With a workforce of over 14,500 employed at the resort and even more certified Cast Members beyond, it’s no wonder this new design for Disneyland Paris’ 20th Anniversary name tags has quickly done the rounds online. Every single member of the “cast” will soon be switching their Magical Moments Festival name tag for this new 2012 design, neatly fitting the hemisphere of the 20th logo into its standard lapel design. It’s just one of endless pieces of miscellanea which will be taking on a special look for the upcoming birthday year, just as we saw for the 15th Anniversary.
Disneyland Paris saw overall revenue growth of just 1% in the first quarter of its 2012 financial year, from 1st October to 31st December 2011. The results, published this morning by operating group Euro Disney S.C.A., make for unremarkable if somewhat reassuring reading given the economic climate. Resort revenues, for Theme Parks, Disney Village and Hotels, actually rose a good 4% in the quarter, brought down for the total figure only by lower real estate revenue compared to 2011. Park attendance itself grew a surprising 5%, due to higher numbers visiting from France itself, perhaps taking advantage of the mild late Autumn for last minute trips, with total Theme Park revenues up 7%.
Philippe Gas, CEO, comments that “improved attendance and guest spending are encouraging, especially in light of the challenging economic environment.”
However, average spending per guest in the parks was up by only 1% and average spending per room at Disney Hotels up only 2%. Total Disney Village and Hotel revenues grew by just 1% and room occupancy at Disney Hotels actually fell by 1.1 percentage points. It seems that, despite continued success in getting guests through the park gates, the resort still struggles at turning these numbers into anything more than negligible increases in revenue, probably driven more by price increases than additional purchases. It has to be said that, for a visitor, the resort’s casual dining fare remains largely out of date and uninspiring, while the merchandise range simply fails to engage for many demographics. At a time when a guest will consider and reconsider every additional purchase on top of their ticket, the resort certainly isn’t doing badly, but it is failing to make many consequential gains.
Nor is the dip in hotel room occupancy disastrous, especially after a sharp (and perhaps, unsustainable) jump of 5.6 percentage points in FY2011. Yet perhaps it reflects a growing feeling amongst visitors that the Disney Hotels do not offer the best value for their money. High standard room rates have combined with aggressive discounting over several years to suggest that “the price on the label” may not necessarily be the price they’re worth. A quick visit to any online trip planning forum will immediately bring up potential visitors merely biding their time for the next “big offer” or “flash sale” — hey, like this one! — which, while useful for propping up numbers, must surely be harming the brand value associated with Disneyland Paris. Will anyone ever want to pay full price again?
Signing off, Philippe Gas mentions only the 20th Anniversary: “In April we look forward to launching our twentieth anniversary celebrations with brand new experiences for our guests, including the Disney Dreams®! night-time show, an innovative light and color spectacular. It will also be an opportunity to celebrate a two-decade journey with our cast members, our guests as well as our key public and private partners who have helped Disneyland Paris become Europe’s number one tourist destination.” Meanwhile the footnotes include only the same passing mention to the launch of a “multi-year expansion of the Walt Disney Studios® Park, which includes a new attraction.” So, despite construction having begun, no Ratatouille dark ride announcement yet; and all eyes on the 20th…
“We’re gonna bring the Second Star to the Right and ignite it above the castle…” It’s not a sentence you hear every day but, in this exciting new preview video for the 20th Anniversary released by Disneyland Paris today, Steve Davison casually drops it in amongst a plethora of other surprises. Walt Disney Imagineering’s Creative Director of Entertainment, famed for his work on Fantasmic! and World of Color, joins a number of backstage artists to tease us on the new additions for the anniversary. Show director Katy Harris tells us about the new Mickey Mouse meet ‘n’ greet, while Emmanuel Lenormand shows off detailed concept art for Disney Magic on Parade! and its new costumes.
