Monday, 1st August 2011

Giant Sleeping Beauty sand castle sculpted along banks of the Seine for Paris Plages

What’s the best thing to do in Paris during Summer? Why, visit the beach of course! That’s Paris Plages, now an annual Summer tradition as familiar as being stuck in a sweaty Métro carriage with someone blasting accordion music over a cassette player. For one month, stretches of the River Seine in the heart of the city are transformed into artificial beaches for everyone to enjoy, with sporting events, sun loungers and more. This year, even Disneyland Paris has got involved, bringing along a mighty bucket and spade to build a giant sand sculpture of Le Château de la Belle au Bois Dormant! The unique “sand castle” was inaugurated with a special ceremony starring Mickey and Minnie Mouse themselves, dressed in colourful Hawaiian designs, to the music of the old Lilo & Stitch Catch the Wave Party show.

Mickey and Minnie Mouse at Paris Plages

The 16-foot sculpture, which took 300 hours to build using 60 tons of natural sand, will be on display until 21st August. You’ll find it right at the heart of Paris Plages, next to the Pont Notre-Dame just off Voie Georges Pompidou and only a short walk from Châtelet-les-Halles station, which is on the RER A line from Disneyland (Marne-la-Vallée/Chessy) itself.

This is our second giant sand castle of the year, after the one at the huge Sand Sculpture Festival at Blankenberge in Belgium. Both sand-related events have made it onto the Disney Parks Blog, which we gladly notice has recently started to share more news from Paris. In their article about the superior Blankenberge event, they linked to a fantastic online virtual tour set up by the organisers, which lets you explore the entire exhibition of Disney sand sculptures without ever leaving your house. Which, considering the “Summer” weather a lot of us have had so far, is very welcome indeed.

Video follows… Read More…

Sunday, 31st July 2011

Tickets now on sale for Terrorific Night Halloween parties at Walt Disney Studios Park

Keep calm and whatever you do, don’t scream. All you budding zombies and vampires itching to get into one of the two exclusive Halloween party nights at Walt Disney Studios Park this Autumn will go voracious to hear that Terrorific Night tickets are now on sale! Priced at €32 or £28, the two dates this year as previously announced are 29th and 30th October.

You can buy tickets direct from the official booking website — click here for UK bookings in GBP or here for bookings in Euros (link takes you to the store for France). The booking pages also come with a few extra provisos and cautions, suggesting that the parties are not recommended for those under 12 years of age and warning that costumes and masks are strictly prohibited at this event.

If none of this sounds like your thing, tickets for the four very child-friendly Mickey’s Not-So-Scary Halloween Party nights and the main Disney’s Halloween Party are also available to buy now. Don’t forget, annual passholders get great discounts of up to 30% on these Halloween party tickets and reportedly a huge 50% off Terrorific Night, cutting the price to just €16. To claim your discount you’ll need to buy via the telephone hotline or at the gates of either park. Read More…

Thursday, 28th July 2011

Colonel Hathi’s refurbishment wraps, revealing a no-longer-forgotten Pizza Outpost

2011 Refurbishments — There are so many refurbishment projects across Disneyland Park this year that here’s one finishing we never even reported as starting. Scaffolding is now coming down on Colonel Hathi’s Pizza Outpost to revealed a completely repaired and refreshed façade, from top to bottom. The restaurant’s exterior has had lacklustre maintenance for a number of years (see photos below from last year), perhaps being cleaned up here and there but never getting a full-scale fix-up until now.

Aside from a mundane pizza offering taking the place of the original Explorers Club table service, it’s another location where they’ve hit the reset button to take us back to 1992. Amongst the jungles of Adventureland, where an almost entirely green palette takes over, the bright white wood panelling and red rooftop of this colonial estate will once again contrast, and complement, nature. As with all these refurbishment projects, the big challenge now that that reset button has been hit will be continuing to keep them looking “as good as opening day” beyond 2012…

VIA @InsideDLParis (Twitter)

Thursday, 28th July 2011

Toy Story Playland shows you the exit… with a little more playful style

While we try to be patient in the wait for the Ratatouille dark ride, the slow arrival of this big E-Ticket to complete the Toon Studio expansion has implications on the Toy Story Playland already built. Not just the lack of any toilets or dining provision, both said to be provided by the new Parisian quarter, but the way guests move around the land. The intention was obviously to create a circular extension that would see guests walk in a loop via both Toy Story Playland and the Ratatouille area. But with only the three Playland attractions built so far, there’s nothing yet to “pull” guests through the other side of the Barrel of Monkeys tunnel, meaning guests often do a complete U-turn after RC Racer and walk back through the land, causing overcrowding back at the entrance. It turns out, those problematic dead-ends you created in Roller Coaster Tycoon 2 happen in real theme parks, too.

