Monday, 19th November 2007

Minnie’s Jolly Holidays Show from Dec 1st

The real magic of this Christmas Season for a Disney fan is that it seems not a single corner of the resort is sleeping — everything, everywhere, is running at full steam. From the reopening of Agrabah Café to the daily Christmas streetmosphere at Walt Disney Studios with ‘Toon en Scène pour les Fêtes !‘, the constant improvements throughout 2007 have built to an overwhelming crescendo.

At Disneyland Park, The Chaparral Theater has Mickey’s Winter Wonderland, Fantasy Festival Stage has Winnie the Pooh, Videopolis Theatre has The Legend of the Lion King, Critter Corral the new Father Christmas Village… the list goes on. Have they missed anywhere? Well, Central Plaza isn’t filled with too much life during the daytime…

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Minnie in Mickey’s Winter Wonderland

No fear, it sounds like Minnie Mouse has a late Christmas gift for us.

We’ve received word from a reliable source that preparations are well underway backstage for a new addition to the Christmas entertainment line-up. Starring Minnie Mouse, a new show entitled ‘Minnie’s Jolly Holidays Show‘ is expected to premiere on the Central Plaza Stage from the weekend of 15th/16th December 2007, playing daily throughout daytime hours for the rest of the season!

With Minnie as host and Central Plaza as the location, it’s hard not to connect this production to last month’s well received Disney Villains’ Halloween Showtime for Disney’s Halloween Festival. No doubt the staging will bear more than a slight similarity, though so far it seems very little about the show is known backstage, where casting sessions for the production have just been completed.

Enchantment like nowhere else on Earth… just got a little bit more enchanting!

UPDATE – 25/11/2007

Our source brings new information for the show, final title “Minnie’s Jolly Holidays Show“. The show will begin earlier than expected, from 1st December 2007, and will be presented four times early each day!

Monday, 19th November 2007

Satellites aligned for Stitch’s Live broadcast

Come March 2008, when guests step into Production Courtyard (or should we say Hollywood Studio?), the Walt Disney Television Studios home of Stitch Live will begin to tell its story, like any good Disney attraction, from the very first glance. Installed just recently atop the entrance pillar is a small golden satellite dish, pointing upwards into the sky.

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So, as The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror has its purple scorch marks to suggest the lightning strike, Stitch Live will suggest its live satellite link-up to outer space… in a more modest fashion. Notice also the extension of blue construction fences, previously only around the exit, to hide the entire queue area.

The satellite dish simply replaces the old decoration atop the purple/pink pillar, as compared here by our partner website WDSfans.com — a thin antenna which served more as a traditional Disneyland Resort Paris lightning rod than a piece of themed storytelling.

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Aside from changing the green Disney Channel sign to a new Stitch Live design, the addition of this satellite dish will likely be the biggest change to the exterior of the attraction before its opening.

The Imagineers working on the project (or rather the accountants) are no doubt glad that the original 2002 building already had a somewhat extra-terrestrial look about it, with a larger antenna on the corner facing Tower of Terror clearly having quite a 1950s sci-fi look.

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It remains to be seen, however, what effect the probable extension of the current Hollywood Boulevard placemaking will have on the building and its comparably vague era and setting.

As reported previously, the new interactive attraction is expected to open around 22nd March 2008.

— Photos by Photos Magiques / WDSfans.com and DLRP Today.

Thursday, 15th November 2007

In Video: Christmas enchantment like nowhere else on Earth

Since the opening year of 1992, Disneyland Resort Paris has celebrated Christmas with bigger and better events each and every year. For the 15th Anniversary, we were promised an “exceptionnoël” season, and, with a Father Christmas Village and Enchanted Candleabration to discover amongst countless old favourites, this is truly the biggest and most spectacular Christmas season the resort has ever seen.

Click below to play the video — and chante, c’est noël!

The video is exclusive to this page and cannot be seen on our usual Dailymotion account, so please do spread around this link to share the sights of the most magical Disney Christmas on Earth!

You can find full guides, histories, photo galleries, fun facts and useful tips for Disney’s Christmas Season 2007/08 in the extensive DLRP Magic! Guidebook chapter for the season.

