandy canyon-side has been given a quick blast of warm ochre red paint.

Grandmath again presents the first photos, which show not only how this red colour scheme bounces well off the blue of Crush, but also a large new block of formed concrete next to the attraction. The purpose of this is currently unknown and it does not appear on any plans. Therefore, it is likely to also be a part of the themeing work, perhaps as the base foundation for the further, much higher, canyon hills to be placed on this spot.

Finally, it’s interesting to note that the recently installed arabian-style lampposts around the new Flying Carpets Over Agrabah oasis have been packaged up in a protective plastic coat, suggesting that the construction fences around this area won’t be receding anytime soon.

News originally posted by WDSFans.com, all photos by Grandmath.

Saturday, 18th November 2006

Cut & paste terror continues

Well, I can’t be sure, but it’s probably a bit more complex than just finding the right pieces and sticking them onto the towering concrete mass. Either way, it’s fun to see an Imagineering creation literally come together like a jigsaw puzzle of architectural details.

The front of the Tower is now following the same pattern of construction as the rear, with new white moulds being added to create the details of The Hollywood Tower Hotel. Whilst the vertical white cladding was added a few weeks ago, a new, jagged white section has now appeared at the very top of the building, which will eventually be part of the faux tiled roof.

The left of the building has progressed the most in recent weeks, with some true art deco details of the final attraction already clearly visible, matching well with the existing details of the “Toilets of Terror”.

The magnolia back of the Tower is still shining brightly in the Winter sun, far from the weathered, beaten look of the final design. More jagged faux roof sections can be seen here, the lower section of which was recently given some odd dark brown colours that don’t seem to quite match up yet.

Finally, in an homage to the Imagineer’s cut and paste Parisian creation, here’s a full cut-and-pasted round up of the current state of construction compared to the finished Californian product…

Photos above by Joel’s Photo Hunt, photos in the “Cut & Paste Guide” by Kyoto, Wikipedia, DLRP Today, Joel and J. Thaddeus TOAD (for photo credited unknown).

Friday, 17th November 2006

Moteurs… Music!

Walt Disney World‘s new “Where Magic Lives” 2006/07 Official Album features a good number of new tracks, the most interesting of which for Disneyland Resort Paris fans being the “Lights! Motors! Action!” suite. The music was, of course, originally composed and created for the Parisian attraction, but with its duplication for the Floridian Disn ey-MGM Studios the music flew across the Atlantic too.

This isn’t just a small snippet of music like we’re used to in Paris, either – the track runs a whole 11 minutes 12 seconds and features the full soundtrack of the show’s key stunt sequences. The Ballet Chase, Blockade, Motorcycle Ballet, Pre-Show music and more – it’s all covered. The trademark “dun… dun dun dun!” is most certainly there, as are the high-pitched electric guitar pinches of the Burning Man sequence, the tension-filled bass beats of the Blockade and countless hints of Bond.

It says something about the effort Disneyland Resort Paris puts into its music releases that it took almost five years and a whole other Disney resort for this original, Disney-licensed music to become available. With a 15th Anniversary Album rumoured for 2007, this track would be a simple and easy way to finally bring new music and a breath of fresh air to the resort’s stagnant CD collection. Whether Paris will take this not-so-top secret envelope remains to be seen.

So until then, you could try Walt Disney World mail order: wdw.mail.order@disney.com

Image source: MagicMusic.net Forums

You can see the new CD’s full tracklisting here.

Thursday, 16th November 2006

The Francilien and the first fifteen

The most recent line of Annual Passports were launched back in 2004, replacing the Parc Disneyland, Francilien, Classic and Fantasia with the Proximity, Fantasy and Dream and introducing prices so low that an Annual Passport became a tough competitor against the 3-Day Passe Partout.

Now, the passports have been updated after a few years of plain sailing, to prepare them for the expected influx of new guests next year. The biggest draw will undoubtedly be the new Francilien, which still features the same 65 restriction days each year but, compared to the old Proximity, removes the need for the holder to be within certain nearby French departments.

The new pass is therefore available to all, giving guests an Annual Passport priced lower than a 2 day adult ticket… have they gone insane? I suppose the thinking here is that, with far greater crowds than ever before expected for the 15th Anniversary year, they’ve got to draw them in while they can. If they price Annual Passports stupidly cheap in 2007, then guests spotting them as a cheap option will certainly return again in years to come, hopefully renewing their pass as they do so.

Despite the name change, the price of the Francilien is the same as the Proximity – 89€, with the Fantasy and Dream also retaining their 2006 prices. For more changes, look to the passports themselves. In honour of the 15th Anniversary, they’ve all been given the 15-style Disneyland Resort Paris branding, along with an updated background featuring the resort’s favourite new “dreams” font. So, if you want to pick up the resort’s first item of 15th Anniversary “merchandise”, then it’s good to know what a steal these Annual Passports really are.

