The Love Bug has crashed for the last time. Launching as part of the Disney Magical Moments Festival, a drivable replica Lightning McQueen now features daily in Moteurs… Action! Stunt Show Spectacular, replacing Herbie’s comedic cameo which has been part of the show since opening in 2002. It’s a chance to update the long-running show with a more recognisable film franchise, tying in perfectly with the impending Summer release of Pixar’s spy-themed sequel Cars 2, but is this “rookie race car” a match for Moteurs’ seasoned stunt vehicles? Read More…
If you follow the official Disney Parks Blog you might have already enjoyed the superb “Tilt-Shift” videos of Magic Kingdom and Epcot at Walt Disney World, which turned those grand Disney parks into something resembling a toy train set or stop-motion animated film. Well, great news Disneyland Paris fans — they’ve taken a trip across the Atlantic! A brand new Disneyland Paris tilt-shift video premiered just hours ago today, in honour of the ninth birthday of Walt Disney Studios Park. Take a look above — it’s a seriously beautiful piece of work.
As the Disney Parks Blog explains, “Tilt-shift videos like these use different photo angles, focus settings and color saturation adjustments to make the subject of a photo appear miniature.” And most awe-inspiring, “It took more than seven months and 4,000 photographs to produce this 2:38-minute clip.” The variety of attractions, events and locations captured is truly impressive, far greater than the two earlier single-park videos, successfully making everything from Disney’s Fantillusion to Moteurs… Action! look like a small-scale model magically coming to life. We even get to see the up-scaled Toy Story Playland attractions downscaled again to the size of a toy!
Nine years ago today, Disney’s tenth theme park worldwide opened its gates. For such a milestone, the original Walt Disney Studios Park of 16th March 2002 was perhaps not the best representative of the Disneyland ideals. Be it through desperate lack of budget or not, the park drastically missed the mark of what a European audience — or any audience — wants from a theme park. Forget the beautiful landscapes of Tokyo DisneySea, opened a year earlier; here there were almost no outdoor themed areas to speak of at all, just 25 hectares of freshly poured tarmac asphalt and 10 attractions housed in uninspiring “soundstages” of concrete. The bid to pay tribute to European filmmakers was noble but possibly misguided — Florida’s raining Singin’ in the Rain umbrella scene was changed to the barely known Les Parapluies de Cherbourg, for example — and the glitzy warmth of Hollywood was oddly missing. The park suffered from a complete lack of escapism, when what people really wanted was a whole park with the colour and spirit found inside, say, Disney Studio 1.
Because that’s the thing — the park has always had some great attractions. Nine years on, CinéMagique remains beautifully subtle and wonderfully entertaining, one of the best movie-based attractions ever. Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster starring Aerosmith might not be pretty on the outside but the ride inside arguably beats its kitsch Florida cousin, whilst after 9,000 performances it’s easy to take for granted just how impressive the stunts of Moteurs… Action! Stunt Show Spectacular really are.
Having dug itself a hole by ploughing too much (or, you could say, not enough) money into an unpopular park, it took Euro Disney SCA far longer than it should have done to begin expanding the second gate. The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror should really have opened in 2005 (or earlier), rather than begun construction that year, whilst the Toon Studio expansion of Crush’s Coaster and Cars Quatre Roues Rallye should have been there from the start, not five years after opening. No-one should have ever green-lit the Television Production Tour, now occupied instead by Stitch Live! since 2008 and Playhouse Disney Live on Stage! since 2009.
The modest Hollywood Boulevard turned out to be a great surprise and even Toy Story Playland, maligned by some corners of the fan community, is a marked step above any other themed areas in the park. To get the Ratatouille dark ride built in the years ahead would be an amazing feat: the first new dark ride at Disneyland Paris (ignoring Buzz) in all its 20 years and possibly the first real implementation of Audio Animatronics in the whole Studios park. But let’s just hope it doesn’t end there, that we see the park continue like its last four years rather than the first five. May the park continue to improve and expand, to revisit Theater District and fix the original areas, to add places to eat and places to buy things, and maybe, one day, rename Production Courtyard. We can but dream… Here’s to the future!
