Tuesday, 13th March 2012

TWO new attractions for Walt Disney Studios Park in 2014 with €150m investment?

UPDATE: Disneyland Paris has confirmed Le Figaro’s transcription was inaccurate — only one new attraction is scheduled to open in 2014.

We know Disneyland Paris has the money, we know they’ve finally started construction on the Ratatouille dark ride, and Brad Bird knows all about it, too. But now, in an interview with French newspaper Le Figaro, Philippe Gas has let slip a surprising statement that Walt Disney Studios Park will see not one, but two new attractions opening within its gates in 2014. In the brief article headlined “Disneyland Paris ‘has learned from its mistakes'”, the resort president and CEO of Euro Disney SCA discusses the company’s tumultuous financial situation as it approaches its 20th Anniversary.

Asked as a final question “What will you do to avoid the park reaching saturation?”, he comments:

Knowing that a customer is satisfied when they can see at least six attractions in a day, we estimate our maximum capacity to be 17 million visitors annually. So we still have room for improvement, but we must grow. In January, our banks have given us 150 million euros in new funding to build two new attractions, which should open in 2014 in our second park, Walt Disney Studios. In 2010, we also obtained the agreement of the State to build a third park. We are looking at it very seriously, even if the decision won’t be made until 2020. We will also build new hotels, restaurants and shops.

Now, presuming Mr Gas doesn’t count the adjoining restaurant or those desperately needed new toilets which should be installed next to Ratatouille, this gives us an odd surplus in the new attraction count for 2014. So what are the possibilities? Again, this could depend on how you define a new attraction, but let’s throw Studio Tram Tour: Behind the Magic right out there straight away.

An expanded Tram Tour, perhaps a new show scene, perhaps even a relocated station — allowing the park to begin that announced “multi-year expansion”, expanding the current Hollywood Boulevard — could all be strong possibilities come 2014. Relaunching it as a “new attraction”, given changes like these to make it a worthwhile experience, would be far more appreciated than previous half-hearted relaunches such as Indiana Jones and the Temple of Peril: Backwards! and Space Mountain: Mission 2. The route itself has already been pushed even further back into the forest by current construction works, yet still desperately needs things to actually see along it. Those huge, people-eating trams are surely not reaching their full capacity with the disappointing tour which exists today.

We had assumed that €150 million would only just cover Ratatouille itself, so a second attraction would likely be a smaller, less expensive project. We’re not expecting a Soarin’ here just yet. So presuming CinéMagique is safe and Aerosmith still have a few years left in them yet, the only likely replacements for existing attractions are Armageddon: Les Effets Speciaux and Animagique.

Armageddon suffers with its poor throughput and even poorer pre-show; having been the focus of a previous replacement proposal, to build a Chronicles of Narnia-based attraction in its place, could its time finally be up? Recent rumours have suggested that the licence to the 1998 Jerry Bruckheimer film itself could soon run out, further fuelling the desire for a replacement. With the more neutral Backlot location, this could be the perfect opportunity to introduce Disney’s recently-acquired Marvel characters to the parks, although the building’s small size would certainly be restrictive. It might not be the easiest way to add capacity to the park, as Philippe Gas desires.

Meanwhile, the live Animagique blacklight puppetry show in Toon Studio will be approaching its twelfth birthday in 2014. Popular though it is, that’s a long time for a live show, and considering the huge 1,100-seat capacity of Studio 3, the show provides the park with relatively little capacity. Finally going ahead with a long-mooted replacement by a certain 3-D film such as, ooh, Mickey’s Philharmagic would boost capacity in this part of the park enormously — and that’s precisely what Philippe Gas seems concerned about here, making it a very strong possibility.

Due to the live puppeteers involved, Animagique stages only around five shows per day in the vast auditorium, whereas a 12-minute projected film show such as Philharmagic is able to play continuously from park opening right to closing time; cycling through audiences every 20 minutes or so, and with lower operational costs to boot. The pair are practically cousins, conceived around the same time and both seeing Donald Duck getting lost in a series of classic musical scenes. But with 3-D films becoming passé again and Philharmagic due to be nearing 11 years old in 2014, could it still be viable as a new attraction? A belated opening at Tokyo Disneyland just last year suggests it certainly is.

As you can see, while two new attractions in one year may be a surplus, there’s still no shortage of possibilities in Walt Disney Studios Park to use that valuable credit on. Watch this space…

VIA Le Figaro.fr

Wednesday, 16th March 2011

Happy Birthday Walt Disney Studios: Disney’s tenth park turns nine

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!

Tuesday, 30th March 2010

New Generation Festival Press Launch – In the Parks

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.

Anyway, it’s not all glitz and glamour — take those celebrity photos with the blue New Generation Festival backdrop we posted the other night. Thought that might be some plush backstage area or a warm photo studio? No, it was the glamorous locale of the Moteurs… Action! queue area… !

New Generation Festival Press Launch - In the Parks

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:

New Generation Festival Press Launch - In the Parks

Projectors, cameras and other equipment were not-so-inconspicuously hidden under black sheets in various areas of the stadium seating:

New Generation Festival Press Launch - In the Parks

New Generation Festival Press Launch - In the Parks

Back outside, Backlot had welcomed a fun retro trailer to serve as an outside broadcast unit for “LFM”:

New Generation Festival Press Launch - In the Parks

New Generation Festival Press Launch - In the Parks

New Generation Festival Press Launch - In the Parks

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:

New Generation Festival Press Launch - In the Parks

New Generation Festival Press Launch - In the Parks

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):

New Generation Festival Press Launch - In the Parks New Generation Festival Press Launch - In the Parks

New Generation Festival Press Launch - In the Parks

New Generation Festival Press Launch - In the Parks

The fully-refurbished Monsters Inc. location in Toon Studio had a special lighting set-up for the celebrity shots taken here with Sully:

New Generation Festival Press Launch - In the Parks

And then, the roping-off began:

New Generation Festival Press Launch - In the Parks

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:

New Generation Festival Press Launch - In the Parks

At least, it was well-patronised come show time:

New Generation Festival Press Launch - In the Parks

The president of Disneyland Paris, Euro Disney CEO, Philippe Gas was also in attendance to see Rémy and Emile join the production:

New Generation Festival Press Launch - In the Parks

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…

New Generation Festival Press Launch - In the Parks

New Generation Festival Press Launch - In the Parks

And then veered left to turn into the cordoned-off Hollywood Boulevard…

New Generation Festival Press Launch - In the Parks

Pulling up alongside the Toy Story car to provide a backdrop for more photos and VIP interviews:

New Generation Festival Press Launch - In the Parks

New Generation Festival Press Launch - In the Parks

New Generation Festival Press Launch - In the Parks

New Generation Festival Press Launch - In the Parks

This was only the second time since the launch of “The Celebration Continues” in 2008 that events have centred so squarely on Walt Disney Studios Park, but there were still plenty of events elsewhere. Over in Disneyland Park, the Town Square gazebo was surrounded by special lighting and wrapped in vines for celebrity photos with Princess Tiana:

New Generation Festival Press Launch - In the Parks

Whilst the familiar viewing platform for photographers and film crews was placed at the far end of Main Street, facing Central Plaza, for the inaugural performance of Disney Showtime Spectacular — with unfortunate grey skies:

New Generation Festival Press Launch - In the Parks

Classic photo spots, such as the castle hill, were also in use:

New Generation Festival Press Launch - In the Parks

But finally, back at the studios, the doors closed for the general public:

New Generation Festival Press Launch - In the Parks

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:

New Generation Festival Press Launch - In the Parks

And then, with guests heading home, the real show began

Photos by Dlrpteam for DLRP Today.com

Friday, 5th February 2010

Mysterious ‘Ratatouille Ride Element’ uncovered

STOP PRESS! The mystery has been solved — click here.

When was the last time you got excited about a steel cage sitting in a warehouse? Well that’s exactly what we’re all doing, folks. Found on this vague website about drywall construction based in Burbank, California, the image sits inconspicuously in the sidebar, labelled “Disney Radius Dome Construction” and then… “Ratatouille Ride Element”.

Mysterious 'Ratatouille Ride Element' uncovered

Follow a few links around that website, and you can stumble upon a photo of drywall construction for a “Disney Sound Booth”. Both short-lived blogs were last updated in December 2009, though it’s impossible to tell exactly when the photo was posted.

But what is it? A cage? A giant colander?

Maybe we shouldn’t think about it sitting there on the ground. Imagine it higher up, and suddenly…

Mysterious 'Ratatouille Ride Element' uncovered

…it seems…

Mysterious 'Ratatouille Ride Element' uncovered

…very…

Mysterious 'Ratatouille Ride Element' uncovered

…very…

Mysterious 'Ratatouille Ride Element' uncovered

…familiar…

Mysterious 'Ratatouille Ride Element' uncovered

…indeed.

Those domes on Tower of Terror arrived pretty much complete at the resort and were only lifted into place a year before it opened. If they were already preparing this “element” as early as November or December 2009, that’s some head-start they’ve got. Not to mention a little presumptuous since, as far as we know, the ride hasn’t been fully green-lit just yet.

But could Rémy really be bringing another dome to the Walt Disney Studios collection, as part of his Parisian attraction façade? Well, there are plenty to inspire in the city itself…

Tip of the (chef’s) hat to fcoyote on Disney Central Plaza, RnRCj on magicforum
Images: Davidmackeydrywall.com, DLRP Today.com

Monday, 10th August 2009

Recycling bin tests for a Greener Place on Earth

We can all admit that Disneyland, whilst responsible, is by its nature hardly the “Greenest Place on Earth”. Between the energy-guzzling attractions, seas of merchandise and fast food disposables, it’s hard to feel very eco-friendly as you enjoy the parks.

Surprisingly, the other international parks are already well-ahead on this one. Despite Europe — and especially the countries which feed into Disneyland Paris — probably being rather more keen on recycling, it’s the parks in California and Hong Kong which have double bins in most locations, with clever themed designs indicating the bin for recycling bottles and cans.

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Photo source.

Take a look at a few nice examples here, here, here and here.

And now, they’ve finally arrived in Paris:

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The new bins to have arrived in Walt Disney Studios Park for this test aren’t quite so special, but they’re certainly a positive step forward. Even if Euro Disney S.C.A. already claims to recycle 39% of its total waste, these make it clear to guests that the parks are taking responsibility for their waste, as well as allowing bottles and cans to be separated from the start.

With only Disney Studio 1 and Toon Studio having slightly different designs for their bins, the Studios would never be the first to lead with a clever themed design, but if the “test” is successful enough for these bins to show up everywhere (and why wouldn’t it be?), hopefully our new green conscience can come with a little more Disney magic, like above.

Picture (Paris): Photos Magiques.

Friday, 31st July 2009

Did we miss anything..?

Well yes, quite a lot obviously. Just shows you shouldn’t go wandering into the Adventure Isle caves just before park closing… it’s been four long months!

If you’ve been similarly deprived of Disneyland Resort Paris news, given up trying to translate what they’re saying on the French forums, sit back and enjoy a quick and concise round-up of all the big stories of recent months — here we go!

SLEEPING BEAUTY’S BLING

Was it coincidence that updates here ended just about the time that Sleeping Beauty Castle succumbed to its most horrific, misguided meddling-with to date?

The birthday cake, the jester’s hat, the Epcot wand, the MGM hat… you’ve met your match. There truly aren’t enough negative adjectives in the dictionary.

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— — —

MAGICAL PARTY LAUNCHES WITH MEGA-PARTY

‘You’re invited!’ …but not to this. Press and media types were schmoozed in spectacular fashion as new theme year Mickey’s Magical Party kicked off with fireworks, projections, lights and so many characters they couldn’t even all fit on the damn stage.

Did it generate headlines, articles, media coverage? No.

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— — —

ACTUAL PARTY GROWS ON FANS

Frustratingly-titled new Central Plaza show ‘It’s Party Time… with Mickey and Friends’ initially looked rather like a drab flop on an overbearing and unnecessary new stage, but it has grown on most fans. The score by Vasile Sirli is actually plain fantastic (especially considering the lacklustre music in the year’s other new shows) and it provides a fresh, colourful heart for the year.

Watch the full show in HD here.

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ShoulderKids – this year’s must-have accessory

— — —

LIGHT MAGIC GIVEN FORMAL APOLOGY

Over in Discoveryland, the other show with an annoying name — ‘It’s Dance Time… in Discoveryland’ — brought delights such as large, primary-coloured circles on the floor of a retro-futuristic land, and the expertly-chosen hits of Block Party Bash.

Despite the show being considered terrible on every level by most who’ve seen it, the performers put so much effort and energy into their routine they each almost deserve a window on Main Street.

Watch the full show in HD here.

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— — —

PLAYHOUSE DISNEY QUIETLY OPENS

Beyond the forced MMP hoopla over the other side of the esplanade, Walt Disney Studios Park gained a brand new attraction — its fifth addition since opening — in ‘Playhouse Disney – Live on Stage!’. Jolly good fun it is too — wonderfully staged, very charming. The Paris version even has a “1 Up” on the two earlier versions with a big new pre-show studio.

Watch the full show in HD here.