Thursday, 16th November 2006

Pin Trading November 2006 releases

Saturday November 4th 2006

Mickey winner pink
Reference number 209401006066
Price : 6.00 euros
» Click for Image

Mickey winner blue
Reference: 209041006067
Price: 6.00 euros
» Click for Image

Saturday November 18th 2006

Minnie Shopping
Reference number:209401007002
Price: 6.00 euros
» Click for Image

Mystery Pack 1
Reference number: 209401007045.
Price: 12.50 euros.

Mystery Pack 2
Reference number: 209401007046
Price: 12.50 euros

Stich Invasion WDS2 Catastrophe Canyon
Reference number:209401007017
Price: 10.50 euros
Limited Edition 900 ex.
» Click for Image

Set Pins Cuties
Reference number: 209401007008
Price: 18 euros

Set Pins Standard Character
Reference number: 209401007009
Price: 18.00 euros

Saturday November 25th 2006

Tinkerbell Flower
Reference number: 209401007007
Price: 6.00 euros
» Click for Image

Minnie Disguise – Belle
Reference number: 209401007012
Price: 6.00 euros
» Click for Image

Minnie Disguise – Cinderella
Reference number: 209401007013
Price: 6.00 euros
» Click for Image

Minnie Disguise – Sleeping Beauty
Reference number: 209401007014
Price: 6.00 euros
» Click for Image

Minnie Disguise – Snow White
Reference number: 209401007016
Price: 6.00 euros
» Click for Image

Minnie Disguise – Tinkerbell
Reference number: 209401007015
Price: 6.00 euros
» Click for Image

No word yet on what the two “Mystery Pack” releases will be, but this announcement does at least confirm that the second Stitch WDS Invasion pin will be Catastrophe Canyon. I try to keep personal opinion out of these articles, but what are the chances of the flash flood getting him, do you think?

Anyway, more pins featuring the Studios is a good enough event to endure more endless Stitch releases, and allows for some interesting possibilites… Aerosmith Stitch? Stuntman Stitch? Flying Carpet Stitch? Pink Elephant Stitch? or maybe even Julie Delpy Stitch?

Monday, 13th November 2006

Still an Art of Disney?

First things first – when you see the “new” Art of Disney Animation for the first time, it’s truly bizarre. Infact, I can’t think of a single other instance when a landmark Disney building has had its colour scheme so drastically altered, it’s like painting the castle… well, blue. Disneyland California’s rusty Space Mountain springs to mind, but luckily it’s not that bad.

Stepping onto Disney Bros. Plaza with the new Studio 5 in the distance, you immediately begin to realise the thinking behind all of this. The major problem of Walt Disney Studios, and the key thing this “placemaking” work is actually trying to address, is that guests just can’t differentiate between the lands. Backlot stands out due to its industrial grey image, and Front Lot is separated, literally, by Disney Studio 1. The rest of the park (as much as we love it), though, merges into a giant mass of yellow buildings, large entrance signs and lots of asphalt.

So, in addition to new trees creating a dividing entrance, a drastic new colour scheme for Toon Studio seems obvious, and the first results are quite pleasing, especially against the nice ochre Autumn trees…

The old yellow animation mural perhaps looks out of place against its new blue surroundings, but the pinky-red bricks surrounding the entrance doors have been a surprising success, adding more of a “Toon” theme to the building and matching the existing signs around the area. Since these photos were taken last week, all the bricks have been painted this colour – you can see a photo here.

Unfortunately, if you were in the park last week and looked a little closer at Art of Disney Animation, it looked like anything but an artform. Did the old Ink & Paint department go crazy here? Not only was the front section of the building (which already strangely featured a more pale blue than the rear) sporting as thin a coat of paint as possible, but in various blackspots you could also see random patches and stripes of thicker paint.

These photos reveal a strange secret of the transformation of the building – unlike the buildings of Front Lot currently undergoing refurbishment, they aren’t repainting Art of Disney with a white basecoat before applying the blue. It’s all just going right on top of the yellow, hence the pretty awful state of the building for over two weeks during the busy Halloween period.

Last week, the wall near the toilets at the rear of the building featured a few strange spots of lighter paint (and still apparently does), whilst the low sun of the Autumn months doesn’t give a pleasant reflection off the walls of this circa-2002 Disney product.

So you’re longing for the old yellow colour scheme again now? Well, if you waited around a few hours last week your wish would have been granted, for one last time! As night fell, the bright lights on the building showed just how thin the paintwork at the front really was – the entire façade returned to its old yellow glow! Truly a quite remarkable effect.

