Tuesday, 6th March 2012

Steve Davison arrives in Paris for overnight ‘Disney Dreams!’ testing and programming

If there’s one Facebook page you really need to “Like” as anticipation grows for the 20th Anniversary and Disney Dreams! (besides our own of course), then it’s the Steve Davison Fan Page. Because this isn’t just any page dedicated to the Disneyland entertainment master and producer of Disneyland Paris’ new nighttime spectacular, no. It’s Steve himself who provides the updates, which in the past have included rare glimpses into the production of World of Color as well as Tokyo DisneySea‘s stunningly re-imagined version of the classic Fantasmic!. Over recent months and weeks, Steve has begun dropping tantalising morsels of information about this, his very first original project for Disneyland Paris, culminating in an attention-grabbing status update just over a week ago which simply began “DISNEY DREAMS! DISNEY DREAMS! DISNEY DREAMS!.

This was Steve announcing his final departure to Disneyland Paris, where he’ll presumably be based for the whole month to prepare every element of the new park finale for its grand premiere. “Here I come. Off to program the show for Paris Disneyland. All the pieces look amazing thus far! Now it’s the task of painting them all together into one beautiful, exciting and moving spectacular!”

Since arriving in Marne-la-Vallée, Steve has shared three further updates; first revealing that the Disney Dreams! fountains rose out of the moat for the very first time exactly a week ago, on February 28th: “Just saw a bunch of water rising up from out of the moat! Now that’s a good thing! Fun stuff!” And on 1st March, that the unpredictable Marne-la-Vallée fog was causing problems for the team: “It is one “foggy” programming night here is Paris. Not getting a lot done. We can’t see a thing. I feel like Santa at the end of Rodolph! Except I don’t have a reindeer with a bright red nose to cut through the fog. But the 10K searchlights come close!”

The testing and programming is taking place after park hours and running right through the night, apparently as late at 6am. Steve himself followed up his first update from Paris with the confirmation: “And yes it’s really 3:30am here!” Even a programmer of Dreams deserves a night off, though, as Steve posted Saturday: “We have a night off tonight. It’s crazy working nights.” But that doesn’t mean the team were apart for too long, as he later revealed a trip out to the nearby town of Melun, south-east of Paris: “Oh no. We’re in Melun having Fondue with Team Dreams!”

Currently hovering around 987 likes, let’s see if his new quotient of Disneyland Paris fans from DLRP Today.com can boost numbers on the Steve Davison Fan Page above 1000, shall we?

Wednesday, 29th February 2012

Central Plaza tent encampment falls with no surprises, ground works almost complete

The tents have gone from Central Plaza! Ever since a camp of five tents sprung up on the plaza at the start of February, the expected panic of those with impending visits — who just have to get that photo — has ensued. If that’s you, you’ll be glad to know this isn’t some “Lead Day” anomaly, the tents have served their purpose and been taken down. Insert brilliant current affairs reference to the end of the Occupy London camp here. Structured as one giant tent in the middle of the plaza with four smaller marquees over each of the wings, this crucial weather protection has allowed workers to continue through freezing temperatures as they relay the floor across Central Plaza.

This followed the dismantling of the former stage which dominated the area, having become unpopular with both fans and, apparently, management — especially as removing it frees up more vital viewing space for Disney Dreams!. Despite the effort gone to to protect the construction site, the results don’t appear too dramatic at all. Looking at some photos taken underneath the construction walls today, it appears the pathways have been rebuilt with the same regular pavement concrete as the rest of Main Street, U.S.A. without any major change. Railings and lampposts appear the same, if freshly repainted, though there does appear to be one missing element: the central flower bed.

Of course, removing this frees up even more space, but it does mean this is a Disneyland Park without a Partners Statue nor anything else at its heart. May we suggest a statue of Steve Davison, pointing to the skies above the castle?

