Saturday, 23rd April 2011

Italian firm Segafredo Zanetti replaces Nescafé as official Disneyland Paris coffee partner

Disneyland Paris Official Partners

Turn over the latest Guide to the Parks leaflet, updated for the Magical Moments Festival, and there’s a surprise to be found amongst the resort’s Official Partners: Nescafé is no longer the coffee brand of choice for Disneyland Paris! The instant coffee brand owned by Nestlé has been superseded by Italian brand Segafredo Zanetti. Part of the Bologna-based Massimo Zanetti Beverage Group, which sells 120,000 tons of coffee worldwide annually, the Segafredo brand claims to be the Italian market leader and the leading espresso company worldwide. Disney has been criticised in the past for the perceived poor quality of its Nescafé coffee by fans and frequent visitors, who will now be hoping the dropping of this Nestlé brand brings a better-tasting cup to the parks. No changes to the coffee being served have been reported yet, but if your next café tastes more like a real caffè, do let us know!

The sole remaining arm of Nestlé on the list of Official Partners is now Nestlé Waters, suppliers of Vittel and Perrier branded water to the parks. The Swiss corporation was originally one of the most important partners at the opening of the resort. It was largely replaced by Unilever in 2007, the British-Dutch multinational which brought popular brands such as Ben & Jerry’s and Miko ice creams to the resort.

In other beverage-related news, the standard prices for drinks at counter and quick service restaurants increased slightly last month to €2.60 for soft drinks (previously €2.50), €2.20 for hot drinks (previously €2.00) and €2.75 for hot drinks with cream (previously €2.50).

Tuesday, 12th April 2011

19 Today – Happy Birthday Disneyland Paris!

Happy Birthday Disneyland Paris

Exactly nineteen years ago today, at 9.01am on 12th April 1992, Euro Disney Resort officially opened its gates to the public. Euro Disneyland brought a magic kingdom more beautiful than any other to a whole new continent, bringing home its tales as old as time; allowing a whole new audience to “leave today and enter worlds of history, discovery and ageless fantasy”. Festival Disney was a bold nighttime entertainment district designed by renowned architect Frank Gehry, whilst a record number of five Disney resort hotels (the sixth, Sequoia Lodge, would open in May) and nearby Camp Davy Crockett would give the resort an impressive first phase… that revenues just couldn’t match.

With now less than one year to go before the 20th Anniversary, let’s not overlook how much the resort has managed to grow since that over-ambitious opening. A second park, Space Mountain, Tower of Terror, Toon Studio, endless shows, parades and seasons, numerous Disney Village additions, the busiest high speed rail station in France, seven more nearby partner hotels — even a whole town centre! — and so much more. Whilst we might be in a lull between new attractions, the next year will see the biggest slate of refurbishments in the resort’s history, polishing and embellishing this astonishing achievement of Walt Disney Imagineering’s own golden age. And further into this decade, we’ll see World of Disney transform the hub, the vast Villages Nature holiday complex and water park, a groundbreaking dark ride, hotel expansions, major Disney Village expansions and even, with luck and money, that second park becoming what we can call “a whole second park”.

Here’s to the ever-outstanding cast and crew, and here’s to the future!

Thursday, 3rd February 2011

Bambi adds a fresh Disney touch to refurbished rooms at Sequoia Lodge

It’s a big year for renewals at Disneyland Paris, as the resort heads towards its 20th Anniversary and the time comes to start refreshing some of those original developments — particularly the hotels. Undergoing a huge renovation project of its 1,011 rooms is Disney’s Sequoia Lodge, where the changes go a little further than just new flatscreen, digital TVs to replace the positively ancient old tube boxes. The sedate, Antoine Grumbach-designed hotel is being “Disneyfied” with a lightly-spread new theme: Bambi. The 1942 Disney classic can now be seen in the wallpaper border and animation art on the walls, perfectly complementing the existing light fittings with their deer motifs.

