The first detailed look at part of the multi-year Walt Disney Studios Park expansion has been revealed, as Disneyland Paris tease a new concept image for the Marvel reworking of the park’s existing Backlot.Read More…
Positioned next to Disney Blockbuster Café at the very back of the park, the meet ‘n’ greet experience has been a huge success since opening on 19th April.
Primarily said to be funded as part of Sony Pictures’ European marketing of The Amazing Spider-Man 2, it has nevertheless been keenly marketed by Disneyland Paris themselves, including on the front of the Studios’ weekly Programme guide. Disneyland Paris is the first and only Disney resort to feature the character.
Despite the off-route location, queues have been steady and strong to meet the masked Marvel hero. Inside, guests themselves surrounded by giant newspaper pages reporting his victories, before literally stepping into the front page of the Daily Bugle to pose with Spidey themselves. It’s a light but very polished experience which has at last breathed life into Backlot, perhaps the most characterless Disney theme park area in history.
Many had therefore hoped Peter Parker’s alter ego would extend his stay, and several sources report there is now no currently confirmed end date with Spidey definitely sticking around until 31st August.
Besides the current movie release, this integration of Spider-Man into the land chimes perfectly with longstanding rumours for a Marvel makeover of Backlot. Much grander than a simple meet ‘n’ greet room, most rumours point to a complete re-theming of the area’s three attractions to Marvel themes, with street sets and building façades (perhaps depicting New York or similar) finally providing a story between them.
Just last week rumours surfaced of a minor Marvel-themed extension to Hollywood Land at Disney California Adventure, Disney’s second Californian park. MiceAge suggests a series of modest walk-through exhibits and meet ‘n’ greet opportunities are in the works, expanding on the current Marvel tie-ins at Disneyland’s Innoventions.
In Paris, the Marvel redevelopment could be rather more ambitious, with three genuine (and already reasonably strong) attractions to work with. Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster setting your Spidey senses tingling? Marvel superheroes in the Moteurs Stunt Show arena? Perhaps they just need to sell a few more souvenir character meet ‘n’ greet photos to fund it…
Ah, we’ve all mistaken an “une” for a “deux”, haven’t we? Putting an abrupt end to the hunt for a second imminent new Walt Disney Studios Park attraction, Disneyland Paris has confirmed directly to Mouetto, admin of Disney Central Plaza, that the comment was purely a journalistic error on the part of Le Figaro, which incorrectly transcribed its interview with Philippe Gas.
The article by Mathilde Visseyrias, which remains unchanged online, cites the Euro Disney group CEO as announcing that €150 million in credit agreed by lenders would be used “pour construire deux nouvelles attractions”. One likely explanation for the error could be that Mr Gas actually said a more vague corporate line of “de nouvelles attractions”, simply “new attractions”.
As Mouetto also points out, this isn’t the only error from this Figaro journalist regarding Disneyland Paris. A separate article also published on Tuesday states Philippe Gas as having been CEO since 1998, rather than 2008. Ironically, Visseyrias headlined the original interview as “Disneyland Paris ‘has learned from its mistakes'”.
So, yes… Happy birthday, Walt Disney Studios Park! While this confirmation couldn’t be timed worse, let’s try not to be too disappointed about an extra attraction which was never there to begin with. Ratatouille is still very much “on” for 2014, bringing with it the equally welcome trio of a full-size restaurant, toilets and possibly a new shop. And with the €150 million cited — which thanks to earlier announcements, we can confirm isn’t a mistake — that means one huge pot of cash to make Rémy’s world-exclusive ride something even Brad Bird calls “really cool”.
And those suggestions we shared for where the park could find a second new attraction: don’t forget those. They might just require a little more patience. It’s frustrating, because this extra-attraction-that-never-was could have been a great opportunity to tick one off the list early, improving at the same time as expanding the Studios. Investments such as Toy Story Playland have bulked up the attraction (and visitor) count but failed to add up to a more consistent, cohesive park. It largely remains a collection of top quality Disney attractions without the strong Disney glue between them. Merely sticking extra pieces on, however big-budget, won’t solve the overall production problems.
UPDATE: Disneyland Paris has confirmed Le Figaro’s transcription was inaccurate — only one new attraction is scheduled to open in 2014.