PHOTO @cgonier VIA @InsideDLParis

Friday, 24th February 2012

New ‘Disney Dreams!’ promo photos, press release promise “explosion of lights and colours”

The buzz for Disney Dreams! has finally hit the Disneyland Paris press website, with both a complete press release for the new nighttime show and several publicity photos from recent after-hours tests. Showing simply a multi-coloured test projection on Sleeping Beauty Castle and a burst of pyrotechnics radiating outwards from behind the château, they’re hardly the most revealing sneak peeks, but at least confirm the surprisingly important presence of fireworks in the show. Disneyland Paris has long had problems with the noise and cost of fireworks, limiting them to just two summer months and special events. Since we all really thought the fountains, projections and other effects would be there to make up for a move away from pyrotechnics, avoiding those perceived problems, it’s exciting to see that they will truly be an important element of the new, nightly and year-round spectacular.

A third image was also released alongside these two, and has been published elsewhere online. However, a quick look at the flowery projections on the castle — and more tellingly the photo’s EXIF data — reveals it was taken at 23:05 on 13th July 2011, in other words during The Enchanted Fireworks, so probably doesn’t offer a glimpse at Disney Dreams! at all.

What does come packed with information about this 20th Anniversary spectacular, though, is a new press release dedicated to the show. Detailing the music, the story and all the “elements” it’s a revealing read — but only in French. Lucky then we’ve translated it all into English!

Complete translated press release follows… Read More…

Wednesday, 22nd February 2012

‘Disney Dreams!’ show control building plays pretend as “Parks Landscaping Department”

“Story is king” goes the mantra. And so, satisfied that the new control booth for Disney Dreams! fits stunningly well within its Central Plaza parkland environment in this update from last week, our next thought turned to how, story-wise, its prominent position within the gardens could be explained away. “With its wooden trellis arch and location right in the middle of Main Street’s Central Plaza park, perhaps we could imagine it’s the gardener’s lodge — rather than a high-tech show control booth soon to be sending fountains, fireworks and lasers soaring,” we mused. Well — let us imagine no longer, that’s exactly what the Imagineers had in mind!

This week, new props have suddenly arrived all around the building: a wooden wheelbarrow out the front, a watering can under the porch, tools and shovels hung up at the side. Several wooden planting boxes and barrels now also sit beside the booth, ready to be filled with flowers or shrubs. Just to fully confirm the backstory, a plaque next to the entrance reads plainly “Parks Landscaping Department”. Given the amount of work needed to be done around the plaza to prepare for the 20th Anniversary spectacular, the “landscaping” part, at least, isn’t far wrong.


As @CreativeAlan suggests, tweeting a reply to these photos by @InsideDLParis, perhaps a name such as “Flower Street Gardeners” would have been more imaginative and less obvious in terms of story than the slightly overstated “Parks Landscaping Department”. But the fact that there’s a story at all, for a simple show control building, can only be congratulated.

VIA @InsideDLParis (Twitter)

Thursday, 16th February 2012

‘Disney Dreams!’ fountains fill castle moat as installation project fights winter freeze

The Disney Dreams! are well on their way, and the most anticipated element of this all-new nighttime spectacular surely has to be: the fountains. A show made of jumping water in the castle moat once seemed a thing of fantasy but, as these latest photos from DisneyGazette.fr confirm, it’s fast becoming a reality. Technical equipment low litters the entire moat of Sleeping Beauty Castle, dotting its length with mysterious brown boxes and running a ring of water jets around its perimeter.

Even as rainwater has frozen solid on the drained bed, work hurries ahead to install the piece of this 20th Anniversary spectacular. So what exactly are we looking at? As expected, it’s a more modest array of wet effects than the enormous (and almost entirely water-based) World of Color, and the fountains installed so far can roughly be grouped into three types of kit…

First up: those long, rectangular boxes, with a bronze spout poking out one end, will be the show’s main fountains. Creating a vertical wall of water running across the width of Central Plaza, extending all the way from the entrance to La Tanière du Dragon to the wishing well and Le Théâtre du Château, they will likely be illuminated from below using a ring of colour-changing LED lights fixed around the spout. There’s a chance some of these 40-or-so fountains will have different capabilities, perhaps the ability to move, as their set-up seems to slightly differ in one or two places.

Meanwhile the moat, usually a protective ring around its neighbouring fortress itself, has been encircled by curious and very long rods of smaller spouts. Connected via a single pipe and tube, there are three of these installations with two on the left side of the drawbridge (either side of the Dragon’s bridge) and one larger array on the right (seen in the first photo above).