These photos posted on the official Disneyland Paris Twitter feed show the makeover to be a warm and inviting refresh, with crisp white bedspreads and “Disney” additions that are inoffensive to the American national parks theme, in the same restrained style as the Disney touches over at Disneyland Hotel. The new television cabinets have been specially designed for the hotel while green and gold tones bring a more earthy, organic look compared to the old rooms.

With Pixar Animation Studios’ Cars continuing to be featured in similar touches at Disney’s Hotel Santa Fe next door, where will the “Disneyfication” of the Disney Hotels be seen next? Back in 1992, then-Disney CEO Michael Eisner was keen for the six main hotels to be seen as architectural statements as much as magical, “Disney” places to stay. Now, 20 years on, the resort is seeing the need to add characters here and there and — probably more crucially — update the décor and room services to compete with partner hotels and help to justify the leap in price up to a more “Disney” Disney Hotel.

VIA @Disney_ParisEN

Thursday, 28th January 2010

Davy Crockett, king of the air conditioned frontier

On the other side of the A4 motorway, a patch of Disneyland Paris magic exists that you’ve maybe never experienced. Peaceful forest lanes and quaint cabins; a whole village of amenities and the best swimming pool on-site.

However, as surprised as new visitors often are to discover this whole other side to the resort, Davy Crockett Ranch often seems to collect some not-entirely-positive reviews. Worn-out cabins, mould in the bathroom… For some reason, these issues appear quite common.

Perhaps it has been attracting the wrong people, more suited to the glamour of, say, Disney’s Hotel New York than the rustic charm over here. Nevertheless, the ranch may now be answering their complaints — it’s in the middle of its biggest accommodation refresh for many years, adding some modern luxuries to its trappers’ lifestyle.

We mentioned this new accommodation option when reporting the Rio Grande, Eldorado and Buffalo rooms at Disney’s Value hotels, but now the Shareholders Club magazine (the November 2009 issue, but delivered to many addresses just this month) reports some numbers — there will be 139 new cabins — and the first on-site photos:

Disney's Davy Crockett Ranch

The Spring/Summer 2010 brochure previously revealed the layout and a generous interior mock-up:

Disney's Davy Crockett Ranch

When these come into use from April, larger families will finally have a better accommodation choice at the resort. In addition to the extra beds, the cabins feature two shower rooms, a private terrace with barbecue, air conditioning… and no bath (except the bathroom sink, which can be used as a bath for babies). They’re also located on the “trails” (the loop roads around which the cabins sit) closest to the Davy Crockett Ranch village.

From the new photos, they’ll look very familiar to anyone who has stayed with camp site travel operators such as Keycamp or Canvas Holidays. They may even help to build up to the still-proposed Villages Nature, the Centre Parcs-style project which is still “just about to be green lit” for the forest area around Davy Crockett Ranch.

When — or perhaps if — Pierre & Vacances really do get going with that project and its far more luxurious accommodations, Davy Crockett will need to have lost its mouldy bath image. But hopefully, still have some rustic charm left.

And until then, any hope of a shuttle bus service returning? For all the “eco” claims of these new cabins, the people staying in them still all have to drive individually to and from the parks each day…

Images © Disney.

Saturday, 28th November 2009

Value hotels upgrade to Rio Grande & Premium rooms

The first of these new room types came into use at the start of the new season on 9th November, with Disney’s Hotel Cheyenne and Disney’s Hotel Santa Fe now trying to coax their guests to pay extra for one of two alternative room categories.

Value hotels upgrade to Rio Grande & Premium rooms

At Disney’s Hotel Cheyenne

Rio Grande rooms guarantee a location along the tranquil Rio Grande River, running between the two hotels, which also gets you closer to the parks and Disney Village path in the morning and evening.

Buffalo rooms are located near to the main reception, restaurant, bar and shop, so you’re close to all the facilities — particularly breakfast.

