Thursday, 8th March 2007

Holes for Hollywood

Seen from the Vinci parking garage of Disney Village, construction on the foundations for the new street sets and landscaping is already well underway. All of the previous planters, flooring and landscaping around La Terrasse has been removed, leaving the bare shell of the Art Deco building. Large digging equipment is on-site and the first significant blows for the foundations have been made, as can be seen under the fences surrounding the queue of Art of Disney Animation (photo 2).

This spot in particular will be for the storefront of the recognisable “Gone Hollywood” boutique at Disney’s California Adventure, whilst the La Terrasse area will become home to a new Pueblo Deco facade around the existing body of La Terrasse itself, creating a new Mediterranean-flavoured space with only minimal access through to Tower of Terror – the main entrances, instead, will be via a path leading from Place des Stars to Studio Tram Tour, right past the front gate of The Hollywood Tower Hotel.

The current impact of this work on the park experience is pretty unmissable, though some recent improvements to guest experience have been made. The oval 15th Anniversary signs seen on the fences around Fantasia Gardens have now appeared along these walls, whilst several fences directly in front of the Tower have been given a very clever service elevator overlay (see photo on magicforum here). For guests heading towards Studio Tram Tour, a new configuration with the path presents a far more organised approach. The entire stretch is now devoted to the attraction’s queue, easing guest flow and allowing it to be separated into a clear entrance and exit.

To give a grand sense of scale to this project, or at least show the vast area of Walt Disney Studios it has the chance to influence, this final view from the skies (by Disney Central Plaza’s resident aerial photographer, Jollyroger) gives a perfect overview of the entire construction.

You could almost see the Studios as a present without a box or any wrapping – unfortunately, half the fun is unwrapping a present, right? This construction right at the heart of the Studios will, hopefully, tie it all together to create a much more satisfying package. The area now surrounded by construction fences is almost as large as the rest of the park’s paths put together… If this project was about “filling in the gaps” of a park between its otherwise very successful attractions, it appears to have already succeeded!

Photo 4 by Jollyroger on Disney Central Plaza forum.

All other photos by Photos Magiques. You can see more here.

Monday, 5th February 2007

A new behind-the-magic studio tour

When the first construction walls arrived on the future site of the park’s new Hollywood Boulevard almost two weeks ago, they covered barely half of the walkway between Disney Bros. Plaza and Studio Tram Tour. Reports suggested the schedule called for work mainly around Studio Tram Tour until May, when the entire street would be blocked for full-scale construction. The entrance of the “Behind-the-Magic” studio tour itself was moved to the old Fastpass canopy, and everything seemed ready to go.

Next, we heard work was postponed until the very end of January. Now, we’ve got more construction fences than have perhaps ever been seen before – including those still at Toon Studio and the Animation Courtyard entrance.

The fences are now cleverly covering every section of the areas where Hollywood-themed sets and façades are reported to spring up, from the future location of “Gone Hollywood” next to Art of Disney Animation to the Hollywood Hills backdrop in front of the Studio Tram Tour station itself.

Work has now begun on removing trees in the area, specifically those on the La Terrasse side, keeping the roots intact so that they can be used elsewhere on the resort. Behind the fences on the Art of Disney Animation side, little has changed so far.

Meanwhile, guests can finally enjoy a cosier, more interesting walk around the Studios, surrounded by specially re-painted walls featuring customised signs pointing to the hidden attractions. Sure, they’re construction fences, but it’s already more exciting than empty tarmac, right?

All photos by Photos Magiques. You can see more here.

Monday, 22nd January 2007

WDS: Gone Hollywood

It’s no use having that expensive birthday present if you don’t have all the accessories to go with it, right? The Imagineers agree, and have confirmed their plans to turn the unremarkable stretch of black asphalt between Disney Bros. Plaza and Studio Tram Tour into a film set boulevard dedicated to Hollywood at the golden age of the movies. This could be the Nautilus to Discoveryland’s Space Mountain, the Riverboat to Frontierland’s Big Thunder Mountain or the moat and dragon to Fantasyland’s Castle, in its effect of setting the tone and theme to welcome guests to 2008’s The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror.