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Credit crunch souvenirs

— — —

RESTAURANT GENERIQUE

Changing its name to ‘Restaurant des Stars’, the far too interestingly-named ‘Rendez-Vous des Stars Restaurant’ gained a new logo, some new colours and a new entrance canopy.

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— — —

DUDE LOOKS LIKE A FIRE!

In a quite bizarre coincidence, just days after fans launched an online April Fool suggesting Aerosmith would be succeeded by French rocker Johnny Hallyday as musical guests at Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster, a fire began in the roof of the showbuilding.

Luckily the damage was minor — though it did allow for these dramatic photos (below) as the inspection crews ripped off the cladding, checked and replaced it. The attraction reopened just the next day.

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— — —

SMEE GIVEN SURGERY

Captain Hook’s bumbling first mate was given a random makeover by the worldwide Disney Parks character team and, unlike most famous faces, he returned from the cosmetic surgery with a face more expressive than before. Remarkable.

Hopefully they’ll tackle some of the clearly worse-looking characters next, like the dead-eyed Woody, Jessie and Buzz…

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— — —

HIGH SCHOOL MUSICAL PARTY!

Now back for a third year, the Studios’ High School Musical show this year gained musical numbers from the third film but stopped short of going for the full ‘HSM3’ show the other resorts put on. ‘I Want it all’ is the standout number, but one that certainly won’t win over any new fans.

Watch the full show in HD here.

— — —

THEMED SMOKING

The ‘Smoking Areas’ inside the parks had been extended little beyond their miniature park map icons, so it’s reassuring to see that each area now has its own themed sign, tied into the location. Give it a few years and the public might actually use them.

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— — —

STUDIO STORE OPENS UP

Behind construction walls last time we saw it, the Walt Disney Studios Store has now been completed, with three new doors and payment desks in front of new, large windows.

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Photo: dlrptimes.com

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Photo: dlrptimes.com

— — —

STORYBOOK ENDING

Main Street has always had the best-kept exteriors of the entire park, always popping with a fresh bit of paint here or there. A new development in recent years are the nice tarpaulin coverings given images of the building hiding behind. Even for tiny spots like this one on the end of The Storybook Store, the hidden façade is still presented on top.

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— — —

PLAZA GARDENS GLEAMS

After a major refurbishment of the interior, including bringing the central fountain back to daily life, the whole Plaza Gardens Restaurant building was wrapped in themed tarps for an expensive top-to-bottom refurbishment and repaint. It didn’t stand out as being particularly bad before, there are other areas needing paint sooner, but it does look fantastic.

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— — —

STUDIO 1 REFURBISHMENT CONTINUES

Over the hub, it’s surprising to see that the refurbishment of Disney Studio 1 continues, the huge centrepiece building of the park still wrapped up in scaffolding. Must be a bigger job than originally thought, right?

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— — —

FLOORS OF ADVENTURE, DISCOVERY

Tripped up in Disneyland Park recently? No wonder, some of the concrete pathways are literally falling to pieces. Thankfully, the first resurfacing works seen for many years have been taking place, with areas of Adventure Isle and vast swathes of Discoveryland closed off and given new flooring, the effect — especially just in front of Space Mountain — very noticeably making the whole land look brand new.

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— — —

TENNIS, MICE, MAIN STREET

Some of the resort’s press and advertising efforts have been surprisingly inventive this year, like this — turning the top of Main Street into a full-size tennis court and inviting Gaël Monfils and Stanislas Wawrinka to play with Mickey Mouse.

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Just a few days later, Serena Williams visited the park and was met in front of the Castle by Minnie Mouse, wearing a special tennis player costume.

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— — —

JUST ‘PARIS’

Effectively the biggest change of the past few months, the news in April and subsequent official changeover in May that has seen ‘Disneyland Resort Paris’ — the resort’s name since the 2002 opening of Walt Disney Studios Park — change back to just plain ‘Disneyland Paris’.

It certainly makes sense — the extra word was always unpopular, confusing to non-English speakers and now, with every park from Alton Towers to your local fairground claiming itself as a “Resort”, it simply doesn’t have any value. “Disneyland Resort Paris” is cumbersome and never spoken, “Disneyland Paris” is short and very strong. Whilst things like the official website have changed over, don’t expect this to be an overnight transition — the new (or rather, old) logo will reappear just as and when things need replacing.

Unfortunately, this decision — made by new CEO Philippe Gas himself — came in April, just weeks after the resort had launched a whole new brand campaign for the theme year. These traditionally start in April, and everything from Cast Member name tags to park tickets and guidemaps had already been printed up with the full “Disneyland Resort Paris” name. Smart name reversal, silly timing.

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There’s also a whole myriad of logo variations now available (above). Which should be used, when? The standard logo is being presented as two-colour, with the “Paris” in a gold gradient that already looks rather dated.

— — —

BURNING FIRES, FLOWING WATERS

Tasked with bringing back old and forgotten effects, a new “taskforce” within the resort’s maintenance department has been one of the most positive steps in recent months. We already appear to have seen some brilliant reawakened touches, such as the torches on Fort Comstock at the entrance to Frontierland (lit from nightfall)…

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And the water channels leading to the drinking fountains beside La Cabane des Robinson.

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Whilst a long way short of having the full irrigation system working again (water should be hoisted right up to the top of the tree by the water wheel, before being poured out and running through the channels back to ground level), it’s great to think someone took the time to figure this out.

Elsewhere, these moving fairground balloons inside Boardwalk Candy Palace have been back working again, for the first time in years.

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— — —

CAFE DE LA BROUSSE

Mostly sitting closed, Café de la Brousse has never the less just had a large-scale refurbishment completed, bringing colour back to the “bush café” buildings. Dole is presented heavily as the host, but still no one thinks of bringing the legendary Dole Whip to Paris!

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— — —

DISNEY VILLAGE NOW ‘COOL’

So. It took a Starbucks to make Disney Village “hip” again.

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Yes, it meant losing the wonderful Buffalo Trading Co. and inviting a quite equally despised/appreciated corporation into a Disney-branded area, but the coffeehouse itself was built using genuinely eco-friendly ideas and looks really quite trendy inside, with a wonderfully modern exterior — industrial elements clashing beautifully with earthy materials.

— — —

ROSES PAINTED RED, FINALLY!

The on-off refurbishment of Alice’s Curious Labyrinth — with little areas regaining sparkle each month or so — has continued, the Paris-exclusive attraction even seeing… new paint! The red edgings of the entire labyrinth have finally been repainted, a year after similar edgings on the Fantasyland-Discoveryland path received paint before them, and scenes like the Caterpillar suddenly “pop” like they should again:

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— — —

ROBINSONS RETURN TO LA CABANE

Also brought back to life this Summer is La Cabane des Robinson, previously the only other “blackspot” alongside the Labyrinth. For too long the treehouse has been bleak and worn. Props missing, effects broken, no colour. It was as if the Robinsons had long ago moved on from their treetop abode. Not any more — refreshed woodwork, new props and a complete clean-up really make it “pop”. Effects like the self-playing organ are still missing.

