Friday, 16th March 2012

Happy 10th Birthday, Walt Disney Studios Park! Ceremony sprinkles welcome glitz

Happy birthday, Walt Disney Studios Park! The second park at Disneyland Paris has celebrated its 10th anniversary today in a characteristically somewhat muted day of special events. That wasn’t going to stop the Disneyland Paris Ambassadors giving it their all, though. Following their stint as Frontiersmen for the rededication of the Molly Brown and gentlemen of the royal court for the inauguration of the Princess Pavilion, Osvaldo del Mistero and Régis Alart raided the costuming workshop once again with an eye on Hollywood glitz.

The result looks superb for such an intimate event: dancers, singers, boom mics and rolling cameras — not to mention Osvaldo, Régis and Mickey Mouse all looking like they’ve just stepped out of the Oscar-winning best picture The Artist. A special clapperboard has been decorated with “Walt Disney Studios 10 ans” — the “10” made out out of a celluloid film reel. It’s a welcome throwback to the kind of Hollywood-that-never-was glamour which the still sorely-missed CinéFolies streetsmosphere shows in this same Disney Studio 1 used to provide.

Inside, the park’s Cast Members are wearing special badges to mark the occasion. From a paltry 10 attractions at opening on 16th March 2002, the park has grown to count 17 attractions within its studio lots, six of which are entirely unique to the park. After a lacklustre opening which forced the resort into a second financial restructuring, the first seeds of change were only sown in 2007 with the Toon Studio Placemaking project and two new attractions, Crush’s Coaster and Cars Quatre Roues Rallye.

Though additions such as Stitch Live! and Playhouse Disney Live on Stage! have sought to revitalise initially unpopular areas, the park has failed to see the implementation of any kind of wider improvement programme. Piecemeal, self-contained developments such as the colourful Toy Story Playland have continued to create pockets of Disney quality while other areas remain unappealing and lacking. The cold, windswept asphalt of Backlot has seen barely a single change since 2002, besides the half-hearted redecoration of Disney Blockbuster Café.

Nevertheless with its very first dark ride finally on the way in 2014, in the form of the world-exclusive and by all accounts state-of-the-art Ratatouille Kitchen Calamity! (rumoured working title), the whispers of further change continue to echo around these fictional soundstages. By the end of this decade, as it’s twentieth birthday nears, the second park might just be nearing a more complete park…

In the meantime, the park’s Cast Members gathered for a souvenir photo.

Dix ans — c’est dans la boîte!

VIA Ambassadeur Disneyland Paris, Disney Central Plaza (Facebook), @InsideDLParis (Twitter)

Thursday, 15th March 2012

Park Opening Hours to Mid-May 2012

Heading to Disneyland Paris just after the resort turns 20? These are the hours you’ve been waiting for. Park opening times are now available on our Calendar for the final half of April and the first half of May 2012, with both seeing the promoted 20th Anniversary Extended Hours still in full force. Read More…

Wednesday, 14th March 2012

Captain EO to Close 2nd April: Rediscover Our Guide One Last Time

Captain EO

Sad news for fans of a classic Discoveryland 3-D film: just days shy of the 20th Anniversary on 2nd April 2012, Captain EO will close for good, ending its revived run in Disneyland Park which began on 12th June 2010. Read More…

Tuesday, 13th March 2012

TWO new attractions for Walt Disney Studios Park in 2014 with €150m investment?

UPDATE: Disneyland Paris has confirmed Le Figaro’s transcription was inaccurate — only one new attraction is scheduled to open in 2014.

We know Disneyland Paris has the money, we know they’ve finally started construction on the Ratatouille dark ride, and Brad Bird knows all about it, too. But now, in an interview with French newspaper Le Figaro, Philippe Gas has let slip a surprising statement that Walt Disney Studios Park will see not one, but two new attractions opening within its gates in 2014. In the brief article headlined “Disneyland Paris ‘has learned from its mistakes'”, the resort president and CEO of Euro Disney SCA discusses the company’s tumultuous financial situation as it approaches its 20th Anniversary.

Asked as a final question “What will you do to avoid the park reaching saturation?”, he comments:

Knowing that a customer is satisfied when they can see at least six attractions in a day, we estimate our maximum capacity to be 17 million visitors annually. So we still have room for improvement, but we must grow. In January, our banks have given us 150 million euros in new funding to build two new attractions, which should open in 2014 in our second park, Walt Disney Studios. In 2010, we also obtained the agreement of the State to build a third park. We are looking at it very seriously, even if the decision won’t be made until 2020. We will also build new hotels, restaurants and shops.

Now, presuming Mr Gas doesn’t count the adjoining restaurant or those desperately needed new toilets which should be installed next to Ratatouille, this gives us an odd surplus in the new attraction count for 2014. So what are the possibilities? Again, this could depend on how you define a new attraction, but let’s throw Studio Tram Tour: Behind the Magic right out there straight away.

