Alpha Bet You Are began on 31st March 2007 with the rest of the 15th Anniversary launch events, featuring new music remixing Disney classics with the vocal talents of children from the surrounding region. Directed by Emmanuel Lenormand, it was designed as a new “welcome” and introduction to the park for guests, though for much of the Summer season heavy guest flow has pushed it back to early afternoon performances.
Now, after over 500 performances, the letters reach their final finale at the end of this month.
Curiously, performance times for the event are no longer listed in the latest online schedules of the official website as before, but the final performance is still confirmed to be 30th September 2007, clearing the way for the Halloween events due to begin next month. With Christmas then taking over the schedules for a further two months, it could be that Alpha Bet You Are is simply taking a seasonal break. However, no return for the 2008 months of 15th Anniversary celebrations has yet been confirmed.
But, as now officially the first 15th Anniversary event to come to an end, we say a fond farewell. If past anniversary events are remembered for their more controversial castle overlays and events, you never know what the icons of the 15th will be in years to come…
You can find a full guide to the production including music and behind-the-scenes information here, an archive of previous DLRP Today articles about the event here or a full video of Alpha Bet You Are here.
The Pumpkin Men, the Pink Witches and many more inbetween – creating new, original characters has been a tradition of Disneyland Resort Paris which sets it apart from other Disney resorts for years. But how about characters without eyes, without heads, and without arms? This unique streetmosphere creation by show director Emmanuel Lenormand, filing out onto Main Street USA to a playful soundtrack four times each morning, is a daring departure for Disney, and certainly something you would never see in Florida or California.
So just where did it come from? According to Emmanuel’s interview on the ‘Media Magic’ blog… merchandise. It seems that, upon seeing the interesting 2007-brand merchandise in the Emporium one day last October, he thought the same as DLRP Today – could these become real characters? Emmanuel had just been charged with creating a new morning show in Main Street for the anniversary year using the new talents of the varied Disney’s Once Upon a Dream Parade performers, and the character-themed numbers of “2007” (featuring Goofy as “2”, Mickey as “7”, and so on) sparked his imagination. The letters soon became ten, however – spelling out “Disneyland” – a perfect welcome for guests entering the park for the first time.
As Emmanuel describes, “These are enormous, magical letters, and we have worked on a choreography with lots of humour. My original idea was that, at the start, you wouldn’t understand what was going on – you see lots of huge forms, then you realise that the letters progressively form the word ‘Disneyland’ in the street – in giant form, since certain letters measure 2.8 metres high!”.
The performers inside aren’t actually true character performers but largely puppeteers (such as those of Animagique or the new Disney’s Once Upon a Dream Parade), who have a better ability to judge movement and balance – and to control the movements of the costumes from inside. Each letter has its own moving element, and each one (aside from the two letter “D”‘s) its own character theme.
The large and small letter ‘D’ are, describes Emmanuel, “like the overture and finale of the act”, both letters featuring a plain theme with the 15th Anniversary emblem and a wobbling hand on springs. Letter ‘I’ is Goofy, with a dot above itself that can spin 360 degrees and suspenders that can fall off and lift back up. ‘S’ is Daisy, dressed in glittery pink with a white petticoat and a large, moveable bow. Since letter ‘N’ is featured twice in the word, this role goes to Chip ‘n’ Dale, who are depicted with soft brown fur and red and black noses – which can move up and down the entire length of the letter!
Letter ‘E’ can’t be mistaken – the familar colours and clothing of Donald Duck, with a tail of feathers, sailor stripes and even a beret than can be raised to courtesy. Leader of the club, it’s Mickey Mouse – letter ‘Y’, with his famous red shorts, yellow buttons and flapping mouse ears. Following right behind, letter ‘L’, his love Minnie Mouse. Decorated completely with polka dots and her famous ribbon, Minnie’s ears also flap slightly as she kneels to courtesy for guests. Finally, following the Mouse couple, their faithful pal Pluto – letter ‘A’. Brown fur and long, black, wiggling ears give him away, not least his dog-like characteristics as he runs and sits on a whim… though he hasn’t quite mastered “roll over” yet.
