Oddly this means that the date we consign to history as the public opening date of this new attraction is the one confirmed months ago: 17th May 2012. And here are the first official photos!
These snaps show only the Mickey Mouse meet and greet room itself, behind the stage in the completely redesigned former Fantasy Festival Stage, where guests encounter the mouse preparing for his magic show in a dressing room overflowing with props and hidden details. Many of the details will be familiar to those who already know the attraction’s Town Square Theatre cousin in Florida, though here — as described in our walk-through yesterday — the set-up is entirely faithful to that of the real, pre-existing theatre, giving a much more faithful and enjoyable narrative to the whole experience.
Guests queue in the aisles of the old theatre area, completely redressed with plush carpets, pendant lights and wood panelling, with Mickey Mouse projections playing out on a projection screen on the stage. Then, they climb the stairs into the real backstage area for their “Rencontre avec Mickey”.
You can already spot many of the fun nods in these photos. The giant padded suitcase containing Mickey’s magician outfit and magic wands, an advertisement for a “Band Concert” in the park (referencing the 1935 short film), travel stickers referencing other Disney resorts (and a Colonel Hathi travel company), and even a custom-made striped wallpaper that uses only the colours black, red, yellow and white. This might just be one of the most charming attractions in the park.
Today at 12.30pm, the Disneyland Paris Ambassadors are scheduled to officially inaugurate the new Meet Mickey Mouse meet and greet attraction in Fantasyland, with a special ceremony in the presence of the mouse himself. It will be preceded by three sessions of Passeport Annuel Dream previews. Then, from 1.00pm, the first chance for guests to step inside the redesigned former Fantasy Festival Stage to meet Mickey and investigate the changes within.
How does it look? Well, we were lucky enough to get an exclusive sneak peek inside the new attraction along with fellow fansite authors on 1st April. Greeted by Imagineer Laurent Cayuela at the door, wonderfully animated himself, we were led on a tour (no photos allowed) through the work-in-progress interior that has undergone considerable change since its days as a real show theatre. Where in 1992 guests sat on wooden benches in the half-open space to watch “C’est Magique”, in 2012 they’ll be stepping inside a gorgeous, plush interior reminiscent of great opera houses of the early 1900s.
The basic set-up of the theatre and its stage remains, already perfect for the premise of this attraction. On your way to meet Mickey Mouse in his dressing room behind the stage, you first step into a small lobby area in the right-hand wing of the theatre, adorned with the posters of “Mickey the Magnificent” already seen in Frontierland and the similar, existing meet and greet in Florida’s Magic Kingdom.
False walls in the same off-white as the exterior have been erected down each side of the former seating area inside, enclosing the theatre stage area itself and giving the previously rather “barebones” pavilion a grander theatrical feel. The entire space has been given soft new, red carpeting with a gold pattern, lending the theatre a truly luxurious feel.
Stepping into the auditorium, you join a back-and-forth queue line which cleverly gives the impression of theatre seating aisles, sloping downwards to the completely redressed stage itself. And wow, that stage: now framed extravagantly in beautiful wood panelling and completed with two new “box seats” sticking out above the audience in either side.
It’s still a real stage, just as before, and Laurent even mentioned that they could use it as such (we imagine for small live music acts or special events, perhaps), but the regular pre-show will be a selection of classic Mickey Mouse cartoons, projected onto a screen behind the curtains as guests queue. Note the plural on curtains: there are no less than three different curtains now permanently installed on the stage — Venetian, Grecian and Italian — which all lift up and open in different ways, presumably between cartoons.
Gleaming gold railings wrap around the queue line with subtle lighting in the edges at ground level. The real feature lighting is above: a series of fabulously ornate pendant lamps produced especially for the attraction by a specialist company with several generations’ experience. The whole queue line has enough space for a 45 minute wait — as we’ve hinted before, a hint of Disney magic later on which we won’t otherwise spoil could help this flow up to three times faster than otherwise.