Likely to be much lower powered, these spouts will probably be used to add “bulk” to the base of the water display, either as jets of water or more likely a mist effect. Rather than a line of solitary fountains shooting up from the castle moat, this should create a more magical haze of water coming to life in the moat, which can itself be illuminated to add dramatic effect.

Finally, two huge brown boxes at the far ends, either side of the display, are easiest to decipher. These high-powered jets come in two sets of six fountains, their workings specially enclosed as one complete unit. Apparently capable of shooting at least as high as the castle itself (!) we’re guessing thanks to compressed air, another technique brought in from World of Color, they are arranged as five fountains around a central, tallest jet. These incredible fountains were highlight in pink on the show scene model, below, revealed in the recent promo video.

Again, rather than having the castle stand solitary, these tall jets matching its height will help to “bulk out” the spectacle, making it a far more impressive and immersive experience.

A major point of difference with World of Color is that all these fountains have been fixed directly to the concrete bed of the moat. In California, the vast expanse of fountains is laid out across two platforms capable of being lifted out of the water for maintenance, rather than having to drain the entire Paradise Bay lagoon. In Paris, luckily, draining a smaller, shallower fairytale moat is much less daunting task.

If only the same could be said for the challenge now: correctly wiring up and testing each of these new fountains, in time for April 1st!

MORE PHOTOS DisneyGazette.fr

Monday, 13th February 2012

‘Disney Dreams!’ makes magic already with new Central Plaza show control booth

We’re dedicating this week on DLRP Today to Disney Dreams!, the main event of the 20th Anniversary that is set to transform the end of your day in the parks from 1st April 2012. But this hotly-anticipated new nighttime spectacular, from master of the artform Steve Davison, has already created a surprise or two in Disneyland Park. Following several months of mysterious ground works, leading a trail across Central Plaza, trees were completely cleared from a wooded area on the Frontierland side of Main Street, U.S.A. in mid September last year. By December, all was revealed: or was it?

On Wednesday 7th, a sharp, square building suddenly appeared on the plot, in a not-too-fetching shade of green to match the construction walls around it. “Quelle horreur!” we wailed — but only for 24 hours. In a spark of pre-fabricated Imagineering magic, the building — a grand new show control centre for Disney Dreams! — had taken on a whole new look the very next day. Just compare the two photos below by @InsideDLParis:

Now wood-panelled in green with crisp burgundy details, it certainly stands out but looks perfectly at home here on the fringes of Main Street. Capturing all the classic motifs of the street’s turn-of-the-20th-Century architecture, it has the elaborately-framed windows, porch awning and a curved copper roof, complete with spiky ironwork and bulbous flairs cut into its carpentry.


Though perfectly functional — check out that bank of seven huge windows on the front, giving an unparalleled view over the Disney Dreams! “arena” — this beauty has more than enough details to make it a decorative addition to the plaza, too. The circular window nestled in the roof is a delicate finishing touch, and the cabin could look even better in the warmer months ahead if softened up with flowers or more greenery. It’s certainly a huge upgrade in the former show control booth for Central Plaza Stage (pictured below), which has been blocking the pavement for several years. Removing this uninspired obstruction will free up even more space to watch the new show.

But how does it fit into the “story”? With its wooden trellis arch and location right in the middle of Main Street’s Central Plaza park, perhaps we could imagine it’s the gardener’s lodge — rather than a high-tech show control booth soon to be sending fountains, fireworks and lasers soaring.

It has already had the chance to test some elements of Disney Dreams!, at least. The still below, from last month’s promo video, shows a technician lining up the numerous projectors which will map HD video onto the towers and turrets of Sleeping Beauty Castle using the state-of-the-art “Hippotizer” system.