We know Disneyland Paris has the money, we know they’ve finally started construction on the Ratatouille dark ride, and Brad Bird knows all about it, too. But now, in an interview with French newspaper Le Figaro, Philippe Gas has let slip a surprising statement that Walt Disney Studios Park will see not one, but two new attractions opening within its gates in 2014. In the brief article headlined “Disneyland Paris ‘has learned from its mistakes'”, the resort president and CEO of Euro Disney SCA discusses the company’s tumultuous financial situation as it approaches its 20th Anniversary.
Asked as a final question “What will you do to avoid the park reaching saturation?”, he comments:
Knowing that a customer is satisfied when they can see at least six attractions in a day, we estimate our maximum capacity to be 17 million visitors annually. So we still have room for improvement, but we must grow. In January, our banks have given us 150 million euros in new funding to build two new attractions, which should open in 2014 in our second park, Walt Disney Studios. In 2010, we also obtained the agreement of the State to build a third park. We are looking at it very seriously, even if the decision won’t be made until 2020. We will also build new hotels, restaurants and shops.
Now, presuming Mr Gas doesn’t count the adjoining restaurant or those desperately needed new toilets which should be installed next to Ratatouille, this gives us an odd surplus in the new attraction count for 2014. So what are the possibilities? Again, this could depend on how you define a new attraction, but let’s throw Studio Tram Tour: Behind the Magic right out there straight away.
An expanded Tram Tour, perhaps a new show scene, perhaps even a relocated station — allowing the park to begin that announced “multi-year expansion”, expanding the current Hollywood Boulevard — could all be strong possibilities come 2014. Relaunching it as a “new attraction”, given changes like these to make it a worthwhile experience, would be far more appreciated than previous half-hearted relaunches such as Indiana Jones and the Temple of Peril: Backwards! and Space Mountain: Mission 2. The route itself has already been pushed even further back into the forest by current construction works, yet still desperately needs things to actually see along it. Those huge, people-eating trams are surely not reaching their full capacity with the disappointing tour which exists today.
We had assumed that €150 million would only just cover Ratatouille itself, so a second attraction would likely be a smaller, less expensive project. We’re not expecting a Soarin’ here just yet. So presuming CinéMagique is safe and Aerosmith still have a few years left in them yet, the only likely replacements for existing attractions are Armageddon: Les Effets Speciaux and Animagique.
Armageddon suffers with its poor throughput and even poorer pre-show; having been the focus of a previous replacement proposal, to build a Chronicles of Narnia-based attraction in its place, could its time finally be up? Recent rumours have suggested that the licence to the 1998 Jerry Bruckheimer film itself could soon run out, further fuelling the desire for a replacement. With the more neutral Backlot location, this could be the perfect opportunity to introduce Disney’s recently-acquired Marvel characters to the parks, although the building’s small size would certainly be restrictive. It might not be the easiest way to add capacity to the park, as Philippe Gas desires.
Meanwhile, the live Animagique blacklight puppetry show in Toon Studio will be approaching its twelfth birthday in 2014. Popular though it is, that’s a long time for a live show, and considering the huge 1,100-seat capacity of Studio 3, the show provides the park with relatively little capacity. Finally going ahead with a long-mooted replacement by a certain 3-D film such as, ooh, Mickey’s Philharmagic would boost capacity in this part of the park enormously — and that’s precisely what Philippe Gas seems concerned about here, making it a very strong possibility.
Due to the live puppeteers involved, Animagique stages only around five shows per day in the vast auditorium, whereas a 12-minute projected film show such as Philharmagic is able to play continuously from park opening right to closing time; cycling through audiences every 20 minutes or so, and with lower operational costs to boot. The pair are practically cousins, conceived around the same time and both seeing Donald Duck getting lost in a series of classic musical scenes. But with 3-D films becoming passé again and Philharmagic due to be nearing 11 years old in 2014, could it still be viable as a new attraction? A belated opening at Tokyo Disneyland just last year suggests it certainly is.
As you can see, while two new attractions in one year may be a surplus, there’s still no shortage of possibilities in Walt Disney Studios Park to use that valuable credit on. Watch this space…