Supplements: From £7 to £16 (€10 to €16) per night depending on season.

At Disney’s Hotel Santa Fe

Rio Grande rooms are the same as above, guaranteeing a location along the Rio Grande River, and therefore right next to the path to the parks and Disney Village.

Eldorado rooms are located near to the main reception, restaurant, bar and shop, perhaps particularly useful with the expansive and complicated layout of the Santa Fe, although you might not have a great view.

Supplements: From £7 to £16 (€10 to €16) per night depending on season.

Value hotels upgrade to Rio Grande & Premium rooms

So, for a reasonable price, you can end that moment of concern when you arrive at the reception of these two hotels, the smiling Cast Member pulls out the map and begins to mark on the location of your room… Whether you’d like a river or restaurant location, it can now be locked in.

But that’s all you get — a guaranteed location. There are no extra facilities in these rooms, no air conditioning, no treats, and if the allocated Eldorado, Buffalo and Rio Grande rooms aren’t booked up, it’s not unthinkable that they might be offered as standard rooms to other guests.

Over at Disney’s Davy Crockett Ranch, meanwhile, a brand new cabin is due to be unveiled after being featured for the first time in the latest brochure. And here, for an admittedly larger supplement, you don’t just get a better location near the Ranch Village but a completely new cabin layout and extras.

Value hotels upgrade to Rio Grande & Premium rooms

Premium 2-Bedroom Cabin at Disney’s Davy Crockett Ranch

• Sleeps up to 6 people with a double bed and 4 single beds.
• Air conditioning.
• Two shower rooms.
• Private terrace with barbecue.
• Walking distance from the Davy Crockett Ranch village.

Supplements: From £21 to £29 (€20 to €30) per night depending on season.

These “Premium 2-Bedroom Cabins” become available from the next season start on 2nd April 2010, though the previous 2 Bedroom Cabin option appears to remain, now listed as a supplement to the side of the 1-Bedroom Cabins.

The need for air conditioning in these cabins (in Paris) is questionable and the lack of a bath between the two shower rooms is an odd omission, but they will finally give the resort a much-requested accommodation option for larger families with more than 2 children.

So, what do you think? Would you be willing to pay these supplements for a better “Value” experience, or is Disneyland Paris pushing its luck?

Value hotels upgrade to Rio Grande & Premium rooms Value hotels upgrade to Rio Grande & Premium rooms

It’s notable that guests could often request certain room locations at Cheyenne and Santa Fe before now and, though these could not always be guaranteed, they were at least given without the cost of a supplement. Are they trying to charge us for something that used to be openly available, or offering a welcome new choice for their hotel rooms?

The Rio Grande is a beautiful, hidden gem of an area within the resort. Just a short walk from Disney Village, it’s incredibly peaceful and great fun to explore — but does often look “forgotten”, rather than simply hidden. Trees overgrown, lights not working, signs and maps faded. If they’ve re-discovered the Rio Grande for the purposes of a room supplement, let’s hope they supplement the amount of attention this area gets from maintenance, too.

• Find more information on packages and pricing at

Pictures: © Disney / DLRP Today.

Friday, 20th November 2009

Magic Circus renovation done, conference pavilion to come

It was the second time the Austrian group had taken over management of one of the resort’s Selected Hotels just beyond Disney’s Hotel Santa Fe on the other side of the Boulevard Circulaire. But unlike the Dream Castle Hotel, which had been developed and managed with care from the start by Mövenpick, InterContinental’s Holiday Inn always seemed something of a missed opportunity.

Magic Circus renovation complete, conference pavilion to come

Given a grand stature, bold interior design and a fun theme when developed in collaboration with DLP-I (Disneyland Paris Imagineering) and the Val d’Europe design team, the subsequent management left a little to be desired, with little focus on the themed touches and just average service. Its lobby, notably, filled with enough coin-operated machines to keep a small school happy.