This new car is a full-size, drivable replica of Lightning McQueen, the “rookie race car” in the 2006 Pixar film which conveniently sees its sequel, Cars 2, released this Summer. Similar cars have been featured at Disney California Adventure and Disney’s Hollywood Studios parks since the original film’s release, whilst Walt Disney Studios Park has had a static model at Cars Quatre Roues Rallye since 2007. The role awaiting Lightning (known in France as “Flash” McQueen) in the Backlot stunt show so far isn’t clear. It’s likely he won’t replace the main “hero” car and will instead make more of a cameo appearance — but does that mean he will replace the show’s existing cameo, 1960s motor star Herbie?
Approaching nine years old, the bedtime rules for Walt Disney Studios Park could finally be about to change. The latest Disneyland Paris park hours show an extended opening schedule for the second gate on the first two weekends of March 2011. As a test, likely to gauge demand and guest feedback, the park will now close at 9pm rather than the usual 7pm on the 5th, 6th, 12th and 13th March. This will surely be a bonus for any fans and if positive could give a tantalising glimpse at a time ahead when the Studios can be enjoyed until nightfall, without the need to join the daily schlep over to Disneyland Park.
The cause for longer hours will have been helped by the three new attractions in Toy Story Playland (not to mention their long queue times), as well as the five other permanent attractions that have been added to the mix since the park’s hours were brutally slashed in late 2002. Up until November in its opening year, the park had closed no earlier than 8pm and stayed open through July and August from 9am to 9pm, but this was cut back to a solid 9am to 6pm schedule from 2003 as guest demand fell short and a financial restructuring (largely due to the cost of the park) required cost-cutting. The situation was so bad, you might remember, that Disney offered guests with a 1-Day 1-Park ticket to the Studios complimentary evening access to Disneyland Park after 6pm. It wasn’t until the 2007 Toon Studio expansion that the park began to live a little with later 7pm closing times on busy weekends.
But is the park even ready to stay open until 9pm? With just two counter servicerestaurants and a buffet, and only three stores, Walt Disney Studios Park has a long way to go to match the offer of its neighbour, an important factor as guests stay in the park later into the day. If the demand is there for a later closing time, we have to hope Disney will satisfy the demand for better dining, retail and entertainment that will surely follow.
There’s a grand “Happy Birthday” and many congratulations in order today — for Disney California Adventure, the problematic second park at Disneyland Resort in California which opened back on 8th February 2001 and is currently nearing the end of an enormous $1 billion makeover project that will transform the original, mediocre gate into a park worthy of the Disney name. If you’ve not been following progress, you’re missing out — be sure to check the official site, Yesterland, MiceAge, this fantastic infographic and all the other great Californian fan sites — it’s a fascinating look at what can happen when Disney really, truly puts its money — and more importantly, its heart — into making something work. Those three beautiful new attraction posters above, a Disney tradition brought forward for a new generation, are the final signature of intent.
What’s the relevance to Disneyland Paris? Well, it’s looking more and more like our own second gate, a similar project of early 2000s misguidedness, has just lost its running partner; been left behind at the starting block. Whatever analogy you want to use, Disney California Adventure is finally getting really good, really fast — and Walt Disney Studios Park, well, it’s still ambling along like all is well. Of course, though they’ve been lumped together for years as Disney’s follies, the two parks were very different. Where California Adventure had in many of its original areas and attractions a disheartening sheen of “hip” tackiness that Imagineering are now having to steam-clean out of the place, Walt Disney Studios was (and still is) simply massively under-built. And not under-built in the rather charming “there’s plenty of room to expand” style of 2005’s Hong Kong Disneyland, either. As a member on our forum succinctly put it, it’s like “a place filled with nice Disney attractions still in their boxes, waiting to be put in a Disney park.” Ironic, then, that Toy Story Playland, probably the best (at least, most fully-realised) themed area in the park is based around toys being unpacked from their boxes.