But it’s the section on Disney Dreams! which is the most surprising — even breathtaking. Real previews are shown of the new castle projection effects, which have been in testing for some time, along with confirmation that the show will feature not just projections, not just fountains, but lasers, pyrotechnics, fire, an original musical score, and perhaps most importantly: a story! When the Second Star to the Right ignites above the castle, the “Disney Dreams” pour out and come to life in “new ways”.
Watch the exciting new preview video below!
Senior technical director Chuck Davis reveals the Imagineers at Creative Entertainment have mapped the whole castle with “pixel accurate video” so it can “do all kinds of great tricks”, while Dave Bossert confirms that water screens will be installed in front of the castle, creaing a huge new canvas for the show to take place on. Particularly interesting to note: Dave is the director of Special Projects at Walt Disney Feature Animation, showing the breadth of Disney talent being combined for this new show.
It’s a rare but incredibly welcome step for Disneyland Paris to let the talent behind its magic tell the stories of new projects like these for once. Similar videos are consistently produced for other resorts, notably California, and always serve to provide both a more exciting teaser for what’s next and a more inspiring insight into the work required to achieve it.
“So that at the end of your day, you can walk away and go: wow, that was cool!”
First sand, now ice: The weather in north west Europe might still be unseasonally mild outside, at least compared to this time last year when we were being hit by heavy snow, but that hasn’t hampered the efforts of the “Ice Wonderland” Snow and Ice Sculpture Festival in Bruges, Belgium one bit. For the first time, Disneyland Paris has lent itself as the theme of the event, with the artists creating giant sculptures of its landmarks and characters. In a controlled environment of -6 °C, ice sculptors were allowed to work only limited hours due to the cold — but look at the results!
Following this Summer’s popular Sand Sculpture Festival on the coast at Blankenberge, the focus here is more on Disney characters than the parks’ lands and attractions. There’s the famous Partners Statue created entirely out of ice and a whole parade of stars from WALL-E to Toy Story, The Jungle Book to Beauty and the Beast and beyond. The event is being held in the Stationsplein at Bruges (Brugge) until 15th January 2012. You can find out more at ijssculptuur.be and, for a whole photo tour of the sculptures, be sure to check out Brakesection.be’s report from the event!
In a unique first, Disneyland Paris is launching an official online survey, right at this moment, seeking only the feedback of one particular group of visitors: the fans! The questionnaire aims to not only build more of an understanding about why we become fans and what we appreciate the most about Disneyland, but what we expect from our relationship with the resort.
Don’t expect any questions asking you whether you’d rather see Splash Mountain or Indiana Jones Adventure as the next E-Ticket, but do be prepared for some very intriguing questions about where Disneyland Paris may take its relationship with fans next. Suggestions throughout the survey include an official blog, perhaps similar to the existing Disney Parks Blog, or even an official discussion forum. The possibility of “fan events”, which could mean anything from simple gatherings to special events such as those for D23 in the U.S., is mooted several times.
On the subject of what would be most likely to draw us back to the magic, we’re given several options: from “New Attraction” right at the top (we’ll all click that one, right?) to more minor occasions such as a new character meet ‘n’ greet or even a new piece of merchandise.
You’ll also have a chance to share feedback on the Facebook, Twitter and YouTube accounts for Disneyland Paris, which were only launched in early 2010. Do you think those accounts do a good enough job of communicating with visitors, sharing the magic of the resort and the latest news?
One particular section of the survey (above) asks whether you currently visit any websites related to Disneyland — and if so, which ones. There’s a “Dlrp Today” box on there which, once clicked, grants you our eternal gratitude. For extra bonus points — but of course only if you use the websites — you could add “DLRP Magic” or our friends “Photos Magiques” to the “Other” box at the bottom.