The first phase of investment in the hotel from the partnership of Warimpex, UBM and Vienna International has now been completed, celebrated with a special event at the hotel last night. In total, €4 million has been spent enlarging and improving the restaurant, improving the bar and lobby, refurbishing guest rooms, completely rebuilding the pool and wellness area, rebranding everything to the new image and enhancing the existing circus themes.

Magic Circus renovation complete, conference pavilion to come

Magic Circus renovation complete, conference pavilion to come Magic Circus renovation complete, conference pavilion to come

“It is our aim to further strengthen the position as a family hotel at the destination and to attract new guests,” argues Rudolf Tucek, CEO of Vienna International Hotelmanagement AG. “Especially in the last twelve months, the destination of Disneyland Paris has shown that people continue to invest in a family holiday despite the economically challenging times.

However, Tucek points out a strong change in their source markets: “This year up to 320 per cent more guests came from Austria, an additional 80 per cent from the Czech Republic, 75 per cent from France and 60 per cent from Switzerland. By comparison, we saw a decline of up to 50 per cent from the UK, which could be offset thanks to the growth from the other countries.”

Magic Circus renovation complete, conference pavilion to come

Magic Circus renovation complete, conference pavilion to come

And how is the hotel performing financially? UBM CEO Karl Bier stated: “Both the Magic Circus as well as the neighbouring Dream Castle Hotel, which began operations in 2003, are outstanding investments. Even during the economic crisis, the two hotels have been in the black.

“For the real estate market, the worst should be over by now and we are looking optimistically towards the future: the economic research institutes forecast a recovery of the economy, the banks are providing sufficient liquidity, and investment pressure can be recognised once more among institutional investors. These are all signs that we have passed the low point.”

Even better, the group intend to invest another €4 million next year with the construction of a brand new conference pavilion at the hotel, the foundations and structural requirements of which have already been put in place during the current works. The hotel is being taken slightly upmarket, properly fulfilling in “feel” its 4-star status, with the new focus now firmly on families and conferences, perhaps then putting it in competition with Disney’s Newport Bay Club.

Magic Circus renovation complete, conference pavilion to come Magic Circus renovation complete, conference pavilion to come

Magic Circus renovation complete, conference pavilion to come

Magic Circus renovation complete, conference pavilion to come

Magic Circus renovation complete, conference pavilion to come

Magic Circus renovation complete, conference pavilion to come

Images © Vienna International.

Wednesday, 4th November 2009

Forget Shanghai, Paris lets slip major projects

As the official Disney Parks Blog posted a remarkably… unremarkable confirmation that the Shanghai Disneyland project is moving ahead, newspaper Le Parisien slipped out a fascinating article all about the future of our resort. Talking to Francis Borezée, Vice President of Resort and Real Estate Development, they summarise the next phase of development in the Val d’Europe district, from the expansion of Disney Village to the long-awaited new Convention Centre.

Most of this won’t shock or stun a keen follower of Disneyland Paris news, but one element certainly might: the addition of dates, the revelation that all this is finally due to be officially announced, very soon indeed. And, whilst a project being led by a huge Convention Centre doesn’t seem immediately exciting, the development and its surrounding expansions will change the landscape of the resort beyond recognition.

Where now, as soon as you reach the lonely IMAX cinema and games arcade, the old beet fields suddenly stretch as far as the eye can see, soon you’ll be at the heart of a whole new, very urban, Disney development, comprising the new hotels and Village expansion it so badly needs.

Here’s the article in full, skip down for the summary:

Disney dévoile ses nouveaux projets

Tourisme d’affaires, logements, extension des zones de loisirs et de commerces, le Val-d’Europe poursuit son développement sous l’impulsion du géant américain.

Qu’on se le dise : le groupe aux grandes oreilles n’a pas fini de laisser son empreinte sur le paysage urbain du Val-d’Europe. Fraîchement nommé à la tête des activités de développement urbain et vités touristique du groupe, Francis Borezée dévoile ses principaux projets pour le développement à venir de l’agglomération.