An important part of this early-morning party is its music. Mixing classic Disney songs such as “Zip-a-Dee-Dah”, “Following the Leader”, “I Wanna Be Like You” and “Mickey Mouse Club March” with new lyrics recorded by choir children from the Seine-et-Marne region, the music is a lively and quirky addition to a morning on Main Street. Musical director Vasile Sirli was behind the brand new music, using the Budapest Pop Orchestra, familiar with the resort since their work on The Wonderful World Of Disney Parade and Disney’s ImagiNations Parade, to record the eclectic instrumental backing, which features a new instrumental theme also heard in Candleabration.
“We’re following the letters, the letters! Sing with us – D-I-S-N-E-Y-L-A-N-D!”
The streetmosphere performance is currently scheduled at 10h15, 11h15, 12h15 and 13h15, entering Main Street from Plaza Gardens/Gibson Girl Ice Cream Parlor and making its way to the centre of the street to spell “Disneyland” and meet guests before dispersing again and gradually exiting through Town Square/Discovery Arcade.
In true Disney fashion, every element of this vast celebration gets its own piece of concept art. First, Candlabration – the evening ceremony show which will see Mickey and friends light up the fifteen candles on the castle in a twilight show similar to the hugely popular Enchanted Fairytale Ceremony of Disney’s Christmas Season. The concept art confirms that the Christmas stage will stay, but shows it with a beautiful, golden overlay and “15” emblems in place of the current “Once upon a time” motif.
Mickey, Minnie, Donald, Goofy, Pluto and Chip ‘n’ Dale are all present, wearing pastel and royal blue outfits which might be more than a little familiar to anyone who follows the US resorts. These “Year of a Million Dreams” costumes are due to be carried over to Paris for both this show and for general meet ‘n’ greets.
In Walt Disney World’s “Dream Along With Mickey” show (video here), the characters even have “articulated” talking heads, a concept which was premiered back in 2004 with Timon in our very own The Legend Of The Lion King. Since the costumes are the same and the show is featured in a similar location, we have to ask – will our Fab 7 be talking for the 15th?
Even if they don’t, it certainly looks like they’ll be providing us with some music. Take a look at what they’re all holding – each character has their own musical instrument!
Finally, the candles themselves also present a question – just how bright will they be? Both here and in the new TV spot they’re shown as bright, shining beacons of light, rather than the small flickering flames we might have expected.
With the park located in Paris and much of the focus being on those candles, it seems almost too good to be true that Disney have the perfect showman and mascot for the celebrations – Lumière! And if his golden statue right at the centre of the Castle wasn’t enough of an ego boost, he’s soon to appear on brand new banners lining Main Street.
Recent visitors to the park will likely have wondered why the Enchanted Fairytale Illuminations “Chandeliers” are still in place – and here’s your answer! Come 1st April, though, they’ll be barely recognisable. The chandelier crown itself will be completely removed and replaced with a golden cap and horizontal frame for the banner, whilst other gold elements will be painted onto other sections of the giant, ornate lampposts.
Whilst it hasn’t been confirmed if the poles themselves will still be able to illuminate, it has been mentioned that the banners will be lit in some way by modern LED lights. Two of the banners were on display at the shareholders meeting, and perhaps give a typically “Disney” solution – LED lights fitted inside the banners themselves, lighting up the bright white dots peppered across the design? We’ll have to wait and see…
And finally… something no-one could have expected. After the Pumpkinmen and Pink Witches, the entertainment teams of Disneyland Resort Paris have been off designing their own park characters again. This time, you’ll be able to meet one of the ten letters spelling out “Disneyland”. No, honestly!
It doesn’t seem to be confirmed yet whether these will be statues, walk-around characters or maybe even giant puppets (like those at WDW’s Finding Nemo The Musical), but an early name being given to them is “Alpha Bet You Are”.
There hasn’t even been confirmation if all ten will appear at once, so perhaps we’ll have to hunt them down, throughout the park? It could be massive for autograph book sales, with ten separate single-letter autographs to collect… Or am I the one getting carried away now?
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