Sunday, 31st January 2010

Refurb roundup: From Peter Pan to Castle Bridge

First, a scheduled refurbishment for Peter Pan’s Flight, which began on Monday.

Refurb Roundup: From Castle Bridge to Peter Pan

Refurb Roundup: From Castle Bridge to Peter Pan

With major modifications in recent years such as the “air gates” in the loading area, the work this year is focusing on pure refurbishment. On the outside, general repainting and restoring details in the queue area.

Refurb Roundup: From Castle Bridge to Peter Pan

Refurb Roundup: From Castle Bridge to Peter Pan

The attraction reopens, all freshened up next Saturday, 6th February.

Retracing our steps through Fantasyland, we stumble upon the big one: the Castle Bridge. A couple of weeks ago we reported the sudden, unannounced closure of the bridge, which was swiftly wrapped in scaffolding and tarpaulin covers on all sides.

Refurb Roundup: From Castle Bridge to Peter Pan

Refurb Roundup: From Castle Bridge to Peter Pan

While the front of the bridge has a pleasing Sleeping Beauty theme, the sides are as wrapped up as could possibly be — we’ll likely see no sign of changes or improvements at all until they come down.

And when will that be? Still no date, sorry. But we do have a few new details since the last report. Though not being completely replaced as some rumours suggested, the bridge will see indeed a part of its structure replaced, along with extensive works to rewire and upgrade its lighting.

Refurb Roundup: From Castle Bridge to Peter Pan

Refurb Roundup: From Castle Bridge to Peter Pan

So, it could well be another month or more. And when the scaffolding comes down, it’ll look fresh and new but not any different — the original plans are being strictly stuck to.

Until then, as mentioned previously, there are still many places for that classic photo in front of the Castle, such as the Adventureland and Royal Castle Stage areas. Or stand a little further back up Main Street, U.S.A. and you won’t see it at all (although you might need to use someone’s head to block out the persistent Mickey’s Magical Party decorations).

Photos by Dlrpteam for DLRP Today.

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, 16th January 2010

Castle bridge under wraps as frost thaws

All that snow was a wonderful thing for desktop wallpapers, but what does it do to our delicate Disney theme parks? Could the fact that the bridge leading over to Sleeping Beauty Castle has suddenly just been prepared for refurbishment be linked to the icy conditions?

The scaffolding grew from around 5th January onwards and the bridge is now completely closed, as shown in these pictures from our new photo reporter, dlrpteam:

Castle bridge under wraps as frost thaws

It’s interesting to note that this refurbishment has not been announced in advance via the resort’s usual internal refurbishments calendar, which provides a much more detailed overlay of maintenance works than that provided by Disneyland Paris to visitors.

Despite that, the walls at the front of the bridge have now been covered by a very nicely-designed series of Sleeping Beauty graphics, which must suggest at least some forward planning:

Castle bridge under wraps as frost thaws

They include one of the Castle itself, reminiscent of the old Euro Disney branding:

Castle bridge under wraps as frost thaws

Long-time readers will know that we’ve been here before. In February 2008, the bridge was given a scaffolding overlay for several weeks before being uncovered looking fresh and good-as-new.

Back then, rumour was rife that the work could be due to freeze-rot in the concrete of the structure — a process where water fills existing cracks, freezes and expands, gradually making the cracks bigger. If this process was left untreated, causing considerable damage, it could get to a point where the bridge needed much more than simple repair work.

Whilst this theory is again only speculation, the sudden renovation project — with those enormous walls — does look to be on rather an imposing scale indeed. Its absence from the internal refurbishment schedules also means no end date can currently be confirmed.

Pictures: Dlrpteam for DLRP Today.

Tuesday, 22nd December 2009

Small World’s grand scale Celebration, in video

Just across the hub from that lifeless market and lacking tree, Disneyland Paris got something oh-so right. For the first time since 2003, possibly earlier, classic boat ride “it’s a small world” was completely redecorated to celebrate holidays around the world.

The fact that we can’t quite place exactly the year when this overlay stopped happening is a bit embarrassing. Perhaps as fans we should have missed it a bit more loudly, or perhaps in 2002/2003 we were worried about other things (like the serious financial difficulties, lack of future attractions for the Studios).