Des programmes qui dessinent les contours de la phase 4 du développement du Val d’Europe, actuellement en discussion avec les représentants de l’Etat et les élus locaux.

Des réalisations sur quinze ans. Chargé du codéveloppement de l’agglomération en vertu d’une convention signée avec l’Etat en 1987, Euro Disney SCA a rempli au- aujourd’hui plus de la moitié du contrat. « Nous avons d’ores et déjà développé 1 100 ha sur 1 943, ce qui veut dire qu’on a encore quinze ans de développement devant nous », résume Francis Borezée.

Actuellement en cours, l’achèvement des programmes de la phase 3 – finition de la place d’Ariane, du quartier résidentiel des Lacs ou réalisation de bureaux près de la gare RER — va coïncider avec le lance- lancement des nouveaux projets de l’opérateur privé.

Cap vers le tourisme d’affaires. C’est la grande nouveauté annoncée par le directeur général adjoint d’Euro Disney SCA. Un gigantesque centre de congrès devrait voir le jour aux portes des parcs Disneyland, pour un budget d’investissement d’environ 100 millions d’euros. D’ici 2015, une première phase prévoit la construction d’un centre de 20 000 ha sur ce terrain coincé entre le parking Vinci et l’hôtel Newport. Une nouvelle gare TGV dédiée et un hôtel de 750 chambres seront construits sur le site, qui pourra accueillir des groupes de 4 000 personnes.

Parallèlement, les activités touristiques classiques continueront de se développer, avec l’extension prévue du Disney-Village et la construction de nouvelles attractions dans les parcs… qui devraient faire l’objet d’une annonce à la fin de l’année.

De nouveaux logements en perspective. Le développement résidentiel reste une priorité pour Francis Borezée, qui prévoit la construction de « 500 à 600 » nouveaux logements, dont « au moins 20 % de logements sociaux » par an d’ici à 2017. Le centre urbain devrait s’étendre avec de nouveaux logements assortis d’équipements publics, au nord de la nouvelle mairie de Serris ainsi qu’au sud-ouest du centre de secours de Chessy et au nord du boulevard circulaire. Pour améliorer le cadre de vie, un nouveau bassin et des espaces verts devraient également voir le jour (voir carte).

D’autres constructions pourraient également apparaître en périphérie, à Magny-le-Hongre et à Bailly-Ro- Romainvilliers, avec un programme mêlant maisons individuelles et logements collectifs dans le quartier des Courtalins. A terme, Francis Borezée prévoit une croissance de la population « jusqu’à 55 000 ou 60 000 habitants », soit un peu moins que l’Etat, qui envisage jusqu’à 80 000 habitants au Val-d’Europe.

L’extension du centre commercial Val-d’Europe. Satisfait du succès du pôle marchand, qui « résiste mieux à la crise » que la moyenne des centres commerciaux, le développeur prévoit son extension, avec une « nouvelle ouverture inter- intermédiaire » de la galerie. Sans oublier l’inauguration, en mars 2010, d’un immense magasin Castorama consacré à la décoration d’intérieur, assorti de 600 à 700 nouvelles places créées sur un niveau intermédiaire dans le parking du centre commercial.

La poursuite du développement. Les entreprises ne seront pas oubliées par l’opérateur d’aménagement privé, qui table sur l’extension du parc d’entreprise Goodman, à Bailly-Romainvilliers. Sans oublier de « constituer une nouvelle offre de bureaux prêts à l’emploi près de la gare, dans le centre urbain du Val-d’Europe. » En effet, les bureaux déjà réalisés dans ce secteur sont déjà occupés «à près de 95%».

The reason none of these grand proposals come as a surprise? Because plans showing exactly these developments have been public for probably over a year now, showing the urban streets of Val d’Europe connecting up with the resort centre.

