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!
Nine years ago today, Disney’s tenth theme park worldwide opened its gates. For such a milestone, the original Walt Disney Studios Park of 16th March 2002 was perhaps not the best representative of the Disneyland ideals. Be it through desperate lack of budget or not, the park drastically missed the mark of what a European audience — or any audience — wants from a theme park. Forget the beautiful landscapes of Tokyo DisneySea, opened a year earlier; here there were almost no outdoor themed areas to speak of at all, just 25 hectares of freshly poured tarmac asphalt and 10 attractions housed in uninspiring “soundstages” of concrete. The bid to pay tribute to European filmmakers was noble but possibly misguided — Florida’s raining Singin’ in the Rain umbrella scene was changed to the barely known Les Parapluies de Cherbourg, for example — and the glitzy warmth of Hollywood was oddly missing. The park suffered from a complete lack of escapism, when what people really wanted was a whole park with the colour and spirit found inside, say, Disney Studio 1.
Because that’s the thing — the park has always had some great attractions. Nine years on, CinéMagique remains beautifully subtle and wonderfully entertaining, one of the best movie-based attractions ever. Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster starring Aerosmith might not be pretty on the outside but the ride inside arguably beats its kitsch Florida cousin, whilst after 9,000 performances it’s easy to take for granted just how impressive the stunts of Moteurs… Action! Stunt Show Spectacular really are.
Having dug itself a hole by ploughing too much (or, you could say, not enough) money into an unpopular park, it took Euro Disney SCA far longer than it should have done to begin expanding the second gate. The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror should really have opened in 2005 (or earlier), rather than begun construction that year, whilst the Toon Studio expansion of Crush’s Coaster and Cars Quatre Roues Rallye should have been there from the start, not five years after opening. No-one should have ever green-lit the Television Production Tour, now occupied instead by Stitch Live! since 2008 and Playhouse Disney Live on Stage! since 2009.
The modest Hollywood Boulevard turned out to be a great surprise and even Toy Story Playland, maligned by some corners of the fan community, is a marked step above any other themed areas in the park. To get the Ratatouille dark ride built in the years ahead would be an amazing feat: the first new dark ride at Disneyland Paris (ignoring Buzz) in all its 20 years and possibly the first real implementation of Audio Animatronics in the whole Studios park. But let’s just hope it doesn’t end there, that we see the park continue like its last four years rather than the first five. May the park continue to improve and expand, to revisit Theater District and fix the original areas, to add places to eat and places to buy things, and maybe, one day, rename Production Courtyard. We can but dream… Here’s to the future!
More gates for the second gate! This new pair of turnstiles at the entrance to Walt Disney Studios Park which began construction way back at the end of October finally came into service at the weekend, to help ease queues at the entrance. No, really — if you’re not a frequent Disneyland Paris visitor, it’s actually more common to have to queue to enter the Studios than Disneyland Park next door. Though admittedly, yes, mostly because the Studios was originally only built with a modest 12 turnstiles, compared to more than double that number next door. Guest flow in the area also suffers because the park doesn’t have the two wider periphery exit gates on either side as at Disneyland Park, meaning its regular entrance gates have to gradually switch over to exit gates through the day.
Anyway, it may have taken over four months but the results are rather pleasing to the eye. Two new columns, exactly matching those of the Studios’ original entrance arches, have been built to support a new turquoise/green-painted wooden canopy, which gives the new turnstile cover without detracting from the main archway.
These two new turnstiles actually bring the total to 16 (perhaps a lucky number for the park..?), since back in 2007 an additional two were added on the other side of the plaza, next to Walt Disney Studios Store. Only given a cheap fabric canopy at the time, that gate has now been swiftly surrounded by the same construction walls used for the new turnstile, surely hinting that it’s about to be given a more substantial, matching canopy to give some symmetry to the whole entrance plaza.
Approaching nine years old, the bedtime rules for Walt Disney Studios Park could finally be about to change. The latest Disneyland Paris park hours show an extended opening schedule for the second gate on the first two weekends of March 2011. As a test, likely to gauge demand and guest feedback, the park will now close at 9pm rather than the usual 7pm on the 5th, 6th, 12th and 13th March. This will surely be a bonus for any fans and if positive could give a tantalising glimpse at a time ahead when the Studios can be enjoyed until nightfall, without the need to join the daily schlep over to Disneyland Park.
