Alright, so, as we’ve said before in previousupdates about the big Fantasyland floor replacement works ongoing for the past two months, a new bit of paving is not quite as exciting as a new dark ride or parade. But DLRP Today is not alone in its excitement for this vast stretch of new paving stones, oh no — as Peggie Fariss herself said to us, “sometimes there’s nothing better than a freshly-laid floor” in a Disney park. Couldn’t agree more! We were even taken for a quick “site tour” up to the Fantasyland Gate, where we got to exclusively step through the construction walls for a first look at the almost-finished paving project, switching dirty and crumbling poured concrete for real interlocking pavers.
Even better, we can now take a look at the finished product, too — as the whole parade route up towards “it’s a small world” re-opened right on schedule this weekend! Read More…
As far as Disney park “firsts” go, it’s maybe not quite as exciting as a first ride on The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror or a first walk through a whole new area like Toy Story Playland, but the new block stone paving around the back of Le Théâtre du Château, winding from the Fantasyland Gate to Discoveryland, does look pretty damn good. The first patch to be uncovered shows the square blocks actually have three distinct pastel tones of yellow, red and blue, which just happen to match nicely with the stone walls of the Castle. Compared to the old coloured concrete sections, the colour of the paving is certainly less saturated, but it has immediately given the area a much cleaner, well-presented look.
Unlike the concrete, which crumbles and cracks around its edges over time and especially during frosty spells, the stone paving will also be much more robust and can now be easily replaced in small patches when necessary, not like when we’ve seen concrete relaying close off whole walkways in Adventureland and Discoveryland recently. As those replacements showed, this is an isolated switch to stone paving — a block-paved walkway through the desert of Frontierland wouldn’t be ideal.
But while we’re enjoying the first days of this new paving, could these be the last for Le Théâtre du Château itself ? A huge patch of the 800-capacity amphitheatre was completely cleared of its seating last week, leaving a wide empty space. At first this seemed like preparation for further repaving works, but according to member HTH2004 on Disney Central Plaza forum, the benches won’t be returning. The theatre hasn’t been used for a regular daily show since Winnie the Pooh and Friends, Too moved over to Fantasy Festival Stage in 2006, and this has apparently led to one more problem than it just becoming a white elephant: health and safety. HTH2004 suggests that children jumping between the benches had injured themselves so frequently that the park has decided “enough’s enough” and the benches are going — along with them, all chance of the theatre coming back to life any time soon.
By this Friday, the whole two sections at the front had been completely removed (seen in the photo by CharactersPhotos above) and HTH2004 believes all the others will follow, leaving only four rows of benches along the back the theatre (those under the trees) with the entire space to be repaved between April and May. It might not even stop there — HTH2004 suggests that in the mid term (2 to 4 years) the whole theatre could be completely removed or replaced. This June, the area will host some of the Mickey’s Princesses & Pirates Party after-hours events, but otherwise the schedule is empty.
After Le Livre Magique de Mickey ended its run in 1994, the stage has struggled to be given the attention it deserves. In fact, it probably peaked on the grand opening night of the park itself, 11th April 1992, when it played host to various musical acts — and Angela Lansbury miming to “Beauty and the Beast” — with a beautiful lighting set-up and that glorious view of the Castle behind. There’s no chance of a show here in the immediate future, so this all might not look like a great loss, but it seems incongruous to have Central Plaza overrun by the monstrous Disney Showtime Spectacular stage, completely disrupting that elegantly designed space, when the park has this fantastic theatre at its disposal — a real asset (no other Magic Kingdom has a similar space right at its heart) and a great bit of planning by the original Imagineers, but perhaps now destined to be nothing more than a missed opportunity.
Here’s the view guests saw this weekend as they stepped into Disneyland Park. New Disney fan blog Mickey Land has the latest photos of the Sleeping Beauty Castle refurbishment, showing the scaffolding which we last saw surrounding the landmark’s lower walls has now spread right up to its iconic stained glass picture window. The first step towards hiding the less than magical works has also taken place, with an initial white tarpaulin stretched over the majority of the scaffolding, as is normal with Disney refurbishments. Rumours are suggesting that the second covering, featuring a photo-realistic image of the castle behind, could appear within the next week.
Meanwhile, Disneyland Paris continues to invest elsewhere in Fantasyland with the new stone paving going in along the walkway behind Le Théâtre du Château. The red-hued stones stopped with a circular finish at the Fantasyland Gate, leaving fans wondering if the rest of the route could be relaid with coloured concrete as before.
But, as you can see, the stones look set to continue into the land — albeit with the pattern set at a different angle, the circular design helping to make more of a feature of the gate, which will itself surely be fully repainted sometime this year as part of the Castle refurbishment.
Still, we do have one surprising upgrade — the first block of repaving to be completed so far hasn’t just used the same coloured concrete as before. Oh no. Instead, the area outside the Annual Passport office has been repaved with more expensive individual paving stones, likely to fare better on this heavily-trafficked route and in Paris’ harsh winters.
It remains to be seen if the entire stretch up to “it’s a small world” will be given the same treatment, or if there might just be enough stones left over to finally finish repaving the rapidly disappearing entrance to Walt Disney Studios Park…
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