Come April 1st, the tension inside will surely belie the gentile appearance, as it will all rest on this unsuspecting little park lodge to launch Disney Dreams! off without hitch…

MORE PHOTOS Disney Dreams! Control Booth (Photos Magiques)

Thursday, 2nd February 2012

Central Plaza swaps unpopular stage for temporary tents as remodel hits sub-zero weather

If you’re reading this in Europe, no doubt you’ve felt a very seasonal but very sharp chill in the air this past week as winter has belatedly made its mark. Disney Parks, magical as they are, aren’t exempt from wild fluctuations of temperature either, which can lead to such surprising measures as this: covering the whole of Central Plaza in a series of temporary tents to make sure its remodel meets the deadline. With the over-dominating stage now consigned to history, the plaza has been left open and levelled for the first time since 2006. Disneyland Paris now faces the daunting prospect of ensuring it is completely rebuilt ready for the premiere of Disney Dreams! in less than two months.

The encampment grew from a single, open-sided tent on Tuesday to three tents on Wednesday (below right) and eventually five, fully-enclosed tents today (bottom). Surprisingly, the whole area had been completely flattened, with all existing concrete dug up and railings taken down.


But is this a simple case of repaving? Conspiracy theories abound: forums and Twitter have been buzzing with the belief that Disney must be hiding something inside these structures. Rumours from last year of a new fountain on Central Plaza, that could function normally during the day but burst into multi-coloured life as part of the new nighttime show, were immediately resurrected. However, plans for the programming of the “fountain package” featured in the 20th Anniversary preview video didn’t appear to show any such addition; the middle of the plaza was left entirely empty.

Temperatures in Marne-la-Vallée for the next week are forecast for highs of 0°C and crippling lows of -8°C tonight, so the tents themselves are surely just sensible precautions to ensure the work is completed on time. As for the remodel itself, one thing we’d particularly like to see would be the lampposts around the middle of the plaza replaced with lower, shoulder-height lamps just like those in the specially-built World of Color viewing area in California, for example. For 20 years, guests have had their views of castle shows and fireworks impeded by those poorly-placed bulbs.

With the inner circle of lampposts — and much of the plaza — now hidden inside these mysterious tents, how will the heart of the park look when they come down…?

PHOTOS VIA @InsideDLParis

Friday, 13th January 2012

Disneyland Paris 20th Anniversary preview video reveals “Disney Dreams!” – and more surprises

“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!”

VIA Disneyland Paris (YouTube)

Sunday, 1st January 2012

Several Magical Moments to end early January, others “extended” into 20th Anniversary

It’s 2012 (Happy New Year!) and time for a fresh start. For Disneyland Paris, that appears to mean several key elements of the current Disney Magical Moments Festival, marketed to run until 4th March 2012, will be cleared out early. Rumours long suggested the main Mickey’s Magical Celebration show on Central Plaza would face an early finish, due to the much detested Central Plaza Stage finally being ripped out, opening up the hub of the park ready for Dreams.

Now, here’s the confirmation: no performances from 9th January onwards! In truth, the show has had a lukewarm reception ever since last April. Notably lacking the grander spectacle of the previous Disney Showtime Spectacular, it wasn’t quite the kind of production to justify such a monolithic stage to take over the heart of the park. Initially it seemed the four large satellite “arms” of the stage might be lopped off, but now the whole stage is said to be for the chop. For stage shows, this means any future open-air productions will (quite rightly) be on the Théâtre du Château where they belong. For new nighttime spectacular Dreams, the rumour mill is still pumping: Will the removal of the stage open up the area purely for more standing room again, or could the hub become part of the show? One particularly fun (if purely fabricated) rumour is for a “magic” dancing fountain to take the place of the former flower bed. To be honest, even being able to walk across and use the plaza as a “hub”, rather than an impermeable roundabout, seems an exciting prospect at this point.

Surprisingly, this show isn’t the only “Magical Moment” preparing for early retirement. It will be joined on 9th January by Disney Dance Express, the garishly-coloured dance show which reused the old Dumbo Casey Jr. parade float. Could this, the float’s fifth iteration since its launch as part of The Wonderful World of Disney Parade, be its last? Meanwhile, the Green Army Men Meet & Play event over in Toy Story Playland will also end on the same date and, as reported earlier, the first float will be removed from Disney’s Once Upon a Dream Parade for its “Magic on Parade!” makeover.

