Thursday, 15th September 2011

Princess Pavilion crowned with official name as entrance and exit near completion

Another big week for Fantasyland’s new Princess Pavilion has come to an end with the detail we’ve been waiting for: a name. The marketeers may have spoken of the nauseating “Disney Princesses: A Royal Invitation” as part of the Magical Moments Festival but luckily the Imagineers (and good sense) prevailed, with the final name being exactly the short and sharp bit of classic Disney park alliteration we’ve known the project by all along: Princess Pavilion! The main piece of the new attraction marquee was installed late this afternoon — just like the concept art, a gently bevelled oval with customary swirly font, surrounded by metallic gold detailing and topped with a whimsical crown motif. Two extra pieces of the ornate frame are still to be added either side of the oval nameplate.

Though some very pretty new lights have been installed between the doors, the sign appears to be backlit from within. This is similar to the signage at Fantasy Festival Stage and the land’s Disneyland Railroad Station, especially with the identical shapes, but seemingly at odds with the rest of Fantasyland, where most signage is lit by external spotlights for a greater degree of “olde-worlde” charm. Might this new marquee, intended to look like an enlarged brooch, be just a little too “blingy”?

Workers have made more progress with the addition of five golden flags atop the newly-finished blue rooftops. Perhaps this flourish will help the rather castle-like new pavilion to blend more with the “it’s a small world” area it impinges on, which features similar golden details on all its lampposts and right along its façade of famous landmarks. As noted by reader DGR in a previous comment, the roof tiles are somewhat irregularly-placed to perhaps fit with this being near the “rural” area of the land.

Finally, it’s not just the entrance seeing work: with no mountains to divide them, a new railing has been installed (or rather abruptly bolted into the ground) to separate the meet ‘n’ greet’s way out from that of “it’s a small world”; these two attractions now firmly close neighbours.

Princess Pavilion construction

• More: See the concept art and get a full walk-through of this new attraction here!

PHOTOS VIA @InsideDLParis (Twitter)

Wednesday, 14th September 2011

All the Single Riders… put a wait time on it at RC Racer and Parachute Drop

With every new Disney attraction, the Imagineers’ work is never quite complete when the ribbon is cut. Once guests start pushing through the turnstiles, filling out the queue lines and fastening their seatbelts, a whole myriad of niggles or opportunities to “plus” the experience often come to light; the designers and engineers having to go back to the drawing board to tweak their creation. At Toy Story Playland, there was something we could have all seen coming: long queue lines. While the basic rides themselves only have a finite capacity, park operations soon jumped on the best idea to maximise that number with the installation of temporary Single Rider lines at RC Racer and Toy Soldiers Parachute Drop.

This year, as part of the 2011 improvements programme, those successful trial lines became “official” lines, with queue barriers and signage redesigned to properly accommodate them, and here’s the final piece of the playset: space for Single Rider wait times to actually be displayed at the entrance. At the moment, a single rider can see a regular wait time of 80 minutes at RC Racer but have no clue how long that means they’ll be waiting for a spare seat.

Whilst the entrance marquees for both attractions have been modified today to include a second dot-matrix display, they’re not yet operational. Calculating attraction queue times is usually as easy as pairing the number of turnstile “clicks” against the hourly throughput (update: see comments) of the ride, but with guests coming in groups of different numbers and empty seats never a given, it’ll be interesting to see exactly how Disney work out the wait time for a single rider to put a seatbelt on it.

PHOTOS VIA @InsideDLParis (Twitter)

Wednesday, 14th September 2011

Sleeping Beauty Castle restoration comes to a fairytale ending with final golds and blues

Sleeping Beauty Castle restoration

2011 Refurbishments — It’s been a long journey, but look at her now. From the first fresh paint on the walls way back in February to scaffolding going up and coming down, roofs going blue and towers going gold. The complete exterior restoration of Le Château de la Belle au Bois Dormant wrapped right on schedule for the first weeks of September, at last giving us a completed look at her new colour tones which DisneyGazette.fr have captured with some fabulous photos in their latest update.

