Progress continues at Le Château de la Belle au Bois Dormant from every angle and we can begin to see even more “before and after” views of this extensive and much-needed restoration. The stone wall above, for example, has regained its rich colour tones, whilst the lighter pink beginning to appear across the tallest tower shows how the whole Castle will soon look — if not yet giving away the final “after”. It’s impressive that all of this work to the upper towers, and much elsewhere, is being undertaken overnight. Walt Disney Imagineering will need to return to those freshly painted walls later to add special paint effects such as weathering to make sure Aurora’s château looks believably, timelessly old, not like it was poured out of concrete just twenty years ago.
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!
Well, just look at this grand old dame! The Molly Brown riverboat is finally nearing the end of her complete bow-to-stern refurbishment, much needed after several years of problems and neglect. A refurbishment that has lasted almost an entire year and has seen the side-wheel riverboat, unique to Disneyland Paris, practically rebuilt from scratch. Indeed, back in July the boat had been stripped back to nothing more than a shell in the dry dock. This weekend, the dock is filled with water and Molly Brown has never looked better.
She’s even been given a refreshed paint design, with the old turquoise rim around the lower deck turned maroon and two more matching maroon accents added around the other two decks. The old dark green single funnel now appears more black in appearance, with a gold band around its top. If all goes to plan, the rebuilt boat will steam out into the Rivers of the Far West for her maiden voyage next week.
Which countries were the biggest visitors to Disneyland Paris in 2010? Last week’s AGM presentation was published online this morning and includes the exact percentages for the past year, showing an interesting shift in where those 15 million visitors are travelling from. Here’s the big news: For perhaps the first time in the resort’s history, more than 50% of visitors came from France itself — a huge 51%, to be precise. This seems to show a big boost from the resort’s home country, but may hide continued falls in attendance from surrounding countries. Back in 2002, for example, the percentage of visitors from France was just 40%, whilst an impressive 21% of visitors had travelled across the channel from the United Kingdom. In 2010, that figure has dropped dramatically to just 12%, perhaps the lowest percentage of British visitors ever, after falling from 20% in 2006, 18% in 2007, 16% in 2008 and 14% in 2009 — a worrying trend of falling visitor numbers every year for the past five years now.
Visitors from the Benelux meanwhile have remained relatively steady in percentage terms over the past decade, with Belgium and Luxembourg making up 7% of visitors in both 2010 and 2009, having been recorded at 6% for 2002 and 2006. The Netherlands appears to have experienced a slight drop in prominence, at 7% of visitors for 2010 but previously having made up 8% in 2006 and 9% in 2002. One big success for Disneyland Paris in recent years has been in attracting more guests from Spain, but even here the draw appears to be waning. Back in 2002, Spain was even combined with Italy, for a total 9% of visitors, but by 2005 had attained this number all by itself. Spanish visitors appeared to reach their peak in 2008, making up 11% of guests, but this dropped to 8% in 2009 and 2010. Finally, visitors from the rest of the world have remained steady at 9%, having stuck at that percentage for the past decade (though Euro Disney SCA claims an increasing demand from visitors of further afield for 2010).
But wait — we’re forgetting somewhere. Making just 3% of visitors in 2010, Germany is at risk of barely even registering on the figures. This German market has dropped consistently for the past few years — from 4% in 2006, 5% in 2005 and 7% back in 2002 — despite being a wealthy country of 80 million where Disney is as popular as anywhere, with several big theme parks of its own. Those successful parks might be part of the problem, as might the lack of a direct Eurostar-style link, but surely this should be a bigger market for the resort. Back in 1992, it seemed to be expected that Germany would be right behind the UK as one of the biggest visitors. So, what’s keeping Deutschland away from Disneyland?
C’est officiel: The Tarzan Encounter returns to The Chaparral Theater in Frontierland on 11th June and runs (daily, presumably) right through the Summer until 4th September 2011. It’s an odd turn of events that Disneyland Paris is championing so keenly its return to a show which originally premiered more than a decade ago, but that’s exactly what operating company Euro Disney SCA did at its Annual General Meeting last Friday, 4th March, announcing the dates for its new season as one of the biggest draws for 2011 in a dramatic video presentation, drawing woops of praise from the audience.
It was previously suspected that the show could just make it for a May start date, based on the audition calls, but the final June date still gives the show a good three-month run in the farthest corner of Frontierland — a vast improvement over 2010’s complete void of entertainment at the park’s theatres.
Fancy staying up late in Disneyland Park? Normally you’d have to visit in October for a special after-hours party at either of the Halloween theme events, but that’s set to change this June. For 2011, a brand new party will mix two themes in one night: Mickey’s Princesses & Pirates Party. Both Adventureland and Fantasyland will reopen to ticket holders at 8pm with eight attractions, a huge selection of characters and a variety of special entertainments to keep you entertained right up to 11pm. Four parties are scheduled, for Monday 1st and Fridays 10th, 17th and 24th June. Tickets cost €25 or £22 and are available to buy now online, from your local booking hotline or at the parks. You can find the full programme of events and all the information over on DLRP Magic.com, here.
Although certainly the inspiration, this event shouldn’t be confused with Mickey’s Pirate and Princess Party at Walt Disney World, which kept the whole of Magic Kingdom open and concluded with an exclusive fireworks show. Disneyland Paris previously looked at bringing this event over in 2009, when it was tentatively scheduled for February. Launching in the balmier evenings of June seems like a much more enticing proposition for budding rogues or royalty.
