However, if rumours are to be believed, Disney Dance Express could be a slightly different event to what we’ve become accustomed. Music is rumoured to be taken from Walt Disney World’s “Move It! Shake It!! Celebrate It!!! Street Party” — not we presume yet another remix of “Tous en train” — and those meet ‘n’ greet scrums could be a thing of the past as the train turns into more of a moving show stage, with a live host. So, it’s “goodbye” but definitely “à bientôt!” again.
In the meantime, the gap left in the timetable will be filled this week by a cavalcade of characters titled “Good Morning, Disney New Generation” at 11.15am, 12.15pm and 1.15pm.
If you’re no longer an avid viewer of 50-year-old BBC children’s television show Blue Peter, this one might have passed you by as well. But late last year, presenter Joel Defries took a trip over to Disneyland Paris to experience first-hand the new Toy Story Playland, its attractions and what went into making them. As well as riding RC Racer and Toy Soldiers Parachute Drop, he met with Tom Fitzgerland, Walt Disney Imagineering Executive Vice President and Senior Creative Executive, and senior show producer Chrissie Allen, who gave some insight into the two year process of designing and building the new land which officially opened on 17th August 2010.
Bestowed with a good few minutes of Imagineering know-how, Joel is then tasked with dreaming up his own blue sky idea and goes out to explore Walt Disney Studios Park for inspiration (!). Before long, he concludes: “There’s no water here! I want to do something with water!” Good thinking, Joel.
So you’ve just booked an amazing dream holiday to Disneyland Paris and what’s the first thing you don’t do? Tell your kids. Disney have cottoned on to this slightly sadistic parenting trend with a new website contest, Disneymotion, last month requesting parents send in video footage of the moment they finally tell their children they’re off to meet Mickey Mouse — or any fun “moments” they filmed whilst in the parks. It’ll all come together with (in the United Kingdom at least) a joint campaign for both Disneyland Paris and Walt Disney World launching a week today, 13th February, with the taglines “When are you going to tell them?” and “2 Destinations, one single emotion”. This is a separate campaign to the dedicated, though similarly themed, Magical Moments Festival ads which will follow, and is one of the few times Disney has pushed these two resorts together in joint marketing.
For now, the brief teaser trailer above, intended only as a rough promo video, gives an idea of the theme Disneyland Paris hopes to play on to bring visitors to the resort this year. For 2011, the emotion of childhood is being heaped on heavily, with the main tagline “The magic begins the moment you tell them” aiming to strike a chord with parents. Ever since the 15th Anniversary they’ve sought to bring more families with young children to the resort, attempting to defy the idea that parents should “wait until their kids are a bit older” with offers such as Kids Under 7 Stay & Play Free and more attractions for younger children, whilst the annual stream of limited-time “theme years” tries to give another reason for us to visit now, rather than wait.
Although the green army men’s parachutes themselves have yet to arrive, the six ride seats, each able to carry six trainee toy recruits, managed to stay up in the air for some time, before being lowered again back to the ground.
When the ride opens, the seats will rise and fall gracefully to simulate a lightly bouncing “parachute drop”, inspired by the famous scene in the original Toy Story — the first to be animated in the entire film — where the green army men jump through the bannisters of Andy’s staircase on their mission to relay news of his birthday presents.
Other visible progress on Toy Soldiers Parachute Drop can be seen with the fine mesh which is now covering the lower half of each of the six arms, from a distance thankfully giving the tower a bulkier, more solid appearance, hiding the thin, human-sized safety rails.
On the opposite side of the tower, a new first corner section connecting two of the arms together can be seen, with a staircase leading up to it, appearing to emerge from out of the tower itself. Concept art for the tower has differed on whether all of the arms will be joined together like this, even if purely for decoration. It would certainly make sense to create an even appearance all the way round, but so far no fixings for additional sections can be seen on the other arms.
At least, that’s what’s happening if you believed our… April fool! …
Any fans checking out the PanoraMagique website last Monday would have been given the shock of seeing the balloon crashed to the ground, losing air and surrounded by people. No worry, a quick look at the homepage revealed the Disney Village attraction to be “closed for maintenance”.
We captured stills as the original 2005 balloon breathed out its last gasp of helium…
So, where’s it gone?
At five years old, and no longer having its original, bright red and yellow colour, it appears to be time for a brand new balloon. The lifespan of these unique flying systems is more limited than your average Disney ride, since they were originally only intended as temporary observation attractions. When PanoraMagique opened in 2005, the operators signed a 7-year contract with Disneyland Paris. But, with the same company now also operating Characters in Flight at Walt Disney World, this is likely to have been extended.