— Video footage and music © Disney/Euro Disney Associés S.C.A.

Wednesday, 14th November 2007

Agrabah Café re-opens with 1001 delights

The re-opening of the restaurant was first rumoured back in August, with work beginning inside the restaurant just several weeks later to return it to daily operations. Cleaning, repairs and new modifications to the area, which, prior to 1999, was actually an indoor alley with several small shops, were all scheduled, and the faded entrance sign was repainted in brighter and more exotic colours.

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Speculated at the time of the first rumours was the possibility of the restaurant becoming the first “Half Board only” dining option at the resort — an exclusive location for guests using Disney’s discounted meal vouchers which have proven popular since their launch just 12 months ago. The final decision, however, will no doubt be more popular — the restaurant is available for all guests, with only a slight priority reportedly given to Half Board users at peak times.

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The menu is an all-you-can eat buffet with oriental and Mediterranean specialties, including starters, main courses and deserts, but not including drinks (except for the children’s menu). Highlights include Shoarma, cinnamon rice, fish and baked spice potatoes, amongst regular fare such as pasta and lasagna.

Priced at €21 for adults and €10 for children, it’s an affordable addition to the park’s menu of restaurants and is expected to take some strain off Plaza Gardens Restaurant, particularly over the busy — and cold — Christmas season.

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The atmosphere inside has been captured by our friends at Photos Magiques in a special video tour:

This enchanting location, locked away for over five years, has finally broken its spell cast by the early-2000s cuts. Coming as it does towards the end of the remarkable events of 2007, the reopening of Agrabah Café could be considered the crown on a magnificent turnaround for resort in recent years.

And those who’ve tried it say it’s rather delicious, too.

— You can find a full gallery of new photos from the restaurant over at Photos Magiques.

Tuesday, 13th November 2007

New brochure, no Tower

Yes, “more of the same” quite literally, in fact. Posted on the brochure ordering system of the UK Disneyland Resort Paris website, this latest brochure cover is for the upcoming Spring/Summer 2008 edition, the third holiday guide for the 15th Anniversary following the original Spring/Summer 2007 edition and second Autumn/Winter 2007/08 publication.

The cover uses what is expected to be the “key visual” of the extended 15th Anniversary The Party Continues season — more specifically, one of the original anniversary visuals we first revealed ourselves back in July 2006, now simply re-dressed with Tinkerbell, Mickey Mouse and a fluttering red ribbon or carpet.

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And that’s it — “The party continues”. So, are Stitch Live and that little Tower they’ve been building for the past two and half years no longer opening during this season?

Casually perusing brochures in their local travel agent, the average customer has no idea whatsoever that this Spring/Summer 2008 season will, in fact, mark the official launch of — you guessed it — The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror. Which, as we must echo once again, is without doubt the biggest single addition to the resort for over 10 years, since Space Mountain: De La Terre a  la Lune, infact.

Now would be a good time to dig up a little treasure from the past, then, courtesy of DLRP Magic!’s ‘Classic Brochures’ page. Long-time fans will remember the 1995 launch campaign of Space Mountain well, and the holiday brochure released in July of that year certainly didn’t disappoint — a dark and moody portrait of a rocket train being fired toward the moon, the mountain only vaguely visible as an ominous blue glow.

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The holiday brochure isn’t the entirity of the campaign, of course, but it’s a good indication of where the resort’s marketing priorities will lie. The 2007 brochure covers made no mention of Crush’s Coaster or Cars Quatre Roues Rallye, two additions which would later be incredibly well-received by the public, and — would you believe it — practically no country other than France saw any promotion whatsoever for these two fairly major additions to Walt Disney Studios Park.

So, whilst The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror will be given advertising at some point (in fact, it already is in some French locations), don’t immediately expect it to be the focus of next year’s campaigns. The best idea, it seems, is to stick with what works — regardless of any €160m attractions you might be opening.

What do you think? Should they be saying “The Party Continues” or “Drop In… if you Dare!” for 2008?

— Our UK guests can order the brochure here; Everyone else, look out for our usual preview soon!

