Saturday, 10th April 2010

Refurb roundup: Castle Bridge, Organ Music & Tea Cups

Fret over getting that perfect picture in front of Le Château no more — the bridge has reopened after a major two month rebuilding project, looking cleaned to fairytale perfection:

Disneyland Paris refurbishments

Disneyland Paris refurbishments

Disneyland Paris refurbishments

Disneyland Paris refurbishments

Disneyland Paris refurbishments Disneyland Paris refurbishments

So clean, so crisp, in fact, that the castle behind looks even grubbier than it did before.

The project apparently included the complete rewiring of all the lights along the bridge, and as the scaffolding disappeared a couple of weeks ago now, the main window of the castle even had a nice surprise for us.

Disneyland Paris refurbishments

As if just being able to see it again after three years wasn’t good enough, the light behind its stained-glass design appears to have been tweaked to give a brighter, more even illumination, bringing out the beautiful colours right throughout the day. A big improvement on the patchy single spotlight before.

Back in Main Street U.S.A., Town Square Photography now has its decorative refurbishment overlay in place:

Disneyland Paris refurbishments

We’re already a month into this work, and there’s still a long time to go. The refurbishment of Town Square Photography is set to be completed on 2nd July, whilst the smaller Disney Clothiers, Ltd. restoration just along the street, which had almost a month head start, will be done by 18th June 2010.

Over in Fantasyland, this could be bad timing to catch those visitors whose interest has been reawakened by Tim Burton’s 3-D adaptation, but Mad Hatter’s Tea Cups is currently closed from 6th to 23rd April for a much-needed full refurbishment.

Disneyland Paris refurbishments

Work should include repainting or resurfacing the turntable, which has been lacking its original bright colours for years, as well as cleaning the roof, repainting and replacing the lights and lanterns, along with other maintenance. The work was originally announced by Disneyland Paris to end on 2nd April, so this appears to have been pushed back.

Not strictly a refurbishment, since this is potentially something we’ll never seen returned — the Rainforest Cafe signage on the side of the building, next to where the brand new Earl of Sandwich counter service restaurant is due to be built, has disappeared:

Disneyland Paris refurbishments

After the concept art was published last year, temporary construction walls surrounded this railing a couple of months ago for a few days — only to suddenly disappear again. When construction does finally begin, there will need to be some serious infilling of this area of the lagoon, along with deconstruction of some of the rockwork seen above.

And finally… A real delight that has returned, after a lengthy absence, the Main Street Station organ:

Disneyland Paris refurbishments

Not only does it look all freshly-polished, the organ (via recorded sound effects) once again greets each arriving Disneyland Railroad train as it steams through the station, bringing back a missing piece of the Main Street’s original turn-of-the-century atmosphere.

Photos by Photos Magiques (more), Dlrpteam as credited.

Thursday, 4th February 2010

Hurricanes Nightclub groove to end short of 18 years

And so, another attraction finds its way into Euro Souvenirland

The news came via trusty magicforum host Kristof, that Hurricanes Discotheque at the end of Disney Village will close permanently on 31st March 2010. The night club has apparently been scheduled to end its days for several years already, with nothing eventually coming of any of the earlier dates. Will the Cyclone Special cocktail be gone for good this time? Certainly sounds like it.

Hurricanes Nightclub

As improvements and additions have spread through the Village in recent years, Hurricanes has slowly become a final champion for that original Festival Disney spirit, sitting up there above Rainforest Cafe like Carl Fredrickson surrounded by skyscrapers. It’s a remnant of the early ’90s idea that the entertainment district should be a “hip”, “happening”, buzzing nighttime spot, the streets filled with party-goers until the early hours. An idea that never really happened.

The official 1992 Euro Disney Guidebook enthuses:

Hurricanes — Festival Disney’s disco nightclub is just above the Key West Seafood restaurant. Having climbed the spiral staircase, you’ll be swept up into the whirlwind of nightlife. Hurricanes boasts four different bars, including one in the indoor terrace, plus twenty video screens, cosy corners for talking and a dance floor that’s open until 3 am. Don’t be surprised if you catch yourself standing there sipping on a Caribbean or Cyclone Special cocktail, dreaming of Key Largo.