Even that expensive new land has almost entirely failed to be integrated into the park around it, as seen above. When Walt Disney Studios doesn’t even get a themed path leading to its new land, what hope is there for going back and readdressing the original, lacking areas, like California is doing? What for the original portion of Toon Studio — the barren, soulless area in front of Animagique — do Euro Disney SCA really consider that to be Disney quality? Will Studio Tram Tour: Behind the Magic ever be given a raison-d’être beyond being an extended drive out to Catastrophe Canyon? Whatever happened to those plans Imagineering dreamed up to turn the depressing and utterly theme-less corner of Production Courtyard into a buzzing Theater District to match Hollywood Boulevard, complete with Soarin’, a new period-specific façade for CinéMagique and new dining and retail? At one time, we we seemed sure to see the terrible, emotionless “Production Courtyard” name become “Hollywood Studio”, to match its “Toon” neighbour, with Backlot following suit. Where Disneyland has “lands”, the Studio would have a collection of different theme “studios”, and finally some vision.
Yes, Walt Disney Studios has been given Toy Story Playland whilst California Adventure will get an expensive Little Mermaid dark ride and an enormous Cars Land, but right now this isn’t about size or scale, it’s about vision and intent. Disneyland Paris doesn’t have the money for a Cars Land, but it probably doesn’t need it. The best part of the California makeover isn’t the new attractions but the sensible and thoughtful re-touching of the original park — adding detail, atmosphere, charm and soul. Paris could spend as much as it likes on that mythical Ratatouille dark ride to be nestled at the back of Toon Studio, but it will just be another self-contained patch of quality. The park as a whole still won’t work if the original areas remain unfinished. Luckily, these corners of the park are so devoid of anything that they’re practically a blank canvas. There’s no giant tile mural needs knocking down here. The attractions are top quality, they just need to be unpacked from their boxes, wrapped in a cohesive theme. So where is the vision for Walt Disney Studios, the intent? Maybe it’s still to come. We’ve heard rumblings of a “30-year plan” — but that means if you’re in your 30s today, you’ll be just about retiring by the time the park has moved forward. Today, to the eyes of a visitor, the Studios isn’t going anywhere — and the worst thing a Disney park can ever be is static.
But first, a nice compilation from behind-the-scenes at yesterday’s press events, as a Disneyland Paris video camera follows the press around the new shows and events to give a feeling of these busy press days in the parks:
Now that’s got you warmed up, onto the main show!
Titled “The New Gen Show”, the opening ceremony and dedication of the New Generation Festival has all the usual ingredients of these one-off Disney grand opening spectaculars — a ridiculously large cast, jazzy projections and an “interesting” mélange of music.
On the one hand we have Buzz Lightyear reliving his French disco days, on the other Nemo coaxing Dory (right?) into the arena in something out of an arty theatrical show. All wrapped up with music from… Pixar Play Parade at Disney’s California Adventure.
Yes, it’s an eclectic, enormous and show-stopping opening ceremony for the year ahead. Might they have actually outdone all past efforts? Perhaps — in numbers and scale — even the opening of the resort itself!
It’s a shame, of course, that these kind of lavish events are reserved only for “VIPs” who probably couldn’t give a hoot about seeing a show like this. We have to wonder how much of the footage and how many of the images shot this weekend will really make an impact, or be featured in the media. It’s a tradition now that Disneyland Paris puts on one show for the visitors and one superficial blow-out to look good for the cameras. It’s something for the archives, for them to pull out and say “remember 2010?”.
Although given that they used the stunt arena this year, which has 3000 seats, this would have been a good chance to say, give away a few extra tickets in a prize draw to Annual Passport Dream holders… if only to see the show, to spread word of mouth, and not to enjoy the free food.