Thursday, 8th November 2007

Euro Disney Annual Report announces losses halved by 50%, attendance smashing the 14-million

Without further delay, here are main points:

‘¢ Revenues increased 12% to € 1,220 million, reflecting volume growth in theme parks
attendance and hotel occupancy
‘¢ Operating margin at € 51 million, against a prior year loss of € 2 million
‘¢ Net loss reduced by over 50% to € 42 million
‘¢ Attendance increased 13.3% to 14.5 million, against a prior year figure of 12.8 million
‘¢ Hotel occupancy increased 5.8ppt to 89.3%

So, as widely expected, they didn’t hit a profit just yet, but future is certainly looking bright. With overall revenues increasing by a massive 12%, reflecting the growth in park attendance and hotel occupancy, the group can claim individual revenue increases of 14% for the theme parks division and no less than 17% for hotels.

Bringing the total revenues to € 1,220.3 million, this leaves a nice operating margin of €51 million between revenues and costs & expenses, swallowed, unfortunately, by the € 92.2 million of financial charges. Before depreciation and amortization (what we can basically read as “dealings to do with that whole load of debt they’ve got”), this operating margin was in fact even higher at € 205.7 million.

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Operating Statistics

Always the most interesting section for fans of the resort, this year the stats give real reason to celebrate. The resort’s previous attendance record for its two parks stood at 13.1 million guests, for the opening year of Walt Disney Studios Park in 2002. Last year they reached a second-place high of 12.8 million.

Between November 2006 and October 2007? 14.5 million guests. Read it again, 14.5 million! That’s an increase of 1.7 million over the previous year and 1.4 million higher than the Studios’ opening year.

Driven mainly be an increase in guests from Spain (as we’re sure you noticed…), France and Italy, numbers like these are fantastic news on their own. When we now consider the resort has yet to open the big-hitter E-Ticket that is The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror (and its exceptional advertising campaign), unveil the full Hollywood placemaking transformation at the park and introduce the massively popular “Living Character” concept to Europe with Stitch Live… next year’s results might be an even bigger surprise.

Over at the hotels, things are just as good — if not better. Following a slump in occupancy from 2001 onwards, the hotels grew their room-filling figures from 83.5% to a touching-on-spectacular 89.3%, equivalent to 123,000 extra room nights across the year.

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The Problems

Disneyland Resort Paris isn’t completely in the clear, though. Guest spending in the parks continues to be rather stagnant, from the looks of the figures driven only by the regular annual ticket price increases. At the hotels, spending per room increased 10% mainly thanks to price increases at certain hotels.

Of course, you can’t deny the fact that still having a € 40 million loss with guest numbers reaching 14.5 million is worrying. Regarding some of the exceptional costs relating to the 15th Anniversary celebration, however, it could be a loss worth… losing. The quality of the “Disney experience” here has never been higher, giving guests more reason to return, and special offers such as “Kids Under 7 Stay & Play Free” have clearly been a huge success in attracting new visitors.

Clearly, with a € 50 million operating margin, the resort is — or rather, could be — a profitable enterprise. The burden of its immense debt, however, continues to drain…

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However, if there’s one person determined to squeeze a real profit from the resort, it’s Karl Holz, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Euro Disney S.A.S.. It’s remarkable that this CEO hasn’t gained the cult following of say, Disneyland Resort (California)’s Matt Ouimet, considering the vast changes the resort has seen since his arrival as Chief Operating Officer, and subsequently CEO.

His message for the report reads as follows, again thanking the cast members themselves and speaking of the “experiences with only Disney can provide”, a favourite expression:

“This year’s results, marked by a positive operating margin, were driven by volume growth in parks attendance and hotel occupancy and an increase in average spending per room. In 2007, we kicked off the 15th anniversary celebration by introducing a fantastic new parade and compelling new attractions.

This year’s solid performance was made possible through the continued dedication and commitment of all our cast members, many of which celebrated their personal 15th anniversary with the Company this year.

We look forward to continuing the celebration in fiscal year 2008 with the introduction of The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror attraction and Stitch Live; new experiences which only Disney can provide.