The new scrim, hiding the lower middle section of scaffolding which was previously covered by a plain white tarp for some time, features the three good fairies Flora, Fauna and Merryweather hovering above the drawbridge and a stylised impression of the Sleeping Beauty Castle façade. A similar idea was used the last time the landmark of Disneyland Park underwent a complete renovation, in 1998, although then the fairies were pasted on a plain white background. Today’s new cover doesn’t yet hide the upper portion of scaffolding, around the feature window, nor the additional scaffolding which has grown around the Castle’s right-hand extension over the past week. This has caused the walkway next to the wishing well from Le Théâtre du Château to be closed, which joined with the ongoing repaving works past Pizzeria Bella Notte has severely limited access into Fantasyland. Nevertheless, as you can see this morning, the Castle itself remains completely accessible to guests.
This isn’t the only portion of the Castle being worked on, however. Nighttime works have brought the first fresh paint to the top of the highest tower, which has had its many holes and war wounds (from Anniversary decorations past) filled in. Look closely and you might just see the difference — Le Château is starting to shimmer again, already. In fact, as the fast pace of works so far might suggest, it’s looking hopeful that the refurbishment could be done well before the earlier September end date. Guest Communications are apparently now advising the work will “continue until June” — all done by July, ready for the Summer season!
That’s it — it’s the end of an era, for now at least. All the benches of Le Théâtre du Château, the open air theatre at the heart of Disneyland Park, have now been completely removed as expected, save for those few back rows said to be retained as general seating. Member tarf on Disney Central Plaza captured the first photo of the bare amphitheatre above and in fact, it’s not an entirely negative change. Having row after row of empty, disused seating here throughout the day (save for a little excitement around parades) did always look rather depressing after all. Had the park been more sure of the theatre’s criminal disuse, it probably should have happened years ago, just to put it out of its misery.
The next step is anyone’s guess. Repaving? Redevelopment? Are the stone benches being kept somewhere in case the stage ever has some Sleeping Beauty-like reawakening? Do drop us a note if you happen to know more…
If you’re familiar with the exit of Buzz Lightyear Laser Blast in Discoveryland, the photo above will probably bring a smirk to your face — at least, until you next try to leave the attraction and are one of those to be funnelled through gift shop Constellationsinstead. The 2006 attraction originally gave visitors a choice of whether to enter the store (to the left of this photo) similar to other “exit boutiques” at Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster starring Aerosmith and Star Tours, where the shop is located off to one side of the exit to prevent a bottle-neck. Now, the exit area has now been blocked off with some quite hefty barriers, as Star Command force everyone to exit via the gift shop.
Previously, this open covered area often had its own portable cash desk and merchandise stalls. Past attempts to encourage more guests into the store itself can be seen above with the not-so-subtle arrows across the floor. The resort’s newest attraction/shop combo, The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror, already requires everyone to leave via Tower Hotel Gifts.
As far as Disney park “firsts” go, it’s maybe not quite as exciting as a first ride on The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror or a first walk through a whole new area like Toy Story Playland, but the new block stone paving around the back of Le Théâtre du Château, winding from the Fantasyland Gate to Discoveryland, does look pretty damn good. The first patch to be uncovered shows the square blocks actually have three distinct pastel tones of yellow, red and blue, which just happen to match nicely with the stone walls of the Castle. Compared to the old coloured concrete sections, the colour of the paving is certainly less saturated, but it has immediately given the area a much cleaner, well-presented look.
Unlike the concrete, which crumbles and cracks around its edges over time and especially during frosty spells, the stone paving will also be much more robust and can now be easily replaced in small patches when necessary, not like when we’ve seen concrete relaying close off whole walkways in Adventureland and Discoveryland recently. As those replacements showed, this is an isolated switch to stone paving — a block-paved walkway through the desert of Frontierland wouldn’t be ideal.
But while we’re enjoying the first days of this new paving, could these be the last for Le Théâtre du Château itself ? A huge patch of the 800-capacity amphitheatre was completely cleared of its seating last week, leaving a wide empty space. At first this seemed like preparation for further repaving works, but according to member HTH2004 on Disney Central Plaza forum, the benches won’t be returning. The theatre hasn’t been used for a regular daily show since Winnie the Pooh and Friends, Too moved over to Fantasy Festival Stage in 2006, and this has apparently led to one more problem than it just becoming a white elephant: health and safety. HTH2004 suggests that children jumping between the benches had injured themselves so frequently that the park has decided “enough’s enough” and the benches are going — along with them, all chance of the theatre coming back to life any time soon.
By this Friday, the whole two sections at the front had been completely removed (seen in the photo by CharactersPhotos above) and HTH2004 believes all the others will follow, leaving only four rows of benches along the back the theatre (those under the trees) with the entire space to be repaved between April and May. It might not even stop there — HTH2004 suggests that in the mid term (2 to 4 years) the whole theatre could be completely removed or replaced. This June, the area will host some of the Mickey’s Princesses & Pirates Party after-hours events, but otherwise the schedule is empty.
After Le Livre Magique de Mickey ended its run in 1994, the stage has struggled to be given the attention it deserves. In fact, it probably peaked on the grand opening night of the park itself, 11th April 1992, when it played host to various musical acts — and Angela Lansbury miming to “Beauty and the Beast” — with a beautiful lighting set-up and that glorious view of the Castle behind. There’s no chance of a show here in the immediate future, so this all might not look like a great loss, but it seems incongruous to have Central Plaza overrun by the monstrous Disney Showtime Spectacular stage, completely disrupting that elegantly designed space, when the park has this fantastic theatre at its disposal — a real asset (no other Magic Kingdom has a similar space right at its heart) and a great bit of planning by the original Imagineers, but perhaps now destined to be nothing more than a missed opportunity.
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