Sunday, 17th June 2007

Toon Studio: Opening day

For some of the guests at the official opening, there might have been a sense of déjà vu about the whole event – just one week earlier, they’d rushed into the park to be amongst the first to preview Crush’s Coaster and Cars Race Rally as Annual Passholders. The events were a big success, as shown by the long queues to enter the area (below), despite a Fastpass-style timeslot system being implimented to give each passholder a 2-hour slot in which to preview the rides.

Despite the queues, some technical problems at Crush late in the day and general overcrowding for refreshments at Salon Mickey and the mezzanine of Disney Studio 1, the Toon Studio Preview Event was a big success for all.

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(2nd June) Long queues for Annual Passholder previews.

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(2nd June) Imagineer Beth Clapperton interviewed for blog.

The same weekend also saw the first low-key invasion of the press, albeit Disney’s own. The Photos Magiques camera spotted Beth Clapperton, Imagineer for Crush’s Coaster and already seen in many behind-the-scenes glimpses at the attraction, giving an interview in front of the attraction itself. Look out for this on the official blog at some point.

One week later, with previews complete and everything finally neat and pretty, it was time for the grand opening. The general smaller scale of Walt Disney Studios might have given a slightly quieter impression than the anniversary launch events of April, just two months ago, but the crowds were just as eager. To a mix of music ranging from Disney’s animated movie scores to the Peter Pan “flying” theme and “Just Like We Dreamed It”, the ceremony commenced as Arnauld Gayet, one of the two 2007 Disneyland Resort Paris Ambassadors, climed onto a small podium next to the Sorcerer Mickey marquee.

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(9th June) Toon Studio grand opening ceremony.

With an impressive mix of French and English, Arnaud welcomed guests and introduced the special event, as the first Toon characters began to arrive behind him via the cadillacs of Good Morning Walt Disney Studios. Wendy Courquet, the second 2007 Ambassador, soon joined Arnaud from the empty Toon Studio behind, raving and exclaiming about each of the five attractions in the “new” land as Arnauld introduced them. Interestingly, despite the massive campaign on the esplanade, the ceremony served to inaugurate Toon Studio as en entire land, rather than to give special attention to its two brand new attractions.

With the introductions complete, several more characters welcomed (including The Incredibles) and the crowd appearing a little impatient, the guest of honour arrived to open his brand new studio – Mickey Mouse! It’s lucky that Hollywood glamour appears to never go out of style, since the dazzling white outfits worn by Mickey and Minnie might be recognised from the grand opening of the park itself, back in 2002. Mickey joined Wendy to cut the double ribbon of blue and gold, as Arnauld officially declared the new Toon Studio… “open!” with guests rushing to their chosen attraction.

The opening hasn’t been covered quite as heavily online as the huge 15th Anniversary opening events, but fans can always be relied on for capturing the magic as it happens. The following video is by Concombre2k7 on Dailymotion – ignore the apology for “poor quality”, this is just like being there:

Wait times for Crush and Cars remained impressive the entire day, with Cars Quatre Roues Rallye resting at around 50 minutes and Crush’s Coaster enjoying an everage queue of 1 hour 30 minutes, despite Cast Members warning guests the wait would be 3 hours from its entrance.

Across the park, attractions such as Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster and Studio Tram Tour apparently rarely had wait times above 15 minutes. Kinoo on our partner website magicforum reported that total attendance at the Studios was 14,000 for the day, with around 5,000 guests heading straight towards the new attractions upon opening.

With a simple “tea cups” like Cars (albeit a brand new one) gaining a 50 minute wait that guests were reportedly quite happy to endure, the fall-out from Toon Studio will, it appears, be to now try and coax guests out of this immediately popular area and to the rest of the park.

Photos by Photos Magiques (2/06/2007) and (9/06/2007); Video by Concombre2k7.
With thanks to the opening reports from members on Disney Central Plaza and magicforum.

Sunday, 17th June 2007

Toon Studio: Countdown continues every day

For the first time ever, the entire esplanade and resort hub have been decorated with posters, banners and billboards advertising new attractions at one of the two Disney Parks – specifically, the two new attractions of Toon StudioCars Race Rally and Crush’s Coaster. The trail of dual advertisements leads all the way from the parking lot to the entrance of Walt Disney Studios Park, counting down the distance in metres to the location of these two new Pixar-based rides, from 870m at the Disneyland Hotel access bridge to just over 300m at the security checks.

Billboards being installed early on 9th June 2007.

The visuals used are similar to the original “Key Visual” for each attraction, though now each has been edited to photoshop several real elements of each attraction into the picture. Crush’s Coaster therefore features real guests aboard one of the real turtle shell vehicles, and Cars Quatre Roues Rallye features the real 3D models of Lightning, Mater, Luigi and Guido with guests riding in one of the rea, spinning vehicles. It’s also interesting to note that the Crush’s Coaster poster is now darker than the original, and its countdown arrow is cleverly formed with a school of yellow fish.

