Wednesday, 28th September 2011

Beginning of the end for Captain EO encore as it moves to “peak days only” operation?

Is Disneyland Paris beginning to wind down its Captain EO encore? A quick look at the latest Closure & Refurbishment dates for the parks now shows the Discoveryland attraction marked as closed on weekdays for the first three weeks of October: 3rd to 7th, 10th to 14th and 17th to 21st. Those infamous yellow 3-D glasses were also kept out of guests’ hands last week, when EO closed from Monday 19th to Friday 23rd September, suggesting that — rather than simple refurbishment as first expected — a new “peak days only” operating programme could be coming into force.

Michael Jackson and George Lucas fans have already had to contend with some very limited hours for the 3-D theatre show this year, with the first performance of the day held back until 11am and a closing time set far short of the rest of the park at around 5 or 6pm. The return has always been on an indefinite run, but if you’re a particular fan of this “rag-tag band lead by the infamous Captain EO”, you might want to catch an encore next time you can, just in case.

Captain EO returned to all its original locations at Disneyland in California, Epcot in Florida, Tokyo Disneyland and Disneyland Park in Paris last year. Though originally confirmed as “not returning” in the Backstage magazine for Cast Members, it ended up reopening in Paris a month ahead of the other international parks on 12th June 2010. This was still some way behind the February opening of the “Tribute” show in California, and though the relaunch garnered some initial publicity it is clear there has been only muted excitement for Jackson’s return to Disneyland Paris among regular guests. With no replacement yet in sight for the other parks, Discoveryland faces having a high-capacity theatre shuttered for much of the time — all the while, right next door to an out-of-date Star Tours.

Tuesday, 27th September 2011

Halloween: New decorations, new shows, no pumpkinmen for a more “Disney” HalloweenTime

Halloween 2011 Preview — Something strange has come over Disneyland Paris. As we approach the launch of Disney’s Halloween Festival this Saturday, you’ll see not a hastily-crafted static Pumpkinman in sight. Instead, the decorations are new, the pumpkins have ears and Castle Stage… has come back to life. At last this season appears to be heading in the right direction. After years trailing around misguided creations such as the Pumpkinmen, Pink Witches and Stitch, Paris — the Disney resort which pioneered the Halloween season in 1997 (before trashing it all with orange paint in 2003) — has now looked to Disneyland in California for inspiration. This year, we’re seeing brand new decorations lifted directly from the Anaheim park’s popular HalloweenTime. High quality, considerately-designed and most importantly more “Disney” in their execution as well as their style, they should go a long way to giving Disneyland Paris guests the Halloween they expect from the park.

For fans, it’s a double surprise. As well as a park plussed rather than spoilt by the season, the majority of those new decorations have so far arrived at Le Théâtre du Château, which will be coming back to life to host the new Mickey’s Halloween Treat in the Street event. Vines wrap their way around the bronze columns, pumpkins top the towers and a giant Mickey-shaped pumpkin head (similar to that on Town Square in California) is the centrepiece. The mini-show will feature the full line-up of Mickey and friends in special costumes and dialogue in both French and English. After highlighting several times this year what a wasted opportunity the stage is, it’s a delight to see it fully decorated and back in use.

Plans for Main Street, U.S.A. seem a little lower spec, with just colour-coordinated flower beds, Mickey-eared pumpkins and a spot of bunting on the concept we’ve seen, but it’s still a step up from last year’s near complete lack of Halloween decoration on the street. Hopefully now that Disneyland Paris has finally found the right path for its Halloween decorations, Main Street will gradually begin to match the warm and vibrant Harvest “Pumpkin Festival” theme seen in California (below).

Meanwhile, one old decision hangs on, for a little while longer at least: Central Plaza Stage. That behemoth will at least be hosting a big new show, titled Disney’s Maleficious Halloween Party, which amongst other surprises is said to see Snow White’s Evil Queen transform into a Witch, courtesy of the stage lifts, and Dr Facilier from The Princess and the Frog return to the park.

Rumour suggests Disney’s Once Upon a Dream Parade won’t feature its usual Halloween pre-parade this year, although Jack Skellington and Sally from The Nightmare Before Christmas will be making a return for meet ‘n’ greets, despite not being mentioned in any publicity. It remains to be seen if Halloweenland will return to Frontierland in any form. In truth, the land has felt more like a boneyard for discarded decorations rather than a proper overlay for the past few years, anyway. A cleaning out of the junk and a shot in the arm in quality is exactly what the festival needed.

• More: Disney’s Halloween Festival preview guide on DLRP Magic.com

• Next: We preview each of the three Halloween parties in detail!