The new “place-making” sets will effectively comprise of façades from Sunset Boulevard at Disney-MGM Studios Florida and Hollywood Pictures Backlot at Disney’s California Adventure, albeit with the ajoining buildings chopped off to simply give the elaborately themed exterior. The concepts were presented at the recent Cast Member Rendez-Vous event, allowing the following guide to the sets due to be used to be pieced together. You can also see an expanded version with photos of each expected façade at DLRP Magic Guides.

Beginning as if you’ve just stepped out of Disney Studio 1 into the newly transformed park, spot #1 will reportedly feature a Mediterranean corner façade, hiding the existing La Terrasse behind. This Pueblo Deco style will match the current building and the Tower of Terror behind, to which it will also give access. One of several arches in the set will house a brand new tips board (wait time guide) for the park. Based on this information, a search of Disney’s Hollywood inventory brings up “Schmoozie’s” at Hollywood Pictures Backlot as a possible inspiration. Points #3 and #4 will be Pueblo Deco towers, adding to the overall look of the area and helping the 183ft Tower of Terror sit more comfortably in the park.

Across the street, point #2 is the most certain of all the sets, appearing to host a replica of “Gone Hollywood” from Hollywood Pictures Backlot. Strolling further along the new boulevard, a crossroads presents two corner buildings seeming to come from opposite coasts of the US. From the East Coast is #5, reported to be home to a new version of Disney-MGM Studios Florida’s “Villains In Vogue”, a colourful movie theatre façade. Whilst from the West Coast, Disney’s California Adventure, comes #6“Off the Page”, an ornate and extravagant sandy-coloured store façade.

Even more promising news is that the boulevard will come complete with new greenery and foliage to hide the reverse of these false movie set buildings, whilst important elements such as lamposts, palm trees, benches and sidewalks look set to complete the scene.

All of these sets should be taken as a rough guide only, since the boulevard is still over 10 months from completion. It seems certain, though, that the Hollywood Boulevards of Orlando and Anaheim will be plundered for their richest icons to provide the fruits of this placemaking, both to keep the project in-budget and to play safe with tried and tested designs.

What will be brand new, though, is the backdrop of the new boulevard – first, #8, a sweeping backdrop of the famous Hollywood Hills on the current location of Studio Tram Tour’s billboard. Finally, #7 is a brand new idea from the Imagineers – a façade themed to a Tunnel through those iconic mountains, functioning infact as the main entrance of Studio Tram Tour: Behind the Magic. A similar tunnel has been hidden away since 2002 on the fresque at the exit of Disney Studio 1, and even perhaps since 1988 in Touchstone’s “Who Framed Roger Rabbit”.

Click here for a full walk-through with photos.

With the details have only just announced, no time has been wasted in preparing the park for the large-scale placemaking work, due to officially begin on 29th January 2007. Already, the entrance of Studio Tram Tour has been re-routed through the canopy of the disused Fastpass distribution area, with the entire entrance surrounded just a few days later by a new tide of tall, yellow construction walls.

Then, on Friday, the walls extended to surround the entire La Terrasse area.

This phase of work is scheduled to be complete by mid-May this year, when the entire route will then close. During this time, Studio Tram Tour will be accessible only via Toon Studio and the new path due to be laid behind Art of Disney Animation. Meaning, of course, that the paths of the new Toon Studio area will be open at least 3 weeks before its two new attractions!

Upon entering the parks now, guests are met by fences to their right, for Toon Studio, and fences stretching ahead of them on their left, for this renamed Production Courtyard – Hollywood Studio.

Despite this unpleasant first impression, it finally seems certain that the Imagineers are about to realise one of our greatest dreams from the past 5 years, and in the process elevate Walt Disney Studios to a true Disney experience. So that, by November of this year, it may finally be proud to proclaim…

“I’m ready for my close-up, Mr Disney.”

Map by DLRPMagic.com based on reports from La Rouquine and Kinoo on DisneyCentralPlaza forum; Photos by Joel, Photos Magiques, Kyoto (Disneymagicinteractive.com), Dlrp.fr, Disneytheque.com

Friday, 5th January 2007

Hooray for Hollywood, already?

This surprising news came first from member HTH2004 on Disney Central Plaza forum, who reports that the Production Courtyard placemaking project will begin on Tuesday 9th January 2007 (yes, next week!) with the addition of extra construction fences either side of the future boulevard and around the Studio Tram Tour station.