So far, rumours have suggested that the new balloon on its way to Paris might have a slight innovation upon its predecessor — being lit from inside, possibly using LEDs, so that it can “glow” at night without the need for fierce spotlights from below.
However, we can reveal this isn’t the only change on the way to PanoraMagique — the whole look of the balloon is set to be refreshed with a brand new livery. These brand new, exclusive concepts below show the new, more colourful design for the helium bubble that will be setting the trend for the next five years:
Yes, you guessed it — there’s Mickey Mouse. The balloon itself looks set to become a yellow and pink colour, with a blue band, whilst oversized character faces will smile down from each side.
As the detailed concepts for the ticket booth above show, the balloon also appears to be receiving a new name, or at least a sub-title, becoming “PanoraMagique… with Mickey & Friends!” on official nomenclature to signify the change. Only limited modifications will be made to the booth itself, with images of the balloon updated and new 3-D (or “2.5-D” relief) characters added either side of the signage, similar to those recently added to Walt Disney Studios Store.
The basket itself, which doesn’t require replacement, looks to be keeping the same design.
Don’t think that this is a drive to increase patronage of PanoraMagique, though — as the second balloon in Florida shows, it has been a big success since its launch in 2005, attracting balloonists even on the cloudiest of days. Such a success, in fact, that it has become a real “icon” for the whole of Disneyland Paris, visible for miles around and from within both parks.
So, in effect, the resort wishes to capitalise on the balloon’s success — by using it to draw more guests into the quiet Lake Disney and Disney Hotels area. The hope is that, by placing giant character faces on the balloon, more families with young children will be tempted to go for a stroll around the lake area and visit other hotels, whereas now they are proven to turn back after Café Mickey.
These days it only happens at Halloween and Christmas, but there was a point in the recent past, around the time of The Lion King Carnival and similar events, when it seemed Main Street Station was never without decorations.
But, those seasonal logos have made a comeback. As spotted in a behind-the-scenes video, concepts prepared by the Entertainment department called for a return to Main Street Station decorations — although we couldn’t quite get a good look at them. Last week, they began to appear.
First with a new idea, at least for seasonal decorations at Disneyland Paris: Ruffled semi-circular fabric bunting in red and yellow, a common way Main Street is decorated for Halloween in the overseas parks — where there’s no orange paint in sight — and a welcome idea for Paris.
And then, the old tradition: A large logo plaque and sculpted character models.
Models that are, it’s been noted… a little off-model. The tacked-on Mickey is oversized compared to his new friends, and we’d better be careful what we say about that Woody and his eyes… there must be something in the s’mores at Cowboy Camp!
So far (perhaps there’s more to come?) there are only additional characters to the left of the main logo, with Tiana and Frog standing in front of one window and Remy in front of the other.
As we saw in the concept art, the Baroque style of the logo frame is continued through the new Main Street lamppost decorations, although the colour scheme seems to have become darker and less symmetrical.
The final colours of the ribbons under each frame are blue, yellow, red, green and purple, rather than the fresher pattern of purple, white, yellow, green, yellow, white and pink promised…
Still, we can probably all agree this is how Main Street should be decorated. A big, big improvement on the mess last year; at last a reasonably subtle way to extend the year’s theme and bring the current advertising campaign into the parks.
Perhaps, then, it simply fell to Main Street Station to be this year’s sacrificial piece of Disneyland Park for the less successful decorations, now that the castle is finally off-limits. At least, better to have Woody frightening children there than from somewhere on our dear château!
Press events are both loved and loathed by Disneyland Paris fans, particularly those frequent French visitors who might have the chance to visit almost every weekend.
On the one hand, it’s a break from the norm — the chance to see special photo set-ups and even catch sight of some VIPs. On the other, it means disruption throughout the parks, areas closed off and prime parade and show viewing points cordoned off from paying guests, while badge holders are often given free reign to skip queues on the most popular attractions. Maybe they’re a necessary evil.
Surprisingly, performances of the stunt show itself weren’t interrupted by the press event, although numerous preparations for the spectacular nighttime launch ahead were visible inside the arena — such as this large lighting rig running along the roof span:
Projectors, cameras and other equipment were not-so-inconspicuously hidden under black sheets in various areas of the stadium seating:
Back outside, Backlot had welcomed a fun retro trailer to serve as an outside broadcast unit for “LFM”:
Celebrities and VIPs from various nations could be spotted all over the parks throughout the day, with film crews, reporters and cameras trailing them to the various picture-perfect locations like the Toon Town backdrop:
Meanwhile, Buzz Lightyear made a quick move from meeting the guests in Toon Studio (left) to meeting the VIPs and film crews in the temporary Backlot photo studio (right):
The fully-refurbished Monsters Inc. location in Toon Studio had a special lighting set-up for the celebrity shots taken here with Sully:
And then, the roping-off began:
A huge area around the Place des Stars Stage was cordoned off for press only, leaving regular, paying guests struggling to see the single performance of Disney’s Stars ‘n’ Cars, the park’s only outdoor entertainment spectacle:
At least, it was well-patronised come show time:
The president of Disneyland Paris, Euro Disney CEO, Philippe Gas was also in attendance to see Rémy and Emile join the production:
Despite his no doubt hectic schedule, he even took time to make a surprise appearance at a unique meeting of Disneyland Paris fans which was organised for the day — you can read a report here.