Forget Shanghai, Paris lets slip major projects

Francis Borezée notes that, after having developed 1,100 hectares of 1,943 ha available since 1987, the resort still has 15 years of development ahead of it. He confirms that Phase 4 of the Val d’Europe development is now in discussions with the state and local town councillors, and that the completion of various Phase 3 projects (housing and office developments, the town squares) will coincide with the launch of plans for the next phase of their private, resort expansion projects.

So here’s where it gets interesting: The Convention Centre, having waited to be green-lit for over ten years now, will see its first phase developed and built between now and 2015. For an investment of €100 million Euros, the “gigantestque” centre totalling 20,000 ha of floorspace will take shape on the land between the existing Vinci (Disney Village) parking lot and Newport Bay Club.

The article confirms a 750-room hotel will be included in this phase, stating “on the site”. As can be seen in the plans released, there are in fact plots for two new Disney Hotels nearby. It remains to be seen whether they’d choose the hotel next to the Convention Centre or the one across the road, joined onto the Disney Village expansion, to build first.

It also then confirms the new TGV Station, but — especially when you look at the plan they’ve drawn up themselves — seems to have the impression that this will be a whole new station. Technically, it won’t. Similarly stuck on the drawing board for a decade, this will merely be an additional entrance and exit to the platforms of the existing Marne-la-Vallée/Chessy station.

Slotted in right next to the Disney Village multi-story parking, it’ll provide a new booking hall and facilities on the South side of the resort hub, allowing convention-goers and Val d’Europe residents far easier access to the platforms, without having to cross the resort hub.

Next, something we all want to hear — “Parallel to this, the resort’s traditional tourism activity will continue to be developed, with the expected expansion of Disney Village and the construction of new attractions in the theme parks… which will be the object of an announcement at the end of the year”.

Continuing on, the report discusses new housing at Val d’Europe, the creation of parks and lakes as seen in the plans, plus developments to the Shopping Centre, which is apparently beating the economic crisis more than most similar malls. Join the news recently that Val d’Europe will become home to a brand new swimming pool Aquatics Centre, and the rumours of the French Open, and things are looking good.

Forget Shanghai, Paris lets slip major projects

But you’ve probably stopped reading now, right? Knowing that a completion date has finally been set for all those expansions, and the promise of imminent announcements for Disney Village and new park attractions later this year…

Forget Shanghai, that’s the Parisian Surprise we needed.

Plans © Disney.

Sunday, 18th October 2009

Rockefeller rink at Hotel New York goes synthetic

Such a proposal — to replace the real ice rink we’ve become used to with a synthetic version — might have seemed like the perfect opportunity for any jaded Disney nuts to blast forth about how the company has “lost it”. Luckily, there’s no example set here.

Check out the classic, real version:

Rockefeller rink at Hotel New York goes synthetic

Then this first photo of the new rink, taken by Chris44 from Disney Magic Interactive:

Rockefeller rink at Hotel New York goes synthetic

And it looks… fine, actually. Don’t you think?

Look closely and you can see the joins, but considering that this new artificial surface is cheaper, easier to maintain and better for the environment, it’s a decision well made and at first glimpse, well executed. The finish appears much better than the patio slab-style rink feared. From the thoughts of those who tried it, the quality of the old surface wasn’t much to shout about anyway.

The big possibility this new rink opens up is that of year-round operation. It’s a popular feature of the months from November to April, so why not extend that? Have a perpetual Rockefeller Plaza ice rink outside Hotel New York; surely that’d be vastly better than the truly hideous kids’ go-kart driving circuit that has plagued the space for so many Summers now.

Yes, check into your expensive, “4 star” Disney hotel, look out of your window and see… this:

Rockefeller rink at Hotel New York goes synthetic

Ouch. Not very “New York chic”. A permanent ice rink, provided it’s well-maintained, would finally remove this from the resort’s black spot list (Studio 1 billboard, etc, remain).

Of course, we’d all probably still much rather see a return of the wonderful, giant map of Manhattan which is still hidden under there and used to be opened up into a giant water feature, but you can’t have everything.