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Billboards under the Disneyland Hotel access bridge.

The advertisements fill the start and end of each canopy over the moving walkways, along with the signs here previously pointing the way to each park and Disney Village. The large billboards under the Disneyland Hotel bridge feature large posters, lamposts around the hub hold banners and poster displays at Disney Village and even the RER station continue the push.

Upon reaching the resort hub and seeing the banners continue toward the security booths, even across the Vinci Parking fences and spaces usually reserved for Disney Village advertisements, the real idea behind this bold new campaign becomes clear. For over six months Disneyland Resort Paris has been using its key visuals showing Sleeping Beauty Castle and proclaiming the new attractions are located simply at “Disneyland Paris”. Now, as guests approach the two parks, these advertisements announce once and for all that the attractions are located at Walt Disney Studios Park, hopefully avoiding anyone enterting Disneyland Park and then asking where to find Crush…

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Banners on the resort hub appear to replace Lumière in several spots.

It’s a strong campaign, and a real morale boost for Walt Disney Studios. For the first time, could we be seeing a higher number of guests heading into the Studios rather than Disneyland Park on a morning? Is a balance is finally being approached? The second park really becoming a viable alternative to the original? It’s hard to think that guests heading past almost 50 advertisements for attractions based on such massive hit films as Cars and Finding Nemo won’t be tempted to change their plans and head to the second gate instead…

Photos by Kyoto on DMI and WDS Fans, 9-10/06/2007.

Thursday, 31st May 2007

Toon Studio: Radiator Springs welcomes travellers (Part 3)

Before you do, you’d better check this out –the obligatory warning sign. It’s not wordy and massive like the ones over at Crush’s Coaster, but just simple and cute. Using the same eye-pleasing style as the entrance information sign, there’s two illustrations showing how to and how not to load the vehicles.


As soon as the vehicles were installed on their turntables back in late February, many a Disney fan eeked in horror at their diminutive size. Is this something everyone can ride? Of course! But only two adults maximum per vehicle, one per row. Otherwise, your unfortunate rookie race vehicle might keel over exactly as shown above!


Warnings over, onto the ride itself. Moving from the queue building to underneath the canopy of Flo’s V8 Café, you reach six boarding groups with the turqoise control booth in the middle. Each “pen” has its own automatic gate to open onto the ride turntables, and you’re grouped together two car-loads in each pen. When the ride ahead of you has come to an end, the gate opens and you’re free to board…


If the Imagineers had gone with the original idea of using characters from the film for the vehicles, now would be the time that you’d be thrown to the floor as families dashed to Lightning McQueen and you’re left with stuffy old Doc Hudson. Thankfully, the concept evolved and we’ve got cars in three different colours – red, blue and aqua. Each car style also has its own unique face and slight details which differentiate each “rookie racer” on the Radiator Springs Raceway.


The’Raceway’ itself has even been given some nice authentic touches, such as tire marks skidding across the sandy-coloured floor. It was always going to be tough trying to recreate a dusty desert landscape with the turntable of a spinning teacups-style ride, but with some squared cracks, dusty markings and those tire tracks it appears authentic enough. Surrounded by the kind of fine ochre rockwork only Imagineering can do to form the “canyon walls” of this sunken ride area, the effect adds up rather nicely.


Each of the Cars has its own unique licence plate number, but it appears the Imagineers didn’t add any hidden secrets like their own birthdates as we’ve come to expect. Instead, each car has a number in the form “CQR011” (CQR being Cars Quatre Roues, the film’s French title), surrounded by the words Carberetor County. One nice detail for years to come is the date of May 2007 at the top of the licence plate, for the first run of these new vehicles.


The best thing about these being brand new vehicles rather than ones taken from the film is that the stars of ‘Cars’ can be presented properly, full-size and as close to their real design as possible. We saw Lightning arrive via the Studio Tram Tour route a few weeks ago, and now here they are – Lightning and Mater beaming uncontrollably at riders as they spin out of control around the course.

Their position here will likely cause upset for anyone who wants to get an up-close photo with the characters, but perhaps if we remember their intricate designs meeting the uncaring hands of guests… it suddenly seems like a good idea! The position also allows for a fun addition to the ride – as you spin and swirl, the pair of “best friends” will shout encouragements over to you, Mater in French and Lightning in English. Lightning McQueen at least is not the original voice of Owen Wilson, but it’s unlikely children will notice the difference.

Enough with the words! Climb into your Car…


…And it’s onto the video, filmed in special Guest-O-Vision camera by Photos Magiques/WDS Fans:


When the ride finishes, there are two paths to exit, snaking up through cacti and the rough, ochre desert landscape to the viewing area next to the ride. Each features automatic gates at its start and finish, so they’ve no need to be attended by a Cast Member all day.