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Even the water fountains were revisited and given an extra spruce-up:

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— — —

WOODCARVER’S WORKSHOP RE-OPENS

Not entirely the amazing news that might suggest, but nevertheless the long-abandoned Woodcarver’s Workshop over in Cottonwood Creek Ranch, next to what is now Woody’s Roundup, has finally been brought back into service — selling drinks and souvenir photos from the character meet ‘n’ greets inside.

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A long way from the actual woodcarvers who used to create personalised souvenirs here, but good to see it alive and well in some form, eh?

— — —

ENCHANTED FIREWORKS DAMPENED AGAIN

The Enchanted Fireworks have returned for their second year — dampened again in similar style to the later shows last year, when the nearby town of Chessy apparently banged on the wall and issued a loud “shhh”. Fans, and even apparently some regular guests, aren’t too impressed with the “new” show.

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— — —

ATTRACTION OPEN 12:00 – 12:05

The same limited opening schedule of attractions put in place last Summer has returned again this year, with visitors taking much more notice. Some say it’s fair enough that they have to close attractions early, since most people have headed to Main Street to watch Fantillusion, whilst others leave annoyed that the park’s advertised opening time of 10am to 11pm isn’t strictly true.

Most agree that the whole situation would be better if the limited openings schedule was at least published somewhere other than only at the attraction entrances themselves — on the tips board, in the Programme leaflet, for example.

— — —

GOOGLE EARTH 3D: WORTH THE WAIT

The much-publicised and subsequently much-delayed official 3D recreation of Disneyland Paris in Google Earth finally launched in mid-May and proved to be well worth the wait, offering a truly spectacular metre-by-metre recreation of every inch of the parks and resort. Visit www.disneylandparis.com/googleearth3d and lose a few hours.

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A few days later, Google Street View was also added for small stretches of each park:

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— — —

BROCHURE TESTS THE LIMITS

Have you seen the brochures and advertising for Walt Disney World? How grand and high-class it all looks. For Paris, however, the brochures in particular seem to be getting ever more garish and in-your-face with each publication. The latest, current brochure for Autumn/Winter 2009/10 features some truly frightening images of blurred children flying above the parks, with so much photoshopping and saturated colour you can barely see the resort they’re trying to advertise.

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The actual, printed version also comes with a bizarre claim on the cover of “First ever interactive brochure”. Beyond the cut-out on the cover (Mickey is actually on the page behind), the only evidence of this is a French (+33) mobile number you can text to get a video trailer of the new theme year. Several weeks later, nothing received here.

— — —

VAT REDUCTION? VAT CHANCE

The French government has officially lowered the VAT rate for cafés and restaurants from 19.6% to just 5.5% in order to keep the industry afloat, and, while you’ll certainly find many notifications of this within the resort, you’ll be much harder pressed to actually find reductions.

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Whilst some things, especially the Half Board vouchers, have come down in price, most scenarios have just seen the prices stay the same and Disneyland Paris pocketing the difference in order to prop up the large drop in food and beverage sales this year — mostly on account of the prices being too high during a recession. Good thinking.

— — —

ICE CREAM ARRIVES ON-SET

Walt Disney Studios Park must have been the only theme park in the world without a proper ice cream location until the latest change in its food & beverages offering. The Franklin Department Store façade (similar to the exterior of Gone Hollywood at DCA, international fans) gave up its wonderful 1950s-themed period window to become a new kiosk serving actual, real Ben & Jerry’s by the scoop.

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Photo: dlrptimes.com

The lost window was more interesting than the one remaining, featuring a mannequin woman sitting with a 1950s travel magazine, retro television and monster/sci-fi movie poster. The Tower of Terror across the way has such a minimal build-up in Paris that small period-setting details like this really mattered — the Imagineers would have put an ice cream kiosk in there from the start otherwise.

Couldn’t such a vital theme park component as ice cream have commanded its own building somewhere? Rather than expanding, the park almost seems to be imploding, with under-sized kiosks popping up all over where real, full-size boutiques and restaurants should be. More than anything, one single serving window for this in such a prominent position is madness.

— — —

BLOCKBUSTERS IN THE BACKLOT

Over in Backlot, the big news has been the complete gutting of Backlot Express, the “props warehouse” counter service restaurant, in favour of the more brand-friendly idea of themed rooms dedicated to the Pirates of the Caribbean and High School Musical franchises. The changeover began with the arrival of a plain Ford Focus outside the restaurant, plastered with “HSM3” stickers…

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The new logo has been completed on the outside…

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And as for the inside? Well, real props from these two trilogies have yet to appear, with the High School Musical area causing much fan hair-tearing already with its “themeing” of bland posters, banners and mini basketballs (taken from merchandise). The “East High” theme does sit well within the building, but this isn’t anything someone with a good printer could set up themselves. Are there not even any costumes from the film lying around over in Burbank?

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Beyond the “torn bedsheets” (as described by magicforum members) hanging from the ceiling, the ‘Pirates’ area has defied the odds and just presented the first real surprise of this project — the removal of the metal railings of the raised “garage” area to be replaced with pirate ship-styled wooden banisters and a full ship’s wheel.

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— — —

TELEVISION STUDIOS GOES ’50s

…Or is that wishful thinking? With a long-overdue repaint of the Walt Disney Television Studios building (home to Playhouse and Stitch Live) finally beginning back in April and only just making real progress, have the maintenance teams really taken a step back and reconsidered the building, rather than just bursting ahead with the same ugly yellows the original designers chose in 2002?

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Yes, it seems so! The architecture was already within the period, but the colours didn’t quite fit. Now, a deep red has replaced the turquoise on the “fins” atop the building, with the yellow turning a much more earthy, peachy shade, in whole much closer to a 1950s Hollywood look and more pleasing next to the subdued tones of the Hollywood Tower Hotel just opposite.

— — —

ANIMAGIQUE KIOSK MARK II

The bland merchandise kiosk which appeared outside Animagique in 2007 now has a partner. Filling in dead space on the right of the same TV Studios building, this little location opened just this week, using the new colour scheme and dressed up in a pleasingly similar style of fins and neons.

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Photo: Sean Hamilton

In any other Disney park, such a location would be given a name or some kind of personality (think Crossroads of the World at Disney’s Hollywood Studios). It offers the usual generic collection of character merchandise.

— — —

ROCKEFELLER PLAZA REBORN

Could this be the start of a new era for the environs of Disney’s Hotel New York? The Rockefeller Plaza building, a dull games arcade for far too long, has finally reopened as a lovely café refreshments location for the Summer.