The cause for longer hours will have been helped by the three new attractions in Toy Story Playland (not to mention their long queue times), as well as the five other permanent attractions that have been added to the mix since the park’s hours were brutally slashed in late 2002. Up until November in its opening year, the park had closed no earlier than 8pm and stayed open through July and August from 9am to 9pm, but this was cut back to a solid 9am to 6pm schedule from 2003 as guest demand fell short and a financial restructuring (largely due to the cost of the park) required cost-cutting. The situation was so bad, you might remember, that Disney offered guests with a 1-Day 1-Park ticket to the Studios complimentary evening access to Disneyland Park after 6pm. It wasn’t until the 2007 Toon Studio expansion that the park began to live a little with later 7pm closing times on busy weekends.
But is the park even ready to stay open until 9pm? With just two counter servicerestaurants and a buffet, and only three stores, Walt Disney Studios Park has a long way to go to match the offer of its neighbour, an important factor as guests stay in the park later into the day. If the demand is there for a later closing time, we have to hope Disney will satisfy the demand for better dining, retail and entertainment that will surely follow.
Last week, the scaffolding and tarpaulin covering finally expanded to cover the large number “1” at the top of the façade, as the first workers since July 2008 were spotted up high:
Photo: Jake Sully, Disney Gazette forum
This weekend just gone, the first results — all the dirt and grime gone from the top of the number plaque, newly repainted at last:
No photoshop, no joke — real progress at last! Congratulations, Disneyland Paris!
It’s been a long journey. After a master-stroke of corporate thinking between Euro Disney SCA and what was then Buena Vista International (Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures Group) in 2005, the film distribution arm of Disney apparently paid its theme park operator cousin a nominal fee to use the front of Disney Studio 1 as a huge advertising billboard for new movie Chicken Little.
Eight months later, in April 2006, they continued their “sponsorship” with a new billboard, extending even further up the building, for Pixar’s Cars. Twenty-seven months — over two years — later, it was still there. With fans becoming exasperated, hope came in August 2008 when Studio 1 finally returned to its natural state… well, almost.
Cars on an official photo (2007), Chicken Little concept (2005),
Refurbishment cover (2008), Original façade (2004)
• 16th March 2002 – 8th August 2005: Original, uncovered façade (41 months)
• 8th August 2005 – 4th April 2006: Chicken Little advertisement (8 months)
• 4th April 2006 – 1st July 2008: Cars advertisement (27 months)
• 11th July – Today: Refurbishment covering (20 months)
Total time covered by billboards/scaffolding: 55 months
And so we waited, until now, when it looks like our park landmark might finally be in preparation for its first close-up since July 2005. Only opened in 2002, we’ve known this tribute to Walt Disney’s Hyperion Studios for longer with scaffolding attached than without.
It’s time to put that right.
Photos 1-2: as credited; Other Photos: DLRP Today.com/Disney
Thanks to mouetto, DCP for exact billboard dates.
Press events are both loved and loathed by Disneyland Paris fans, particularly those frequent French visitors who might have the chance to visit almost every weekend.
On the one hand, it’s a break from the norm — the chance to see special photo set-ups and even catch sight of some VIPs. On the other, it means disruption throughout the parks, areas closed off and prime parade and show viewing points cordoned off from paying guests, while badge holders are often given free reign to skip queues on the most popular attractions. Maybe they’re a necessary evil.
Surprisingly, performances of the stunt show itself weren’t interrupted by the press event, although numerous preparations for the spectacular nighttime launch ahead were visible inside the arena — such as this large lighting rig running along the roof span:
Projectors, cameras and other equipment were not-so-inconspicuously hidden under black sheets in various areas of the stadium seating:
Back outside, Backlot had welcomed a fun retro trailer to serve as an outside broadcast unit for “LFM”:
Celebrities and VIPs from various nations could be spotted all over the parks throughout the day, with film crews, reporters and cameras trailing them to the various picture-perfect locations like the Toon Town backdrop:
Meanwhile, Buzz Lightyear made a quick move from meeting the guests in Toon Studio (left) to meeting the VIPs and film crews in the temporary Backlot photo studio (right):
The fully-refurbished Monsters Inc. location in Toon Studio had a special lighting set-up for the celebrity shots taken here with Sully:
And then, the roping-off began:
A huge area around the Place des Stars Stage was cordoned off for press only, leaving regular, paying guests struggling to see the single performance of Disney’s Stars ‘n’ Cars, the park’s only outdoor entertainment spectacle:
At least, it was well-patronised come show time:
The president of Disneyland Paris, Euro Disney CEO, Philippe Gas was also in attendance to see Rémy and Emile join the production:
Despite his no doubt hectic schedule, he even took time to make a surprise appearance at a unique meeting of Disneyland Paris fans which was organised for the day — you can read a report here.