Staying true to the theatre building, guests really do step “backstage” when they go to meet Mickey in his dressing room. Climbing a small set of stairs at the side of the stage (a ramp for access is also provided), the elaborate decoration suddenly falls away to reveal bare brick-clad walls and a stage manager’s lectern in a small corridor. Here, a Cast Member will personally escort guests to Mickey’s dressing room through another corridor. It’s this dressing room which packs more in-jokes and clever nods than some Disney attractions do in their entire length.
Books, notices, props and suitcases litter the room from floor to ceiling. “Good luck” notes from Minnie, a “missing” notice for the kidnapped Aristocats, a children’s drawing featuring Oswald the Lucky Rabbit. Even a prop to reference the Pixar short film Presto. It’s funny, too. All to often these days Disney can forget these details are called “in-jokes“. Designing everything in the shape of Mickey’s head does not make for clever hidden detail. But having a bag on the sideboard labelled with “Tuppence” really does raise that little smile a classic Disney “gag” gives you.
Mickey Mouse himself (not present during our preview tour) poses in front of a red curtain, opposite the illuminated dressing room mirror and next to the giant seven-foot suitcase containing his props and costume, which also helps to divide the room. Imagineers never talk money, but the whole space with its hyper-custom props has the feel of serious investment and certainly worthy of the company’s trademark character.
Out the other side of the dressing room, guests are free to pose with some of the magician’s props stored at the side of the side — including a giant saw and a “Tank of Terror” escapology trick. Again, there’s a very welcome humour here.
Exit is then via the left-hand side of the auditorium, behind the false walls, to a ticket booth-style area which serves as the souvenir photo sales desk. Once again, lavishly designed — but with practicalities in mind, too: one window of the desk is lowered on both the guest and Cast Member sides, allowing not just a guest in a wheelchair to purchase their photo with ease, but a Cast Member in a wheelchair to serve them, too. Laurent was particularly proud of such forward-thinking.
A pause for questions left our group rather speechless, perhaps so taken aback by the transformation. On background music, Laurent stated that the short loop we heard during the tour (the same track which has been playing at the temporary Frontierland location) would likely be replaced simply by the sounds of the cartoons in the pre-show, audible throughout the venue.
The thought of an attraction based solely around meeting a character won’t be to everyone’s taste, but the execution of this particular concept really has been completed to the utmost Disney quality. Blessed with the gift of a real, pre-existing theatre, unlike the earlier Florida version, Walt Disney Imagineering have been able to play out the narrative far more truthfully and successfully.
One single quibble would come back to something we raised when the marquee went up, that perhaps it doesn’t play the “British” location within Fantasyland to its full advantage. The theatre could feel British if you wanted it to, but it doesn’t particularly overstate this anywhere.
Perhaps that’s the idea, to make it as international as the mouse himself; but sandwiched between the unquestionably, quintessentially English trio of Peter Pan’s Flight, Toad Hall Restaurant and Alice’s Curious Labyrinth, it’s a particular shame they found reason to place the letters “Rencontre avec Mickey” on the main marquee, when the French subtitle on the smaller wait time indicator at the entrance (not to mention on park maps and programmes) would have sufficed. Luckily this is the only aspect to work against the British setting; the rest of the attraction, if not exactly working with the locality, fits wonderfully well alongside it (even if some dislike the “Main Street” marquee lights).
Furthermore, an abundance of genuinely humorous in-jokes gives it a classic feel that’s close to the character it celebrates without a single lazy, mouse-shaped detail. As the sole contribution of Imagineering to the 20th Anniversary, and despite being “just” a meet ‘n’ greet, it feels genuine and worthwhile. And most likely set to be one of Fantasyland’s most popular attractions.
Watch our HD video of the Meet Mickey Mouse exterior below…Read More…
The sun rose on a new age in Fantasyland‘s British quarter this morning, with the new marquee for Meet Mickey Mouse now installed atop the former Fantasy Festival Stage. Clean lettering and bright, theatrical, electric lights evoke a slightly later time period for the land than seen before. Perhaps stepping from the Edwardian era towards the 1920s, when Mickey Mouse himself came into being, it takes this ornate pavilion into an electric age where theatres and music halls became picture houses.