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— — —

MICKEY SWINGS INTO — AND ONTO — BUFFALO BILL’S

It was the controversy of the year — nay, the decade — and now it looks like Mickey Mouse has made home. The not-so-great poster previously stuck on the Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show entrance has just been replaced by a large model of Mickey Mouse abseiling down over the building.

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Whilst it looks much smarter now, it has fans worried that the mouse may well be there to stay. On the subject of the show itself, the current Summer park programme leaflets are now advertising Adult tickets for the price of Child tickets. In high season? Maybe adding a mouse wasn’t the best way to sell the scale of this truly epic dinner show.

— — —

FASTPASS FOR MONEY

This one must be the second-biggest controversy of the year, then. In itself not a huge thing by any means, this could however be the first step of a huge shift in how Fastpass works. From 18th July to 4th August, guests staying at Disneyland Hotel, Disney’s Hotel New York and, it seems, Disney’s Newport Bay Club, can buy a special “Premium FASTPASS” for €80 per person per day.

The ticket is effectively a VIP FASTPASS, the unlimited-access ticket previously given only to guests in Club rooms and Suites, allowing you to use the FASTPASS queues for attractions as and when you want, as many times as you want to.

— — —

STUDIO 1 REFURBISHMENT CONTINUES

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— — —

GOOFY’S SUMMER CAMP

Somewhere you won’t find Mickey this year is the new show at The Chaparral Theater in Frontierland. Yes, since we last updated the topic, The Tarzan Encounter was cancelled again — for good.

This new show is somewhat like the Summer cousin to the brilliant Mickey’s Winter Wonderland, only scuppered by a desperation for audience interaction, with too few scenes between. However, with a live country band as the big “plus” to replace the Winter ice rink, a great stage and some nice musical numbers, it’s winning more fans than certain other shows this year, and much more fitting for its location than Tarzan ever was.

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— — —

MAIN STREET COMES ALIVE WITH MARCHING BAND

Last seen making brief appearances last Summer on the old Central Plaza Stage, the brass band has returned! Now performing a brilliant set of Disney music (even including Hans Zimmer’s Pirates score!) on Town Square, this is the kind of classic Disneyland entertainment we rarely see in Paris, so enjoy! The only problem — no one, not the makers of the park programme, nor the Cast Members inside City Hall, appear to have been given their performance schedule.

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— — —

CARL’S HOUSE FLIES OVER FRANCE

The real-life version of the balloon-lifted house from Pixar’s next — and 10th — major hit, “Up”, travelled over to France recently and, amongst appearing in some truly spectacular hot air balloon festivals, paid a visit to Disneyland Paris early one morning.

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— — —

AND FINALLY…

Who’d have known — the Sleeping Beauty fountain inside the Castle gallery was actually meant to trickle down into the waterfall below, beside the staircase, as one, complete water system! Now, after truly years of being turned off and ignored, it’s fixed and running. The “crystal” at the bottom of the falls glows, too!

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Photo: pussinboots

Wonderful. Utmost appreciation to whoever made this happen.

— — —

So there you go, DLRP Today returns!

With thanks to www.photosmagiques.com!

Monday, 28th July 2008

Spot Cruella de Vil on Hollywood Blvd!

Since Monday 14th July, fans visiting Walt Disney Studios Park have been in for a big surprise. Imagine seeing the distant glisten of a classic motorcar passing by Beverley Court, turning the corner at Deluxe Travel Agency and parking up at the Franklin Department Store.

Before you’ve even had time to pick your jaw up off the ground, out steps a snarling Cruella De Vil… perhaps a spot of shopping in Hollywood will cheer her up? Blast! She’s been attacked by the park-guest-paparazzi already!

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The black Cadillac has been decorated all over with white spots — why, because a white car would clash terribly with Miss De Vil’s own outfit! She steps out to sign autographs and pose for pictures for around 20 minutes before driving off up the boulevard and turning left along Vine Street, in front of The Hollywood Tower Hotel. The car then leaves the park to the left of CinéMagique.

Whilst many guests clamour and rush for a picture with Cruella, an equal amount take a step back to admire the car itself — and the sudden extra touch of life it adds to Hollywood Boulevard.

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There’s even a little Hidden Mickey on there…

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We’ve also compiled a video with a few clips of Cruella meeting guests, but mostly — that snazzy car driving around the Boulevard…

Cruella de Vil is scheduled to appear on Hollywood Boulevard on most days this Summer (until 31st August). Though times aren’t posted in advance anywhere, look out for her at around 10.30am, 11.30am or 12.30pm — and ask nicely for that photograph!

Several magicforum members have already met the immaculately-dressed villain. Upon seeing the fur coat of MinniesBestPal, Cruella was suddenly appauled to find out… it wasn’t real!

[Pictures & Video: DLRP Today.com]

Tuesday, 22nd July 2008

Waiting game at Studio Tram Tour goes electronic

Since the attraction, full name Studio Tram Tour: Behind the Magic, said goodbye to its billboard-style entrance façade last year and welcomed a new fully-themed Hollywood hills tunnel entrance, it has been completely without the electronic wait time sign that can be found at almost every other attraction.

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Now, as a final touch to the Hollywood Boulevard project, the small planter to the right of the tunnel has been fitted with a bright yellow, diamond-shaped roadsign to display exactly how long you’ll have to wait for your date with Jeremy Irons.

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Currently, it has yet to be fully-functional, the old magnetic board by its side still in use, but it shouldn’t be too long before it begins posting up those lengthy 5 and 10 minute queues…

[Pictures: DLRP Today]

Sunday, 27th April 2008

Tower of Terror: Spectacular inauguration brings Hollywood hotel to life (in pictures)

Walt Disney Studios Park, six years on. The crowds are bigger, the guests happier, the theming visible and the entire park dominated by a 183-ft monster that is about to be unleashed. The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror, legendary in Florida for over 14 years and under construction in Paris for the past three, an attraction heavy on style, thrill… and story.

Every Disney park fan in the world knows the story of the iconic Hollywood Tower Hotel, a “beacon for the show-business elite” which fell victim to a disastrous lightning strike and the grasp of The Twilight Zone, but has it ever been seen for real? On this fateful night, the chilling legend would come to life before the eyes of an exclusive audience, like never before and never again. This is the entire ‘Twilight Zone Spectacular’ from start to finish, in pictures…

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As guests left behind their exclusive buffet in the giant temporary domes behind Studio Tram Tour, The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror had suddenly been all wrapped up, ready to surprise. Bathed in pink and a pattern of ‘HTH’ symbols, a yellow string and ’15’ label tied the unusual package together — a late sixth birthday present to the park towering 183ft above the flat fields of Marne-la-Vallée.