The survey only takes about 15 to 20 minutes to complete, depending on how much you write, but it’s open from now until 12th December 2011, so there’s no need to rush to fill it in if it’s not convenient right now. No personal details are required, but you can optionally give your email address to be informed of any future surveys. As an exclusive survey just for fans it won’t be communicated via the more “mainstream” channels such as the resort’s Facebook page (with its 1.3m+ fans), so we should all make sure to seize this unique opportunity to give feedback and tips direct to Disneyland Paris, which may lead to a better experience for us and even greater success for the resort we love.
Update: Some Firefox users have reported problems completing the survey. Use Internet Explorer, Safari or Google Chrome instead, if you can!
Here it is: the 20th Anniversary Disneyland Paris brochure! The multicoloured edition has been spotted out in the wild at travel agents in the UK since its limited launch a couple of weeks ago, but now it’s available online for all to see. Check it out here. Of course, there are new prices, new options and yet another new design for all the pages, but it’s the 20th Anniversary events and images we want to see. The final line-up to make the brochure cut is modest but promising. Star of the show in 2012 will no doubt be Dreams – the “magical, immersive” nighttime spectacular that’s due to take over the Castle, Central Plaza and even Main Street with projections, special effects and — yes — at least a few fountains, as it plunges guests inside a journey through classic Disney dreams.
Also given top billing is Disney Magic on Parade!, actually a reworking of Disney’s Once Upon a Dream Parade that will see the 15th Anniversary‘s showstopper (certainly the best parade ever to be seen in Paris) given new costumes, music and characters. The current Dreams of Romance Finale float will be turned into a mountain ledge for Sorcerer Mickey, with the gang expected to appear in their spangly multi-coloured outfits seen throughout the brochure, while the original opening float will become home to the fairies, wizards and sorcerers of the Disney world. Oddly, that appears to oust the Princesses from the parade almost entirely, although Rapunzel and Flynn are said to be taking over from Aladdin and Jasmine on the smaller Romance Prelude float to freshen up that aspect.
The new magician-themed permanent meet ‘n’ greet for Mickey is advertised simply as Meet Mickey Mouse, while the fourth and final 20th Anniversary event is the mysterious Main Street, U.S.A. Celebrates. The brochure blurb is suitably blurry but its references to “twinkles” and “glowings-on” are spot on with our sources, suggesting a gold theme for the street and certainly a lot of lights…
As we revealed in September, longer opening hours for Disneyland Park are due to be one of the big bonuses of the year. Advertised as 20th Anniversary Extended Hours, they’re confirmed to be in operation from 1st April to 30th September 2012, although there’s no mention of just how many extra hours we can expect beyond the usual closing time. Presumably, just as many as it takes for the park to see nightfall, providing a suitable canvas for Dreams.
Whilst the 20th Anniversary doesn’t coincide with any major attraction investments, the chance to stay in the park until nightfall every day of the year represents a big gear-change for Disneyland Paris. Add to that a real, signature finale to each day with Dreams — produced by Disneyland California entertainment legend Steve Davison and the team behind World of Color, did we forget to mention? — and the culmination of a huge investment in refurbishments. Looks like an E-Ticket year here.
1, 2, 3… 250,000,000! A huge milestone was celebrated at Disneyland Paris yesterday, 15th November 2011, as the resort welcomed its 250 millionth guest into the parks. That’s a quarter of a billion visitors in just 19 years, 7 months and 15 days. Yes, ok, so they’re still not able to turn a consistent net profit, but let the urban myth that Disney’s European resort has been under-attended since 1992 officially be put to rest. In the 2011 financial year, the parks set a new record of 15.6 million visitors, making the outlook for the 20th Anniversary year rosy indeed. With the usual birthday year boom, longer opening hours through the year and the premiere of Dreams, the resort may well hit the magical 16 million.