The view across the “canyon” towards McQueen and Mater looks like they’ve clicked “copy” on Pixar’s computers and pasted across the best bits of the film’s location into this fairly small space. The thin wire mesh fences — an usual choice for Disney — and the aged trees continue to add to the theme.


As guests turn this corner into the new Toon Studio area, the sudden rush of theme, complete with large collections of real cacti, will be quite overwhelming compared to the rest of the current park. If they wanted to overwrite some bad memories of the past, however, they’ve done well. This barely seems the same park that brought us the wondrous presenting skills of Disney Channel’s ‘Julie’.


“Leaving so soon?” The folks of Radiator Springs have a point. Will we ever want to leave this area on our next visit to Walt Disney Studios Park? Of course we’ll have to eventually, but even after the land is officially re-inaugurated in two weeks time there will still be things to return for…


…Such as that point in October/November when the sun finally sets early enough for us to see Walt Disney Studios Park at its very best – under the cover of darkness! No, that’s not a sly dig at the park’s looks, but an appreciation of its wonderful lighting. And with all those neons, set lighting and the Toon Town backdrop, this should be a second launch of magic for the park’s new land.


Until then, relax and enjoy the atmosphere. Take life a little easier on Route 66. The welcoming residents of Radiator Springs guarantee you’ll never want to leave.

All photos and video by Photos Magiques.

Thursday, 31st May 2007

Toon Studio: Radiator Springs welcomes travellers (Part 2)

When you think of Route 66, you’ll undoubtedly think of glowing neon lights soon enough. Not wanting to disappoint the expectations then, not only are neons featured throughout the little townscape, but the main entrance sign itself is a customised blue neon. Styled to the typeface of the ‘Cars’ logo (Magneto) it glows blue in a metal casing, joining the blue sky backdrop behind to give a nice constrast against the sandy yellow entrance building.


If the sandstone art deco of the “Ramone’s House of Body Art”-inspired exterior isn’t ‘Route 66’ enough for you, just take a look inside — through the open window panes a collection of highway memorabila and ‘Cars’ characters await. The queue area is a series of buildings with a more industrial ‘backstage’ area, all open at the sides and all joined together to form one continuous space – open and airy just as buildings in the real desert landscape of the USA. The road signage, industrial railings and details such as the star-shaped ceiling lights all give the feeling of motor-obsessed Route 66.


What? Not ‘Route 66’ enough for you? Well, like the main entrance sign of Crush’s Coaster, Cars Race Rally has also had a few additions since the first previews a couple of weeks ago. Now hanging in the windows of the Ramone-themed entrance are several multicoloured car hoods (bonnets) sprayed in all the colours and fancy stencilled designs you could ever imagine. They’ve added colour to both the inside and the outside — thanks to those large windows, and are just one of the many character-themed details throughout the queue.


Each character, store or location in Radiator Springs has its own information board inside this ‘Visitor Center’ to advertise their lives and trade to visiting guests. But not only that – many are also joined by additional, real, 3D props, like that gleaming trophy you’ve surely noticed already. For the uninitiated, that’s the Piston Cup — the biggest prize for racing cars in the ‘Cars’ world, and the trophy Doc Hudson – Lightning McQueen’s mentor – has won no less than twice in his time. As far as we know, this is the first and only real-life version of the CGI trophy — only at Walt Disney Studios!


It’s clear that, for fans of the Academy Award-nominated film, this quaint little attraction will truly be the holy grail of all Disney Park attractions. We’ve not even stepped inside the covered queue area yet, but when we do — another fun detail, already! Covering the entire wall to your left is the map of Carburetor County as seen at the end of the film and during the ‘Our Town’ sequence. These days, Radiator Springs is definitely on the map — the best detail of this one being a huge painting of the famous “Greetings from Radiator Springs – Gateway to the Ornament Valley” postcard.


Based on a real-life postcard from , the beautiful artwork was originally created by the artists at Pixar as a teaser for the film itself. Unfortunately, you can’t buy the artwork as a real postcard, and the queue contains a fair few other ‘souvenirs’ that would surely sell incredibly well should they become more than just queue props.


Cue Lizzie, the old-fashioned motor car who runs ‘Radiator Springs Curios’ in the film. Not wanting to miss out on a good sales opportunity, she’s got her own sales stand filled with postcards and bumper stickers — even the famous “U Want It – We Got It” slogan from her billboard-filled storefront in the film. The stand is surrounded by old-fashioned wheels like those on Lizzie herself, old tire sales signs, licence plates and even a few framed pictures of the old saleswoman herself.

