Phew. Last March, when DLRP Today was invited by Disneyland Paris to preview the year-long programme of refurbishments planned ahead of the 20th Anniversary, this much-anticipated year seemed so far away. Now, after twelve months of constant, unrelenting work and investment across the entire resort, it’s almost ready for its close-up again. The final projects are wrapping, construction walls coming down and everything being made “neat ‘n’ pretty” for the year ahead. So for one final hurrah, let’s round up these final pre-20th refurbishments with help from @InsideDLParis… Read More…
What’s that we spy on the horizon?! It’s the wraps finally coming down on the epic restoration of Captain Hook’s Pirate Ship in Adventureland! This landmark of Adventure Isle has been hidden behind a themed scrim and a mass of scaffolding for 10 months of solid work, seeing the ship stripped right back to its shell and rebuilt with fresh materials — and colours. One of the biggest projects announced at the special 20th Anniversary Refurbishments event we attended back in March 2011, the refurbishment faced several delays but now looks set to be ready for the big anniversary date as @InsideDLParis shares these photos of the scaffolding beginning to be taken down today.
In the process of its restoration, Imagineers at Walt Disney Imagineering Paris have given the ship a whole new colour scheme. Just like Sleeping Beauty Castle it takes the attraction back, closer to its original 1992 look, but comes with enough fresh touches and design choices to stand separately. A previous refurbishment of the ship had taken away some of the “fantasy” look of this Peter Pan legend, giving it a rather dreary appearance with darker exposed wood and black suddenly outweighing the brighter red. The ship no longer offered such a powerful bridge between Adventureland and the colourful, nearby Fantasyland that its more whimsical original colours provided.
Thankfully, Captain Hook’s new look takes the ship right back to those fantasy roots, and then some. The balance has shifted back to a crisp, bright red with black taking a smaller role. The skull and crossbones at the back of the ship has again been picked out in a crisp ivory white and the entire stern repainted in a vibrant red, contrasting beautifully with the luscious green palms of the tropical island.
White masts were an interesting feature of the 1992 scheme that haven’t been recreated, with the Imagineers opting instead for a dark brown that no doubt fares better in Marne-la-Vallée’s not-so-tropical climate. Instead, the big pièce de résistance of this restoration is, naturally, the gold. Peggie Fariss, head of WDI Paris, explained at last year’s presentation that they really wanted to emphasise the generous riches plundered by these pirates during their travels.
Captain Hook may be blundering, but he has certainly had his fair share of treasure bounties while sailing the seas, and that wealth should be expressed much more vividly in the ship itself. And so, rather than the plain, light exposed wood of the 1992 scheme, the 2012 version comes with a shimmering, golden finish to its edges and sides. Even the mermaid figurehead has turned gold!
This Pirate Ship is an important landmark not just in our Adventureland but in the history of Disney parks. In 1955, Walt Disney opened Disneyland with the Chicken of the Sea Pirate Ship based on Peter Pan, but this popular icon was removed in 1982 to make way for an expansion of Fantasyland. Spotting their perfect opportunity with a new park, Adventureland show producer Chris Tietz and the other Imagineers of Euro Disneyland recreated the almost-forgotten ship for Paris, ten years later, and it remains the only life-size Captain Hook’s Pirate Ship in any Disney park in the world.
After this momentary blip, may it remain sea-worthy and splendid for ever more.
Now, walk the plank and see how the ship looked before restoration… (not for the faint of heart!)Read More…
April is a busy month for Disneyland Paris, but it’s also outside of the main summer high season. For years that has meant, no matter how busy the parks, you’d see no fireworks and certainly stay no later than 10pm — 8 or 9pm on weekdays. The Extended Hours announced for the 20th Anniversary — primarily to make sure Disney Dreams! can be performed under darkness — promised to change that and revolutionise the annual calendar of the resort. Well, here we go.
Park opening hours for the first half of April 2012 have now been published (check them here), giving us our first look at exactly what “Extended Hours” mean. The first two weekends of April now see Disneyland Park open until 10.30pm, giving up to an hour and a half more time than the same period last year (check our archived hours here). On the weekend of the 14th and 15th, that extends further to the magical 11pm; the first 11pm closing time in April for almost two decades. Meanwhile weekdays see a solid 9.30pm closing time, again an increase of up to an hour and a half on last year.
These new hours not only add a great deal more value to park tickets (and particularly resort hotel stays), they herald the moment where Disneyland Paris is ready to grow up, to start acting like a real Disney park. Previously weighted far too heavily towards the two summer months of July and August, the resort’s old calendar saw pretty much the entire rest of the year besides Christmas relegated to “off season”. If you wanted the “full Disney experience” of later hours, darkness falling over Main Street and nighttime entertainment, you had to wait until summer — and stump up the prices to match. Now, that full Disney experience will be available every day and every night of the year.
It’s 2012 (Happy New Year!) and time for a fresh start. For Disneyland Paris, that appears to mean several key elements of the current Disney Magical Moments Festival, marketed to run until 4th March 2012, will be cleared out early. Rumours long suggested the main Mickey’s Magical Celebration show on Central Plaza would face an early finish, due to the much detested Central Plaza Stage finally being ripped out, opening up the hub of the park ready for Dreams.
Now, here’s the confirmation: no performances from 9th January onwards! In truth, the show has had a lukewarm reception ever since last April. Notably lacking the grander spectacle of the previous Disney Showtime Spectacular, it wasn’t quite the kind of production to justify such a monolithic stage to take over the heart of the park. Initially it seemed the four large satellite “arms” of the stage might be lopped off, but now the whole stage is said to be for the chop. For stage shows, this means any future open-air productions will (quite rightly) be on the Théâtre du Château where they belong. For new nighttime spectacular Dreams, the rumour mill is still pumping: Will the removal of the stage open up the area purely for more standing room again, or could the hub become part of the show? One particularly fun (if purely fabricated) rumour is for a “magic” dancing fountain to take the place of the former flower bed. To be honest, even being able to walk across and use the plaza as a “hub”, rather than an impermeable roundabout, seems an exciting prospect at this point.
Making it all the way to the 4th March end date, but not continuing beyond that date, will be the “interactive” show stops of Disney’s Once Upon a Dream Parade, the temporary Tangled meet ‘n’ greet location for Rapunzel and, surprisingly, the small Following the Leader with Peter Pan show in Adventureland. That event was perhaps the most appreciated of all the new “moments” in 2011. For Rapunzel, we must presume she will simply join the other princesses in the new Princess Pavilion.
We almost thought we wouldn’t get to climb up into the branches of the Swiss Family Treehouse again this year. But the closure of La Cabane des Robinson, which had been ongoing for months, since the first half of 2011, has now finally come to an end with a successful re-opening this weekend. As the picture above by @InsideDLParis shows, this classic walkthrough can still be quite the guest magnet, especially on a busy peak season Sunday when all the major rides have unforgiving queues.
Despite being closed for the majority of the year, refurbishment work only visibly began on the treehouse as late as October or November. In that time, vast amounts of the wooden stairways and banisters which wrap around the tree have been replaced with fresh materials. The water wheel irrigation system would appear to remain out-of-action, and the attraction could still dearly do with some additional, closer love and care in the new year to bring it fully up to “opening day” grade, now that the basics have been sorted. But hurrah, at last, for the return of the Swiss Family Robinson!
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.
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?
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.
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 Châteauspaced 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.
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…
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