The interim solution to this, a few weeks after the August 2010 opening, was to fix cheap white signs to the K’Nex railings in the far corner of the land, pointing to the Barrel of Monkeys as an “exit” and hoping to create a one-way loop through the land. Now almost a year later, a properly-styled sign, complete with displaced dirt at its base as if pushed into the ground, has finally popped up in their place!

VIA @InsideDLParis (Twitter)

Tuesday, 26th July 2011

Mickey Mouse to conjure up permanent meet ‘n’ greet at Fantasy Festival Stage

And then, as if by magic, there we three. So far we know that the 20th Anniversary next year will bring Jack Sparrow to Pirates of the Caribbean and a new, world-exclusive nighttime show likely featuring fountains and fireworks at Sleeping Beauty Castle. But how about a brand new addition for the mouse that started it all? Yes, from next year Mickey Mouse himself is set to get his own permanent meet ‘n’ greet location within Fantasy Festival Stage!

The theatre has sat at the back of Fantasyland, connected to the Railroad Station, with only very limited use for more than a decade now. Whilst it began life in 1992 as a key venue hosting the classic C’est Magique musical revue, since 2006 only occasional seasonal performances of the show Winnie the Pooh and Friends, Too have occupied the small stage. Taking over this under-utilised space, which is never going to be good for grand stage shows, whilst giving the mouse his own dedicated spot actually sounds like a logical and wise proposition. Why the magic puns? Because if you’re a follower of Disney Parks worldwide, you’ll know all about the new “Backstage Magic with Mickey Mouse” meet ‘n’ greet that recently opened on Main Street at Florida’s Magic Kingdom (photos via Disney Parks Blog).

Backstage Magic with Mickey Mouse
Backstage Magic with Mickey Mouse

This new attraction, which even comes with its own Fastpass service, leads visitors through a fabulously-themed queue space littered with props and in-jokes — even a crate marked “Marne-la-Vallée – Paris” — with the storyline that you’re meeting Mickey Mouse, now a magician, backstage…

While the idea is somewhat tenuously planted into Main Street (and was unpopular with some, at least before its debut revealed the great detail), you couldn’t have a more perfect set-up for the location in Paris. Not just a real theatre, not just in the very fitting British quarter of the land, but in Fantasyland, where the characters truly belong. There’s little clue yet whether the European version will have such an extravagant set-up, or its own Fastpass tickets, but the two projects are certainly related and we should look forward to this new, more “magical” backstage encounter with the Mouse from next year.

In fact, it may well be our fourth new addition for the 20th and our second new permanent meet ‘n’ greet, as we mustn’t forget the Princess Pavilion that slowly continues its delayed construction across the land, in the former post-show area of “it’s a small world”. More news on that one soon…

Monday, 25th July 2011

May the Force be with you: Star Wars characters make official return to Discoveryland

Try not to feel too much like the child who gets an action figure of Jar Jar Binks instead of Han Solo for Christmas here — Star Wars has made an official return to Discoveryland! Yes, Disneyland Park just welcomed the official return of Star Wars characters Darth Vader and Chewbacca, who are now even listed on the daily park Programme times guide (PDF) appearing near Star Tours. Last year, the pair were spotted on the odd occasion near the 1987 classic but their presence was never given a definite time or location. For fans of the saga, the pair’s return will be especially appreciated, coming just in time for the Blu-Ray re-release of the films, and it really helps to give the parks’ character offering that much more variety and widespread appeal than the usual animated stars.

We’d have preferred the updated, multi-destination, 3-D Star Tours – The Adventures Continue, that just opened in May and June at Disney’s Hollywood Studios and Disneyland respectively (just FYI, Euro Disney SCA), but maybe this at least gives us “A New Hope” that Disneyland Paris still knows the George Lucas universe is a hot property to have within its gates.

See Chewie and Darth most days (currently at 11:30, 12:30, 13:30 and 15:45) this Summer!

PHOTOS VIA Photos Magiques

Sunday, 24th July 2011

Disney to take control of Groupe Flo-operated Disney Village restaurants?

You might never have realised it, but that Chip ‘n’ Dale’s Fish ‘n’ Chips you ate at Café Mickey wasn’t necessarily a “Disney” meal at all. Along with most of the other Disney Village restaurants, Café Mickey is actually managed and operated under contract by Groupe Flo, a large French catering company. Or at least, for now it is — member Mr Freddy on Disney Central Plaza Forum has shared the interesting news that Café Mickey, along with Annette’s Diner and presumably The Steakhouse, all part of Groupe Flo’s “Euro-Gastronomie” subsidiary, will come under full Disney control when the current contract ends on 1st October 2011. Citing the fact that Disney now has more experience in restaurant management in Paris and can probably make some considerable savings (it is said to pay Groupe Flo €10m a year for the contract), another member suggests the handover could even mean each of the restaurants closing for between a week and a full month at the end of the this year, ready to become fully Disney-operated establishments from January. The change won’t affect Rainforest Cafe or King Ludwig’s Castle, which are managed under separate contracts to Groupe Flo and will likely always be separate to Disney.