PHOTO 1 @InsideDLParis (Twitter), PHOTOS 2-3 Dateline Disneyland (MiceChat)

Tuesday, 27th September 2011

Second Toy Story Land nears completion at Hong Kong Disneyland

It’s Toy Story Playland, but not as we know it. The second land based on the Pixar property and cousin of last year’s Toon Studio expansion is nearing completion all the way out East, at Hong Kong Disneyland, ready for an opening date this November. Part of a three-land expansion of the similarly-underbuilt park, it represents admittedly the least exciting prospect alongside the all-new Mystic Point and Grizzly Trail. All three attractions are present and correct, with Toy Soldiers Parachute Drop and RC Racer towering not over a patchwork backlot but the immaculately-themed Adventureland. Ouch. The land’s layout differs in that the two have effectively switched places and an additional building (pictured on the left of the shot above) provides a more substantial retail space. However, there’s no Barrel of Monkeys — which could have bridged the vast thematic gap into the future Mystic Point next door — nor the towering forest which pleasantly surrounds the Paris land.

The choice between Woody or Buzz at the entrance to the land is going to divide everyone, but we’d have to say that the plastic Buzz Lightyear with his light-up laser seems more fitting for this kind of monument than the ragdoll Sheriff, who looks unnaturally “plastic”. Buzz’s pose in particular encourages far more photos with guests copying his stand to attention (come on, we’ve all got that photo), while his position in the middle of the path gives much more interest to the entrance area.

Where Hong Kong really has Paris beat, though, is in the marketing. Right from the start, the Asian park created far more publicity for the expansion than the European resort it was originally designed for, releasing countless press releases and concepts. The earliest Toy Story Playland concepts clearly show it was designed with Walt Disney Studios Park in mind, but the only artwork we saw until just weeks before its opening last August came via Hong Kong. Now, check out the smart Toy Story Land-liveried shuttle bus below and the TV report with a look inside the land which follows…

Read More…

Sunday, 25th September 2011

Princess Pavilion officially opening 8th October, soft openings from next weekend

It’s official: the Disney Princesses’ new home in Fantasyland will open its doors to guests on Saturday 8th October 2011. The date will be marked with a special inauguration by Disneyland Paris Ambassadors Régis Alart and Osvaldo del Mistero, with the Princess Pavilion open to the public from 10.30am. If you’re visiting before then and still want to get a look, you might be in luck: several sources suggest Soft Openings will be held from next weekend, specifically from Friday 30th September. These unscheduled openings in the run up to the official inauguration will be used to fully test all aspects of the new permanent meet ‘n’ greet location. As with all Soft Openings, the attraction could close at any time and may not be open every day. If in doubt, ask a Cast Member nearby or at City Hall.

Construction progress has continued apace at the new meet ‘n’ greet attraction. Two new lamps were installed either side of the building’s new “brooche” signage to complete the entrance marquee, and more surprising details have been spotted all over. From crowns moulded into the cornicing to gold leaf being applied to the static metal flags atop its roof…


Above, DJROM36 from Disney Central Plaza forum even captured a glimpse inside the attraction’s exit area, showing some quite extravagant wooden panel decoration for the new souvenir photo desk. The counter appears to be split into two arches, with even the photo preview screen given a decorative wooden surround. It’s questionable how well this medieval style fits in here, as it leads guests directly out into the international World’s Fair area of “it’s a small world”, but the new pavilion certainly feels right up to the same high quality of the original land so far.

PHOTOS 1-2 @InsideDLParis (Twitter), PHOTOS 3-5 DJROM36 (Disney Central Plaza)

Friday, 23rd September 2011

Flying through light – another video of Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster’s rockin’ new light shows

The new “light show” at Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster starring Aerosmith has gone live with state-of-the-art equipment, but it’s actually light shows — plural — that we get to experience on the Backlot attraction: five of them, one for each “SoundTracker” train. Now, brought to our attention by Alan, another has hit YouTube courtesy of Deanrell and is even more impressive to behold than the multicoloured affair we previously saw for SoundTracker 3’s “Love in an Elevator” and “Walk this Way”. This show, for SoundTracker 1’s soundtrack of “Back in the Saddle” and “Dude Looks Like a Lady”, uses a blue and green theme and adds a particularly cool new effect, pictured above.

Now we know what the Imagineers meant when they told us to look out for “surprises” on the trusses the ride swoops around: When SoundTracker 1 nears the huge circular truss, a circle of 12 manoeuvrable lights form a ring like a camera shutter which “opens” just in time for the train to fly through! All through the ride, from start to finish, the lights are blinding, disorientating… and seriously rocking. It’s the rock comeback we’ve all been waiting for.