And the bumper stickers themselves? Some are advertising Radiator Springs stores and locations, others simply quirky slogans from the world of Cars. Let’s take a quick read-through:

“Tow Mater Towing & Salvage”, “Cozy Cone Motel”, “Luigi’s Casa Della Tires”, “Radiator Springs Curios – Souvenirs, Brick-a-Brack, Trinkets”, “I’d rather be cruisin'”, “Got My Kicks”, “I (heart) Radiator Springs”, “Life begins at the off ramp”, “Honk if your horn works”, “I Auto Be in Pictures”, “Flats Happen”.

It appears even motor cars have a good sense of humour!


Following the queue around the Piston Cup and then over to the back-and-forth queue on the right, the cars of Radiator Springs begin to plug their trades. First a welcome from Radiator Springs Municipal Court, headed by Red the firetruck, Sheriff and the statue of Stanley…


…Then an advertisement for ‘Sarge’s Surplus Hut’, for tents, parachutes and all your surplus needs…


…Followed by Fillmore’s organic fuels. Notice that this one mixes with the exterior of Tow Mater’s salvage outside, including the drums of organic fuel we saw in Part 1 of the tour. Like the artwork hoods of Ramone’s, Fillmore’s area also includes some special props adding to his character and theme. As a hippie Volkswagon camper van, it seems only right that his information board be surrounded by 1960s multicoloured flowers, with beads hanging above illuminated by red and orange lighting — similar to Fillmore’s trippy tent in the film itself.


Reaching the far end of the double-back queue, we find Doc Hudson’s advertisements and acheivements filling the end wall and a billboard for Sally’s Cozy Cone motel separating two parts of the queue path. Notice another clever detail here? Yes, the metal supports of the board are styled just like the orange ‘Cozy Cones’ of the “newly refurbished” Radiator Springs motel itself!


Doc Hudson’s wall mainly features an advertisement for his Ornament Valley Mechanic Clinic, including a perfect recreation of its logo signage, but no doubt more interesting to fans of the film are the series of newspaper articles surrounding this, detailing his triumphs as the Fabulous Hudson Hornet racecar.


Doubling back on ourselves, we head back past the main entrance lobby towards Flo’s V8 Café, passing the other side of Lizzie’s Radiator Springs Curios stand and getting a nice view out towards the undersea facade of Crush’s Coaster across the ‘backlot’. This side of the Curios stand features more props relating to Lizzie, with a selection of postcards featuring Radiator Springs and its environs on display.

Many of the road signs and licence plates in this area are taken directly from the film, and can be seen throughout the book ‘The Art of Cars’. Though written as a production log of the animated film, the book also now provides a unique insight into the themeing of this attraction.


Nearing the boarding area under the turquoise canopy of Flo’s V8 Café, more props start to appear for the town’s only gas station — here a petrol pump, cans of motor oil and some signs and logos for the Café, positioned on a checkerboard-tiled floor and a small plinth decorated with black and white tiles. It’s the variety of styles within this Route 66 world which appears to make the attraction special. Outside, there’s a whole series of recreated locales from the film. Inside, each character gets its own space and its own style, as if the cars themselves have been in and decorated their area before guests arrive.


With so many different details and themes to explore, it’s lucky they thought to provide a map. Despite being a map of the “real” Radiator Springs on Route 66, there have been some liberties with this fantastic wall decoration to render it a little closer to the attraction – or at least to introduce the town a little better to those who haven’t seen the film yet. Off to the right and behind Flo’s V8 Café in particular, you’ll now find Willy’s Butte and the Radiator Springs raceway… which is where we’re headed in Part 3!

All photos by Photos Magiques.

Saturday, 26th May 2007

Toon Studio: Radiator Springs welcomes travellers (Part 1)

Entering the new Toon Studio, the Willy’s Butte rock formation is a classic Disney “weenie” (as it has been for months), drawing guests into this brand new themed area hidden by fir trees and planting which appears as if it has been growing at the Studios for centuries. You might even spot a cactus or two amonst the rocky desert floor!

For any guests not sure where they’re headed, a familiar sight from the film has been recreated in reality as you round the corner and get a first glimpse at the raceway – the bright turquoise, yellow and black billboard reading “Welcome to Radiator Springs – Gateway to Ornament Valley”.


Further along, a new planter with a ‘Now in Production’ sign splits the themes of Cars and Finding Nemo in two. The attraction is set up like a real-life movie set, including props, a backdrop and detailed foreground buildings.


Viewed from a distance as above, the entire ensemble of themeing and movie set clichés actually builds to a fairly convincing scene, the cadillac-shaped rocks of Cadillac Range in the background. Together with the newly redecorated Sorcerer’s Hat and the fast progressing Hollywood Tower Hotel, the icons of Cars help to build a real visual feast of recognisable icons and colourful details. Does Walt Disney Studios Park now have visual icons on the scale of Disneyland Park‘s Big Thunder Mountain, Sleeping Beauty Castle and Space Mountain? That’s for you to decide…


This morning, the Quatre Roues Rallye opened for business with the park’s other existing attractions! No fanfare, no special wristbands required – everyone has been getting the chance to join the spin-out with Lighting McQueen and Mater watching from the sidelines. The queue and ride will be featured in-depth in Part 2, but a great feature of the new mini Radiator Springs development is that guests can enjoy the film shoot without actually taking part. The photo above, for example, was taken from a new viewing position right next to the track, raised above the spinning cars thanks to the 1 metre “canyon” dug out early in the attraction’s construction.