Between Disney Bros. Plaza (outside Disney Studio 1) and Studio Tram Tour, the small boulevard currently features little more than some plants, asphalt and food kiosks. The new plans, due to be completed as early as May 2007, just before Toon Studio opens, will see several new sets and facades lining the area and replacing the La Terrasse seating area, providing a true Hollywood entrance for the Tower of Terror. Then, in around October 2007, a second section between Place des Stars (Stage & TV Tour) and Armageddon: Special Effects will be worked on, we can presume providing some of the Tower’s infamous overgrown gardens.

WDSFans.com provides an aerial guide to the work below, whilst the second photo shows the Hollywood Boulevard of Disney’s California Adventure park, of which the Parisian version is said to be a smaller cousin.

Also on the French-speaking Disney Central Plaza forum, Grandmath reports the new boulevard and La Terrasse area will feature 23 trees, of which 5 will have been relocated from elsewhere in the park. The giant palm trees, such as those in front of The Hollywood Tower Hotel itself, however, are reportedly going to be false, both to ensure they survive the climate and to keep the forced-perspective of the building in check.

When the park is ready to expand further beyond the Tram Tour, the boulevard is expected to be extended into a full street. Until then, what will fill the end of the boulevard has not been confirmed. Details suggest work will be done to the area in front of Studio Tram Tour, suggesting a new backdrop similar to that at California Adventure could happen – perhaps with the Tram Tour entrance taking the place of California’s Hyperion Theatre. But as always, for now, nothing is confirmed.

What does appear to be confirmed, however, is that all these dates are absolutely true. Raptor1982 of WDSFans.com reports live from the Studios today that the trees along the path have all been dug out, ready to be removed. This not only confirms the placemaking work to be starting very soon, much sooner than expected, but suggests it will be fairly substantial in its impact on the area. Now let’s just hope they don’t give up half way like Toon Studio, eh?

DCA Hollywood Pictures Backlot photo by Joel.

Thursday, 23rd November 2006

Topping-out the Tower of Terror!

The event took place earlier today, with the dome lifted from the backstage area behind Studio Tram Tour: Behind the Magic to the top of the tower and fastened in place to several vertical metal fixings which have been visible for several months. The dome is actually only the first of three to be used in the design of the Pueblo Deco Hollywood Tower Hotel (the design used by California and Paris). The second is located on the front-left of the large showbuilding whilst a third sits atop the Art Deco tower at the front of the construction (which is currently still a black metal framework).

Further progress elsewhere on the Tower has also been made in recent days. Surprisingly, scaffolding has now been fully removed from the right-hand balcony section at the top of the tower. Whilst this section is now sporting pale yellow paintwork and a darker trim on the faux pueblo tiling, it still requires much more work before completion. The base of the section, which juts out from the tower’s tallest point, is clearly unfinished, and the entire section is still in need of weathering and ageing to give it a colour and effect similar to the darker, more sinister finished design.

The advancement of primer and early paintwork across the entire left side of the building has continued, with a large portion now under the wrapping of white sheets, suggesting more intense work is now starting on the detail and finish of the walls.

With the dome in place, colour arriving and details still being added, the Parisian tower is beginning to resemble the finished design quite spectacularly.

All photos above from www.lesamisduvaldeurope.com via TheOneWhoKnew at Disney Central Plaza forum.

UPDATE 26/11/2006 23:14GMT:

The domes didn’t stop there! Over the following 24 hours, the final two domes were lifted and fixed into position on the future Tower of Terror, completing the trio.

Remarkably, the small art deco tower at the front of the building which supports the third dome has yet to become any more than a simple metal framework!

Also since the last update, some news which I’ll quote from WDS Fans:

La Terrasse: That’s a Wrap?

The concept of a small number of false Hollywood facades in the space between Disney Bros. Plaza and Studio Tram Tour has been rumoured for some time, but now new plans are also calling for the demolition of La Terrasse, to make way for a true Hollywood entrance for the Tower of Terror.

La Terrasse is the partially covered seating area in front of the Tower of Terror construction site and is located right at the heart of the park, open from Day 1 as an outdoor dining area and a teaser of things to come. If green-lit, these new plans, confirmed by Kinou on the WDS Fans magicforum, would transform this area with a small series of “movie set” Hollywood façades similar to those seen in Hollywood Pictures Backlot at Disney’s California Adventure park.

Latest photos from thebatman_1 on MagicForum.

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