This set-up will be continued inside where, as we revealed in a descriptive walk-through of the new attraction, the old theatre stage will now house a projection screen, allowing guests queueing along the aisles of the theatre to enjoy classic Mickey Mouse cartoons. This sort of “modern” innovation contrasts well with the Disneyland Railroad Station behind, which already blends two periods of British history: a Tudor-style cottage with exposed beams and the Victorian station building, platforms and clock tower of the railway. Looking at the way buildings in Great Britain were so often chopped and changed for the latest trends through the ages, the eclectic mixture here seems wonderfully British.
What doesn’t seem wonderfully British? The words “Rencontre avec Mickey”, hastily stuck underneath the illuminated letters. For a start, we have to wonder if French visitors could really be so confused by “Meet Mickey Mouse” that they need a translation. But more importantly, this disrespects an unwritten rule of Disneyland Paris regarding the languages of attraction marquees.
Work has now started at the former Woody’s Roundup Village in the Cottonwood Creek Ranch area of the land, most recently used for the St David’s Day and St Patrick’s Day celebrations, to create an intermediate version of the attraction. Although, that “work” so far mainly consists of cordoning off the entrances to the old Critter Corral area with what @InsideDLParis rightly captions these photos as “red and white caution tape that should never be used in a Disney Park”. Beautiful!
Heavier construction work continues in Fantasyland, meanwhile, with latest visible progress from outside the theatre showing walls going up around each of the bay windows. These were previously spaces at the back of the theatre’s seating which could be opened up in warmer summer weather. Now, the window on the right will form the attraction’s entrance while that on the left will be used as the exit and part of the photo sales counter.
More rich red gloss paint has also been applied to the façade, which has lost its Fantasy Festival Stage signage. As for the inside, we can reveal that the layout will largely stay true to its theatre origins. Guests will queue back and forth roughly along the former rows of seating, with the centrepiece being the stage itself, where a projection screen will be installed.
Following the queue line up into the theatre’s real backstage area, they will enter a vestibule area before finally encountering Magician Mickey Mouse himself, in his backstage dressing room, littered with props similar to those seen in his Florida meet ‘n’ greet. Exit will be via the left-hand side of the theatre, past the souvenir photo wall and sales area in the left bay. Numerous other details, accessories and “animated posters” will complete the attraction.
We can also confirm that “Magician” Mickey here really will employ some special magic tricks, allowing him to shorten the queue time by as much as two or three times, depending on attendance…
“Everything neat and pretty?” Well, not quite. Although some of the wraps came down from Fantasy Festival Stage last week, revealing the former show venue’s new colour palette, it is emerging that its new purpose as a permanent Mickey Mouse meet ‘n’ greet won’t begin right at the launch of the 20th Anniversary as expected. Instead, according to @InsideDLParis, Mickey will don his magician’s cape ready for an opening on 17th May 2012. This is unconfirmed, publicly, by Disneyland Paris.
However, murmurs that the new “attraction” might be delayed were compounded by the curious, vague “Opening Spring 2012” notation added to the recent 20th Anniversary promo video. A mid-May opening places it, conveniently, right in the middle of that timeframe (and puts the pressure on Disney Dreams!, more than ever, to impress on April 1st). And what for the Mouse in the meantime? A “provisional” version of the meet ‘n’ greet could take place at Woody’s Roundup Village, reports admin Mouetto of Disney Central Plaza. This would be similar — but surely better — than the cheap temporary tent which was the Princess Pavilion, in all but name, for six months of the Magical Moments Festival.
The exterior transformation of the stage hasn’t been too dramatic thus far, with just the old “Fantasy Festival Stage” signage removed and new colours on the awnings notable in this photo by Max Fan (see how it used to look here). A bold “Mickey Mouse” red has replaced the green around the sides, while an interesting pastel shade has been used on the old show control booth in the middle.
“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!”
And for his first trick, Mickey will transform Fantasy Festival Stage with a whole new colour scheme! Work continues at the former Fantasyland theatre for this new, permanent, 20th Anniversary meet ‘n’ greet location, with the previously dark green corners of the exterior given a bold new red (photo above by @InsideDLParis). Could we see the theatre given a palette to match the Mouse himself?