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Walking back down the illuminated Hollywood Boulevard, guests were directed behind the raised control booth at the edge of Place des Stars, already filled with photographers and film crews aiming their lenses at the Tower. The courtyard would provide the perfect viewing spot for the nighttime spectacular.

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The remarkable projection effects were achieved by several ultra-bright, high definition projectors pointing toward The Hollywood Tower Hotel from other buildings in the park. The technology was used to project the dreams of children onto Sleeping Beauty Castle during last year’s spectacular 15th Anniversary launch night and has been evolving and improving for years in the hands of the resort’s technical teams since its first use for the unique Phantom Wedding show on a Halloween Soirée night several years ago.

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With 1400 guests spread across the courtyard, many of the projections were doubled-up to not only appear on the front face of the Tower but also integrated into its left-hand side.

At 10.30pm, announcements went out across the park and both through the domes and the studios’ other restaurants, which hosted other groups such as celebrities, calling everyone to Place des Stars for a special gala event at The Hollywood Tower Hotel. The operating attractions — Crush’s Coaster, Cars, Flying Carpets, Armageddon, Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster and Stitch Live! were all temporarily closed.

At 10.45pm, with the crowds gathered and enjoying a medley of 1930s period music, the entire park was taken into total darkness.

“Good evening and welcome in front of The Hollywood Tower Hotel. ‘Tis magnificent, don’t you agree? Our evening will start in a few minutes. Do not be too impatient, you could regret it!”

Vintage cars, bellhops, pyrotechnic effects and over 100 extras were waiting behind the scenes — the assembled crowd knew nothing of what to expect. A traditional inauguration ceremony? A projection show? Some fireworks? As the jazzy music reached its crescendo, a ticking clock began to cut through the night atmosphere. The menacing “tick, tick, tick” continued for several minutes before the heavy, foreboding chimes of an old grandfather clock began to echo across the park…

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Eight chimes brought a collection of bizarre, bright green bugs to crawl across the package, disappearing around the front of the building, their legs tapping across the wrapping paper. An arm appears from the left, a bellhop’s arm, his white-gloved fist punching into the parcel and squashing an insect.

As heavy, chesty breathing rumbled from the Tower, the bellhop’s hand reached in again to tear away a piece of the wrapping paper, revealing the bright, clean façade of a well-kept Hollywood Tower Hotel behind. Undoing the yellow string and ripping a large section of paper from the front, the bellhop caused the entire package to unravel, paper falling down around the building to reveal a spectacular vision for real — The Hollywood Tower Hotel, at the height of its golden age.

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Projections highlighted the building’s features, making it appear new and clean. Windows lit. Music built to a great fanfare. The giant lighting rig behind the Tower emitted a startling fan of bright white lights, shining into all corners of the sky.

For anyone familiar with that famous wall mural in the Tower Hotel Gifts shop, this was the real thing, right before your eyes. The sight was spectacular, almost unreal, receiving great applause (and unprovoked applause at that) from the audience.

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At this point, as strings and horns swelled in the rousing Hollywood gala music and searchlights beamed across the sky, the inauguration took its first very unexpected turn. Eyes still focused on the Tower, movement down in the street below suddenly caught the audience’s attention.

Two traffic police walked toward the junction, swinging their batons and blowing whistles as the music continued to swell. From the left, a vintage 1930s car suddenly pulled into view. From Hollywood Boulevard, countless extras in period clothes busily congregated on the curbside, crossed the street and pointed upwards to the dazzling hotel. A second car pulled in from Vine Street in front of the hotel, more extras arrived — reporters with old-fashioned cameras and flash bulbs, newspaper sellers and glamorous couples.

As a third and fourth car arrived on the scene and traversed the junction, the traffic cops waving them through and helping the “show business elite” to cross the street to admire the hotel’s fountain. The entire scene filled the street with 100 extras and no less than five vintage cars ferrying the invitees around, bustling and exciting as if a real evening at the hotel, a living and breathing 1930s Hollywood right before the audience.

As couples swooned and flashbulbs continued to pop, the period crowd began to head toward to hotel’s entrance, the cars disappearing out of the scene just as quickly as they miraculously appeared.

The bright lights across Place des Stars faded as a roaring fire and warm orange curtains beamed onto the Tower, as if providing a view into the high-society event taking place in the legendary Tip Top Club on the hotel’s 13th floor. A couple enter the elevator to the club, a bellhop smiles.

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The famous jazz sounds blasted out, the same song we’ve come to recognise as the theme of the attraction from countless promotional videos and trailers. In the background, excited chatter from the hotel guests peppered the air. Two hands holding wine glasses moved in across the scene, clinking into the centre as the jubilant music continued.

Next, silhouette figures of jazz musicians danced across the Tower, their outlines and trombones in heavy black against the warm oak panelling and curtains of the club. Stretching their instruments across the Tower as they danced, the musicians began to fade as a more sinister tone began to take hold of the music. Symbols crashed, and crashed again, the brass heightened, grew fraught and uncontrollable.

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Suddenly, a warped black and white circles began to fall upon the Tower. Slowly, it fell further and further across the façade, swallowing up the jubilant scenes of Tip Top Club with it. Instruments crashed and collided, the tight jazz of the trombones echoed into a distant medley.

A giant clock appeared on the Tower, the clock from the hotel’s lobby, as the elevator panel climbed slowly to the top of the hotel and back, continuing to ferry guests to their rooms and the club, unaware that strange and mysterious forces were taking hold of the building.

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Tick tock, tick tock… the clock continued as the crashing music became almost deafening…

8.03pm… 8.04pm… 8.05pm… When suddenly…!

Lightning strikes! A huge flash of pyrotechnics hits the upper-right of the building. The scene instantly changes to a heavy rainstorm, pouring down across the hotel as electrical sparks bolt and zap across the front of the hotel. The scene created resembled exactly that of the attraction’s pre-show video, rain pouring and dancing across the hotel façade.

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For tiny split-seconds, the cracks of energy and lightning reveal the skeleton of the building’s structure in the projections. We hear the elevator machinery starting up, whirring and falling at high speed.

What happens next in the pre-show? The elevator shafts are destroyed, struck by lightning and crushed to nothing but rubble as the elevator cabins fall into an unknown dimension. We should have warned them…

Right away, sparkles cracked and flashed from all three elevator chutes, even the balconies on the left-hand side…

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Sparks continued to fly, pyrotechnics flashing and exploding across the hotel, from its iconic sign to the fallen rubble and cracked brickwork on its body.

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The hotel fallen from grace, music turns to a Gothic organ. We see the owl from the hotel’s lobby flying across the façade, a gargoyle appearing on the front body against a backdrop of thundering rain.