With Disney able to completely control the management and operation of the venues, rather than just make changes at arms-length, it will be interesting to see what differences, if any, we might spot when the changeover takes place. Looking at the bigger picture, this move may even tie in with promised developments for the Village over the next ten years, as Disneyland Paris slowly continues to improve the offering and give it more of a “Disney” stamp with projects like World of Disney.

And if DLRP Today had been handed the contract instead? Well, besides some poorly-cooked Fantasia Mushrooms, for starters you’d at least see that tacky blue tent add-on to Café Mickey ripped off and a proper extension built onto the building instead.

VIA pussinboots (magicforum), Mr Freddy (Disney Central Plaza)

Sunday, 24th July 2011

Castle’s newly golden spires make glistening return as scaffolding disappears

2011 Refurbishments — How do you say “stunning” in French? The restoration of Sleeping Beauty Castle still has a month or so to go yet, but this is already a glorious summer for the Disneyland Park landmark. Having been lifted off to be restored and re-covered in gold leaf backstage, the morning of Tuesday, 12th July saw the first, lower, golden tower spotted back in place with the second following just 24 hours later. For the first time since the refurbishment of 1998 took away their full shimmer in favour of a dull blue gradient, these two unique, slender towers are making Le Château de la Belle au Bois Dormant shine in the Summer sun.

There’s been huge progress since our last full update on the project, with all scaffolding around the castle now completely removed just in time for the busy Summer season. That means completion of the moat, castle walls, the walkways to the right of the drawbridge and the two wings which wrap around the Castle Courtyard, connecting onto the two boutiques either side. Even the wishing well and its bridge have reopened, after months of closure. Almost all the rooftops have their new blue palette, meaning the most visible change yet to happen is the rooftop above the main window, still retaining its tired yellow gradient. As shown in the concepts for the restoration, this will eventually match the roof of the tallest tower, returning to its original blue colour, with gold reserved only for the edging.

Another big piece of the project was completed just a week ago, when scaffolding came down from the rear balcony and roof of the Gallerie walkthrough on the mezzanine level within the castle. You can compare the minor changes here with an older photo, but the main difference is simply a much cleaner, fresher appearance with crisp paint colours and a renewed copper-coloured rooftop. Fans of the beautiful stained glass windows and tapestries within will be pleased to know the balcony walkthrough itself has at last re-opened as a result.

At night, as in day, it really pops. It glistens like we’re back in 1992 all over again, so striking it makes your heart leap. It’s easy to forget how long we waited and wished for this to happen — for the grubby paintwork, patchy towers and faded walls to be brought back to their medieval splendor. The Summer of 2011: when this Sleeping Beauty, the most beautiful Disney castle in the world, woke up.

Stupéfiant!

PHOTOS VIA Photos Magiques

Saturday, 23rd July 2011

Adventureland Bazaar regains its Middle Eastern warmth with much-needed repaint

2011 Refurbishments — For a land that’s meant to transport you to the dusty Middle East of One Thousand and One Nights, the entrance of Adventureland Bazaar had been looking far too wet and weathered for several years, losing its warm sandy glow and becoming discoloured as the Marne-la-Vallée weather rained down upon it. That was until eagle-eyed news-gatherers such as @InsideDLParis spotted the walls had been cleaned overnight last month — and then early in July noticed that it wasn’t just a clean-up but a full re-paint — the final results you can see via Photos Magiques, above!

Looking back, the Adventureland entrance was marked in red on the map of refurbishments due to happen this season, although it originally got overlooked amongst bigger headline projects. Nevertheless, a quick look back at a “before” photo (below, from 2009) shows you just what a transformation not one thousand and one, but a mere ten nights, can achieve…

PHOTO VIA Photos Magiques

Saturday, 23rd July 2011

The Tarzan Encounter is bringing Two Worlds together again at The Chaparral Theater

This time, it wasn’t cancelled! Long-running favourite The Tarzan Encounter leapt back into The Chaparral Theater exactly as promised from 11th June. Despite the two-year hiatus, during which an entirely different Summer show was presented at the venue (the poorly-received Goofy’s Summer Camp), the show has returned looking entirely familiar. Thankfully, this includes the blackout curtains around the sides of the open-air theatre, allowing for much more impressive lighting of the more dramatic scenes, as seen in the photo from Bert Snyers’ excellent Flickr set, above.

It isn’t known if the show will return for another unexpected encore season in 2012, so make sure to enjoy the acrobatics, dance and multilingual Phil Collins music all over again while you can. Let’s show Disneyland Paris how much we prefer a good show in a proper theatre! Currently showing at 12:00, 13:00, 14:00, 16:15 and 17:15, Tarzan and friends will be Trashin’ the Camp until 4th September.

MORE PHOTOS Snyers Bert (Flickr)

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