An expanded Tram Tour, perhaps a new show scene, perhaps even a relocated station — allowing the park to begin that announced “multi-year expansion”, expanding the current Hollywood Boulevard — could all be strong possibilities come 2014. Relaunching it as a “new attraction”, given changes like these to make it a worthwhile experience, would be far more appreciated than previous half-hearted relaunches such as Indiana Jones and the Temple of Peril: Backwards! and Space Mountain: Mission 2. The route itself has already been pushed even further back into the forest by current construction works, yet still desperately needs things to actually see along it. Those huge, people-eating trams are surely not reaching their full capacity with the disappointing tour which exists today.

We had assumed that €150 million would only just cover Ratatouille itself, so a second attraction would likely be a smaller, less expensive project. We’re not expecting a Soarin’ here just yet. So presuming CinéMagique is safe and Aerosmith still have a few years left in them yet, the only likely replacements for existing attractions are Armageddon: Les Effets Speciaux and Animagique.

Armageddon suffers with its poor throughput and even poorer pre-show; having been the focus of a previous replacement proposal, to build a Chronicles of Narnia-based attraction in its place, could its time finally be up? Recent rumours have suggested that the licence to the 1998 Jerry Bruckheimer film itself could soon run out, further fuelling the desire for a replacement. With the more neutral Backlot location, this could be the perfect opportunity to introduce Disney’s recently-acquired Marvel characters to the parks, although the building’s small size would certainly be restrictive. It might not be the easiest way to add capacity to the park, as Philippe Gas desires.

Meanwhile, the live Animagique blacklight puppetry show in Toon Studio will be approaching its twelfth birthday in 2014. Popular though it is, that’s a long time for a live show, and considering the huge 1,100-seat capacity of Studio 3, the show provides the park with relatively little capacity. Finally going ahead with a long-mooted replacement by a certain 3-D film such as, ooh, Mickey’s Philharmagic would boost capacity in this part of the park enormously — and that’s precisely what Philippe Gas seems concerned about here, making it a very strong possibility.

Due to the live puppeteers involved, Animagique stages only around five shows per day in the vast auditorium, whereas a 12-minute projected film show such as Philharmagic is able to play continuously from park opening right to closing time; cycling through audiences every 20 minutes or so, and with lower operational costs to boot. The pair are practically cousins, conceived around the same time and both seeing Donald Duck getting lost in a series of classic musical scenes. But with 3-D films becoming passé again and Philharmagic due to be nearing 11 years old in 2014, could it still be viable as a new attraction? A belated opening at Tokyo Disneyland just last year suggests it certainly is.

As you can see, while two new attractions in one year may be a surplus, there’s still no shortage of possibilities in Walt Disney Studios Park to use that valuable credit on. Watch this space…

VIA Le Figaro.fr

Tuesday, 13th March 2012

Reports: Captain EO to close definitively at Disneyland Paris on 2nd April 2012

This officially stands as unconfirmed information, but several sources, including one speaking directly to DLRP Today, have reported this evening that Captain EO will close once and for all at Disneyland Paris on 2nd April 2012. The final day of operation for the reborn Discoveryland 3-D cinema attraction will reportedly be Sunday, 1st April 2012 — ironically also the first day of the 20th Anniversary celebrations. News of the closure was apparently revealed to Cast Members at the attraction today, with no announcement of an imminent replacement.

Captain EO, a 1986 3-D film with special effects starring Michael Jackson, re-opened in its original locations at Epcot, Disneyland, Disneyland Park in Paris and Tokyo Disneyland throughout 2010 as a “tribute” to the musical star himself. It also provided a welcome stop-gap to replace the ageing Honey, I Shrunk the Audience, but its reopening was greeted more enthusiastically in some parts of the globe than others. Returning to Disneyland Paris on 12th June 2010, it enjoyed a welcome reception from a minority of fans but perhaps failed to ignite the interest of regular guests here as strongly as the American parks, where it had become much more a thing of pop culture legend.

A somewhat out-of-the-way location and a similarly dated neighbour in the original Star Tours, which remains in operation at Disneyland Paris, can’t have helped its success.

We noted last September that the attraction, already operating limited daily opening hours, was even beginning to remain closed completely on some quieter off-season days, as attendance clearly failed to meet requirements. Another potential factor in a closure could be the problems faced by its sponsor, Kodak, with Eastman Kodak Company having filed for bankruptcy in January, though the company remains an official partner and is ever-present at various other locations.