To add a bit of history from our soon-to-open Euro (the Memorabilia section of DLRP Magic! is becoming its own website, plug plug), you can see here how the whole of Rockefeller Plaza used to be full of atmosphere…

Rockefeller Plaza at Hotel New York

…especially come nighttime, when they’d serve a romantic dinner under trees filled with glittering lights, as music from the hotel’s now long-gone Manhattan Jazz Club echoed through the air.

With one of the plaza’s forgotten outbuildings re-opened briefly as a café location this Summer and now a re-think of the ice rink with the possibility of extended operation, perhaps things are finally changing for the better on this side of Lake Disney?

Photos: © Disney; Chris44; Nicolai.

Monday, 3rd August 2009

Third Quarter 2009: Dip but no dive, despite economy

The big figure is this: 7% – the drop in revenues during both the Third Quarter (April, May, June) and now the entire nine months of the financial year so far.

It’s interesting to point out that this quarter was the first when the new events of Mickey’s Magical Party took effect, and important to note that — unlike last year — it includes revenues from the Easter school holiday period, which came later this year. A fact that the company made pains to point out in the First Half Announcement (PDF), when revenues fell by 7.3%, but has been entirely left out of this report.

Let’s take a look at a few key figures:

• 1% Increase in park attendance in Third Quarter

Unless the fourth quarter proves disastrous, the resort still looks set for yet another record-breaking year, despite the awful trading conditions — if only by a tiny amount. Attendance in the First Half rose from 7 million to 7.1 million. The number keeps being pushed up to levels we could have only dreamed of back in the first half of this decade, but is it all show?

• 4% Decrease in park spending, room spending for past nine months

More people visiting from close to Paris, and France and Belgium, with fewer from further afield (Spain, UK, Netherlands) makes good attendance numbers but bad spending numbers — guests from nearby are less likely to load up on merchandise, less likely to spend big on meals and less likely to stay on-site. As a result…

• 3.8 Percentage point decrease in hotel room occupancy

Perhaps that 8th Disney Hotel can wait after all. If 3.8% over the year seems like bad news, the figure for the Third Quarter alone was 6.1 percentage points. Fewer corporate events and fewer guests from Spain and the UK have apparently taken their toll on hotel figures.

Let’s not forget that the UK in particular has been shovelled an almost endless slate of huge booking discounts and drastic offers this year, with 40% sliced off bookings for months in a row. Is it a good sign that the revenues above weren’t entirely disastrous despite this cut in income, or a bad sign that — even with 40% off — visits from the UK dwindled for the first time in years?

Such a dramatic fall in the previous quarter does call up questions on the pricing of Disney Hotels, whether they provide value for money and whether guests will pay that steep premium. The news from Q3 is looking rather negative. It’s nice to think that the hotels could return to sane pricing and suddenly attract more bookings to offset that lower income, but perhaps the turnaround wouldn’t be so quick.

The big cheese Philippe Gas, CEO of Euro Disney S.A.S. gives unusual mention of “closely managing costs” and curtailing “certain capital spending” in his comment, as well as weirdly-veiled hint towards Toy Story Playland opening in 2010:

“Consistent with the broader tourism industry in Europe, our revenues have been impacted by the challenging economic environment and consumer spending behavior. At the onset of the economic down turn, we implemented promotional offers to which our proximity markets in particular have responded. This decision has succeeded in driving attendance to Disneyland Paris, confirming the strong affinity for quality Disney entertainment, while at the same time impacting guest spending and margins.

We are closely managing our costs and have curtailed certain capital spending in this current environment. However, in line with our long-term growth strategy we continue to invest in the resort and are developing new attractions to open next year.”

You can read the full report here (PDF).

