Wednesday, 16th May 2012

Everything neat ‘n’ pretty for Meet Mickey Mouse grand opening in Fantasyland – today!

Meet Mickey Mouse in Fantasyland

Today at 12.30pm, the Disneyland Paris Ambassadors are scheduled to officially inaugurate the new Meet Mickey Mouse meet and greet attraction in Fantasyland, with a special ceremony in the presence of the mouse himself. It will be preceded by three sessions of Passeport Annuel Dream previews. Then, from 1.00pm, the first chance for guests to step inside the redesigned former Fantasy Festival Stage to meet Mickey and investigate the changes within.

How does it look? Well, we were lucky enough to get an exclusive sneak peek inside the new attraction along with fellow fansite authors on 1st April. Greeted by Imagineer Laurent Cayuela at the door, wonderfully animated himself, we were led on a tour (no photos allowed) through the work-in-progress interior that has undergone considerable change since its days as a real show theatre. Where in 1992 guests sat on wooden benches in the half-open space to watch “C’est Magique”, in 2012 they’ll be stepping inside a gorgeous, plush interior reminiscent of great opera houses of the early 1900s.

The basic set-up of the theatre and its stage remains, already perfect for the premise of this attraction. On your way to meet Mickey Mouse in his dressing room behind the stage, you first step into a small lobby area in the right-hand wing of the theatre, adorned with the posters of “Mickey the Magnificent” already seen in Frontierland and the similar, existing meet and greet in Florida’s Magic Kingdom.

Meet Mickey Mouse
Meet Mickey Mouse
Meet Mickey Mouse
Meet Mickey Mouse

False walls in the same off-white as the exterior have been erected down each side of the former seating area inside, enclosing the theatre stage area itself and giving the previously rather “barebones” pavilion a grander theatrical feel. The entire space has been given soft new, red carpeting with a gold pattern, lending the theatre a truly luxurious feel.

Stepping into the auditorium, you join a back-and-forth queue line which cleverly gives the impression of theatre seating aisles, sloping downwards to the completely redressed stage itself. And wow, that stage: now framed extravagantly in beautiful wood panelling and completed with two new “box seats” sticking out above the audience in either side.

It’s still a real stage, just as before, and Laurent even mentioned that they could use it as such (we imagine for small live music acts or special events, perhaps), but the regular pre-show will be a selection of classic Mickey Mouse cartoons, projected onto a screen behind the curtains as guests queue. Note the plural on curtains: there are no less than three different curtains now permanently installed on the stage — Venetian, Grecian and Italian — which all lift up and open in different ways, presumably between cartoons.

Meet Mickey Mouse
Meet Mickey MouseMeet Mickey Mouse
Meet Mickey Mouse

Gleaming gold railings wrap around the queue line with subtle lighting in the edges at ground level. The real feature lighting is above: a series of fabulously ornate pendant lamps produced especially for the attraction by a specialist company with several generations’ experience. The whole queue line has enough space for a 45 minute wait — as we’ve hinted before, a hint of Disney magic later on which we won’t otherwise spoil could help this flow up to three times faster than otherwise.

Staying true to the theatre building, guests really do step “backstage” when they go to meet Mickey in his dressing room. Climbing a small set of stairs at the side of the stage (a ramp for access is also provided), the elaborate decoration suddenly falls away to reveal bare brick-clad walls and a stage manager’s lectern in a small corridor. Here, a Cast Member will personally escort guests to Mickey’s dressing room through another corridor. It’s this dressing room which packs more in-jokes and clever nods than some Disney attractions do in their entire length.

Books, notices, props and suitcases litter the room from floor to ceiling. “Good luck” notes from Minnie, a “missing” notice for the kidnapped Aristocats, a children’s drawing featuring Oswald the Lucky Rabbit. Even a prop to reference the Pixar short film Presto. It’s funny, too. All to often these days Disney can forget these details are called “in-jokes“. Designing everything in the shape of Mickey’s head does not make for clever hidden detail. But having a bag on the sideboard labelled with “Tuppence” really does raise that little smile a classic Disney “gag” gives you.