In 2008, we will continue to execute our growth strategy and remain focused on driving this business toward profitability.”

Mr Holz, we’re behind you every step of the way.

— You can read the Annual Report in full here (PDF, new window).

Wednesday, 7th November 2007

In the crush for Crush, Fastpass gets a “no”

Stop a regular guest in Walt Disney Studios Park, ask them how they would improve Crush’s Coaster, and you’d no doubt get a response similar to “add Fastpass to it”.

As the Imagineers and anyone who followed its construction through 2006 and 2007 will tell you, however, it’s not that simple. And Crush’s Coaster most definitely is not a Fastpass-capable attraction. It was a surprise, then, to see the following sign pop up outside the attraction just a few weeks ago…

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For two weeks at the end of October, the new attraction everyone generally-loves-but-hates-to-queue-for had the curse of public demand thrust upon its youthful, small, D-Ticket ambitions.

Each day, a small table was set up between the attraction’s main entrance and Flying Carpets Over Agrabah, finally revealing itself, come 10.30am, to be a temporary Fastpass distribution point. On presentation of park tickets, guests could pick up a timeslot ticket for the attraction and return later with their queue only starting at the entrance doors of Studio 5. Tickets went very fast, generally all gone by the middle of the day.

For the lucky few, it was a rare chance to enjoy the attraction with minimal wait (around 15 minutes). For everyone else, it meant almost equally lengthy queue times as before, despite there being less people in the queue. According to the cast members, it was, apparently, “bad”.

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For the E-Ticket omnimover of Buzz Lightyear Laser Blast or the two platforms of Space Mountain: Mission 2, the system works like a dream. But then, consider Peter Pan’s Flight, with only between 4 and 6 people per flying pirate ship — due to small capacity tickets disappear in no time at all and queue times aren’t reduced whatsoever. Fastpass, unfortunately, doesn’t add capacity to an attraction, it just gives a nice half-and-half between people waiting in the queue and people “waiting” elsewhere.

If your attraction has a capacity as small as Pan or Crush (estimated at around 1,100 per hour, compared to 2,420 for Big Thunder Mountain or up to 3,000 for an omnimover like Buzz Lightyear Laser Blast), there’s so little room to breathe between the two that neither party gets a good deal.

But alas, the general public don’t understand this. And so, as demands for Fastpass continue to simmer upwards into management offices via questions to attraction CMs and those touch screen surveys at the park exit, they could snap at any moment. According to sources on Disney Central Plaza forum, the crews who oversee Fastpass were “on standby” to install real ticket machines following the results of these trials, and as yet no final decision has actually been made by the park.

It’s clear that something needs to be done to ease the crush of Crush on both impatient guests and hard-worked cast members. But consider this — if they were willing to invest in an expensive Fastpass ticketing system, why not instead invest in a longer outside queue line, one which guests won’t be disgusted to wait in?

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A lack of theming, unloved sand dunes, views through the fence into Backstage, and unflattering close-ups of the Flying Carpets backdrop are the biggest “crush” for a Disney fan here, not the queue time.

— Fastpass photo by Joel’s Photo Hunt, logo © Disney, queue photo a DLRP Today exclusive. ;-)

Tuesday, 6th November 2007

Inside, on-board and backstage the Paris Tower of Terror …in video!

The Disney Filmparade has brought us some truly brilliant looks into the world of Disneyland Resort Paris in the past — such as the creation of Disney’s Once Upon a Dream Parade or the Imagineering of Crush’s Coaster. Whilst basically a television promotion for the resort in the competitive German theme park market, nothing compares to the gems this show regularly throws up.

In their second special edition for The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror (following one many months ago), then, is there anything close to a “gem” worth looking out for? Well, the 58 screen caps which follow the video might answer that one.

It’s all in German, but, whatever your language, “enjoy!”…


Uploaded by mouetto

Now, if it’s the first time you’ve seen the video, pick your jaw up off the floor. Let’s start again from the very beginning, the images in this TV special are going to take a while to sink in…

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1. Tower of Terror street-level view, some months ago.

2. Pre-show video inside one of the two Library rooms.

3. Test riders (in costume!) superimposed on the screen.

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1. View from halfway, early 2006.