The final chapter of this fairytale was that striking new azure roof above the main picture window, both a striking contrast from the previous faded yellow gradient and the more understated (you might say authentic) colouring of opening day in 1992, which this new colour scheme otherwise more closely replicates. Whilst in 1992 the Imagineers were keen to give the illusion the castle had been sitting there for hundreds of years just like every other château in France, the look that will see in the 20th Anniversary is one more of bright, youthful vigour.

Now if the vines on that balcony could just get their flowers back, to close this book for good…

VIA DisneyGazette.fr

Monday, 12th September 2011

A right royal beauty: Concept art for Fantasyland’s new Princess Pavilion released!

Princess Pavilion planning concept

Concept art released? Forgive the error — more like rooted out, scavenged. We tweeted the official @DisneylandParis just after exterior construction began on the Princess Pavilion to say how good it would be to see the concept art for this new meet ‘n’ greet attraction released, to actually promote a nice addition to the park. After all, it’s hardly a strong time for tangible new attractions at the resort. So where does this new concept art come from? The Chessy town planning office, via the royalty of the online fan community Disney Central Plaza, of course! So much for slick corporate marketing.

But here it is: a real look at exactly what to expect from the Princesses’ new rural abode. Being a planning document, the first concept above is intended more to show how the development fits into the existing Fantasyland landscape. The whimsically-curved roof, pink walls and tower are all exactly as we’re seeing them go up in reality, while the two existing archways of the former “it’s a small world” exit pathways are shown with heavy wooden doors like those elsewhere in the land. A warm yellow glow beckons us inside and the golden signage atop the roof reads, simply and sharply, “Princess Pavilion”.

Princess Pavilion layout concept

Above, the new interior layout of the space, as we tried to explain in a previous update. Now with a proper visual aid, you can see how the former ramp around the perimeter of the building (in green) now acts as a curved queue line, up towards the two Princess meeting places (in red) in the raised and enclosed centre of the building. The exit then leads via the red arrows, with a photo sales point on your right. Notice that the archway on the right, which used to be a quick exit route from “it’s a small world” bypassing the post-show area, will become dead space.

It’s the detail, though, that begins to set this apart from what you might expect of a simple meet ‘n’ greet. Those eight spaces dotted around the queue line’s perimeter? Those will be ornate stone arches, each dedicated to a different princess with a stained glass-effect view of the heroine’s castle and a memento of her plight — a glass slipper for Cinderella, a red rose for Belle.

Not any old slipper or rose — these pieces, displayed under glass cloches, will be fashioned in crystal and illuminated by fibre optics. Snow White, Aurora, Belle, Cinderella, Ariel, Tiana and Jasmine will all have their own arch, with Mulan and Rapunzel said to be vying for the eighth (we’re backing Rapunzel).

When we walked through this passageway back in March, all we saw were breeze blocks. The final finish will give the impression of intricately carved stone columns and bricks, dressed with luxurious embroidered curtains and textiles. With a capacity of 308 people, the inside queue will even have its own specially-created background music loop.

Princess Pavilion concept art Princess Pavilion concept art

Reaching the two meeting places, guests will have a choice of which princess to visit. Two grand balcony windows will be dressed with more embroidered curtains and decorative stonework, each featuring a backdrop based on the princess in residence. Above, we see concepts for Aurora, with a rolling green landscape looking back towards the castle (a neat touch, since we’re meant to be in the countryside here, away from the Château), and Tiana, surrounded by a nighttime bayou scene. During times of low attendance, only one princess might be in attendance and during these periods, guests will skip out the portion of the queue marked in yellow on the layout plan and go straight through to the photo locations.

You’ll be free to use your own camera for photos of course, but the official photographers in residence here will also have cameras equipped with Wi-Fi, sending your snaps immediately over to the photo desk, which you’ll likely be given paper tickets in order to check out and buy.

The official inaurugation is now rumoured to be Saturday 8th October 2011. Tiaras at the ready!

VIA Disney Central Plaza

Monday, 12th September 2011

Central Plaza tree clearance leads a trail to Castle moat… and 20th Anniversary dreams?