Video by Deanrell on YouTube follows… Read More…

Friday, 23rd September 2011

Brighter, more reliable new light show now live at Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster starring Aerosmith

It’s Love on a Roller Coaster all over again. One of the best surprises when Disneyland Paris unveiled its 2011 Refurbishments Programme to us in March this year was the announcement of a brand new light show for Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster starring Aerosmith. Ever since, the Backlot coaster’s many passionate fans have followed the progress of lights disappearing and reappearing, not to mention the tribulations of the legendary smoke effect, more fervently than ever. Now, as you can see from the excellent on-ride video attached below, the first of the brighter lights have officially gone “live”!

Smoke fans will notice the soundstage still has a fog-free outlook at this point, but this is still said to be a “work in progress” for the next few weeks. We were promised two “ultra-efficient” and “eco-friendly” new fog machines, pumping out “a special type of fog” to be installed as part of the improvements. All the work is being carried out after-hours — a progressive replacement of lights and effects throughout the ride, with no closure — and “new technologies in moving lighting design” were also promised, including some surprises with the truss lighting that riders fly past at all angles. Utilising LED technology, the new show is promised to be far more reliable — and energy efficient — than the 2002 version. Walt Disney Imagineering Paris modelled the new light shows in 3D using a CGI model of the ride before installation and programming began. There are five different light shows and five different Aerosmith rock soundtracks, one for each of the SoundTracker trains.

Unlike its Florida cousin which sends riders flying past 2D cut-outs of Hollywood landmarks, the Walt Disney Studios Park version of the thrill ride relies on a genuine synchronised stage lighting system to give life to the black void inside studios 8 and 9. In May this year, Gibson Guitar Corporation of Nashville, Tennessee officially put its name to the attraction in becoming its official sponsor; a more fitting “presented by” than most, giving additional, genuine rock cred to the ride.

On-ride HD video by Gilleke12 on YouTube follows… Read More…

Thursday, 22nd September 2011

Pirates of the Caribbean upgrade cancelled: no Jack Sparrow animatronic for Paris?

Never trust a pirate, eh. For months it has seemed a sure-fire certainty: Jack Sparrow audio animatronics to finally join Pirates of the Caribbean for 20th Anniversary! But now it looks like the big Pirates of the Caribbean refurbishment planned for early next year has been curtailed and the addition of Jack Sparrow animatronics cancelled — at least for 2012. According to several sources on the French Disney Central Plaza forum, including La Rouquine,  the originally planned closure of 3 months early next year to account for the changes has now been cut back to just 2 weeks. Moderator Dash adds that he learnt last week the new additions were cancelled again due to budgetary reasons.

The movie overlay, which was given to the US versions as long ago as 2006, was never publicly announced by Disneyland Paris, only confirmed internally, so we should note that for us the resort is not technically “cancelling” anything. It was first strongly rumoured for the Paris version of the attraction during the 15th Anniversary, before again appearing to be on the cards for the New Generation Festival in 2010, and then again for the current Magical Moments Festival to tie in with the fourth film, “On Stranger Tides”. This year’s 20th Anniversary plans were the closest the make-over — which could include up to three Jack Sparrow audio-animatronics, Barbossa as captain of the marauding ship, a Davy Jones mist-screen projection and other technical upgrades — ever got to reality.

While Pirates purists might raise a bottle of rum to the news that the Disneyland Paris version of the attraction will remain (for at least a little while longer) in its own world, untouched by the movies’ characters, consider what you’re drinking up to, me ‘hearties. Is the cancellation of a three-month spruce-up for this 20-year old masterpiece really a good thing? Couldn’t it stand to benefit from new technology, from improved lighting, effects and music? A robotic Johnny Depp might be a price to pay for that, but it’s probably the only (marketable) way such an upgrade would happen right now.

However, continuing the annual almost-but-not-quite game, DynastyGo reports the refurbishment is not cancelled but simply postponed, to the next financial year. But what do you think — has Disneyland Paris already missed its “opportune moment” to capitalise on the success of Captain Jack?

VIA Disney Central Plaza

Wednesday, 21st September 2011

Fantasia Gelati’s rooftops get a fresh lick of paint, another blackspot ticked off the list

Fantasia Gelati is the latest to be added to the long list of 2011 refurbishments. The Carte D’Or ice cream location in Fantasyland has already had its three cone-shaped roofs cleaned and repainted this month; now scaffolding has risen around its gently leaning tower for a much, much needed refurbishment.

Though some work was done to the façade’s front walls during a closure in February, the rooftops on this corner of Fantasyland’s Italian area have been a pretty disgusting maintenance blackspot for several years, as seen in the photos from 2010 below. Located opposite “it’s a small world” and facing away from the sun for much of the day, sightlines aren’t always naturally drawn to this pastel-coloured gelateria. You never know, the return to a more appetising condition might even sell more ice cream.