2. View downwards, early 2007.

3. Tower going vertical timelapse.

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1. Tower reaches full height at sunset.

2. Inside the hotel lobby, bare concrete, no ceiling.

3. (Almost) Completed ceiling with intricate paintwork and wooden carving.

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1. Lobby with details on arches and progressing floor – note the beautiful floor tiles.

2. Some of the artifacts and forgotten ornaments to be dotted through the hotel.

3. Read our article about the Tower’s accessories for more on these.

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1. Some of the real books to fill the bookshelves in each library, many by famous French authors.

2. Inside one of the libraries – note the wood panel ceiling, bookcases and countless accessories.

3. One of the boiler rooms (loading areas) during heavy construction.

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1. Inside the completed boiler rooms – see the stairs to upper boiler room (2nd loading floor).

2. Panning along the incredible detail of the boiler rooms, acclaimed in DCA (and no doubt soon in WDS) for their spectacular show lighting.

3. One of the infamous service elevator entrances.

Continued with MUCH more on Page 2…

Monday, 5th November 2007

Stitch goes Live in March – dates announced

Less than 11 months after the closing of ‘Television Production Tour at Walt Disney Television Studios’, Stitch Live will “go live” in late March and be officially launched alongside The Twilight Zone Tower in early April 2008, marking the start of the resort’s “15th Anniversary Continues” year. The opening schedule was made available to cast members last Wednesday and shared by member Devil on Disney Central Plaza forum.

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‘Stitch Encounter’ at Hong Kong Disneyland

So, for the cast members presenting the show and providing the voice and movements of Stitch…

From mid-January to March 2008 (6 weeks) — training and rehearsals for performers.

In March 2008 (or end February) — 2 days of training for regular operational cast members

Then, where it gets very exciting for us…

SOFT OPENING (2 weeks) — 8th to 21st March 2008

OFFICIAL OPENING — 22nd March 2008

Opened, on-air and entertaining guests, the attraction will be officially inaugurated with the press and VIPs during the launch events of Tower of Terror, currently scheduled for the weekend of 4th to 6th April 2008. Of course, all these dates are only as currently scheduled and may be subject to change between now and March. End disclaimer.

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‘Stitch Encounter’ at Hong Kong Disneyland

If a bunch of opening schedule dates “live” from Paris aren’t exciting enough, take a look at this link originally posted by moderator Scrooge of Disney Magic Interactive forum, providing an extended look inside the Hong Kong version of the attraction and the magic of this truly unique show.

In just over 4 months’ time, Stitch’s exclusive debut of “living character” in Europe will no doubt be a sensation with audiences.

Sunday, 4th November 2007

Forgotten lights of Hollywood flicker into life

Since “The Hollywood Tower Hotel” sign was finally completed back in early October, the thin, double strips of neon surrounding each letter were turned on mid-way through the month — all except for the second “o” in “Hollywood”, which is of course never illuminated (though it certainly has the ability).

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Later in the month and, next to the spooky glow of a crescent moon, the “W” of “Tower” begins to flicker and fade every few seconds, completing the look of this neon signage broken by the lightning impact on that fateful Halloween night in 1939.

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Our friends at Photos Magiques/WDSfans.com captured a video of the sign undergoing tests a couple of weeks ago, long after regular park hours:

Now, where’s the “spectacular light show” promised? Are these later photos, by Disneytheque.com, spectacular enough for you? In addition to the flickering neon letters, the entire upper section of the hotel is illuminated in purple light with aqua blue effects rippling and swirling across its front, bursting upwards from the front of the hotel as if the Twilight Zone has just been thrust open within the hotel.

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Along with these brilliant, bright colours for the upper tower, the lower floors of the hotel will be lit in more subtle yellow light (in all similar, but not identical to Disney’s California Adventure), creating a — you guessed it — spectacular contrast between the two.

At 183-ft tall, the Tower is a rather unique new landmark for the surrounding area, now regularly bathed in purples, blues and yellows as the illumination tests and adjustments continue.

— Photos by Photos Magiques and Disneytheque.com.

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