So, Friday was an exciting day both for us and for Disneyland Paris. Our group of around 15 fan website owners and reporters met at 9am sharp inside Walt’s – An American Restaurant for the first presentation about all the refurbishment projects ongoing and upcoming in 2011. But first, let’s skip ahead to 11am and the main event of the day; seeing the fruits of one of those huge restoration projections: the re-dedication of the Molly Brown riverboat.
The night before, Molly Brown had been brought around to Thunder Mesa Riverboat Landing for final checks, looking stunning on the waters with her new colours and every bulb perfectly illuminated (above). Technical crews rushed around the deck, wiping her down and making final preparations.
Note: Since we’ve a lot of photos and videos to share from these events, you’ll need to click “Continue Reading” below (only on the front page) for the full reports!
The next day, we had already enjoyed the presentation and a quick site tour, making page after page of notes as we went. Upon arriving at Thunder Mesa Riverboat Landing for the rededication ceremony, none other than Jeff Archambault, Vice President of Commications, welcomed us to the dock.
The ceremony was a real treat. A red ribbon was tied across the entrance to the landing, a pair of scissors resting on a plush red cushion nearby. Huddled under the awning, we soon spotted the two Disneyland Paris Ambassadors for 2011 — in full Western costume!!
Osvaldo del Mistero, left, and Régis Alart, right, were incredibly game and had clearly invested a lot of time and effort into this occasion. Osvaldo previously worked at Disney’s Hotel Cheyenne, whilst Régis has worked at City Hall and spent a year at Walt Disney World. Friendly and eager to talk, we soon learnt later on that they were “fans” just as much as any of us!
Seeing the bow of the new Molly Brown emerge from behind Wilderness Island for the first official time was a total “goosebumps” moment. She looks simply stunning. Completely rebuilt from the ground up, her new maroon details around each deck really add an extra richness to the design. The darker single funnel is more dramatic and authentic, whilst the additional gold band around the top conveys the wealth which came with these grand riverboats in the late 1800s.
Another wonderful new detail is striking, too — no less than five brand new flags, adding new, very complimentary colours to the Western landscape. During the earlier presentation, Peggie Fariss, new head of Walt Disney Imagineering Paris, had shown us a “before and after” concept art for the vessel’s refresh, explaining the choices made and introducing these new flags.
At the stern, the United States flag has just 38 stars and is authentic to the 1885 period, whilst the blue flag at the bow is known as the Jack of the United States and was an alternative maritime United States flag, again with only 38 stars here. In the middle of the ship is the Flag of California, helping to emphasise again that is a Western, Californian riverboat — not a mid-Western or Mississippi liner as are so frequently recreated in theme parks.
The glorious weather, the blossom on the trees around Phantom Manor and the still waters created a picture-perfect moment as Molly Brown rounded the final corner into the dock, loudly blowing her whistles for another “goosebumps” moment!
As she pulled into Thunder Mesa Riverboat Landing, the full majesty of the rebuild became clear and the music kicked in — the theme from William Wyler’s The Big Country (1958), of course!
Régis and Osvaldo stepped in and presented a simply perfect ceremony, featuring not just Mickey and Minnie Mouse (in equally fitting costumes) but Buffalo Bill himself, who did the honours and cut the ribbon! We captured the whole thing on video, from the Molly Brown’s first appearance from behind Big Thunder to the ceremony itself and our first steps on board:
This wasn’t your usual opening ceremony. Playing perfectly within the theme, Régis and Osvaldo positioned themselves as representatives of the town of Thunder Mesa, describing in French how the rebuilt vessel will once again bring great prosperity to their Western town and ensure Thunder Mesa would remain firmly on the map. Helping with commerce and the pride of the town, Molly Brown would be the symbol of their journey toward the modern era. William Cody, Buffalo Bill continued in English, before inviting in “two friends who should be here for this occasion”… Mickey and Minnie!
Régis explained to myself (Anthony) and Kristof (from Photos Magiques) later over lunch that they had been given pretty much free reign with this ceremony. Rather than appearing in the usual dark suits, they wanted to do something to really pay tribute to the setting and bring the story of Thunder Mesa to life. A show director helped with the ceremony and, feeling like a kid in a candy store, Régis and Osvaldo were able to mine the thousands of costumes from every period in the resort’s huge wardrobe department, which were then tailored to their exact measurements. “Can we have Buffalo Bill?!” Régis wondered — yes, they could have Buffalo Bill!
The music kicked in again, the ribbon was cut and the whistles sounded out across the park! The Molly Brown has returned! The ambassadors and their special guests lined up next to the ship as we rushed aboard, the very first guests to take a cruise around the Rivers of the Far West on this new ship.
And there was another, final surprise waiting on-board: The Hill Billy Trio, who accompanied our journey with live music right around the river! Buffalo Bill also jumped aboard, firing off his guns as we set sail and posing for photos.
As explained at the presentation, however, the ship wasn’t quite complete. Crews had worked incredibly hard to prepare her to meet this inauguration date, but right after our cruise she steamed back around into the dock for “final touch-ups” with Mark Twain returning to service for waiting guests (probably bemused by all the commotion!). It is hoped she will begin full service within just a few weeks.
Later, each of us in attendance were given a truly unique souvenir of the day: a piece of the red ribbon which re-opened the boat, dated and signed with the Molly Brown’s name!
Coming next: We go on-board the Molly Brown for a photo and video tour of the new vessel! Including excerpts from the Hill Billy Trio and the all-new English narration for Molly Brown herself!