Meet Mickey MouseMeet Mickey Mouse
Meet Mickey Mouse

Mickey Mouse himself (not present during our preview tour) poses in front of a red curtain, opposite the illuminated dressing room mirror and next to the giant seven-foot suitcase containing his props and costume, which also helps to divide the room. Imagineers never talk money, but the whole space with its hyper-custom props has the feel of serious investment and certainly worthy of the company’s trademark character.

Out the other side of the dressing room, guests are free to pose with some of the magician’s props stored at the side of the side — including a giant saw and a “Tank of Terror” escapology trick. Again, there’s a very welcome humour here.

Exit is then via the left-hand side of the auditorium, behind the false walls, to a ticket booth-style area which serves as the souvenir photo sales desk. Once again, lavishly designed — but with practicalities in mind, too: one window of the desk is lowered on both the guest and Cast Member sides, allowing not just a guest in a wheelchair to purchase their photo with ease, but a Cast Member in a wheelchair to serve them, too. Laurent was particularly proud of such forward-thinking.

Meet Mickey Mouse
Meet Mickey Mouse

A pause for questions left our group rather speechless, perhaps so taken aback by the transformation. On background music, Laurent stated that the short loop we heard during the tour (the same track which has been playing at the temporary Frontierland location) would likely be replaced simply by the sounds of the cartoons in the pre-show, audible throughout the venue.

The thought of an attraction based solely around meeting a character won’t be to everyone’s taste, but the execution of this particular concept really has been completed to the utmost Disney quality. Blessed with the gift of a real, pre-existing theatre, unlike the earlier Florida version, Walt Disney Imagineering have been able to play out the narrative far more truthfully and successfully.

One single quibble would come back to something we raised when the marquee went up, that perhaps it doesn’t play the “British” location within Fantasyland to its full advantage. The theatre could feel British if you wanted it to, but it doesn’t particularly overstate this anywhere.

Meet Mickey Mouse

Perhaps that’s the idea, to make it as international as the mouse himself; but sandwiched between the unquestionably, quintessentially English trio of Peter Pan’s Flight, Toad Hall Restaurant and Alice’s Curious Labyrinth, it’s a particular shame they found reason to place the letters “Rencontre avec Mickey” on the main marquee, when the French subtitle on the smaller wait time indicator at the entrance (not to mention on park maps and programmes) would have sufficed. Luckily this is the only aspect to work against the British setting; the rest of the attraction, if not exactly working with the locality, fits wonderfully well alongside it (even if some dislike the “Main Street” marquee lights).

Furthermore, an abundance of genuinely humorous in-jokes gives it a classic feel that’s close to the character it celebrates without a single lazy, mouse-shaped detail. As the sole contribution of Imagineering to the 20th Anniversary, and despite being “just” a meet ‘n’ greet, it feels genuine and worthwhile. And most likely set to be one of Fantasyland’s most popular attractions.

Watch our HD video of the Meet Mickey Mouse exterior below… Read More…

Sunday, 15th April 2012

[VIDEO] 12th April 2012 Opening Ceremony & Cast Member Flashmob

Disneyland Paris 20th Anniversary Launch Weekend

Disneyland Paris president Philippe Gas, the Disney Characters, two thousand Cast Members and even the French Air Force stunt display team came together at 9.45am on Thursday, 12th April 2012 to celebrate exactly 20 years to the day that Disneyland Park — then Euro Disneyland — opened its gates to the public. Experience the whole event, including the welcome speech, the spectacular flashmob dance to “Magic Everywhere!” and the truly epic walk along the purple carpet, cheered along by Cast Members from every department, as if you were there with our exclusive original video.

• More videos, reports surprises from 12th April 2012 to come, including Tony Baxter’s ‘Disneyland Paris: From Concept to Reality’ discussion at Videopolis!