Nevertheless, it’s back — and wow, is it back. If the stupendous colours, music and movement of “it’s a small world” weren’t enough to leave you on a dizzy high for days normally, now the whole, dazzling show is just simply alive

The reason for this success is simple: respect. All the cultural celebrations, the festive music and hundreds of new costumes have been integrated with absolute perfection into the existing show. It’s a complete labour of love toward the Imagineers’ original creation. Where decorations like the Mickey’s Magical Party emblem on Sleeping Beauty Castle treat the park like a dead canvas, this overlay is something that brings it to life.

From the Candlelight Processional to the Star Wars Weekends and many more, one of the first things to notice about the American resorts for a Disneyland Paris fan is the sheer number of annual events which happen like clockwork each and every year. At the young age of 17, and probably no thanks to the countless changes (management and otherwise) it has seen over that short time, Disneyland Paris just hasn’t built up as many of these traditions.

Hopefully, the return of “it’s a small world” Celebration every November can now be one of them.

— And the good news is, if you’ve yet to book, had your trip interrupted thanks to Eurostar or otherwise, because this Celebration recognises everything from Sinterklaas to Chinese New Year, the overlay stays in place right up to 15th February 2010.

Monday, 7th December 2009

Frontierland Depot loses last remaining ‘Euro’

Taking advantage of the refurbishment penned in for the “grand circle tour” from 16th to 26th November, the resort’s maintenance team finally got the chance to correct a bit of history still in place at Frontierland Depot.

Spotted by Mouetto on Disney Central Plaza, the water tower at the station was fully refurbished — its “Euro Disneyland Railroad” lettering repainted in the process as simply “Disneyland Railroad”.

Frontierland Depot loses last remaining 'Euro'

Well, it only took 15 years!

But in fact, many fans will no doubt feel a hint of sadness to see the old “Euro” lost forever. These little details from the past — like the “EDLRR” letters at Main Street Station or the “DM” (Discovery Mountain) letters still hidden around what became Space Mountain — add to the history of the park, provide fun little secrets for us all to discover as the magic becomes an obsession.

The trains themselves lost their original “Euro Disneyland Railroad” paint details in early 2002, when the railroad’s entire rolling stock was gradually repainted.

Frontierland Depot loses last remaining 'Euro'
Spot the ‘Euro’ — it had almost faded away on its own in recent years

For any nostalgics, though — don’t worry. We can never say for sure, but it’d seem like this is the last “Euro” we’ll see the place lose — financial terms not included. The details all over Main Street Station in particular would be extortionately expensive to replace.

And, for the refurbishment of a Disneyland Railroad icon, one Euro is a pretty good deal.

Pictures: Mouetto, DLRP Today.

Thursday, 3rd December 2009

Change coming to Discoveryland’s Pizza Planet?

As 2010 and the opening of Toy Story Playland draws nearer, we’ve no doubt all begun to wonder what will become of the other Toy Story outlets across the hub. Buzz Lightyear Laser Blast, Woody’s Roundup and the Disney’s Once Upon a Dream Parade float will all stay for a good while yet, but what about that forgotten corner… that quick tie-in from back in 1997, when Disneyland Paris jumped (rather slowly) on the Toy Story bandwagon? Will it finally be put out into the yard sale?

Change coming to Discoveryland's Pizza Planet?

Far from it. The Pizza Burger could be about to stage a comeback. According to Fab’, a Cast Member posting on Disney Central Plaza, the dated Pizza Planet restaurant in Disneyland Park may well soon be offering a new menu concept with one interesting resort-wide exclusive: unlimited drinks.

Stating that they had taken part in a study about changes to the counter service location, the member suggests that the menu price would be elevated to around €15, with starter, main, dessert and that unlimited drink all included.

At the same time, it seems the tired décor could be in line for changes, too. But no removal of Woody and Buzz — no return to the Discoveryland of visionaries and science fiction. No, the theme will apparently “still be based on Toy Story“. So a higher price, a quick fix-up here and there, and has a perfect cash-in for next year’s New Generation Festival and the release of Toy Story 3 been found?

Change coming to Discoveryland's Pizza Planet?

Change coming to Discoveryland's Pizza Planet?

Change coming to Discoveryland's Pizza Planet?

Wondering why this place, very faintly based on the far more wondrous Pizza Planet of the original Toy Story film, is housed within a badly-concealed tent just beyond the berm? It was originally an exhibition space as part of the Space Festival in 1995 and 1996, tied into the Space Mountain opening, but was craftily repurposed the following year to fill a need for more counter service provision. All a far cry from the lavish Vulcania restaurant which was originally meant to sit at the other end of the land, opposite were Buzz Lightyear Laser Blast is now.