Hurricanes was originally part of a small Key West district in Festival Disney, comprising Key West Seafood below (closed 1998), the Surf Shop opposite (now World of Toys) and the then-rainforest-animal-free lagoon behind. In what must be one of the kitchiest ideas in history, the dance floor was originally covered in sand. Which must have been fun in heels.

Why close a fun venue like this? The official reason: “repositioning” of Disney Village. What kind of repositioning hasn’t been clarified by Disney, but it’s not hard to work out. Just as the nightclubs and comedy clubs of Pleasure Island at Walt Disney World in Florida have been swallowed up by the wider Downtown Disney, to be replaced with new shops and restaurants, it seems a venue like Hurricanes simply doesn’t fit in their current focus on either side of the Atlantic.

Hurricanes Nightclub

Indeed, with its foam parties and “ladies nights” where women get in free, it’s not a surprise that Disneyland Paris have been thinking about dropping the venue for a while. And did you notice it’s a little dated? Would the cost of improving the nightclub, updating the staircase entrance (which has become rather tacky with subsequent additions, long after Frank Gehry left), really be worthwhile? Probably not, which brings the second element of the “repositioning”…

Stating the obvious, a nightclub like Hurricanes is useless during the day. Here we have a substantial, prime space right in the middle of Disney Village just lying empty for most of the day up until 8pm, when a café or restaurant could have tills ringing (for much greater amounts) right through from morning. Though we still mourn Buffalo Trading Co, just look how much better utilised that space is as a Starbucks café.

Whilst those plans for the Convention Centre and Disney Village extension are still many years from coming to anything, it’s bad business sense to leave this space as a faded nightclub.

Hurricanes Nightclub

What could be pushing Hurricanes out? No replacement has been announced…

However, the first floor location naturally points to a bar, café or restaurant, something which unlike a shop doesn’t rely on heavy footfall. Recent rumours that Groupe Flo, the group which operates almost all of the Disney Village restaurants, is interested in another venue could well ring true. The resort has experimented with promoting an Italian menu at Hotel New York’s Manhattan Restaurant in recent years, so could this space go from the Caribbean to Italy to permanently offer this much-requested cuisine in the Village itself?

Then there’s that possibility we picked up less than a year ago — the Jules Verne-themed pub/restaurant. Check it out — the hot air balloons in the roofspace, the blue sky walls and vintage lanterns. It’d seem right at home in the elevated position of Hurricanes, with its circular observation room. If they opened up some of the nightclub’s boxy walls with large windows, you’d have a superb view out to the “real” PanoraMagique balloon and the lake.

Intriguingly, the original article (which was a brief interview with the owner of the original pub in Nantes) mentioned that they’d been offered a floorspace of 500m2. Do some flimsy measuring in Google Earth, and that’s exactly what Hurricanes has to offer.

Hurricanes Nightclub

It’s not just the spirit and idea of Hurricanes which seems out of sync with the rest of the Village: The blank white exterior is one of the few remaining Frank Gehry boxes, which worked with the 1992 “party district” ideas but were ultimately diluted with later add-ons, certainly never looking all that pleasant on any but the sunniest of days. We mentioned with the Earl of Sandwich concepts that that new restaurant offered the opportunity to hide this exterior behind it, but even so this big white box will still be clearly visible. A change of tenant would surely fix this final piece.

As Disney Village has come blinking into the daytime, gaining its eco-clad Starbucks, planters and trees, time has finally caught up with Hurricanes. Finish up your Caribbean cocktail, put those Key Largo dreams to sleep. The storm is almost over.

Images: Photos Magiques; DLRP Today.

Saturday, 19th December 2009

World of Disney – from sketch upon sketch, to reality?

That patch of land jutting out between the IMAX building and its Gaumont Cinemas entrance has been waiting an awfully long time, after all. For almost a decade now, the spot has been earmarked for a large, signature store to anchor this busy corner of the resort centre, using the ‘World of Disney’ branding from the Florida, California and New York locations.

These huge department stores are rather like your ultimate, dream version of a regular Disney Store. Operated instead by the merchandise department of Walt Disney Parks & Resorts, they attempt to offer the biggest selection of Disney products available, in a sumptuously-themed interior.

Whilst the New York store fits within its leased 5th Avenue location, the stores in the Downtown Disney areas of Disneyland and Walt Disney World share a somewhat similar style. Will the Paris equivalent continue the theme? Not at all…

World of Disney - from sketch upon sketch, to reality?
Photo: Alexandre Rosa via Disney and More

Even the first models and concepts from years ago depicted a very different style of architecture, one that appeared to almost be trying to fit in too hard with its Planet Hollywood and Gaumont neighbours, offering them a blue globe elevated above its entrance and similarly-curved canopies above the entrances.