VIA @InsideDLParis (Twitter)

Wednesday, 21st September 2011

AVATAR-themed lands for Disney Parks – well, that certainly came out of the blue

Things you didn’t expect to read this week: AVATAR Coming To Disney Parks. Be it from frustration at the continuing success of Universal’s Wizarding World of Harry Potter or disappointment with a string of its own wannabe-epics from Dinosaur to Narnia to Prince of Persia, Disney has resorted to jumping in with James Cameron and Twentieth Century Fox to bring their $2.7bn blockbuster to its parks. Disney’s Animal Kingdom at Walt Disney World in Florida will be home to the first Avatar-themed land, with construction beginning in 2013 for an opening in 2015; conveniently in line with the release of Avatar 2 and Avatar 3 in December 2014 and 2015 respectively.

James and his producing partner Jon Landau and their team at Lightstorm Entertainment will serve as creative consultants on the project and will work side-by-side with our Walt Disney Imagineers as we dream up experiences that will take our guests deep into worlds of AVATAR like never before. There are also two sequels to the record setting first film in the works, which will offer more fascinating stories, characters and locations to explore in the AVATAR universe. Disney’s Animal Kingdom at Walt Disney World Resort is planned as the site of the first AVATAR-themed land with construction expected to begin by 2013.

The land will likely take the spot previously reserved for Beastlie Kingdomme, a long-planned mythological section of the Florida park, and some fans will be anxious at the thought of a mega-bucks movie franchise muscling in on the refreshingly pure landscapes of Joe Rohde‘s Animal Kingdom. Parks and Resorts chairman Tom Staggs announced the attractions, eateries and shops of the land “will be fully formed and highly themed around the worlds of Avatar,” while Cameron stands to receive receive royalties based on merchandise, food and beverage sales.

Why this deserves note here, besides it being the biggest “What the..?” announcement for Disney Parks in years, is precisely because of that terminology: Disney Parks. Their official blog is so gushing in its excitement for “Disney Parks” having secured the franchise that the construction announcement for the Animal Kingdom land comes almost as a footnote. It makes pains to note this will be the “first” Avatar-themed land… so where will the second be? “The company said it plans to add ‘Avatar’-themed lands to other parks but provided no further details,” reports the OC Register. “We don’t have plans or speculation to announce,” Bob Iger said.

We’ll speculate for you then, Bob. However, narrowing down those “other parks” doesn’t leave you with many options, depending on where or how you think Avatar might fit within the existing Disney lands. For Tokyo, DisneySea would be the strongest possibility. For California, perhaps something indoor in Tomorrowland at a push. For Shanghai or Hong Kong, well, anything goes. And for Paris… Walt Disney Studios Park could be crying out a for a big-name franchise within its gates, something other-worldly to sit beyond an extended Hollywood Boulevard, but with money so tight and such a backlog of future projects already stacked up, would Disneyland Paris ever consider spending millions of Euros it doesn’t have on a non-Disney property? Maybe by the time Avatar 6 hits screens…

VIA Disney Parks Blog, The OC Register

Friday, 16th September 2011

La Cabane des Robinson to reopen in December following current “refurbishment”

So maybe we will get to live like the Swiss Family Robinson again this year after all. Disneyland Paris sent out a tweet from its official Twitter accounts yesterday stating that the mysterious treehouse closure is merely a “refurbishment” and that they expect it to reopen in December. The message read:

“To answer many of you, La Cabane des Robinson is actually closed for refurbishment. We expect it to be reopened in december.”

This comes after La Cabane des Robinson has remained shuttered for the entire summer, said to have been closed in the wake of an incident at Big Thunder Mountain. Entrances to the elevated walkthrough high above Adventureland have been blocked by construction walls but no sightings of active refurbishment work have been reported from the site in all these months.

Household scenes throughout the tree were repaired and redressed in 2009 with fresh props and a concerted effort has been maintained since to keep things looking tidy, but the attraction has long required a more dramatic overhaul to bring it back to the full glory of its intended design. Beyond replacing roof thatching and repairing the wooden walkways, there are the hundreds of faux vinyl leaves which have fallen to the ground over the years, leaving gaps and removing colour from what should be a luscious, vibrant “Disneyodendron semperflorens grandis”. And then there’s that fascinating irrigation system: a network of channels, pulleys and buckets which is supposed to lift water out of the bubbling brook on which the tree has grown and up into its branches for the shipwrecked inhabitants. Needless to say, it hasn’t for many years. No wonder some people don’t see the wonder in this tree.

The treehouse has felt deserted by maintenance budgets for years. It’s about time the Swiss Family Robinson were given the money to move back in.

VIA @Disney_ParisEN (Twitter)

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