Sunday, 15th April 2012

[VIDEO] 12th April 2012 Opening Ceremony & Cast Member Flashmob

Disneyland Paris 20th Anniversary Launch Weekend

Disneyland Paris president Philippe Gas, the Disney Characters, two thousand Cast Members and even the French Air Force stunt display team came together at 9.45am on Thursday, 12th April 2012 to celebrate exactly 20 years to the day that Disneyland Park — then Euro Disneyland — opened its gates to the public. Experience the whole event, including the welcome speech, the spectacular flashmob dance to “Magic Everywhere!” and the truly epic walk along the purple carpet, cheered along by Cast Members from every department, as if you were there with our exclusive original video.

• More videos, reports surprises from 12th April 2012 to come, including Tony Baxter’s ‘Disneyland Paris: From Concept to Reality’ discussion at Videopolis!

Wednesday, 11th April 2012

[VIDEO] Disney Dreams! Opening Night

Disney Dreams! World Premiere

If you’ve already enjoyed our video of the Disney Dreams! World Premiere, filmed from the middle of Central Plaza, then prepare for a whole new angle on the dreams. The next evening, for the show’s 1st April Opening Night and first two public performances, we waited with the eager crowds for almost an hour before the show began to grab a spot right on the front row.

Standing here, at the foot of the bridge to Sleeping Beauty Castle, the projections are clearer than ever, the pyrotechnics thrillingly close and the fountains towering overhead! And with the gasps and cheers of the larger crowd, our second complete 1080p HD video of the show gives you a whole different atmosphere with the 20th Anniversary nighttime spectacular, too. The view isn’t necessarily “better” than elsewhere, just different. That’s the beauty of this show: you get a great view from anywhere in front of the castle, and there’s space for around 15,000 people. It’s huge.

So sit back as we invite you there, to the Opening Night of Disney Dreams!.

Tuesday, 10th April 2012

[VIDEO] Disney Magic on Parade! opening day performance

Disneyland Paris 20th Anniversary Launch Weekend

Bright blue skies came out on 1st April for the first official public performance of Disney Magic on Parade!, which you can watch in our exclusive video right here. Just a day earlier, the special premiere performance had gone out under thick clouds with a sharp chill in the air as the “press event curse” struck again — that unwritten Disney park rule which means any major organised event will be struck by less-than-perfect weather.

This opening day performance was also thankfully missing the over-abundance of parade guards the previous day, almost overpowering the floats themselves. And if you’d have been there, you could have breathed in the scents of each float again, missing the day before; a unique feature of Disney’s Once Upon a Dream Parade which was thankfully revived just in time.

Donald Duck, rather than Tinker Bell, ended the parade on its first day, and it seems the two will continue to share the role depending on the fairy’s availability — no doubt being very busy with a certain nighttime spectacular right now.

Tuesday, 10th April 2012

[VIDEO] Disney’s 20th Anniversary Celebration Train with Mickey Mouse

Disneyland Paris 20th Anniversary Launch Weekend

After Disney Characters’ Express, Minnie’s Party Train and Disney All Stars Express, this is our fourth consecutive video of the character train rounding the corner of Main Street, U.S.A. beside Town Square. A popular annual tradition, or a daily nuisance? You be the judge of that. But, as Katy Harris confirmed in the 20th Anniversary roundtable discussion, it’s incredibly popular with regular guests, who “just love” being able to meet the characters in this way, which they normally only see fleetingly passing onboard parade floats. And this year, as you can see in our video above, the rumours were true: even Mickey is willing to get mobbed on Central Plaza, all in the name of the 20th Anniversary.

• Watch a video of the train’s official premiere arrival here.

Friday, 6th April 2012

[VIDEO] 20th Anniversary Dedication Ceremony & Disney Dreams! Pre-Show

Disneyland Paris 20th Anniversary Launch Weekend

When Disneyland Park re-opened its gates at 9.40pm on 31st March, a magical glow had already fallen upon the land. Stepping into Main Street, U.S.A., the twinkling new Main Street Station greeted invited guests — as did some extra-special invitees: the giant, illuminated World of Color pre-show puppets, brought over especially for the occasion! This video takes you to “A Night in Disneyland” for the 20th Anniversary Dedication Ceremony as if you were there.