Another blast of pyrotechnics bursts from the roof of the hotel — the elevator cables have snapped. Dials and displays from the boiler room cover the tower as elevator doors open and close, cables fly and flap in the stormy winds…

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A final round of heavy pyrotechnics burst from the balconies and elevator shafts, now glowing a rich, supernatural blue against the yellow tower.

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Strings and cymbals continue to crash, a bellhop’s face appears, laughing, across the front of the building…

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From outside of Walt Disney Studios Park and across the east of Marne-la-Vallée, onlookers could see smoke clearing from the Hollywood Tower Hotel sign, the building bathed in a burnt and scorched overlay of orange and black.

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The scene fades to black as the last sparks flash from the building.

When the lights fade back up, the curtain is blowing in the breeze, the clock cracked and stuck at 8.05pm, as it is in the actual lobby, a sound of rusted metal machinery squeaks in the silent breeze.

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A golden key with a “Hollywood Tower Hotel” keychain swings across the front of the hotel…

“The Hollywood Tower Hotel is changed forever…”

The iconic keys of the unforgettable theme music begin. The hotel turns to darkness, then stars appear, covering every inch. Glistening and sparkling like the possessed fountain at street level, the logo of “The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror” glows across the building as the audience roars with woops and cheers, clapping along to the Twilight Zone theme.

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But the show isn’t over yet… the display inspired by the hotel’s dried-up fountain suddenly turns back to a cascading waterfall, a spectacular scene of gushing greens and blues falling 55 metres across the tower.

To the chilling musical notes of a slow ‘Somewhere Over the Rainbow’, sung by a child without the words, a black silhouette appears in the water. Arms outstretched, the haunting figure of a little girl — the little girl lost to The Twilight Zone when the elevator fell — reaches out and skips from side to side.

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Behind the tower, the fan of searingly bright lights flashes in a ghostly green as the silhouette is swallowed up by the falling water in a flash of green and yellow.

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Falling keys on a piano lead us into a tour of some of the hotel’s now-infamous rooms and locations. The first sees pipework cover the entire front of the building, the scene then changing to a steamy, dimly-lit boiler room where the entire body of the building flashes and glows as if coming to life like the giant turbines of the elevator machinery.

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The lights behind circulate in blues and oranges — the service elevators coming back to life, winding up and down through the lift shaft as they prepare to welcome their new guests.

Buzzing electrics and power surges bring light back into the hotel’s reception area. The tower is dressed in projections to look like the pigeon holes of keys, the square front body to look like the reception desk itself. Echoing through the cold, rain-swept night is Vera Lynn’s “We’ll Meet Again”.

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In the Library, bookshelves covering the façade, the television stuttered into life, displaying brief excerpts of a distressing newscast coming live from nearby in Hollywood.

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“The hotel is filling with … There’s something going on … Lightning has hit the hotel! … We hear some people have disappeared … Storm’s … Worse all the time … Figure out what’s going on”

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The television picture fades to a blur, the interference too strong.

Music gets louder, strings swirling and building, louder and louder, circling in a climactic score that suggests the night is about to reach its grand crescendo. A face appears on the Tower, a bellhop.

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He speaks strongly, menacingly, staring into the audience…

“Welcome to the NEW Hollywood Tower Hotel…”

Raising an eyebrow and turning to one side, he steps backwards slowly to reveal the buttons of the service elevator.

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As the bellhop reaches to press the “Basement” button, music getting ever more dramatic, choir and strings creating an unbearable tension, he slowly spells out the ultimate proposition…

“DROP IN… If you dare!”

He grits his teeth, tenses his neck muscles and begins to laugh, mercilessly, cackling with a devilish spirit at the audience. We are no longer simply bystanders.

Elevator doors covering one half of the Tower creak open with a toe-curling screech as the chanting choir and pulsing strings reach their climax. Pushing open the doors, the bellhop. As the music echoes out at its height, a familiar theme fades in… Peter Pan’s “Flying”, from the 15th Anniversary!

“And don’t forget… The Celebration Continues… BIG TIME!”

Those bellhops really do have a sense of humour!

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Pulling the doors closed with another awful screech of rusted metal, the bellhop disappears as the newly rechristened Tower of Terror glows in a pulse in blue lights, a swirling vortex opening up on its façade.

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As the 15th Anniversary theme reached its blast of trumpets and horns, fireworks burst from the body of the Tower, shooting vertically upwards into the sky, joined by another huge line of pyrotechnics exploding outwards from its roof, met by shrieks of surprise and excitement from the audience.

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As the Tower of Terror returned to its starry, fibre optic-inspired guise of Twilight Zone imagery, the smoke of the fireworks slowly cleared from around the iconic Hollywood Tower Hotel sign. Loud, pulsing dance music filled the courtyard — were the audience being given a DJ party to follow up this spectacular real-life telling of the Hollywood Tower Hotel legend? Not quite.

Soon enough, the infamous high notes of The Twilight Zone‘s theme song were filling the air, the music a thrilling rock/dance tribute to the classic score. But again, the show wasn’t over yet. Thick fog, smoke, had filled the street in front of the hotel as the audience were mesmerised by the spectacular fireworks above.

Rolling toward the audience, up to 6 feet high, the heavy fog was suddenly dotted with bright white lights in the distance, walking slowly out of the hotel. Cast members preparing for the sudden influx of excited riders? As the figures moved closer, their ghoulish silhouettes became clearer…

The 100 invitees who entered the hotel around 10 minutes ago were now free to roam… but certainly not free from The Twilight Zone‘s command.

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Plodding, creeping toward the audience, the airmen, policemen, newspaper sellers, reporters and glamorous Hollywood couples showed no emotion as their faces and bodies gradually appeared out of the fog. Perfectly choreographed, they headed directly for the audience, possessed and zombified, walking slowly to the pounding, hypnotic theme of The Twilight Zone.

When they arrived at the crowds, they reached out with their lifeless arms, clutching and grabbing at the guests, pulling them closer, enticing them to step underneath the barrier and follow them to the hotel.

“You have just entered into The Twilight Zone.”

Seemingly thrilled rather than frightened by the incredible 14 minutes that had preceded, the audience then allowed the newspaper reporters to pull them toward the hotel, the old ladies of a bygone time to take them by the arm. Soon, they would all be a permanent resident… of The Twilight Zone.

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From the very first piece of advertising to this spectacular inauguration ceremony, the grand opening of The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror at Disneyland Resort Paris has been nothing short of breathtaking.

Deciding to relegate the “gravity defying” drop promoted so heavily in Florida and California to second place in favour of promoting the attraction’s incredible theme and story, it’s clear the six years Walt Disney Studios Park spent waiting for its beating heart to be unveiled were not in vein.