Did we say a cactus or two? Make that almost a hundred – the quality of themeing here knows no boundaries. Little paths lead through the cacti landscape surrounded by ochre rocks, the path is bordered by a highway crash barrier and the welcoming magnolia entrance building has been adorned with two banners either side declaring “Welcome Travellers” from the Radiator Springs Chamber of Commerce.


The building – based on Ramone’s House of Body Art in the film – features a strong art deco design with detailed brickwork, large window frames and an iconic tower featuring the ‘Cars’ logo in shiny, metallic 3D form – also due to be illuminated when darkness falls. The attraction’s final in-park name – ‘Quatre Roues Rallye’ – is featured in large blue neons styled to the typeface of the ‘Cars’ logo itself.

Against the perpetual blue sky of the film set backdrop, the colour scheme is incredibly pleasing to the eye, and, in just over six months time, it should mix well with the similar art deco finish of The Hollywood Tower Hotel behind.


Walking further towards the entrance, the flooring changes to a fiery red and more props spring into sight. The telegraph poles present a unique themeing idea, and are joined by extra props of oil barrels (some featuring Lightning’s cherished ‘Rust-Eze’ brand) around their base. To the right of the main entrance is an authentic Route 66 phonebooth, complete with an old-fashioned telephone from the days of the Mother Road’s rule.


During rainshowers, it appears the phonebooth can double as a shelter for the Cast Member positioned at the attraction’s entrance, similar to Crush’s beach hut. But, for the rest of the time, it’s a neat detail for passers-by. Can you think of anything like this in the rest of the park? No, neither can we. Radiator Springs has brought the park its first true slice of real Disney detail…


…Showcased nowhere better than the following series of sets. To the right of the entrance is a generic (but well themed and weathered) brick wall façade, whilst next door is the unmissable Tow Mater garage. Since this is a Radiator Springs Visitor Centre rather than the real thing (which is – according to Pixar legend – located along the real Route 66), the façades aren’t meant to be accurate to the real town but rather a showcase of its themes, locations and people.

Notice again that more aged and crooked trees have been brought in to complete the scene, with a planting area in the scene above bordered by old tires sunken into the desert floor – which again goes through various colour and style changes depending on the themes above.


Therefore, Tow Mater has infact managed to get a real building for his showcase, rather than a flimsy wooden shack. His trademark sign is still in place, though, appearing identical to that in the film with an added “Welcome” sign on a rusted piece of scrap metal. Again, compared to the pristine yellow buildings elsewhere at Walt Disney Studios, this dirty and worn wooden façade is quite a break from the norm.


In the doorway of Mater’s shack are props relating to Fillmore, the hippie Volkswagon camper van hooked on converting the world to organic fuel. These colourful barrels all feature different ingredients for his organic fuel, written in typical 1970s typeface.


At the end of row of storefronts comes the best one yet. No, you’re not looking at a still from the CGI film, this is real – you can touch it! Luigi, who we saw being sculpted many months ago, has been finished off with a perfect Fiat yellow, a shiny gloss and a trademark wince of the eyes. Next to him, the ever-smiling Guido prepares to lift some tires, also appearing pixel-perfect to that seen in the film.

The façade itself is also perhaps the most impressive, coming complete with a Leaning Tower of Tires, strings of lights, tire carvings atop the building and the iconic neon signage of ‘Luigi’s Casa Della Tires’. Notice something in the neons? Yes, ‘Casa’ comes in green, ‘Della’ in white and ‘Tires’ in red… the Italian flag, of course!


Like almost the entire attraction complex, the two vehicles have been given a spot of dirt and weathering already, to add to the rustic realism of the Route 66 setting. Above the scene is an ornate metal framework for the fabric canopy seen in the ‘Casa Della Tires’ of the film. It remains to be seen if a similar canopy will arrive to complete the scene in Paris.


Never one to miss a good sales opportunity, Luigi haseven brought over a selection of tires to showcase to passing guests. In the windows of the store, atop tire-shaped plinths, you can find such novelties as “Creama”, “Latte” and “Blanco Maximo” – Luigi’s famous white-rimmed tires which Lighting McQueen himself adopts halfway into the film.


With our tour of the Radiator Springs exteriors complete, it’s time to head back along Route 66 to the attraction entrance. The yellow stripes lead the way along a special stretch of black asphalt bordering the Visitor Centre complex, filled with worn-out cracks and crinkles as if it has supported weary Route 66 travellers for countless decades.