Everything is included: from walking into Town Square, to the ceremony itself with Philippe Gas, footballer Zinedine Zidane and Mickey Mouse (at 10:00), to the epic, emotional walk up Main Street, U.S.A. prior to the Disney Dreams! World Premiere (at 16:00), when Cast Members from every land and every attraction lined the street to wave and cheer guests along with cries of “Joyeux Anniversaire!” as golden confetti in the shape of the number ’20’ rained from above. Truly an exceptional and unforgettable ending and beginning to these chapters in Disneyland Paris history.

Friday, 6th April 2012

[VIDEO] 20th Anniversary Dedication Ceremony & Disney Dreams! Pre-Show

Disneyland Paris 20th Anniversary Launch Weekend

When Disneyland Park re-opened its gates at 9.40pm on 31st March, a magical glow had already fallen upon the land. Stepping into Main Street, U.S.A., the twinkling new Main Street Station greeted invited guests — as did some extra-special invitees: the giant, illuminated World of Color pre-show puppets, brought over especially for the occasion! This video takes you to “A Night in Disneyland” for the 20th Anniversary Dedication Ceremony as if you were there.

Everything is included: from walking into Town Square, to the ceremony itself with Philippe Gas, footballer Zinedine Zidane and Mickey Mouse (at 10:00), to the epic, emotional walk up Main Street, U.S.A. prior to the Disney Dreams! World Premiere (at 16:00), when Cast Members from every land and every attraction lined the street to wave and cheer guests along with cries of “Joyeux Anniversaire!” as golden confetti in the shape of the number ’20’ rained from above. Truly an exceptional and unforgettable ending and beginning to these chapters in Disneyland Paris history.

Friday, 6th April 2012

[VIDEO] Disney’s 20th Anniversary Celebration Train Premiere with Mickey Mouse

Disneyland Paris 20th Anniversary Launch Weekend

It might be one of the less-anticipated 20th Anniversary events but, with a passenger list now comprising all the “VIP” characters, Disney’s 20th Anniversary Celebration Train will no doubt be just as big a hit with guests as ever. Surprisingly, the characters on-board, who ride up to Central Plaza before stepping down to be mobbed (or in official terms, for “meet ‘n’ greets”) now even include the hallowed Mickey Mouse himself!

However, for this special “premiere” performance at 5.45pm on 31st March, the multi-coloured train didn’t stop as it rounded Central Plaza and Mickey Mouse wasn’t on-board: he was stealing the show in his new sorcerer costume atop the temporary press platform, dancing to new theme song “Do You Believe” and guiding the train around the plaza with a wave of his hands.

Thursday, 5th April 2012

[VIDEO] Disney Magic on Parade! Premiere

Disneyland Paris 20th Anniversary Launch Weekend

At 3.00pm on Saturday, there was “Magic Everywhere!” as Disney Magic on Parade! saw its official premiere for the press, running “backwards” up Main Street towards Fantasyland for one day only. Also a one-off was the heavy “security” presence — you may have heard that the previous day’s parade, planned to be a final farewell for the Disney’s Once Upon a Dream Parade name and music, had to be cancelled due to a small group of strikers disrupting the parade route.

The next day, as the press and VIPs (and, err, us lot) gathered to watch the revamped parade for the 20th Anniversary launch, it was clear the vast majority of other Cast Members were not willing to see this performance disrupted and so the parade was guarded its entire length. If you watch closely, you can even spot Peggie Fariss, head of Walt Disney Imagineering Paris, walking alongside!

If you’d rather a video with sunshine and fewer parade guards (but no Tinker Bell), stay tuned for our video of the first “opening day” performance on April 1st, coming shortly.

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