Central Plaza tree felling

When Disneyland Paris opened on 12th April 1992, the greenery of this luscious Disney park had been given less than five years to bed in on this previously rather barren expanse of Marne-la-Vallée. Now, after almost 20 years, it looks like it actually requires a little pruning. At least, that could be the first thought when fences went up around a block of greenery just off Central Plaza on 29th August. All the trees in this patch next to the terrace of Casey’s Corner had been marked for removal and, sure enough, just two days later a whole new vista was opened up…

Central Plaza tree felling

Trees are frequently replanted in Disney parks when they outgrow their surroundings, to maintain the correct scale with the forced-perspective buildings around them. But is that the entire story here? Along with the foliage updates, @InsideDLParis on Twitter has been charting a number of other interesting works going on around the hub of Disneyland Park. In particular, bright yellow ramps covering up works to the floor, seen below.

Central Plaza electrical wire installation Central Plaza electrical wire installation

What’s interesting here is that, from left to right, the work leads a trail all the way from this freshly-pruned patch across the entrances of Frontierland and Adventureland, seemingly leading all the way to the Castle moat. And today, more holes have appeared (photo) on the other side of the plaza, on the pavement nearest to Plaza Gardens Restaurant, seemingly leading into the planter behind the Central Plaza Stage’s show control booth.

We’ve marked all the works on the map below, showing the felled area in red and the trail of temporary ground works in yellow. What do you think — are plans already going into action for next year’s rumoured new nighttime spectacular?

Rough overview of 2011 Central Plaza work

It seems like a good moment to get up-to-date on those plans, anyway. Launching as the main event of the 20th Anniversary next April, we’re expecting a big and bold new evening show to take over this entire area. A real signature event for the park, combining water with projections, lighting effects and pyrotechnics. Possibly even live “show” elements on or around the central stage.

With noisy old-fashioned fireworks causing problems with local villages and no money for a vast Fantasmic-style arena, Disneyland Paris has always been a bit of a party pooper with its nighttime entertainment. Now, after 20 years, it looks like Disneyland Paris management at last want to give a day in their park a real grand finale. That is, after all, one of the key draws of every other Disney park.

This wouldn’t be a nighttime event that simply runs along the parade route or launches a few fizzles into the sky above Sleeping Beauty Castle. It would, for all intents and purposes, be our World of Color: Those “fountains” we saw testing are likely to actually be the same kind of huge water screens used in that Disney California Adventure show-stopper, throwing plumes of water up from the moat with projections of Disney characters. This will be something that attempts to envelop this whole area of the park in a colourful, dazzling, immersive experience. Something you can only truly see for yourself, in reality, not filmed on YouTube.

Finally, a big finale is all well and good, but not if it has to happen during daylight (remember the not-so- “illuminating” Candleabration of the 15th Anniversary?) So here’s a real show-stopping rumour: longer park opening hours, throughout the year.

Disneyland Paris has been a beauty of a Disney park for 20 years. In 2012, it will start acting like one.

PHOTOS VIA @InsideDLParis (Twitter)

Wednesday, 7th September 2011

Mysterious La Cabane des Robinson closure now confirmed until December – if not beyond

You won’t be climbing up into the branches of the classic Swiss Family Treehouse in Adventureland again in 2011, we can now say with some certainty. The latest round of Closure and Refurbishment dates to November 2011 confirms that La Cabane des Robinson will be closed for the entire period, right up to 30th November. Internal sources suggest even this new “until” date is conservative, with the closure now certain to continue into 2012.

What’s going on at the Treehouse, the visual icon of Paris’ Adventureland? You tell us. No really, please do. The multi-levelled walkthrough up and around the branches of the giant steel tree just happened to close right after the incident at Big Thunder Mountain on 25th April, when a piece of scenery fell and caused the brief hospitalisation of one guest. As well as immediately shuttering Big Thunder for repairs, adding one week to an already-planned closure, Disneyland Paris reportedly switched off all mechanical effects which come close to ride tracks or are situated above or close to guests.

Let no-one make any ridiculous conclusions that the tree is about to collapse. In fact there’s nothing definite to say these events are actually linked, and this could likely be more a part of the Guest Safety department’s recent generalised jitters around the parks than anything else. The same over-cautious (or depending on your view, perfectly cautious) bearing that saw the benches of Le Theatre du Château spaced out far enough to (supposedly) prevent children jumping between them or the long-standing Rocher Qui Bascule (the “rock which rocks”, a wobbling boulder just below the treehouse) made permanently static with a lump of concrete, to give just a couple of examples.