With the show over, the Ratatouille car left Place des Stars last…
And then veered left to turn into the cordoned-off Hollywood Boulevard…
Pulling up alongside the Toy Story car to provide a backdrop for more photos and VIP interviews:
Classic photo spots, such as the castle hill, were also in use:
But finally, back at the studios, the doors closed for the general public:
As Disney Studio 1 become a self-contained press holding area, regular guests had to leave the park via the backstage gates between Production Courtyard and Front Lot — views of off-limits areas hidden by a row of temporary planters:
Another year, another set of sky blue banners? Spot on. For the fourth year running, we’re welcomed onto the resort hub — and again and again through Fantasia Gardens and Front Lot — by banners featuring the year’s theme logo and the word “Welcome” in a variety of languages:
The almost identical in design Mickey’s Magical Party banners have been switched out for these new canvas banners on every lamppost in sight, alternating between the French and English logos.
Are these just unoriginal, or is blue just a nice, neutral colour that works for both parks?
Either way, there’s one plus for this year’s batch of near-identical banners — they’re slightly less identical. In Front Lot, there are several designs featuring just the New Generation characters, such as Mike Wazowski, Buzz Lightyear and that ten-year-old alien who won’t ever take a break, Stitch.
Different designs or not, it’s quite an overwhelming invasion…
What is this festival called again?!
Back at Front Lot, we’re seeing the Walt Disney Studios Store entrance being “toyed” with again, as the first temporary marquee in over a year has appeared to tempt more people inside the boutique. It’s the first New Generation Festival store decoration so far, coming just days after the old Magical Party marquee disappeared from The Emporium.
Though the Little Green Men and Stitch are flat 2D designs, Slinky Dog is partially in 3D, his springy body wrapping around the entrance. Inside, you can of course pick up your very own Slinky toy.
Inside the park, the Monsters Inc. Scream Scene near the entrance of Toon Studio has been closed for several weeks to allow preparations for its starring role in the year ahead. The ‘Scream Monitors’ signage has been taken away and returned for refurbishment, and the fun yellow floor markings have been completely repainted.
In fact, though the corner is being included in the “new” features for the year, it has been in place for so long (since 2006) that the “Child Detection Agency – Scream Scene” paint had completely worn away.
As we reported at the end of January, the ‘Monsters Inc. Scream Academy’ listed in brochures and press releases was originally meant to be a brand new show that was cancelled just days before auditions. We’ve since leant that the show, which would have featured a live host inviting guests to dance and scream with the Monsters, was actually set to happen not in this tight corner but on a separate travelling stage, similar to the High School Musical shows.
Though the ‘Monsters Inc. Scream Academy’ hasn’t been removed from advertising, we now have to assume that’s the new name for the photo location, the preview videos have been made incredibly vague and all mentions are very careful never to mention the word “new”…
At least with Sully (the only live Monsters character we’ve seen at Disneyland Paris since 2002), expected to be rejoined by Mike and — for the first time — Boo (dressed up in her Monster disguise) for the Disney Showtime Spectacular over at Disneyland Park, these extra characters could hop over in between to provide something “new” here after all.
Yes, the company which brought us Audio-Animatronics and countless other innovations is clearly having a few issues with this project.
From an advertisement billboard to a larger advertisement billboard, to the current refurbishment tarpaulin, it feels like this will never end. The last official line said the refurbishment had already begun and would be finished by December. It never began.
We now appear to know for sure that the front of Disney Studio 1 won’t see the light of day again this decade. If you should happen to write or email asking what on earth has been going on, the new standard reply seems to be more about buying time than giving dates and details, as the previous response.
Here it is:
Thank you for your email concerning Disneyland® Paris.
To begin with, I would like to thank you for your loyalty in Disneyland Paris. Indeed, it is truly heartening to learn that you have visited the Resort on so many occasions.
Further to your query, I regret to inform you that due to unforeseen technical difficulties with the refurbishment work taking place on Studio 1, the work has been exceptionally delayed. Therefore, we are unable to confirm when the scaffolding will be removed.
Now 15 months and counting since the refurbishment scaffolding was put in place and 4 months since we were told the refurbishment had just begun, this appears to be a pretty exceptional delay. The shell of a building was probably built in less time back in 2000/2001.
This “Paiements sans Contact” initiative was first announced back in July and began right on schedule on 3rd October.
How does it work? Unfortunately, it won’t work at all for most of us yet. Although most of us have seen the waterslide advert for Barclaycard’s system, the technology now at Disneyland Paris is currently only open to users who have a (French) bank account with CIC or Crédit Mutuel (who just recently actually became a new official partner of the resort), and have already signed up to a trial of those banks’ early contactless payment schemes.
