Remarkably untouched since its opening in 1992, Fantasyland at Disneyland Paris is suddenly welcoming a brand new addition to its fairytale landscape with day after day of marching progress. By Saturday, all the tiles on the delayed Princess Pavilion photo location’s new tower were already in place, just days after the tower itself rose from the ground. Not counting the miniature turrets of Storybook Land, opened 1994, this marks the first new tower in Fantasyland’s kingdom since opening!
Meanwhile, the latest photo by @InsideDLParis just three hours ago shows the wooden struts now in place on the main roof of the façade, ready for tiling to continue. Despite being located in the “rural” countryside section of the land, with the Mad Hatter’s Tea Cups and Old Mill, the new façade uses a more stately chateau style. Perhaps this is a new garden pavilion of Sleeping Beauty Castle?
Forgot this new Disney Princess meet ‘n’ greet was even happening, did you? You’re forgiven. It’s been exactly a year now since the old “it’s a small world” post-show with its cute animations of children using technology to interact across the globe closed forever, and signs of the ongoing construction (or rather destruction) within haven’t been easy to spot. However, a sudden Summer rush has seen the old exit of the classic boat ride begin to take shape as the new entrance of this permanent Princesses encounter. The walls and two existing arches have been given a more stately pavilion look and even a brand new tower has sprung up to one side! Progress just this week has been considerable — compare the photo from today, above, to one from yesterday, below, both by @InsideDLParis.
We got an in-depth look at this new addition to Fantasyland — and even an exclusive walk inside its under-construction walls, with strictly no photos allowed — during the mythical refurbishments presentation back in March. Stepping through the green construction walls, our motley crew of Disneyland Paris fansite authors walked past the few last remnants of the old “small world” post-show, including the old exit sign partly ripped off the wall. Once inside, the old circular layout was still evident but, rather than being lower than the rest of the room, the centre is now raised up and walled-in as the main meet ‘n’ greet area.
From the old exit, pictured above, the queue for Princess encounters will climb up the gentle spiral ramp within, leading guests to one of two photo spots. On our visit, the bare breeze block walls were dotted with plans showing the new layout and several art boards showing (still unreleased) concept art for both the exterior and the beautiful interior, including “mood boards” and real examples of materials Walt Disney Imagineering have designed and chosen for the project. Stained glass windows, detailed carvings and rich fabrics inside promise to ensure this new addition to the kingdom looks like it truly belongs alongside all the land’s original tales-as-old-as-time. The extravagant signage due to be installed on those two prongs jutting out of the new pavilion roof will hopefully arrive with the clear and simple “Princess Pavilion” nomenclature that we saw in that concept art, rather than the obnoxiously over-branded “Disney Princesses: A Royal Invitation” name given to the temporary Magical Moments Festival tent, which has been filling the place of this (possibly delayed, possibly not) permanent photo location.
For all those still lamenting the loss of the colourful (and unique-to-Paris) Small World post-show, there’s one final detail that seals the deal, at least from an economic standpoint: the Princess Pavilion will have its very own photo purchase desk. So, rather than being given a ticket to check their photo at a boutique halfway across the park, Princess fans will see themselves posing with their favourite fairytale belle right at the exit, Big Thunder Mountain style, and be able to hand over their Euros right away. All progressing well, that could apparently be as soon as next month!
What’s the best thing to do in Paris during Summer? Why, visit the beach of course! That’s Paris Plages, now an annual Summer tradition as familiar as being stuck in a sweaty Métro carriage with someone blasting accordion music over a cassette player. For one month, stretches of the River Seine in the heart of the city are transformed into artificial beaches for everyone to enjoy, with sporting events, sun loungers and more. This year, even Disneyland Paris has got involved, bringing along a mighty bucket and spade to build a giant sand sculpture of Le Château de la Belle au Bois Dormant! The unique “sand castle” was inaugurated with a special ceremony starring Mickey and Minnie Mouse themselves, dressed in colourful Hawaiian designs, to the music of the old Lilo & Stitch Catch the Wave Party show.
The 16-foot sculpture, which took 300 hours to build using 60 tons of natural sand, will be on display until 21st August. You’ll find it right at the heart of Paris Plages, next to the Pont Notre-Dame just off Voie Georges Pompidou and only a short walk from Châtelet-les-Halles station, which is on the RER A line from Disneyland (Marne-la-Vallée/Chessy) itself.
This is our second giant sand castle of the year, after the one at the huge Sand Sculpture Festival at Blankenberge in Belgium. Both sand-related events have made it onto the Disney Parks Blog, which we gladly notice has recently started to share more news from Paris. In their article about the superior Blankenberge event, they linked to a fantastic online virtual tour set up by the organisers, which lets you explore the entire exhibition of Disney sand sculptures without ever leaving your house. Which, considering the “Summer” weather a lot of us have had so far, is very welcome indeed.
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…
2011 Refurbishments — How do you say “stunning” in French? The restoration of Sleeping Beauty Castle still has a month or so to go yet, but this is already a glorious summer for the Disneyland Park landmark. Having been lifted off to be restored and re-covered in gold leaf backstage, the morning of Tuesday, 12th July saw the first, lower, golden tower spotted back in place with the second following just 24 hours later. For the first time since the refurbishment of 1998 took away their full shimmer in favour of a dull blue gradient, these two unique, slender towers are making Le Château de la Belle au Bois Dormant shine in the Summer sun.