The Swiss Family Treehouse is a Disneyland classic, operating at Magic Kingdom, Florida and Tokyo Disneyland, whilst a refreshed version titled Tarzan’s Treehouse operates at Disneyland, California and Hong Kong Disneyland. The Disneyland Paris version is markedly different than all four, occupying a much higher, more prominent position at the heart of the land. Many of the elements around the tree, such as the shipwreck with a floating bridge passing through it, are directly tied in to the Swiss Family Robinson story, which was made into a 1960 film by Walt Disney.

PHOTOS VIA Photos Magiques

Tuesday, 6th September 2011

Armageddon averted! Repaving work finally begins at Walt Disney Studios Park entrance

Walt Disney Studios Park entrance repaving

2011 Refurbishments — We use the word “finally” a lot around these parts, probably too much. But in this case, it’s entirely justified. The right-hand side of the Walt Disney Studios Park entrance plaza, which for years now has looked like an extended piece of Armageddon themeing, has just been surrounded by fences ready for repaving to finally begin. About time! Disney Central Plaza posted the above photo on their Facebook page, showing the initial area to be closed off. Hopefully those fences will continue to move about the entrance area to replace all those cracks in the foreground — and out of shot — with the same high-quality paving stones used in the initial phase of the entrance repaving.

Walt Disney Studios Park entrance repaving

This will conclude a repaving project at the entrance to the park that was begun way back in 2007 but never finished, when the original (and it seems, poorly laid) concrete searchlights and stars emitting from the entrance gates were relaid using proper stone paving. This only ever replaced the left-hand side of the entrance, though, leaving the pathway between the two parks (arguably one of the most important in the resort) to crumble away. The ground around the ticket desks meanwhile became a sea of craters — each fragment of eroded concrete another reminder of frivolous early 2000s cost-cutting.

We were promised a repaving project by Paris Imagineering head Peggie Fariss back in March (also the date of the photo above), but it appears we had to wait for the conclusion of several repaving projects in Fantasyland and not least the end of the busy Summer season for it to finally begin.

Well, they say first impressions mean everything…

VIA Disney Central Plaza (Facebook)

Monday, 5th September 2011

Tiles complete on Fantasyland’s newest tower as Princess Pavilion marches ahead

Remarkably untouched since its opening in 1992, Fantasyland at Disneyland Paris is suddenly welcoming a brand new addition to its fairytale landscape with day after day of marching progress. By Saturday, all the tiles on the delayed Princess Pavilion photo location’s new tower were already in place, just days after the tower itself rose from the ground. Not counting the miniature turrets of Storybook Land, opened 1994, this marks the first new tower in Fantasyland’s kingdom since opening!

Meanwhile, the latest photo by @InsideDLParis just three hours ago shows the wooden struts now in place on the main roof of the façade, ready for tiling to continue. Despite being located in the “rural” countryside section of the land, with the Mad Hatter’s Tea Cups and Old Mill, the new façade uses a more stately chateau style. Perhaps this is a new garden pavilion of Sleeping Beauty Castle?

Princess Pavilion photolocation construction

With an opening now apparently due in as little as a month, we also have to wonder where this addition will fit into the resort’s marketing. Since the April launch of the Disney Magical Moments Festival, the originally advertised Disney Princesses: A Royal Invitation has lead guests to a cheap temporary tent situated just opposite this construction site. Will the finally-realised Princess Pavilion just open as a late “Magical Moments” addition, or could it be held over by marketing until 2012, to serve as a second new permanent Fantasyland meet ‘n’ greet location for the 20th Anniversary?