If the attraction’s Cast Members were hoping for a boost in attendance, they’ll now surely get it on the weekend of 1st April, when fans and Annual Passholders will descend on the resort for the premiere of Disney Dreams! and a grand, final farewell to Captain EO…

PHOTO Photos Magiques

Tuesday, 13th March 2012

Riverboat-boathouse springs up on Rivers of the Far West, ready for Mark Twain refit

Poor Old Joe: so engrossed there on his ramshackle pier, waiting for the catch of the day, that he’s failed to notice the towering extension put up by his Thunder Mesa Riverboat Landing neighbours next door. In preparation for a sorely-needed complete rebuild of the Mark Twain, following that enjoyed by companion on the rivers Molly Brown last year, the entire drydock at the back of the Rivers of the Far West is in the process of being enclosed in a temporary hangar-like structure.

Apparently being built by the firm De Boer, specialist in such constructions, the enclosure is being covered by a themed scrim created by a graphic designer working for Disney. With fake timber walls and large loading bay doors, this “trompe-l’œil” boathouse deceives the eye as a wharf for cargo loading. Details in the design, though hard to see clearly from the opposite riverbank, include “Deliveries” written across the false door and a surprisingly detailed “Notice” of some kind. The large number “2” above the door is reminiscent of the engine shed for Big Thunder Mountain nearby.

By comparison, the year-long Molly Brown refurbishment saw the far from ideal situation that the boat was fully stripped down and rebuilt in full view of passing guests, with only a scant covering of scaffolding and tarpaulin for cover. It’s also possible that, by shrouding the entire drydock with a roof, refurbishment work could be carried out in all weather, with fewer delays.

Both boats are still parked up here at the back of the river, out of service, but Molly Brown will return to operation from 24th March when the attraction finally re-opens, having been closed for the whole of 2012 thus far. Besides the work ongoing here, the deck of the riverboat landing itself has been completely rebuilt with fresh wood. Once allowed back on-board for a cruise around the waters, we’ll be able to get a closer look at the detail of the new wharf.

Reports from those close to the project suggest that the “hangar” will stay in place for at least two years, so Old Joe had better get used to his temporary — but not so temporary — new neighbour.

PHOTO 1 @InsideDLParis (Twitter), PHOTOS 2-3 RadioDisneyClub

Tuesday, 13th March 2012

Second Star’s multi-coloured ‘Disney Dreams!’ galaxy revealed as projection tests continue

Is it just by chance that a number of Disneyland Paris fans appear to have booked into Disneyland Hotel this month, or has the flagship hotel at the gates of Disneyland Park suddenly seen a last-minute flurry of reservations, as fans stake out its park-view balconies with a hope of being the first to catch a glimpse of Disney Dreams! preparations? After the first look at the spectacular fountains over the weekend, the latest previews come from a Facebook page titled Disney WorldGlobe, which posted a short video taken from the hotel showing projection tests taking place on Sleeping Beauty Castle.

While the majority of this video simply shows a golden Mickey Mouse silhouette shape with pixie dust trailing around it, something remarkable does happen at about four seconds in, as the castle suddenly cycles through a number of different projection effects. The first and most stunning is captured in the screenshot above: what a appears to be a gorgeous, multi-coloured series of galaxies swirling across the castle, which has light emanating out from its top window, where the Second Star to the Right will ultimately appear, glittering, in physical form.

A few other fun effects appearing to involve that all-important star can also be glimpsed in the few seconds during which the projections switch over. Below left, it appears to cast a blue glow across the castle from above, highlighting its rooftops and casting other walls into shadow. Below right, an ethereal blue and green strobe radiates outwards from the top window.


Another, perhaps quite startling, effect appears to show the main window and archway of the castle engulfed by flames, above left. While a final effect, above right, creates a feeling of something rather more “Maleficent”, as the castle takes on the blue body, pink mouth and snarling yellow nostrils of a certain ferocious, animated dragon… perhaps?

Meanwhile, the multi-coloured prism theme of Disney Dreams! will be extended even to its laser effects, which are truly state-of-the-art, according to the latest update from Steve Davison himself:

“Lasers! Lasers! Everywhere. I love full color lasers! Now Paris Disneyland has the most current, brightest show lasers in the world! They are the newest generation. Look at all tha[t] color! Simply amazing. Plus, we have the world’s best programmer who also worked on WOC [World of Color]!”

So all eyes on April, to see “what the World of Color team did next…”

VIDEO STILLS Disney WorldGlobe

Monday, 12th March 2012

Brad Bird tweets on the Ratatouille dark ride: “It’s going to be really cool.”

We’ve known about the plans for a Ratatouille dark ride since as long ago as 2008, but what about the writer and director of the Pixar film himself, Brad Bird? The answer is yes: and he’s very excited.

Most recently credited for a turn to live action with Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol, Brad still finds the time to reply to messages from his 25,000 followers on Twitter. One of today’s replies saw him pick up a question from @CreativeAlan, who shared the photo above and asked“Are you excited about the Ratatouille dark ride currently under construction in Paris?”