There’s been huge progress since our last full update on the project, with all scaffolding around the castle now completely removed just in time for the busy Summer season. That means completion of the moat, castle walls, the walkways to the right of the drawbridge and the two wings which wrap around the Castle Courtyard, connecting onto the two boutiques either side. Even the wishing well and its bridge have reopened, after months of closure. Almost all the rooftops have their new blue palette, meaning the most visible change yet to happen is the rooftop above the main window, still retaining its tired yellow gradient. As shown in the concepts for the restoration, this will eventually match the roof of the tallest tower, returning to its original blue colour, with gold reserved only for the edging.
Another big piece of the project was completed just a week ago, when scaffolding came down from the rear balcony and roof of the Gallerie walkthrough on the mezzanine level within the castle. You can compare the minor changes here with an older photo, but the main difference is simply a much cleaner, fresher appearance with crisp paint colours and a renewed copper-coloured rooftop. Fans of the beautiful stained glass windows and tapestries within will be pleased to know the balcony walkthrough itself has at last re-opened as a result.
At night, as in day, it really pops. It glistens like we’re back in 1992 all over again, so striking it makes your heart leap. It’s easy to forget how long we waited and wished for this to happen — for the grubby paintwork, patchy towers and faded walls to be brought back to their medieval splendor. The Summer of 2011: when this Sleeping Beauty, the most beautiful Disney castle in the world, woke up.
Yeah sure, John. During his European publicity tour for Cars 2, which included hosting a special showing of the film for fans in Paris, John Lasseter also dropped into Disneyland Park on Wednesday. Stopping for this photo at around 2pm with the 2011-12 Disneyland Paris Ambassadors Régis Alart and Osvaldo del Mistero, Pixar’s creative chief had the pleasure of seeing Le Château de la Belle au Bois Dormant nearing the end of its lengthy restoration, complete with newly-returned golden spires.
That’s How You Know it’s summer! Since 2008 summer nights at Disneyland Park have ended with the popular finale of The Enchanted Fireworks, a modestly Disneyland Paris-sized firework show set to Alan Menken’s score for the Amy Adams fairytale blockbuster. But, when the final “bang” echoes over the fields of Marne-la-Vallée at the end of this (newly extended) summer on 4th September… that really is “The End” for this chapter in the park’s nighttime entertainment history. It has been confirmed that this is the final season for the spectacular, with not just a new fireworks show but a “new concept”, a big new concept, coming next year — we think you know the one.
So, as the sun sets and the day cools down, enjoy True Love’s Kiss and the Enchanted Suite coming to life in the sky above Sleeping Beauty Castle for one last time. The show returned on Saturday and, as you can see at the end of the video, is determined to see its final year out with an extra bang!
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).
2011 Refurbishments — As we approach the summer at full speed, the fruits of the busiest refurbishment period in the history of Disneyland Paris are gradually being revealed. One of the biggest is Le Theatre du Château, which was the subject of much interest earlier in the year as its sea of stone benches gradually disappeared and the whole area went behind walls. Now reopened to guests and parade traffic, the stage area looks as good as new, completely repaved with top quality stones and given back a scattering of its benches. The walls of the raised stage itself, with the same palette as Sleeping Beauty Castle, have been completely repainted to match the fresher colours of Le Château just across the moat. As seen in the photo above by Disney Gazette, extra spaces have even been reserved for new trees to provide more shade for the benches (now indeed safely spaced out to prevent kids jumping between them, an apparent health and safety issue we barely believed back in February).
During the 2011 Refurbishments presentation given back in March, we got the chance to walk behind the walls with Peggie Fariss and catch a final “before” glimpse of the cleared stage area. Compared to the old, circular-patterned paving and concrete areas between, the new block paving adds a much warmer feel to the space and is designed less around the placement of the benches.
Peggie also gave us a hint at the future prospects for the stage — or at least confirmed it won’t be going anywhere — stating clearly that, from the viewpoint of Walt Disney Imagineering, it “still represents an opportunity” and as such should be safeguarded. That word — opportunity — was exactly the one we had used to describe the space a month earlier. There seems to be some disconnect between Imagineering and Entertainment as to just how good a prospect it represents, though, so it might be some time yet before we ever see this as anything but an opportunity wasted.
That’s not to say you can’t watch a show here, though. If this year’s Disney Dance Express is your thing (and particularly if it’s not), you’ll be glad to know that the rolling street show now stops at its intended spot right here for its main performance, skipping past the busy Central Plaza location it had been forced to clog up since April. Characters Photos Blog posted a video of the relocated show stop on Facebook, showing the Dance Express performing on the parade route right in front of the stage behind them. There’s likely something psychological about a “stage” show as opposed to a street show like this, meaning the audience expects much more — story, sets, costumes. Even the Central Plaza shows such as Mickey’s Magical Celebration get around these extra expenses by using the castle as a backdrop.
Perhaps someday the money will be there again to take a step up onto this stage; or the desire to move away from that disruptive monolith blocking Central Plaza. Purpose-built, perfectly positioned and now recently refurbished. The opportunity is, and always has been, there.
See anything unusual in the skies over Disneyland Paris last weekend? Not a flying elephant or a projectile to the moon, but the Patrouille de France — the French air force display team — who performed a spectacular fly-by of Le Château de la Belle au Bois Dormant for the very first time, filling the sky over Main Street, U.S.A. with the blue, white and red of the Tricolore. The stunning sight was all part of a charitable event known as “Journées Soif de Vivre”, literally “Thirst for life days”, which saw 160 children with serious or rare illnesses invited to Disneyland Paris for three days of unforgettable experiences and surprises. From balloon rides to Mickey Mouse meet ‘n’ greets, a special performance of Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show and an exclusive preview screening of Cars 2, the children had three days of pure escapism. You can find out more about the event on the resort’s corporate website (PDF) or see a quick video of the flyover here.
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