The guests in question yesterday received the honour of a celebratory ride up Main Street, U.S.A. on the Fire Truck with Disneyland Paris Ambassador Régis Alart and a photocall with Mickey, Minnie and Duffy in front of Sleeping Beauty Castle. Just like the 100 millionth visitors in 2001 and the 200 millionth visitors in 2008, they were a family of mum and dad with two photogenic young kids, but in a groundbreaking move they were Spanish, not French, and visiting for the fourth time. Euro Disney SCA’s own press release (PDF) notes that families with young children make up 66% of visitors. So, by those odds, maybe we’ll see someone from the other 34% awarded the 300 million honour in a few years?
It’s Toy Story Playland, but not as we know it. The second land based on the Pixar property and cousin of last year’s Toon Studio expansion is nearing completion all the way out East, at Hong Kong Disneyland, ready for an opening date this November. Part of a three-land expansion of the similarly-underbuilt park, it represents admittedly the least exciting prospect alongside the all-new Mystic Point and Grizzly Trail. All three attractions are present and correct, with Toy Soldiers Parachute Drop and RC Racer towering not over a patchwork backlot but the immaculately-themed Adventureland. Ouch. The land’s layout differs in that the two have effectively switched places and an additional building (pictured on the left of the shot above) provides a more substantial retail space. However, there’s no Barrel of Monkeys — which could have bridged the vast thematic gap into the future Mystic Point next door — nor the towering forest which pleasantly surrounds the Paris land.
The choice between Woody or Buzz at the entrance to the land is going to divide everyone, but we’d have to say that the plastic Buzz Lightyear with his light-up laser seems more fitting for this kind of monument than the ragdoll Sheriff, who looks unnaturally “plastic”. Buzz’s pose in particular encourages far more photos with guests copying his stand to attention (come on, we’ve all got that photo), while his position in the middle of the path gives much more interest to the entrance area.
Where Hong Kong really has Paris beat, though, is in the marketing. Right from the start, the Asian park created far more publicity for the expansion than the European resort it was originally designed for, releasing countless press releases and concepts. The earliest Toy Story Playland concepts clearly show it was designed with Walt Disney Studios Park in mind, but the only artwork we saw until just weeks before its opening last August came via Hong Kong. Now, check out the smart Toy Story Land-liveried shuttle bus below and the TV report with a look inside the land which follows…
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.
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.
Eighteen months into his role as chairman of Walt Disney Parks and Resorts, Tom Staggs has announced a big reorganisation for the department that appears to bring Disneyland Paris more tightly under Disney’s managerial wing. The former President of Worldwide Operations position has been eliminated following the retirement of Al Weiss; in its place a new expanded role for Walt Disney World President Meg Crofton, pictured above, who will now not only oversee the resort and four parks in Florida but serve in a new position as President of Operations in the US and France. Reporting to Meg will be George Kalogridis of Disneyland Resort in Anaheim, California (and previously chief operating officer in Paris) and our own Philippe Gas of Euro Disney SCA, the group which operates Disneyland Paris. Meanwhile, previous Euro Disney CEO Karl Holz will add Disney Vacation Club to his current role overseeing Disney Cruise Line and Adventures by Disney.
In a memo sent on Tuesday Tom Staggs writes,
“Meg’s strong leadership abilities and broad experience make her the perfect person to lead resort operations in our established markets in the United States and Europe. Meg will report directly to me and become a member of my executive committee, allowing us to continue the great work of sharing best practices and leveraging our operational expertise across our properties. Meg understands and respects the unique heritage and characteristics of each of our theme park resort locations, which gives me great confidence in her ability to fulfill this role while preserving and enhancing what makes each of our properties so special in their own right.”
Whilst crossovers between Disneyland Paris and the American resorts have been noticeably increasing in recent years (the UK even had a joint Paris/Florida TV campaign earlier this year), this appears to be the firmest move yet in bringing their trans-Atlantic management closer. In fact, the Orlando Sentinel reports that it is all part of an initiative known as “One Disney”, which has been seeking to merge functions and responsibilities between resorts. What do you think — Is it a good thing for Disneyland Paris to be brought closer to the American resorts? And is Meg the right person to do it?
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