And then all fell silent. Until, that is, earlier this year — when member MykeY on DCP forum supplied not only fresh hope that the project could be moving ahead but a brand new concept image. This time, depicting something altogether more fantastical:

World of Disney - from sketch upon sketch, to reality?

Inspired by the grand style of the greatest Parisian department stores, this World of Disney store seems to take its cues more from the Galleries Lafayette than any Floridian retail outlet. Beyond the large, open windows spanning its façade, the store sits below a giant central dome — with others above each entrance. You can never have enough domes in Paris, after all.

Mickey Mouse details are present and correct, worked into the side of the building, but with the monolithic “World of Disney” letters worked into the larger of the two entrances, which we have to assume will sit right on the corner of the site, the exterior is more Art Nouveau than Art of Disney.

The original poster added that the cost was estimated at around €14m, a substantial amount for a new store, however important. See, the location right here on the corner is practically — no, entirely — perfect. Guests leaving the park currently often skip right past the offerings of Disney Village, eager to get their sore feet into their car or hotel as quickly as possible.

Bringing a signature store right out here, addressing and opening out onto the hub itself, is about as guaranteed a way as possible to get those cash registers ringing. And, if you’ve been in the incredibly tired Disney Store just after park closing, the extra space alone will be more than welcome.

But just how much space will there be? From the looks of the imposing profile of our Galleries Disney, a second floor must be a possibility — or how about a grand atrium under that huge dome? The latest information, posted by RiverRogue on magicforum, doesn’t quite promise exactly what we’re wishing for, suggesting the upper floor (or indeed, “floors” plural) will just be for storage:

The design has slightly changed after the retirement of Wing Chao from WDI [link], but the project is still going ahead and construction ought to start relatively soon.

The retail surface will cover most of the ground floor, with upper floors used for storage. Judging from what I’ve seen and heard it’ll be the smallest of the World of Disney stores, but still rather big compared to other stores in the resort.

Nevertheless, using any space on upper floors for storage should mean more space saved for retail on the ground floor. With the comment here that construction should begin “relatively soon” and estimation from the original DCP poster that the total cost is no less than €14m, it seems when this project finally does get done, it’ll be done right.

As rumours point to Earl of Sandwich also starting up construction in 2010, it’s hopefully going to be an interesting year ahead for Disney Village. Not just for new additions, either — what about the existing locations?

World of Disney - from sketch upon sketch, to reality?

Think about it — the generic Disney Store surely can’t outlive the opening of a World of Disney too long, and even Earl of Sandwich encroaches more than a little on the market of Disney’s own New York Style Sandwiches (formerly Carnegie’s Deli). Then there are the other boutiques — with a World of Disney selling the biggest collection of merchandise on property, will there be much need for the arguably quite bland selection of Disney Gallery, Disney Fashion, Hollywood Pictures and World of Toys? With most of that block made redundant, this could be a real chance to turn it around into something a whole lot better.

Given a look at the some of the wonderfully diverse offerings from Disney itself at the American Downtown Disney districts — from Disney Vault 28 to the new D-Street and several more — we can’t but hope this potential domino effect leads to nothing short of a full-scale revolution in the Village.

Yes, they show us the World yet we’re still thinking of more. Bring on 2010…!

Credit to MykeY and RiverRogue.

Friday, 11th December 2009

Earl of Sandwich in Disney Village approved & unveiled

If you thought Starbucks changed the vibe of Disney Village or at least gave it a fresh kick, this new British-themed sandwich shop should do the same ten times over.

Not only will it provide a desperately-needed rival to McDonald’s, it’s in a brand new building — an actual addition to the entertainment district — and, looking at these plans and concepts published online by Mouetto at Disney Central Plaza, it’ll have a great Lake Disney view…

Earl of Sandwich in Disney Village

Yes, one of our theories was right!

“A more likely area of this inlet to be filled in would have been the corner between Rainforest Cafe and the bridge, allowing an Earl of Sandwich to use both this and the area vacated by the old carousel, becoming a part of the main thoroughfare.”