If you’re lucky enough to qualify for all of that, your new credit card contains a special chip that can be read without contact when lightly touched or flashed across one of the new devices, first caught on camera by Scrooge at Disney Magic Interactive in Walt Disney Studios Store:
This allows users to pay for their Disney shopping — or even better, food — in a second. No fumbling with Euro cent coins, no waiting behind someone as they try every combination of four digits possible. Contactless cards allow instant payments up to a certain, safe amount. Just imagine the effect that could have within a few years on those ugly counter service queues.
You’ll find the trial machines now at the following locations:
• Casey’s Corner (Disneyland Park)
• Café Hyperion (Disneyland Park)
• Chalet de la Marionette (Disneyland Park)
• Disney Blockbuster Café (Walt Disney Studios Park)
• Club House Grill (Golf Disneyland)
• Walt Disney Studios Store (Walt Disney Studios Park)
• Goofy’s Pro Shop (Golf Disneyland)
Not that such an innovation needs a carrot to quash any possible stick, but Disneyland Paris are also offering trial users of the scheme an incredibly generous 25% discount at boutiques and 20% discount at restaurants!
But this didn’t involve hidden cameras, silly disguises or breaking into Euro Disney SCA’s offices, oh no. Much tougher than that. DLRP Today had to assume the identity of… a regular guest. The kind of visitor who sees Main Street, U.S.A. as just “the entrance”; the kind of visitor who stops to photograph Disney characters rather than litter bins.
The kind of occasional, annual visitor who, visiting again for the second year in a row, might begin to wonder why that big — huge — building at the entrance of Walt Disney Studios Parkstill appears to be under refurbishment.
Studio 1 in late August 2009 — you almost can’t see the join. Almost.
This was swiftly followed up by a far larger, less sympathetic, billboard advertisement for Pixar’s Cars in April 2006. And here the story stagnates. This unpopular billboard stayed in place right through the 15th Anniversary, in total for no less than 2 years and 3 months, before finally being pulled down for the current “refurbishment” covering 15 months ago.
Past mistakes: Chicken Little (2005-06) and Cars (2006-2008)
So, if a casual guest were to email the resort’s Guest Communications department, casually wondering what was happening to the building, casually hoping for a finish date, as casually as possible… what would they say? Here’s what:
Dear Mr X,
Thank you for your correspondence concerning your recent visit to Disneyland® Paris.
I was pleased to learn that you were recently able to visit the Resort. Disneyland Paris strives to entrance its visitors by the dreams and magic with which they have come to associate the Disney name, and I sincerely hope that your stay provided you with some magical memories.
Upon receipt of your email I contacted the Quality Manager of Walt Disney Studios® Park in order to obtain his feedback on your query. He has advised that Studio 1 is currently undergoing refurbishment and that this work has just started and will continue for approximately 6 months.
Disneyland® Paris hopes to soon have the opportunity to welcome you once more to the resort.
Wonderful! So, the refurbishment has finally just started! Six months is an awfully long time for a repaint, but come April 2010 the park’s indoor Hollywood street should finally be billboard-free and sparkling again!
Except… we got this reply back in July. A full three months ago.
August 2008: We were naively excited to see Front Lot “return”.
So halfway into this refurbishment that as “just started”, what’s the latest? Anyone who has visited the park in that time can tell you — there hasn’t been a single worker there. Look up through the scaffolding and it’s empty, the building itself looking no different behind there. Unless Studio 1 is being stealthily repainted after park hours, the Quality Manager of Walt Disney Studios Park must have hit some problem just after that reply was sent.
Could the crews have been planned to move over to Studio 1 after this project finished, and they’ve since hit delays, or are we being far too generous? Six months is a long time to wait for that refurbishment to finish — but fifteen months to wait for one to start is even worse.
As the counter in our sidebar tells us: it’s Day 1528. The balance has swung. Under scaffolding for more than four years, Disney Studio 1 has now been covered over for far longer than the three years we got to see it as originally intended. In fact, at Disneyland Paris from 2006 to 2009, our former COO would never seen the front of the building in his entire time at the resort.
One area of the Studios that looked better in 2002. Simply beautiful.
If Disney Studio 1 isn’t prominent enough, it’s also based on Walt Disney’s original Hyperion Studio soundstage. Having it covered first by two horrid advertisements, then scaffolding for an non-started refurbishment should be entirely shameful for Euro Disney SCA.
The EPCOT wand has met its match. Congratulations Paris, you did it. Now enough already. Can our incoming operations manager end this embarrassment once and for all?
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