Making it all the way to the 4th March end date, but not continuing beyond that date, will be the “interactive” show stops of Disney’s Once Upon a Dream Parade, the temporary Tangled meet ‘n’ greet location for Rapunzel and, surprisingly, the small Following the Leader with Peter Pan show in Adventureland. That event was perhaps the most appreciated of all the new “moments” in 2011. For Rapunzel, we must presume she will simply join the other princesses in the new Princess Pavilion.

Finally, continuing into the 20th Anniversary are the many photo locations which popped up around the parks: Wall•E and Eve in Discoveryland, Alice in Wonderland near the Labyrinth, Aladdin near Adventureland Bazaar, Ratatouille near Restaurant des Stars and Monsters, Inc. in Toon Studio (which, added in 2006, was never “new” for 2011 to begin with, but never mind). Lighting McQueen will remain in his Moteurs… Action! Stunt Show Spectacular cameo and the new Adventureland Rhythms of the Jungle location next to Restaurant Hakuna Matata will remain the home of the popular Tam Tam.

PHOTOS VIA Photos Magiques

Tuesday, 27th September 2011

Halloween: New decorations, new shows, no pumpkinmen for a more “Disney” HalloweenTime

Halloween 2011 Preview — Something strange has come over Disneyland Paris. As we approach the launch of Disney’s Halloween Festival this Saturday, you’ll see not a hastily-crafted static Pumpkinman in sight. Instead, the decorations are new, the pumpkins have ears and Castle Stage… has come back to life. At last this season appears to be heading in the right direction. After years trailing around misguided creations such as the Pumpkinmen, Pink Witches and Stitch, Paris — the Disney resort which pioneered the Halloween season in 1997 (before trashing it all with orange paint in 2003) — has now looked to Disneyland in California for inspiration. This year, we’re seeing brand new decorations lifted directly from the Anaheim park’s popular HalloweenTime. High quality, considerately-designed and most importantly more “Disney” in their execution as well as their style, they should go a long way to giving Disneyland Paris guests the Halloween they expect from the park.

For fans, it’s a double surprise. As well as a park plussed rather than spoilt by the season, the majority of those new decorations have so far arrived at Le Théâtre du Château, which will be coming back to life to host the new Mickey’s Halloween Treat in the Street event. Vines wrap their way around the bronze columns, pumpkins top the towers and a giant Mickey-shaped pumpkin head (similar to that on Town Square in California) is the centrepiece. The mini-show will feature the full line-up of Mickey and friends in special costumes and dialogue in both French and English. After highlighting several times this year what a wasted opportunity the stage is, it’s a delight to see it fully decorated and back in use.

Plans for Main Street, U.S.A. seem a little lower spec, with just colour-coordinated flower beds, Mickey-eared pumpkins and a spot of bunting on the concept we’ve seen, but it’s still a step up from last year’s near complete lack of Halloween decoration on the street. Hopefully now that Disneyland Paris has finally found the right path for its Halloween decorations, Main Street will gradually begin to match the warm and vibrant Harvest “Pumpkin Festival” theme seen in California (below).

Meanwhile, one old decision hangs on, for a little while longer at least: Central Plaza Stage. That behemoth will at least be hosting a big new show, titled Disney’s Maleficious Halloween Party, which amongst other surprises is said to see Snow White’s Evil Queen transform into a Witch, courtesy of the stage lifts, and Dr Facilier from The Princess and the Frog return to the park.

Rumour suggests Disney’s Once Upon a Dream Parade won’t feature its usual Halloween pre-parade this year, although Jack Skellington and Sally from The Nightmare Before Christmas will be making a return for meet ‘n’ greets, despite not being mentioned in any publicity. It remains to be seen if Halloweenland will return to Frontierland in any form. In truth, the land has felt more like a boneyard for discarded decorations rather than a proper overlay for the past few years, anyway. A cleaning out of the junk and a shot in the arm in quality is exactly what the festival needed.

• More: Disney’s Halloween Festival preview guide on DLRP Magic.com

• Next: We preview each of the three Halloween parties in detail!

PHOTO 1 @InsideDLParis (Twitter), PHOTOS 2-3 Dateline Disneyland (MiceChat)

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