Back at the attraction entrance, we can find the wait time indicator cleverly positioned on a road sign beside Route 66, the ‘Cars’ logo embossed and given a silver shine, the sign itself presented in a particularly classic and well-designed style. The sign doesn’t just give useful information, it adds to the theme of the attraction. And, like everything else, it already has its fair share of dirt and grime.


For a modest little spin-out like Quatre Roues Rallye, those Radiator Springs folk sure know how to give a warm welcome! Now that we’ve toured the town from outside the race track, get ready on the starting line for Part 2, where we step inside the Visitor Centre and discover even more details from this real “dark horse” of Walt Disney Imagineering.

All photos by Photos Magiques.

Monday, 21st May 2007

Toon Studio: Almost ready

Being a Saturday, many local fans were already at the park, and got a first-hand look at the soft-opening previews. Like magic, the blue fences were pushed aside with rows of new Toon Studio Cast Members waiting to greet guests – and inform them of no photography, no filming, merci! The invited guests were all families and workers of Imagineering, construction and vendors – though later hours did see a few regular guests allowed entry.

A view to the new Toon Studio, no Flying Carpet required! 

The day also marked the first official use of the new Toon Studio costumes, seen above, made up of khaki trousers, a red jumper underneath a white shirt decorated with sketches of Disney characters, a red baseball cap and finally the all-important Toon Studio jacket – blue in colour, with the new Toon Studio logo loud and clear. Underneath, logos for Crush’s Coaster, Cars Quatre Roues Rallye and Flying Carpets Over Agrabah. The Crush logo appears like that at the attraction itself – a blue and green warning sign – whilst the Flying Carpets logo is also brand new.

Surrounding the area are several signs indicating that the previews are for invited guests only. got a high-quality capture of one, so we can see the land’s new logo up-close…

New logo revealed 

‘Official opening 9th June 2007’ of course, but tha’s not the case for the Toon Studio themed area itself – which has infact just opened to the public TODAY, 21st May 2007, for the very first time. Not only does this give guests a better preview of the new area before its two major attractions open, but it’s now an important route through to Studio Tram Tour.

New path gives a true ‘backstage’ experience

Grandmath on Disney Central Plaza forum captured this photo from next to the Tram Tour last week, showing current progress on the new path which will take visitors from the back of Toon Studio to Studio Tram Tour’s temporary entrance. This now allows work to fully begin on the second – and far larger – placemaking project: Hollywood Boulevard. Tomorrow really is becoming today!

Opening photo by nos77 on DCP; Logos captured by; New path photo by Grandmath.

Saturday, 19th May 2007

Graphic design, show writing and kicks on ’66

This new video features two Imagineers working on the project talking about the ride experience and describing their intentions with its design and construction. Behind them, you might spot one or two props soon to appear at the attraction itself in Paris, such as a stop light, cans of motor oil, a poster for Fillmore’s organic fuel and newspaper cut-outs describing the triumphs of the Famous Hudson Hornet, Doc Hudson!

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Michael Sprout (Senior Show Writer) / Debbie Hofman (Graphic Designer)

First, Senior Show Writer Michael Sprout, confirms that the queue buildings are set up like a “visitor centre” for Radiator Springs, showcasing each of the stores and locales owned by the motor vehicle inhabitants. He also mentions “wild race music” and that Lightning and Mater will be positioned at the edge of the race area (rather than outside the entrance as expected before) shouting encouragements to guests on the spinning ride.

“The guest experience for the Cars attraction is that first you’re going to visit the town, see the sights, go through the visitor centre, and then you’re going to go out to the race course. Lightning and Mater are there to welcome you to the race. You go out to your new rookie car, get in the car and at a signal, your car starts up, doing this wild spinning race through the desert.

“As you race, Lightning and Mater are off to the side of the racetrack shouting encouragement to you. There’s this wild race music that will get your blood going and you spin around in this crazy figure-eight spinning course for about a minute and half, which is quite a bit of time in those conditions!”

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Circular entrance lobby, featuring various advertisements and the famous Piston Cup!

The second half of the video features graphic designer Debbie Hofman speaking briefly about how the Imagineers attempted to capture the feel of Route 66 for Europeans and “show what it means for Americans”, whilst a camera pans across a never-before-seen concept model depicting the full visitor centre complex from behind (imagine yourself stood on the spot of Art of Disney Animation looking towards Crush), the walls decorated in large posters featuring local brands such as Lightning McQueen’s Rust-Eze medicated bumper ointment and Tow Mater’s pick-up service.

When we developed the queue for the attraction we wanted to start with the outside as you’re walking in and the exteriors are featuring Route 66 and the kind of architecture you would see. And then walking into it, we really wanted to bring in that world of Route 66, some of the businesses you’d find, the cars, and really get that feel for the guests. Especially being in Europe, we wanted to really capture Route 66 for them and what that is for Americans.