Overall, it’s nowhere near as disastrous as it could have been — luckily the economic crisis hit just as Disneyland Paris was coming out of its wildly popular 15th Anniversary Celebration and the two most successful years in its history. Creating this limited-time cause to visit is obviously still paying off, though the follow-up of Mickey’s Magical Party doesn’t appear to be looking quite so tempting. Whether the resort will still be able to draw record numbers with simply renamed theme years and a redressed Disney Characters’ Express each year doesn’t look so certain.

The fall in theme park revenues is disappointing because of the reason behind it: reported to be caused by admissions and merchandise. With the citizens of Paris being almost constantly flogged ridiculous €1 tickets and even €1 Francilien annual passports, this heavy-handed price-cutting doesn’t seem too clever, at least to an outsider. As for merchandise, the years of diminishing imagination, design and manufacture and all-too-well-known overpricing appears to have caught up with the resort.

People do still have money to spend — especially those without children — the economic whatever-we’re-calling-it-now serving only as a giant wake up call to past over-spending. With every purchase we now ask ourselves– “Do I really need this? Is it worth the price?”. Unfortunately, with the generally uninspiring and child-orientated ranges pushed to the front of each boutique, the answer is often “no”. Guests take their extra Euros home with them.

The report ends with a bit of humour, at least: “In the coming months, the Company will be sharing details of new attractions that have begun construction and will be opened next year.”

Such mystery!

Monday, 9th February 2009

New casting website opens up (too much?)

This new website can be found at the same address — — but takes on an entirely new and entirely modern design, very different to the current or Euro Disney SCA corporate sites. Clean, simple navigation, blogs, keyword searches, Cast Member “walls”, colour-coordinated sections, videos and interactive quizzes.

Arriving on the new homepage, you’re confronted not by a flash animation filling the screen but primarily by just three large, simple boxes — Support, Operations & Maintenance and Entertainment — which, curiously, change position between the French and English versions.

New Casting Website

The first few sections introduce the resort as a whole, including several new videos — both flashy B-roll footage of the resort and useful interviews with actual Cast, such as here 2009 Resort Ambassador Prisca interviewing Vice President of Human Resources Daniel Dreux, or here a look at the lives of the Big Thunder Mountain cast.

New Casting Website

Once you get into the key sections for the employment categories, such as Entertainment, they’re each colour-coded and nicely customised, with even more videos, blogs and news updates specific to each department. Here, for example, you see the latest auditions for character look-a-likes and other roles.

New Casting Website

Operations & Maintenance offers another look behind Big Thunder Mountain in its key video, but check out the second page, too, for a smart commercial showing Cast Members remembering the “first time” they did things ranging from booking someone’s trip or preparing Buffalo Bill’s horse!

New Casting Website

Surprisingly, it’s the Support pages you might want to check out though.

New Casting Website

Because, there’s something in the first video — namely when we’re watching one of the Architecture & Urban Planning cast members — that we’re not entirely sure they wanted us all to see so clearly. Or maybe they did…

That’d be the current future development plan of the entire resort, as it currently stands. Now, you may well have seen one of these plans before, but this is their current plan, and it seems to reveal a few new specific details…

New Casting Website

Note, for example, the 5th and 6th hotel at Val de France, the huge space reserved for a dedicated Convention Centre, the masses of land awaiting new Disney Hotels either side of the main parking lot access road and the brand new patch next to Val d’Europe also ready for hotels (in the very, very far future).

Happily, there’s (slightly realigned) space still ready and waiting for a 3rd park, but the most interesting and probably most relevant aspect here is Walt Disney Studios Park — now extended into a huge rectangle, more than double its current size, extending off to the West. As you’d enter this fully built-out park, it’d actually therefore be more of a stretched diamond shape. It’s finally a specific expansion footprint, not the general shaded area we’ve seen in the past.

But, leaving those dreams of the future behind… the new casting website. Clean, easy to navigate, flash animations only where they’re necessary and full of information in a design that makes you want to click another link.

We’re left wondering… why can’t the resort’s actual website be more like this?

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