Earl of Sandwich in Disney Village

And good thing, too — as the plans seen here confirm, carefully captured at Chessy’s planning department by Mouetto, this brand new, two-storey building will slot snugly into the corner between Rainforest Cafe and the Lake Disney marina, opposite Café Mickey. The footprint will include some of the area vacated by the carousel and then extend out, over the current square of water, in all providing two floors of seating and two separate terraces — one out front at ground level, and another on the first floor at the back, elevated above the water.

Design-wise, it’s a restrained affair, much more in the traditional IMAX/NEX style than the recent Starbucks Coffee eco-meets-Gehry boldness. That means circular corner sections, strong horizontals and a slight Art Deco flair.

Earl of Sandwich in Disney Village

Rather than green, though, the palette here is more of oranges, reds and yellows. The Earl of Sandwich branding, modelled on a vaguely British theme, is modestly portrayed through the red and yellow squares and their placement between the window frames, almost mimicking a traditional Plaid style. The firm’s logo is equally modest, simply their red circular envelope seal design above each door.

The top of the circular section looks to be clad in separate brown pieces, rather than being a flat finish. Overall, it looks like a very successful merging of some very diverse styles, although the pale yellow finish (almost like bathroom tiles) on the exterior wall at the back looks like a strange choice.

From what we can see, the back wall inside appears to depict a giant map, with tables and chairs continuing a red/black theme. However let’s not forget, these smaller design aspects — particularly the interior — could still change from these planning applications. The general layout and footprint will be as seen here.

Earl of Sandwich in Disney Village

Clever use of the space sees the kitchens and service area hidden under the first-floor terrace. This platform — and the whole first floor — will offer a great view over the lake and small bay behind.

Due to its location on the end of the main Disney Village street, this build offered the opportunity to hide the rather unpleasant side of Rainforest Cafe/Hurricanes Discotheque which faces the lake.

Earl of Sandwich in Disney Village

Though the plain white building won’t be completely hidden, at least it won’t be the only thing seen from the opposite shore of the lake, outside Sequoia Lodge. And, placed on the corner here, Earl of Sandwich might just draw a few more people down this end of the Village — not to mention helping to kick-start any further expansion, onwards across the bridge…

But let’s not get ahead of ourselves. With the above applications from the Earl stamped and sealed, construction should start in the New Year with the hope of completion by the end of 2010. And whilst that’s happening, nearby PanoraMagique will be the place to go for construction photos. Here’s our “before” shot:

Earl of Sandwich in Disney Village

Now, save us a place on that lovely first floor terrace and we’ll study the menu

Pictures: Disney/Earl of Sandwich (credit to Mouetto), DLRP Today.

Friday, 14th August 2009

Earl of Sandwich next to seize land in Disney Village?

There’s no doubting the breath of fresh air Starbucks Coffee has given Disney Village. Time for another? Yes, it’s looking likely.

Back in 2008, we reported:

“But what for that second new eatery? The admin of Disney Central Plaza, Grandmath, promised that at least one of the two was already operating at Walt Disney World. Since there are no Starbucks franchises on Disney’s Florida property, the second location must surely be the Orlando import.

“Indeed, current rumours, again very strong and from reliable sources, point to an Earl of Sandwich opening at Disney Village.” … “No location for the second building has been rumoured, and no tentative dates for construction of either have yet been given.”

Ahh but now, with the benefit of Starbucks’ completion and around 18 months, some rather more precise rumours are beginning to surface about the possible Earl of Sandwich store. This new chain of restaurants, founded by John Montagu, 11th Earl of Sandwich himself, on the basis that his ancestor, the 4th Earl of Sandwich, popularised the sandwich in Great Britain in the 1800s, launched at Downtown Disney in Walt Disney World in 2004 and has recently been expanding rapidly in the US.

Various ‘Earl of Sandwich’ images, including artwork for a standard franchise outlet

Most importantly for us — they’ve got their sights set on Europe. This business plan was revealed due to a rather embarrassing start over here, however, when the Earl of Sandwich chain made news in the UK for taking incredibly fierce legal action against a small sandwich shop in Aberdeen, Scotland, unknowingly bearing the registered name.

The reason, buried inside the filling of those reports (hey, sandwich puns are hard), was confirmed by a spokesperson for the company:

We now have plans to launch in the UK and Europe and we have trademarks both in the name Lord Sandwich and the Earl of Sandwich in relation to various things, in particular sandwiches and the provision of sandwiches.