The nearer you got, the more the new blue colours flooded through. Despite being caused by the bad paintwork above, this effect was actually rather impressive in reality. Colour-changing buildings – the next step in Imagineering? It’d be perfect for Toon Studio, but, with more paint progress made on this project since, it was probably only temporary.

Luckily, the past few days have been kind to the building, which now (judging by photos at least) appears to feature a thicker and more vibrant coat of blue paint around its frontage as well as queue canopy columns repainted to a more pleasing deep blue. But, whilst there’s hope, the paint isn’t perfect – those patches at the rear remain, and the yellow mural still appears out of place.

You can see photos of the old Art of Disney Animation colours here. It’s true that once you’ve got used to the new colours, they grow on you rather quickly. Whilst the yellows contrasted nicely with the blue Sorcerer’s Hat and fit perfectly into the Imagineer’s “warm colours for a cold environment” motto, the blue has its own charms.

Can it still be considered a “work of art”? Whatever you think, one thing definitely seems certain – this is still very much a “work in progress”.

Sunday, 12th November 2006

Selling the Celebration: #4

First impressions of the Thomas Cook brochure aren’t good – there’s no mention of the anniversary at all. Luckily, this is effectively the Leger brochure in reverse, since as soon as you turn to the contents the 15th hits you in the face… almost.

Front Cover / Contents

The “Signature” line of Thomas Cook brochures is meant to appear more select and higher class than their usual brochures, using colourful and crisp images in a minimalist design. I can remember their brochures looking great a few years ago, but unfortunately, since the design hasn’t been majorly updated for a few years, it all just looks a little bleak, not the colourful, exciting, anniversary sell we’d like for a Disney resort.

15th Anniversary

The 15th Anniversary page is good for information, almost too good. There’s a lot of text for a brochure people would usually casually flick through, and the design again looks quite tired. Are you noticing a pattern with the brochures? The same images, the same text – Disneyland Resort Paris have certainly made it clear what they want presented, it’s just a shame no-one has done better than Thomson in presenting it yet.

Seasons / Magical Extras

A special mention to the Seasons page of this brochure, though. Lots of information, lots of emphasis and some good pictures. Oh, and they even confirm that Wishes will be returning as the 15th Anniversary fireworks display!

Walt Disney Studios Park

Finally, it’s good to see that Thomas Cook have followed Thomson by adding details of the 15th Anniversary to each park page (maybe another tip from DLRP?), so anyone who skipped over the first few pages still has another chance to realise there’s an important event next year. It’s not a very exciting brochure, but they’ve got almost everything covered so marks lost mainly for no anniversary mention on the cover. Thomson is still the one to beat!

Celebration Score: 6/10

If you’re in the UK, you can order the brochure right here.

Whilst we’re talking 15th Anniversary brochures, there’s good news for anyone in the UK – the official 2007 brochure is now available to order! We’ll have a review of the entire brochure as soon as possible, but until then – if you’re outside the UK and you’ve spotted another unofficial 15th Anniversary brochure, please get in touch and send in scans, so we can see how the celebration is being advertised elsewhere.

Saturday, 11th November 2006

The Christmas Parade 2006

Highlighting the popularity of this production in previous years, the 2006 parade remains almost entirely unchanged from last year, except perhaps for a few float decoration and music alterations that only a Christmas Parade pro would notice. The current parade cast make it a must-see production yet again, though, with excellent character performances and lively dancers, all with beaming smiles in their beautiful white costumes. 10 Minutes before the parade is due to begin, Mickey Mouse himself makes his way up the parade route on his car, before heading back to the end of the route in time for the start of the performance.

Compared to this very first performance of the season, the performance today (Saturday) on the first official day of Disney’s Christmas Season will have seen the addition of Father Christmas on his sleigh, only just arrived from the North Pole!

Enough with the words – onto the pictures!

Video will return soon!

Thursday, 9th November 2006

Euro Disney SCA reports positive Fiscal Year 2006

(Marne-la-Vallée, November 8, 2006) Euro Disney S.C.A. (the “Company”), parent company of Euro Disney Associés S.C.A., operator of Disneyland Resort Paris, reported today financial results for its consolidated group (the “Group”) for the fiscal year ended September 30, 2006.

Revenues increased 4.5% to € 1,087.7 million in fiscal year 2006 reflecting increases in theme parks attendance and hotel occupancy. Theme parks revenues increased 5.4% to € 579.2 million, following an increase of0.5 million in attendance, which reached 12.8 million in 2006. Hotels and Disney Village revenues increased 4.2% to € 412.2 million due to a higher occupancy rate of 83.5% compared to 80.7% for fiscal year 2005, as well as increased guest visitations at Disney Village.