This character location is one of the key additions for the upcoming anniversary, making use of the theatre space below Fantasyland Railroad Station that has only seen infrequent use in recent years, for the Winnie the Pooh and Friends, Too show. Early rumours that the experience would be very much like the recent Mickey meet ‘n’ greet added to Walt Disney World’s Magic Kingdom appear to have rung entirely true, with pre-publicity visuals showing Mickey preparing his magician’s costume backstage.
The interior layout is still unknown, but we could expect the former auditorium area to become a queuing area while the stage serves as the “backstage” photo location. Given that this really was once a theatre and that it sits in the fitting British area of the land, the setting will be particularly apt. If the quality matches that of the Florida attraction, with its clever and lavish set-dressing throughout the waiting line, there’s no doubt it will do justice to Disney’s biggest star.
One particularly smart detail in the Magic Kingdom version, besides the boxes labelled for “Marne-la-Vallée”, is a poster for Mickey’s fictional magic show performances, with a note added: “We need Mickey’s Paris dates to determine this”. Mark April 1st, 2012 as taken!
Besides spots of Central Plaza being quietly torn up for thatnighttime spectacular, the impending 20th Anniversary isn’t quite bringing us the fever of construction we might have hoped for in the parks. Nevertheless, there is one new attraction on which construction has been ongoing for a couple of months already: the Magician Mickey meet ‘n’ greet we revealed back in July. To be based at Fantasy Festival Stage, the indoor theatre below the railroad station at the back of Fantasyland, work for the permanent meet ‘n’ greet location has already seen the old seating removed inside. Now, construction walls have surrounded the entire building, including a sizeable area at the front entrance.
With a similarly lavish style of the Princess Pavilion which opened last month, Mickey’s new dedicated home in the park will take much of the inspiration from the “Backstage Magic with Mickey Mouse” meet ‘n’ greet at Town Square Theatre in Magic Kingdom, Florida. One of the big selling points of that location is that, for the first time, guests can pick up a Fastpass time slot to meet the mouse, saving the kind of 120-minute queues normally associated with popular characters. Though the attractions will be closely related, there’s no word on that same service being available in Paris just yet.
For an experience like a character meet ‘n’ greet, couldn’t it even make sense for the whole operation to the Fastpass-based, with everyone required to pick up a ticket? What do you think?
The theatre has sat at the back of Fantasyland, connected to the Railroad Station, with only very limited use for more than a decade now. Whilst it began life in 1992 as a key venue hosting the classic C’est Magique musical revue, since 2006 only occasional seasonal performances of the show Winnie the Pooh and Friends, Too have occupied the small stage. Taking over this under-utilised space, which is never going to be good for grand stage shows, whilst giving the mouse his own dedicated spot actually sounds like a logical and wise proposition. Why the magic puns? Because if you’re a follower of Disney Parks worldwide, you’ll know all about the new “Backstage Magic with Mickey Mouse” meet ‘n’ greet that recently opened on Main Street at Florida’s Magic Kingdom (photos via Disney Parks Blog).
This new attraction, which even comes with its own Fastpass service, leads visitors through a fabulously-themed queue space littered with props and in-jokes — even a crate marked “Marne-la-Vallée – Paris” — with the storyline that you’re meeting Mickey Mouse, now a magician, backstage…
While the idea is somewhat tenuously planted into Main Street (and was unpopular with some, at least before its debut revealed the great detail), you couldn’t have a more perfect set-up for the location in Paris. Not just a real theatre, not just in the very fitting British quarter of the land, but in Fantasyland, where the characters truly belong. There’s little clue yet whether the European version will have such an extravagant set-up, or its own Fastpass tickets, but the two projects are certainly related and we should look forward to this new, more “magical” backstage encounter with the Mouse from next year.
In fact, it may well be our fourth new addition for the 20th and our second new permanent meet ‘n’ greet, as we mustn’t forget the Princess Pavilion that slowly continues its delayed construction across the land, in the former post-show area of “it’s a small world”. More news on that one soon…
Much of the area in front of the theatre actually already had stone paving, rather than the imprinted concrete replaced elsewhere, but this latest photo taken yesterday by @InsideDLParis shows the path looking much cleaner and subtler compared to that slightly messy old worn paving (see here).
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