Riding the EAC may no longer take an hour or more of queueing, but it remains to be seen what effect this has on regular, non-EMH-qualifying guests. Since it became the norm to run straight to Crush as soon as the park opens, how will these regular visitors feel if they arrive only to find the Crush’s Coaster queue already populated by more privileged ride fans?
Finally, park hours for the rest of December have now been published. Though they’re not as generous as these three weekends, we do see the opening time at Disneyland Park giving way slightly to regular guests — now set at 9.30am, rather than 10am, making EMH a still-respectable hour and half window. This is the first time in almost 10 years we’ve seen park hours go into half-hours, and the flexibility is very welcome indeed.
This “Paiements sans Contact” initiative was first announced back in July and began right on schedule on 3rd October.
How does it work? Unfortunately, it won’t work at all for most of us yet. Although most of us have seen the waterslide advert for Barclaycard’s system, the technology now at Disneyland Paris is currently only open to users who have a (French) bank account with CIC or Crédit Mutuel (who just recently actually became a new official partner of the resort), and have already signed up to a trial of those banks’ early contactless payment schemes.
If you’re lucky enough to qualify for all of that, your new credit card contains a special chip that can be read without contact when lightly touched or flashed across one of the new devices, first caught on camera by Scrooge at Disney Magic Interactive in Walt Disney Studios Store:
This allows users to pay for their Disney shopping — or even better, food — in a second. No fumbling with Euro cent coins, no waiting behind someone as they try every combination of four digits possible. Contactless cards allow instant payments up to a certain, safe amount. Just imagine the effect that could have within a few years on those ugly counter service queues.
You’ll find the trial machines now at the following locations:
• Casey’s Corner (Disneyland Park)
• Café Hyperion (Disneyland Park)
• Chalet de la Marionette (Disneyland Park)
• Disney Blockbuster Café (Walt Disney Studios Park)
• Club House Grill (Golf Disneyland)
• Walt Disney Studios Store (Walt Disney Studios Park)
• Goofy’s Pro Shop (Golf Disneyland)
Not that such an innovation needs a carrot to quash any possible stick, but Disneyland Paris are also offering trial users of the scheme an incredibly generous 25% discount at boutiques and 20% discount at restaurants!
In reality, the former Backlot Express has been open for all but a couple of weeks as it has been re-dressed to become Disney Blockbuster Café these past months, with only the Pirates section closed for its more major changeover.
The result gives a mostly bare, mostly bland restaurant filled with High School Musical banners and posters… with a surprisingly ambitious Pirates of the Caribbean room tacked onto one side.
Early reviews are in, and they’re calling it’s the “coolest” place to eat:
Well, at least the correction printed in the current Programme for the Park Guide (which still lists Backlot Express until November) says so.
And, with the first guests seated in the new area, Kayshaman for DLRP Times provides the first photos:
There’s the tilted mast — the large platform and sail above it helping to give this area a much more intimate feel from the bare warehouse before. The lights have also been changed, to a flickering candle effect, and the props appear to include — hold onto your seat — something related to the films themselves: the circular map from At World’s End, the third film?
The idea behind the restaurant appears to be similar to Planet Hollywood, dining amongst movie memorabilia and themes, yet with only look-a-like items and reprinted High School Musical posters for the memorabilia. At least, we have to assume so — if any of these items are real props, they’ve made the same mistake as before: not labelling them.
In case you’re not familiar with the building, here’s a plan to show the new layout:
As you can see, there’s a whole lot of High School Musical in there. That’s not surprising, considering it’s been so easy to give a feel of that film’s perfect, whitewashed school in this empty warehouse, but could turn out more than a little disappointing if the rumoured continual updates of new films and themes don’t materialise.
According to the original rumours, after all, the restaurant would see changing themes every year or so, allowing a place for the Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures arm of Disney to promote their latest films without covering Disney Studio 1 with, say, a giant billboard.
There’s your preview. Look out for our full, scurrilous review with both pictures and video in a couple of weeks. Until then, give your verdict (from 1 to 5 stars) in our Question of the Week to the right of this article.
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