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‘Backstage’ area of the queue under outdoor canopy, featuring more local advertisements.


The work of Debbie Hofman and the graphic design team has now made it to the attraction itself in Paris. We got a glimpse at a poster advertising Ramone’s House of Body Art back in April, and now a much more noticable banner has filled one side of the entrance lobby building.

Graphic design work completed and in place in Paris!

The large blue banner appears to proclaim “Welcome Travellers!” in typically Route 66-style – a part of America famed for its hospitality – with the route logo of the famous road also featured. As they head toward the checkered flag, representing what Route 66 means to Americans as well as recreating the Pixar impression, they’re certainly getting a kick out of it. And speaking of checkered flags, latest rumours are that Cast Members will come equipped with special race accessories – each and every Race Rally spinout will be finished with a wave of the famous race flag!

Concept images © Disney; Latest photo by Photos Magiques.

Monday, 7th May 2007

Everything points to Toons

The idea Walt Disney Imagineering calls “Area Development” has gone to play in every corner of Toon Studio. Whilst Disneyland Park has been the king of area development for over 15 years – everywhere from Boot Hill to Discovery Lagoon – Walt Disney Studios Park is finally beginning to join in with its three Toon Studio filmsets and the wacky studio entrance gate at the back of the land. Today, it’s all about signs – and they’re all pointing to the Toons.

The long-awaited ‘Cars’ neon was installed a couple of weeks ago atop the Ramone’s House of Body Art-inspired queue entrance. With a shiny red finish and a sleek metallic surround, it looks like a perfect slice of Route 66 Americana. Elsewhere, the neons and studio lighting glow throughout the day, ready to draw people in, whilst more trees have been added just in front of the Cadillac Range backdrop. Because – unlike the rest of the Studios and its loud billboards – this area likes to keep things a bit more hidden, give guests something to discover as they turn each corner…

Turning the corner towards Cars Quatre Roues Rallye, they will be confronted with a billboard – but smaller, more colourful and a key part of the area development. The ‘Welcome to Radiator Springs’ sign looks like it was copied and pasted right out of Pixar’s computers. In the distance, you can see the entrance sign for the attraction has also been installed, reading ‘Cars Quatre Roues Rallye’ in customised, bright blue neons.

As for the electricity pylons, theyve now been littered with studio lighting also pointing towards a Toon – the giant undersea backdrop of Crush’s filmset, so perhaps those electricity wires are almost real?

Sticking with Cars, and the photo below – from – again shows another new sign, but maybe not what we expected. With its dark, rotting wooden facade, the middle storefront always seemed to be a sure location for Lizzie’s Radiator Springs Curios. As the lopsided sign shows, though, Tow Mater has taken this spot! The photo also shows the large collection of new conifer trees in the area behind the land, as well as a brand new gate between Route 66 and the Studio Tram Tour route.

Crush’s Coaster has been receiving a last minute touch-up to its paintwork this week, helping the dark blue rockwork blend better with the brighter side wall thanks to an air-blown gradient.

Here too there are new signs pointing to the Toons. The all-important entrance sign was installed last week, with a small logo and wait time indicator at the top then two pairs of warnings signs below, one in French, the other in English. The information board clearly uses the same style as those at Epcot’s ‘The Seas with Nemo & Friends’.

It’s a small sign for the towering Studio 5 behind, but sources including La Rouquine on Disney Central Plaza forum have confirmed that the much larger marquee featuring Crush himself will still appear, positioned along the queue line just before guests step under the canopy at the side of the studio.

The previously pale yellow building of Animagique doesn’t have any new signage but it does have a blinding new blue colour scheme to point guests toward itself – now with an extra touch of purple to replace the dull red bricks around the top of its waiting area roof. Later photos on show the pillars either side of the entrance (here being painted with a white primer) have actually been repainted in the very same blue as before, where a more contrasting colour might have been expected.

Also strange to note – the Fantasia hippos previously positioned in the flower beds on the right of the building, toward the Monsters Inc photo location, have now been moved to the lawn behind Art of Disney Animation, along the Studio Tram Tour: Behind the Magic route. The move doesn’t look temporary, so it remains to be seen if they will be returned to Animation Courtyard once the flooring has been completed, let alone what remains of their former flower beds…

But whilst the hippos are gone, something else returns. The look-out tower next to Flying Carpets Over Agrabah – which was recently repainted purple from dark blue – has now regained its fabric canopy and walls.

Finally, we end with the biggest pointer to the Toons of them all – the land’s brand new Sorcerer Mickey statue. We first saw a glimpse of the statue being sculpted in February, and now that the latest issue of Tales from the Laughing Place has shipped, we can get a closer look at the Studios’ fourth Mickey statue.