‘With the launch of shops in the UK and Europe we have to avoid confusion with similar businesses – that is essential for a successful launch.’

So, with Earl of Sandwich clearly stating UK and Europe, there’s certainly weight to these rumours. The latest of which are pointing to one clear fact — that the restaurant will be in a brand new building — and also offering some very interesting, perhaps unexpected, suggestions for locations within the Village.


Naturally, with the long-awaited removal of the despised Rainforest Carousel this April, this big vacant space looked promising for the British-themed toasted sandwich restaurant.

But perhaps not, after all… An interesting snippet of information was posted by phantom247 on magicforum, stating simply: “By the end of the year Earl of sandwich preparations for construction should begin with the lake area nearest Steakhouse and the dome being filled in.”

So… by the end of the year, that’s good to hear. But wait a minute — the lake area nearest Steakhouse and the Dome being filled in…? Yes, we said these rumours were surprising.

Image Image

A more likely area of this inlet to be filled in would have been the corner between Rainforest Cafe and the bridge (above right), allowing an Earl of Sandwich to use both this and the area vacated by the old carousel, becoming a part of the main thoroughfare.

Alternatively, placing the restaurant on the other side, opposite The Steakhouse (above left), seems on the first hand incredibly unlikely, but could turn this forgotten corner into a more worthwhile second area of Disney Village, adding something more to the corner currently dominated quite negatively by McDonald’s.

However, whilst the area does currently feel a little run-down, losing too much of this precious water could take away the possibility of it ever becoming a nicer, but still sedate patch of the entertainment district.


The size of the restaurant is completely unknown, so these are just guesswork — but the two general areas at least have been marked on the satellite photo above to help visualise the possibilities. Clearly this will be a much larger construction project than Starbucks, especially if any infilling of the lake inlet is required.

Though which area the Earl ultimately seizes — if any! — we’ll just have to wait and see.

Pictures: DLRP Today, Google Maps.

Tuesday, 18th March 2008

Rumours abound for new Village eateries

Whilst the look and style of Disney Village has been evolving through a series of enhancement projects in recent years (the latest being the new planters), one thing has remained pretty much stagnant since the opening of King Ludwig’s Castle in 2003 — the choice and availability of dining.

However, amongst all the renewed interest in the Village thanks to the latest enhancements, strong rumours now suggest two small new food locations will almost certainly open within the next year. Information from several members on the French message board Disney Central Plaza suggests that these will be two new, separate buildings — not small stands or kiosks, nor large buildings for the new street next to the IMAX cinema. Instead, they will be slotted into the existing Disney Village area to increase the district’s range of food and capacity.

The current area and carousel, very much unloved by fans

So, which two companies could be involved in these new eateries? Whilst the insiders originally held the information close, it has now emerged that none other than Starbucks could be involved, with rumours even strong enough to suggest that the new location would be behind Rainforest Café, on the site of the current “rainforest carousel” (pictured above).

This would provide enough space for a kitchen and serving area with some, rather limited, seating. It would also make this Starbucks visible from all around the Lake Disney area, perhaps one of the most lucrative locations they’ve ever won in their ongoing world domination.

Example Starbucks franchise

It is expected the design would be overseen by DLP-I, the Paris branch of Imagineering who work on Disney Village projects and most recently completed the PanoraMagique and IMAX developments with a noticeably more discreet and Parisian style than other areas of the Village. With Starbucks‘ branding being much subtler than other chains, the two could fit together well for a welcome lake-side coffee shop.

But what for that second new eatery? The admin of Disney Central Plaza, Grandmath, promised that at least one of the two was already operating at Walt Disney World. Since there are no Starbucks franchises on Disney’s Florida property, the second location must surely be the Orlando import.

Indeed, current rumours, again very strong and from reliable sources, point to an Earl of Sandwich opening at Disney Village. Think of this as a more exclusive, slightly upmarket version of high street-favourite Subway. No location for the second building has been rumoured, and no tentative dates for construction of either have yet been given.

With the new planters, a sandwich shop and a coffee shop, Disney Village could well morph from its metallic, hung-over past to a pleasant, leafy place to spend a lazy afternoon. We’ll have a Strawberries & Cream Frappuccino and a Tuna Melt, please.

Yes, we can wait.

[Photos: DLRP Today and dontthink.feel on Flickr]

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