Operating margin before depreciation and amortisation increased 29.6% to € 147.9 million from € 114.1 million as a result of growth in revenues combined with a slight increase in costs and expenses. Operating margin before depreciation and amortisation as a percentage of revenues increased 2.6 percentage points to 13.6%.

Costs and expenses for fiscal year 2006 grew 1.6% compared to the prior year reflecting management’s ongoing focus on cost containment. The Group’s operating margin improved € 29.5 million to a loss of € 2.4 million for fiscal year 2006, from a loss of € 31.9 million in the prior year. Other net financial charges increased over the period due to a higher effective interest rate on the Group’s debt.

For fiscal year 2006, net losses of the Group amounted to € 88.6 million. Excluding the non-recurring, non-cash gain in fiscal year 2005 that resulted from the Group’s 2005 legal and financial restructuring (the “2005 Restructuring”), net loss on a comparable basis attributable to equity holders of the parent decreased 20.5% from the prior year to € 73.1 million. Net loss on a comparable basis attributable to minority interests amounted to € 15.5 million.

Cash and cash equivalents increased by € 24.2 million from the prior year to € 266.4 million.

Commenting on the results, Karl L. Holz, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Euro Disney S.A.S., said:

“We are pleased with our year end results and we look forward to maintaining this momentum as we continually reinvigorate our Theme Parks. We believe that our growth strategy is delivering its benefits as we remain focused on improving our margins, while continuing to provide our guests with a unique experience. These efforts contributed to a 30% improvement in our operating margin before depreciation and amortisation.
This year, we benefited from several events, such as the launch of Buzz Lightyear Laser Blast®, and introduced various original offers that appealed to our visitors. Next year, we are hosting the most magical celebration in our history to commemorate our 15th-year anniversary. We are also developing thrilling new products, including a parade in the Disneyland Park and three attractions in Walt Disney Studios Park. All these things plus more combine to create the Disney dream holiday for every family.

Our encouraging results have been achieved thanks to the dedication and hard work of our cast members, who continue to make our theme parks the most popular tourist destination in Europe.”

Further Analysis
Theme parks revenues increased 5.4% to € 579.2 million from € 549.7 million in the prior year, primarily as a result of increased attendance and average spending per guest on admission. Increases in attendance levels are largely the result of new marketing and sales initiatives aimed at attracting the local French market, special offers and the opening of Buzz Lightyear Laser Blast®.

Hotels and Disney Village revenues increased 4.2% to € 412.2 million from € 395.4 million in the prior year reflecting higher hotel occupancy and guest visitation at Disney Village.

The increase of 0.5 million in theme parks attendance primarily reflects the solid performance during the second half of the year. Attendance by French visitors increased 12% over the prior year resulting in a French visitors’ share of total visits up from 39% to 42%. This was mostly as a result of special offers targeted at local markets, including a new ticket, the “Francilien”, marketed in the Ile-de-France region, as well as special offers made to certain workers councils (“Comités d’Entreprise”).

Hotel occupancy rates increased 2.8 percentage points, which translated into an additional 59,000 room nights compared to fiscal year 2005. This increase was mostly driven by higher attendance of Spanish visitors, who predominantly stayed on-site.

Theme parks spending per guest increased 1.1% driven by a moderate price increase in theme parks admissions, partially offset by special offers.

The 2005 Restructuring, Cash Flows and the Future

Based on existing cash positions, liquidity from the undrawn € 150.0 million line of credit from The Walt Disney Company (TWDC), and provisions for the unconditional and conditional deferral of certain royalties and management fees and interest charges pursuant to the 2005 Restructuring, management believes the Group has adequate cash and liquidity for the foreseeable future, subject to the Group’s compliance with its debt agreements as discussed below.

The Group has covenants under its debt agreements that limit its investments and financing activities. Beginning with fiscal year 2006, the Group must also meet financial performance covenants that necessitate improvements to its operating margin. Subject to final third-party review as provided in its debt agreements, the Group believes that it has complied with these covenants for fiscal year 2006. This compliance was achieved through revenue growth which outpaced the increase in the Group’s costs and expenses during the period.

For fiscal year 2007, if compliance with financial performance covenants could not be achieved through increased revenues, the Group would have to appropriately reduce operating costs, curtail a portion of planned capital expenditures (outside those contained in the Group’s multi-year investment program [Toon Studio, Tower of Terror]) and/or seek assistance from TWDC or other parties as permitted under the loan agreements.

Although no assurances can be given, the Group currently believes that it will meet its financial performance covenants in fiscal year 2007 through increased revenues and continuing cost containment, without the need for any of the additional measures referred to above.

You can read the full report from Euro Disney S.C.A. as a PDF here.

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