VIA @InsideDLParis (Twitter)

Friday, 2nd September 2011

Princess Pavilion construction steps up with new tower at former Small World post-show

Princess Pavilion construction

Forgot this new Disney Princess meet ‘n’ greet was even happening, did you? You’re forgiven. It’s been exactly a year now since the old “it’s a small world” post-show with its cute animations of children using technology to interact across the globe closed forever, and signs of the ongoing construction (or rather destruction) within haven’t been easy to spot. However, a sudden Summer rush has seen the old exit of the classic boat ride begin to take shape as the new entrance of this permanent Princesses encounter. The walls and two existing arches have been given a more stately pavilion look and even a brand new tower has sprung up to one side! Progress just this week has been considerable — compare the photo from today, above, to one from yesterday, below, both by @InsideDLParis.

We got an in-depth look at this new addition to Fantasyland — and even an exclusive walk inside its under-construction walls, with strictly no photos allowed — during the mythical refurbishments presentation back in March. Stepping through the green construction walls, our motley crew of Disneyland Paris fansite authors walked past the few last remnants of the old “small world” post-show, including the old exit sign partly ripped off the wall. Once inside, the old circular layout was still evident but, rather than being lower than the rest of the room, the centre is now raised up and walled-in as the main meet ‘n’ greet area.

From the old exit, pictured above, the queue for Princess encounters will climb up the gentle spiral ramp within, leading guests to one of two photo spots. On our visit, the bare breeze block walls were dotted with plans showing the new layout and several art boards showing (still unreleased) concept art for both the exterior and the beautiful interior, including “mood boards” and real examples of materials Walt Disney Imagineering have designed and chosen for the project. Stained glass windows, detailed carvings and rich fabrics inside promise to ensure this new addition to the kingdom looks like it truly belongs alongside all the land’s original tales-as-old-as-time. The extravagant signage due to be installed on those two prongs jutting out of the new pavilion roof will hopefully arrive with the clear and simple “Princess Pavilion” nomenclature that we saw in that concept art, rather than the obnoxiously over-branded “Disney Princesses: A Royal Invitation” name given to the temporary Magical Moments Festival tent, which has been filling the place of this (possibly delayed, possibly not) permanent photo location.

For all those still lamenting the loss of the colourful (and unique-to-Paris) Small World post-show, there’s one final detail that seals the deal, at least from an economic standpoint: the Princess Pavilion will have its very own photo purchase desk. So, rather than being given a ticket to check their photo at a boutique halfway across the park, Princess fans will see themselves posing with their favourite fairytale belle right at the exit, Big Thunder Mountain style, and be able to hand over their Euros right away. All progressing well, that could apparently be as soon as next month!

VIA @InsideDLParis (Twitter)

Wednesday, 31st August 2011

Euro Disney SCA posts 7% rise in revenues, 5% attendance jump in strong third quarter 2011

Euro Disney SCA Third Quarter 2011 Announcement

For once it was good news all-round as Disneyland Paris operating group Euro Disney SCA published its Third Quarter 2011 revenues announcement earlier this month. A 5% increase in park attendance, 4% increase in guest spending and 1.3 percentage point increase in hotel occupancy boosted the Resort revenues by almost 7% compared to the same period last year. Though the group chose to lead with this positive improvement in its core business, it’s important to note that overall revenues for the quarter actually decreased by €28.7m (7.7%) because figures for the period in 2010 included the exceptional €47m sale of the land on which the Val d’Europe shopping mall is located.

Nevertheless, the full report paints a positive picture for the parks and hotels as we head towards the financial year-end. Visitor fluctuations continue, with fewer visitors from France now reported against more from the United Kingdom and Italy. This might appear to show that steady and widespread promotional campaigns for the resort in the British Isles have paid dividends with extra bookings following several years of decline for the cross-Channel market. The resort notably partnered with Walt Disney World for its first joint television advertising earlier this year and has had a strong showing with it’s Magical Moments Festival promotions despite the lack of any true new attractions this year. Somewhat desperately, both the obligatory comment from CEO Philippe Gas and “update on recent events” quote the return of The Tarzan Encounter as a  key recent draw — a show which returned for just three months and originally premiered over ten years ago.

Still, if they’re posting attendance boosts in a year as anodyne as this, when half of Disneyland Park has been under scaffolding for refurbishment (which would have been a much more welcome thing to promote to investors) it’s looking good for the 20th…

VIA Euro Disney SCA (PDF)

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