The Imagineer at work is Valerie Edwards, and the statue should finally appear in its full, golden form later this month, along with a spark of magic flying across the parade route and the host of other golden Disney characters on the Sorcerer’s Hat. So if it looks like everything’s pointing to the Toons right now, just wait ’till June!

Photos 5 & 6 by; Photos 7 & 8 by Kyoto, Disney Magic Interactive; Photo 12 taken from Tales from the Laughing Place; All other photos by Photos Magiques.

Friday, 4th May 2007

Avant-première(s) for Crush and Cars

…And this time, it really is being rolled out to us. Not only will the press come in smaller numbers (700 compared to 1700 for 31st March) and one week after the opening (16th June), but the organisers of the resort’s Shareholders Club and Annual Passport Dream privileges have finally mailed invites and organised events to celebrate the 15th.

First, the Shareholders Club. Announced via email, on the official website and now through a mailed invite (below), shareholders of Euro Disney SCA have the exclusive opportunity to ride Crush’s Coaster and Cars Race Rally as many times as they wish between 12pm and 3pm on 2nd June 2007.

Places at the event are strictly limited to a first-come first-served basis, and you must apply online no later than 25th May 2007. Your Shareholders Club card must also have been valid at 1st May 2007.

Shareholders will be able to receive up to 2 free Passe-Partout park hopper tickets for the day and up to 4 wristbands to gain access to the attractions – meaning up to 3 friends or family can join you for the rush to Crush! In addition to Salon Mickey, the mezzanine of Restaurant En Coulisse will offer a similar service of complimentary refreshments from 9:30am to 11:30am.

More details can be seen in the flyer above, and don’t forget to register now if you’d like to attend!

Not a shareholder? Well, grab your Passeport Annuel Dream and you too can join the rush – a few hours earlier than those Shareholders, infact! By simply showing up at Walt Disney Studios Park and presenting your Annual Passport Dream, you can get exclusive access to the two new attractions at the following times:

Saturday 2nd June 2007 – 9am to 12pm
Sunday 3rd June 2007 – 4pm to 7pm
Wednesday 6th June 2007 – 10am to 12pm

Dream passholders can also invite one friend (with a valid park passport) to join them in the rush. As with the Shareholders event, the attractions can be closed at any time during these final test runs, to troubleshoot or tweak at the Imagineers’ discretion.

It’s important to note that, whilst all of these events are being labelled as “Avant-Première” previews, guests will by no means be the “first” to ride the two new attractions. Like all new Disney attractions, they will be opened to the public for select periods in the fortnight before their official opening to test the systems, train the Cast Members and respond to the guest reaction. These events simply help loyal guests get an extended preview before the “rush” truly begins.

The “Soft Openings” themselves are scheduled to run most days from the end of May to the 9th June grand opening, so Shareholder, Dream passholder or regular guest – the avant-premières will continue for some time, and the “red carpet” finally available for all.

Finally, impressive proof that the Red Carpet has returned after his success in early April. Making a dazzling comeback last night on French TV network M6 (think E4 if you’re in the UK), he flew through the sky once again before diving down into the depths of the ocean and spiralling around to help launch the first piece of advertising directly aimed at Crush’s Coaster and a competition to win your own avant-première visit.

You can download the brief TV spot (around 18 seconds) here, uploaded by Mouetto on Disney Central Plaza forum.

Friday, 4th May 2007

Kachow! Lightning has arrived!

Yes, the ego has landed! Coming in the form of a life-size replica similar to the models seen at Disney’s California Adventure park and Disney-MGM Studios Florida last year, the sleek and shiny red racing hero (known as Flash McQueen in France) has every detail perfected – from “Lightyear” tires to his “Rusteze Bumper Ointment” stickers.

In a great example of being in the right place at the right time, one of our readers was kind enough to send in a couple of photos taken from Studio Tram Tour. After five years of Jeremy Irons and Dinotopia, the tour easily provided one of its most exciting moments for passing guests. As their tram passed by the main route from backstage to the Toon Studio construction site, Lightning McQueen was resting on a fork-lift truck waiting to be carried across and dropped off at Cars Race Rally!

The replica joins Mater (known as Martin in France), who arrived a few days earlier, to greet guests at the entrance of the attraction in the park’s new Radiator Springs settlement (as seen in the concept art below) and “cheer visitors on” as they compete in the race rally spin-out in the dusty “canyon” below.

In the US resorts, the vehicles appear as drive-around models who enter and exit the park several times a day to meet guests. For Paris, they will likely be presented simply as stationary figures, allowing guests to pose for photos and meet their heros all throughout the day at Walt Disney Studios Park.

These two characters bring the total number currently confirmed for the attraction to three, since we have already seen that Luigi will also be featured in life-size formrecreated for the very first time especially for Paris — in front of his famous Casa Della Tires storefront, complete with Leaning Tower of Tires.

Lightning McQueen photos with thanks to Kevin Hollingworth.

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