Tuesday, 27th March 2007

Disney Store loses 15 years

Imagine the scene… on the night of 12th April 2007, all of the resort’s attractions and famous locations join together for one amazing 15th Anniversary party. As Big Thunder Mountain and Pirates of the Caribbean look as fresh as ever and Le Château shows off its new bling, the young upstarts of Walt Disney Studios (Aerosmith and Julie from the TV Tour?) really show how to get a party started. The Disney Hotels play the sleeping aunts and uncles in the corner, whilst those strange new neighbours from Val de France cause more than a few frowns from the Disney classics. Meanwhile, spare a thought for Disney Village – sobbing in the street. Those fifteen years haven’t been kind to everyone. Time for drastic measures? Well, only as far as the budget will stretch…

In truth, the Village seems to have been preparing for this dreaded event for quite some time. A series of refurbishments, repaints and redecorations began way back in 2005, and has since come in sudden surges every few months. Usually met by howls and scowls from fans (who disliked the original design yet appear to hate the new one even more), the refresh has sought to bring more colour, life and Disney atmosphere to the Village – whilst systematically moving every possible hint of the ’90s.

Short of demolishing the entire Frank Gehry-conceived distict, though, there’s only so far this can go. Recently, it means removing the tired old facades and replacing them with fresh paint and simple signs, such as the Team Mickey makeover. Last on the tick-list: Disney Store, which began its renewal around two weeks ago.

The original pastel-coloured Union Station and Grand Central Station façades have been removed and the building patched-up ready for repainting. Since the “Mount Disney Store” side (opposite Sports Bar) was repainted over a year ago now, this will remain in place.

It doesn’t seem certain that the Disney Store’s new façade will feature a similar American theme, though the design of the boutique has always been quite mismatched. Originally, the “Space” theme from inside continued into the street, with Mickey riding a spaceship atop a giant steel pillar stretching across the street.

Rumours spread several months ago, when the World of Toys and Hollywood Pictures received their new paint, that the buildings could be decorated in large murals of Disney characters. Since these have yet to appear, it would be nice to think Disney Store could be their host. But, as ever, we’ll have to wait and see. The surgery seems to have at least restored some confidence in the Village, which has finally joined the 15th with special window decorations throughout all of its stores (photo 4 above).

So, anyone planning a ’90s revival in Disney Village over the next two weeks had better think again. Put away your flourescent clothing, your Power Rangers dolls and your Cher cassette and enjoy a Disney Village that’s as hip and modern as it ever was. Just don’t mention the 90s are fashionable again.

Photos 1& 2: DLRP Today; Photos 3 & 4: Joel.

Thursday, 25th January 2007

Team Mickey’s fashion makeover

Usually, fashion makeovers are ruthless. Bin this, chop that, lift everything. Unfortunately, when you’re the entertainment district of a financially struggling resort still busy improving its two theme parks, it seems you’ll be left standing with a few balloons and some paint colours that can be seen from the Moon. A far cry from the postmodern, monotone designs of original architect Frank Gehry, recent works have attempted to all but eliminate the cold designs and “Disneyfy” the Village street.

After removing the central steel columns in late 2005, colourful illuminated balloons were added to the remaining pylons and along the row of stores on the left-hand side of the street. Next, the area of the former Central Stage was gutted and totally repainted to form a warmer undercover area for the Sports Bar, with new flat signage replacing the neons. The latest phase of work continues this project, with the remaining grey stores repainted neon colours and more new signage installed.

Team Mickey has seen the most change, with its name finally officially changed to “Disney Fashion”. The rebrand already took place inside the store over two years ago, albeit with a different, more modern style to this green and orange redesign. When originally opened in 1992, the store represented the American love of sports with a wide variety of Disney-themed sports items and clothing. Strangely, the various sports balls adorning the entrance arches have remained in place and been given a fresh coat of metallic silver paint, highlighting their design even more than before.

Further along the street, the new orange and pink colours of the Hollywood Pictures and World of Toys stores are nothing short of unmissable. The original large neon signs of the boutiques, previously positioned on the outside of the metal canopy, were removed in late 2005, leaving only 2D signage behind. Some rumours say the stores along this row will be further brightened with murals of Disney characters, any hints of whom are currently totally absent from the main avenue (excluding Café Mickey).

A stunning makeover or a fashion faux-pas? I’ll let you decide…

All photos © Joel.

Monday, 27th November 2006

Refurbishment Roundup

Beginning, like most guests, as the entrance to Disneyland Park, let’s take a moment to marvel as the fully completed refurbishment of Disneyland Hotel. With its original, warm, pink colour returned, the hotel is glowing with magic once again. The next job for the crew will be to replace the scores of blown bulbs across the rooftops, but aside from that, the envy of every other Disney Resort has never looked more stunning.

Deep inside the park at Fantasyland, those fences just won’t budge from the Wishing Well. Work has been going on here for at least two months, and, as you can see, there hasn’t been much of a rush to get it finished. Also in Fantasyland, Le Pays des Contes de Fées and Casey Jr. are closed during the low season, with walls in place whilst the usual Winter refurbishment goes on.

Over in Frontierland, it seems they’re having trouble ridding the park of the Pumpkinmen, with a gathering of green fences still to be found around the site of the Pumpkin Paint Tower. With a quick change of parks, the refurbishment of Front Lot’s buildings continues, with Studio Photo revealing its newly refreshed colours and Studio Services getting the white basecoat treatment. Once repainted, the refurbishment project should finally be complete, unless they plan on starting on Disney Studio 1…

And finally… the atmosphere in Disney Village feels a bit deflated recently. Can you find a reason why? Those balloons were less than a month old – it should only be a few more days now before the (rather sleek) new red ribbon decorations on the second entrance drop off aswell.

For more of the latest photos, check Photos Magiques »

Sunday, 29th October 2006

Extra decoration, extra Cool

The new Cool Station snack kiosk opened back in July opposite Buzz Lightyear Laser Blast, taking the concept of the recent “Coolpost” kiosk in Adventureland and applying a retro-futuristic design. Now, in a similar style to its Jungle-themed equivalent, extra Coca-Cola branded details have popped up around the location. A shiny silver coke bottle has been added to the Cool Station sign, whilst tall tables with small, futuristic canopies have been added nearby. A series of metallic crates has also appeared, showing the Coca-Cola logo in an alien language, similar to the (fake) foreign logos at the Coolpost.

Outside the park, at Disney Village, those love-them-or-loath-them balloons have spread a little further, with a cluster now decorating the Village’s second front entrance near Gaumont Cinemas. With text such as “Shopping Discoveries”, “Family Fun” and “Unique Restaurants” added to the balloons in a fairly unflattering typeface, it remains to be seen how long these will last once true Disney Village expansion and refreshment begins in a couple of years’ time.

At the old location of the Central Stage a more positive change has taken place, with the repainted buildings and cleaned-up space being brightened up further with new red and yellow banners, fairly similar to the decorations seen in 2004 and 2005 during the Chinese New Year events. These, however, seem permanent – unlike those beautiful Halloween stickers on the old column base…

More photos can be found at Joel’s Photo Hunt.

Wednesday, 16th August 2006

Xtra Jet returns to Disney Village

More than 100 competitors will take place in the unique event, which includes training sessions, free-style competitions, a “night show” and, of course, the world-famous European Jet Ski Championship itself.

The first and second rounds take place on the 9th September, with the heated final round and splashy prize ceremony pencilled in for the 10th. You can see the full schedule and get more information about the event on the official Disney Village website.

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