The campaign has been positioned so closely to the heart of The Hollywood Tower Hotel, from the website to the posters and billboards, that it almost seems as if the Imagineers did it all themselves.

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Not only has Walt Disney Studios Park finally opened its real saving grace, it has truly — excuse the cliché — done it in style. The themeing is rich and detailed, the drop thrilling and exciting time and again, the advertising strong and true to the theme. The integration into Hollywood Boulevard and positioning in the park is so fitting it seems as if it were always there. The expertly-cast team of quirky, scary, friendly bellhops who provide a memorable experience every minute of the operating day… simply flawless.

And the grand opening event? It goes without saying. One of the most spectacular, well thought-out and well-executed inaugurations ever seen at any Disney park in the world. It is hard to imagine any inauguration that has quite so brilliantly celebrated a new attraction.

To the cast, crew and everyone behind the launch of The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror in Paris — congratulations. You’ve proved that even the wildest dreams of Disney fans can come true.

Walt Disney Studios Park has finally come of age, and we can’t wait to see where you take it next.

» Click here to see our exclusive full video

» Click here to see official video highlights

Saturday, 12th April 2008

The Celebration Continues… The Preparations

We arrive on the evening of Friday, 4th April 2008 and head straight for the resort hub, the promenade, Centre Court. The day has already been one of bustling activity for the resort — alongside good guest attendance, many resort officials, VIPs and press crews have already arrived to begin their own preparations.

The day before, Thursday, preparations were made in the mezzanine of Disney Studio 1 for live radio station broadcasts on Friday morning — Paris’ Voltage FM from 6:30am to 9:30am and the UK’s Heart FM broadcasting live all the way from 7:00am to 10:00am.

Reserved zones were set up for The Legend of the Lion King, Disney Characters’ Express, Disney’s Once Upon a Dream Parade and Candleabration throughout the day.

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That’s where we’re headed, follow the bellhop…

So, here we are, on the hub of Disneyland Resort Paris, with the giant billboards and bellhops pointing the way to our first point of call – The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror. But before then, a little surprise from the gardeners — brand new flowers right around the promenade!

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Brand new flowers for the hub / New brighter colours for Town Square

All the areas bordering the paths here were previously just grassy banks, with the exception of a small parcel of flowers around the new information board and flags installed one year ago. Now, the lower section of all the grass has been given over to thousands of new flowers.

Hopping quickly over to Disneyland Park, the gardeners have made another change — last year’s yellows and blues replaced by multicoloured yellows and pinks in honour of ‘The Celebration Continues’ colour scheme.

Enough diversions, let’s head straight for Walt Disney Studios Park:

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Film crews prepare next to Beverley Court

Here, the Tower of Terror is already buzzing with preparations and special set-ups for the evening and days ahead. Beverley Court, the building on the edge of the new Hollywood Boulevard, is providing a convenient storage location for equipment whilst the film crews set up their equipment on the patch of pavement next door.

The Studio Catering Co. van usually here has been moved to allow the area to be used for exterior VIP shots and film footage against the backdrop of the Tower.

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Temporary HTH posters / Lighting rig tests behind the Tower

In preparation for the grand inauguration ceremonies to come the following night, movie posters on the lighting rigs, which are still to be found in this area, have temporarily been replaced by ‘HTH’ Hollywood Tower Hotel logos, as those on Disney Bros Plaza were with Crush and Cars imagery last June. Unfortunately, George of the Jungle, etc did return on Sunday.

Now, what’s that behind the Tower? Don’t worry, not a wrecking ball… a giant lighting rig, elevated by crane to sit behind the building. When the press and VIPs stood in their reserved areas for the show the next day, it was completely hidden, emitting an incredibly bright ray of lights from behind the hotel, making it look just like that famous mural in the Tower Hotel Gifts boutique.

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Show control/film crews’ podium

The crane had been elevated sometime in the late afternoon of Friday to prepare for the evening’s massive rehearsal of the inauguration show, which began just half an hour after park closing at 7:30pm and, for the 100+ extras that would bring a living, breathing Hollywood night to life, continued right up until midnight.

As seen above, the podium and control booth from the 15th Anniversary and Toon Studio launches was again present, providing a clear view of the Tower through a gap in the trees and Hollywood Boulevard buildings.

Saturday, 5th April 2008

The big day is finally here, The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror is about to be inaugurated at Walt Disney Studios Park over six years since the park first opened. Of course, the day also marked the launch of the entire ‘Celebration Continues… Big Time!’ year, not to mention the grand opening and inauguration of Stitch Live! across the courtyard.

The park was already busy at 7:00am, when rehearsals began for the ceremony that would kick off the year and officially open Stitch Live!, with Karl Holz joining the rehearsal from 8:30am.

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Giant lighting rig for Tower / Signs park-wide indicate Tower closes at 5pm

The white podium was suddenly joined by barriers and fences all around the Tower and Place des Stars area. The resort’s audio visual crew had the crane camera in place, ready to be moved around for various events throughout the day, and — as if you could miss it — a second giant lighting rig was now extending into the sky, ensuring the Tower stayed in bright light despite the typically cloudy press event weather.

The lighting rig behind the Tower wouldn’t extend into the sky again until later in the day, when preparations for the real show began. For that reason, and for the surprising amount of pyrotechnics that would be scattered across the hotel’s facade, the attraction closed to day guests at 5pm.

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Film crews and Bellhop actors on standby for VIPs at the Tower

All day, celebrities, VIPs and invitees were enjoying the attractions of Walt Disney Studios Park. At Tower of Terror, the resort’s own film crews and photographers were on “standby” for their arrival, with special acting bellhops inside and out ready to pose for the cameras.

Used in the background of many of the photo shoots… something rather familiar…

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Familiar prop from London reappears for photo shoots

The elevator cabin which briefly appeared in London’s Leicester Square had found its way across the Channel to the resort, where it sat outside of the gates of the attraction all day.

Look out for another article soon covering in detail the VIPs and celebrities who attended the event.

Finally, the location of our first event of the day — Place des Stars. The stage was dressed up overnight for the official kick-off ceremony, a ’15’ symbol surrounded by shiny golden wrapping paper and a backdrop of illuminated Stitch Live! logos.

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Stitch Live! & ‘Celebration Continues’ launch stage prepared…

On the stage, a red podium wrapped up in a golden ribbon and ’15’ symbol, with a giant red present topped by a gold bow. Now, who do you suppose could be hiding in there, waiting to burst out? Yes, he’s mischievous alright… In fact, if you took a look behind that backdrop, you’d have seen a second red square of wrapping paper for the front of the present… just in case.

This is where we head next, as our ‘Celebration Continues’ series… continues!

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