Bird’s reply? Simply: “Very. It’s going to be really cool.”

So there we have it. And that photo above, which comes from the excellent ParisCastMember blog, is the latest look at construction progress as seen from Toy Soldiers Parachute Drop.

Trees have been cleared, the old Pearl Harbor hangar removed and the roof over the former Studio Tram Tour route alongside the costuming building torn down. A large rectangle where the bulk of the future showbuilding will sit in 2014 has been levelled and covered with what appears to be loose stone, to be compacted, forming the start of the building’s foundations. The large concrete-walled “soundstage” of Crush’s Coaster looked similar at the same point in its early construction.

In the distance, we can also see the redirected route of the tram tour, which has now reopened, lined by darker green construction walls. The earlier route, nearer the camera, will apparently be used for construction vehicles to access the site without disrupting normal park operations.

PHOTO ParisCastMember (Twitter), VIA @CreativeAlan

Sunday, 11th March 2012

First look: ‘Disney Dreams!’ fountains shoot into the sky, viewed from Disneyland Hotel

'Disney Dreams!' fountain tests seen from Disneyland Hotel [(C) Jérémy, DCP]

Disney Dreams! will have stunning projections, pyrotechnics, fire, a brand new orchestral score — the lot. But there’s no mistaking the most anticipated element of this 20th Anniversary spectacular: the fountains. And so the grand prize goes to Jérémy on Disney Central Plaza forum who, at 24 minutes past midnight, made Disneyland Paris history by posting the first clear photo of those 40-or-so main fountains shooting into the sky around Sleeping Beauty Castle. Taken from Disneyland Hotel, overlooking the park during nighttime testing, it’s the very first preview of what a Steve Davison fountain array looks like surrounding a Disney castle. Something you won’t see anywhere else in the world.

The height of the water erupting from those nondescript jets is incredible, easily as high as the main window at the top of the castle — and these aren’t even the most powerful jets. Twelve further nozzles, six on either side of the moat, will use a compressed air technique to intermittently blast water a good few metres more into the sky, apparently higher than the castle itself. And then we have to add the two enormous water screens on top, to complete the scene’s liquid special effects. The proximity to the castle is unusual and certainly dramatic, raising all kinds of questions — for example, what will happen to performances during high winds?

Lit here simply with a purple glow from below, the fountain array at this moment thankfully gives few spoilers for the actual show. It is simply an awe-inspiring glimpse of what’s to come.

PHOTO Jérémy (Disney Central Plaza)

Saturday, 10th March 2012

St David’s Welsh Festival underway with special day of music, costume and fireworks

Disney doesn’t have a Welsh dragon in its repertoire of characters, but Mushu is only too happy to get his face on the cover of today’s special programme for St David’s Welsh Festival, a three-day event happening at Disneyland Paris this weekend. Though the festival officially runs from the 9th to 11th this year, providing the perfect weekend package for visitors from Wales, the main day of events within Disneyland Park itself is today. The programme itself is similar to previous years, though with Meet Mickey Mouse seeing the end of Fantasy Festival Stage‘s days as an actual theatre, the traditional Welsh folk choir has been displaced to the somewhat less fitting Chaparral Theatre in Frontierland.

In fact, the whole Cottonwood Creek Ranch area has been overrun by green, red and white; now the base for face painting, the Waun Ddyfal Choir and meet ‘n’ greets with Mickey and Minnie in their very exclusive Welsh folk costumes, above; a real rarity for character spotters that you’ll only see here.


At 4.30pm, before the main Disney’s Once Upon a Dream Parade, the traditional Welsh Festival pre-parade saw Mickey and Minnie travel down Main Street, U.S.A. in the bright red fire truck, decked out with Welsh flags, daffodils and leeks. In Disney Village, the avenue is filled with wooden market stalls selling all manner of Welsh crafts and merchandise. Then, as the park closes its gates at 10pm, the sky above Sleeping Beauty Castle comes alive with the special firework display to mark the occasion… albeit over a week late — St David’s Day itself always falls on 1st March.

The event is somewhat of an oddity in the annual calendar of the resort; one of only three national holidays recognised by the parks, including St Patrick’s Day and the Bastille Day fireworks, yet nowhere near as globally recognised as either as those. Falling conveniently in early March, however, it no doubt helps to fill a gap in the year, drawing in coach trips and extra custom from Wales, providing something fresh before the new Disney year in Paris traditionally begins each April.

Last year, Disneyland in California held a similar series of events at its comparable Big Thunder Ranch under the Family Fun Weekends name, with some nice branding and design work that Disneyland Paris could do well to be inspired by for its own celebration days.

MORE PHOTOS @InsideDLParis (Twitter)

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