With the show over, the Ratatouille car left Place des Stars last…
And then veered left to turn into the cordoned-off Hollywood Boulevard…
Pulling up alongside the Toy Story car to provide a backdrop for more photos and VIP interviews:
Classic photo spots, such as the castle hill, were also in use:
But finally, back at the studios, the doors closed for the general public:
As Disney Studio 1 become a self-contained press holding area, regular guests had to leave the park via the backstage gates between Production Courtyard and Front Lot — views of off-limits areas hidden by a row of temporary planters:
Easy to criticise as just another rehash of the previous character trains, but at least more visually appealing than last year’s Minnie’s Party Train. And don’t forget WALL-E — this is the first time this masterpiece of a character has been integrated into a Disney parade or park event anywhere in the world.
Already earning rave reviews from returning visitors and winning over many who weren’t too keen on last year’s hub show, Disney Showtime Spectacular makes the clever move of dressing Mickey and the gang up for each musical number, with their Incredibles superhero outfits in particular being very unique in the Disney park world and sure to be remembered.
Imagine the royal scraps backstage! Even with its two articulated floats, the finale of Disney’s Once Upon a Dream Parade is now having to accommodate no less than five couples.
For Belle, previously leading the float with a profusion of red roses and the beastly incarnation of her love, it means moving further back (or perhaps, being “promoted” to stand alongside Cinderella and Sleeping Beauty) and seeing her Beast transformed back into a human prince, allowing him to move more easily.
And so the roses of 2007…
…become the wild, yellow flowers of the bayou for Tiana and Naveen!
The podium has also been modified with a new raised platform and safety railing, decorated with more yellow flowers, to give guests a better view of the couple. This is their first appearance on a permanent Disney parade float anywhere in the world.
The Princess and the Frog has been welcomed into the parade with a new section of music added to the float’s medley: a new recording of Ma Belle Evangeline, with Tiana speaking over the top about — you guessed it — dreams.
The second half of the video above features the new musical meet ‘n’ greet on Town Square, which does appear to have so far replaced the previous Mary Poppins show. As you can see in the video, there’s a new (and nicely designed) noticeboard nearby to advertise the meeting times.
With no performance numbers like the Mary Poppins show, this new character event sees Tiana and Naveen meet guests in the gazebo, for a perfect photo with the Main Street backdrop, as one of the park’s live bands play dixieland jazz renditions of songs from the film (heard but not seen in the video).
Tout suite! Are you “goin’ down the bayou” to meet Tiana?
But first, a nice compilation from behind-the-scenes at yesterday’s press events, as a Disneyland Paris video camera follows the press around the new shows and events to give a feeling of these busy press days in the parks:
Now that’s got you warmed up, onto the main show!
Titled “The New Gen Show”, the opening ceremony and dedication of the New Generation Festival has all the usual ingredients of these one-off Disney grand opening spectaculars — a ridiculously large cast, jazzy projections and an “interesting” mélange of music.
On the one hand we have Buzz Lightyear reliving his French disco days, on the other Nemo coaxing Dory (right?) into the arena in something out of an arty theatrical show. All wrapped up with music from… Pixar Play Parade at Disney’s California Adventure.
Yes, it’s an eclectic, enormous and show-stopping opening ceremony for the year ahead. Might they have actually outdone all past efforts? Perhaps — in numbers and scale — even the opening of the resort itself!
It’s a shame, of course, that these kind of lavish events are reserved only for “VIPs” who probably couldn’t give a hoot about seeing a show like this. We have to wonder how much of the footage and how many of the images shot this weekend will really make an impact, or be featured in the media. It’s a tradition now that Disneyland Paris puts on one show for the visitors and one superficial blow-out to look good for the cameras. It’s something for the archives, for them to pull out and say “remember 2010?”.
Although given that they used the stunt arena this year, which has 3000 seats, this would have been a good chance to say, give away a few extra tickets in a prize draw to Annual Passport Dream holders… if only to see the show, to spread word of mouth, and not to enjoy the free food.
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