Great news, treehouse fans: The Swiss Family Robinson have finally begun their restoration work at La Cabane des Robinson. Closed for much of the year, the Adventureland walkthrough became a hot topic as fans debated the reason for its closure. With these recent photos by DisneyGazette showing scaffolding amongst its branches and a large amount of new bamboo wooden railings winding their way up around the trunk, it appears the tree simply required the same restoration work as many other areas of the park this year. In particular, much of the wood in the area of Thunder Mesa at the entrance to Frontierland was completely replaced back in September. Here, Disney will be ensuring the tree’s elevated walkways remain safe to explore, as well as fresh and lived-in.
With a lack of funds and the climate being frequently cold and damp, Disneyland Paris hasn’t kept up as well as it should with treating and replacing these more natural elements of the park. Hopefully the large financial investment in the park’s “assets” this year will be the start of a new era.
One thing we would dearly love to see for the Swiss Family Treehouse is a full replacement of its artificial vinyl leaves. Where it should be thick and green with 300,000 leaves, the branches now instead look somewhat wintry and windswept as leaves have gradually fallen off over the past 20 years. How Disney could go about re-attaching them is anyone’s guess, as they were originally stuck in place to the branches at ground level (see this fascinating video). It’d surely be an arduous and expensive process, but would certainly make guests appreciate all the more this not-so-hidden gem. (As would a long-dreamed-of reinstatement of the tree’s ingenious fresh water plumbing system.)
So while it may not be as luscious as it could on top, La Cabane will at least look a far fresher home for the Robinsons on the inside when it officially reopens on 17th December.
The nations of “it’s a small world” are celebrating their end-of-year festivities again: “it’s a small world” Celebration has returned to the Fantasyland for its third year in a row. Revived with much thought and effort in 2009 after several years’ absence, the seasonal overlay brings back all its now-traditional “extras” to the classic ride. Redesigned signage, seasonal music, extra lights, special props and a vast wardrobe of unique “celebration” costumes — one for practically every animated doll in the ride — continue to make this one of the most unmissable experiences of the whole year at Disneyland Paris. Read More…
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.
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.
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…
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?
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.
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.”
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.
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.
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…
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