No dates have been set since this is still to be taken as a pure rumour, but it does come just after Toy Story characters apparently began to make appearances at the restaurant once again. It’s just unfortunate that, even if they make it less of a hole, it’ll soon be on completely the wrong side of the resort to where it needs to be…

• Know any more about this story? Click here to share.

Wednesday, 2nd December 2009

Wraps fall further off new TV Studio colours

As discovered previously, this lengthy refurbishment spanning almost the entire year has not simply brought the façade back to its clean and crisp original state but attempted to “plus” it at the same time, with a wider palette of colours used to emphasise its features.

Is it ready for the catwalk? Not quite, but it’s getting there…

Wraps fall further off new TV Studio colours

The latest section to be revealed is the round corner piece and its two striking Art Deco fins. Where originally these were painted entirely in the same cold yellow with turquoise accents, now they’ve been given a less sharp main colour with a deeper yellow at each end, in the space where the neon lights sit.

Most noticeable, though — the turquoise has become a warm red, matching the new kiosk next door and hopefully giving this corner a slightly more “1950s” feel. Pleasingly, the red, turquoise and yellow neon lights all remain.

Wraps fall further off new TV Studio colours

Last time we ended with an “unfortunately…” about the still-missing ‘Walt Disney Television Studios’ sign (which would probably be a finishing touch anyway). This time, it has to be said that it’s a shame such lengths would be gone to for a refurbishment without that damn security camera being concealed a little better.

Yes, you see it, the round thing on the white pole, sticking out the roof of the building. It’s the kind of thing you normally don’t spot — but once you do, you spot it every time. Sorry. Look closely at the Studios and you can also see them hanging from Art of Disney Animation and Flying Carpets Over Agrabah. We never manage to spot them in Disneyland Park, so why force supermarket chic on the Studios?

But no-one’s ever completely happy these days. Blame TV.

• See more new pictures from the resort in the latest Photos Magiques update.

Wednesday, 25th November 2009

TV Studios now in technicolor as refurb wraps

We’ve been waiting a long time for this. Nothing compared to Disney Studio 1 just across the way, of course, but with scaffolding going up back in early April and the first tarp sheets only coming down, the former Television Production Tour building has enjoyed a good — and much needed — 7 or so months of TLC.

First — remember how it used to look?

Walt Disney Television Studios

Walt Disney Television Studios

Walt Disney Television Studios

Walt Disney Television Studios

Arguably one of the nicest buildings of the park in 2002, with a smart Streamline Moderne art deco design, it nevertheless began to look more than a little out of place one the warm, detail-rich buildings and sets of 2007/08’s Hollywood Boulevard sprung up opposite.

Where they had intricate, saturated palettes of colours, realistic weathering and period features a-plenty, the old Walt Disney Television Studios had a whitewash — or rather a yellow-wash — of one single colour with cold turquoise details.

This contrast difference became especially clear when walking down the route (perhaps known as Vine Street) in front of The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror, with the monotone, concrete building now forming a landmark at the end.

Walt Disney Television Studios

Walt Disney Television Studios

Add to these differences the fact that portions of the building had become dirtier than perhaps anything ever before in Disneyland Paris, the “fins” in particular looking as if they were about to crumble, and you’ve got the format of a desperately-needed refurbishment.

Fans could barely believe their eyes when Mouetto on Disney Central Plaza posted this photo last week… had it just blown down?

Walt Disney Television Studios

But their hopes came true — the refurbishment wasn’t stuck in the legal nightmare of Studio 1 but ready to go live! The first half of the building was fully uncovered by the weekend, as captured by NewsDLRP:

Walt Disney Television Studios

The new colours match exactly those on the covering used during the refurbishment. Under the windows and at the top, the sleek lines are now picked out in a light yellow with a darker gold-brown in between adding a further sense of detail.

Walt Disney Television Studios

The building’s main colour is now a slightly deeper orange, similar to that applied to Front Lot a couple of years ago, and the fins have warm red accents rather than turquoise, as spotted several months ago.

Whilst the rest of the Stitch Live! / Playhouse Disney building remains wrapped in scaffolding, the only thing missing from this first section is the old ‘Walt Disney Television Studios’ sign itself…

Pictures: DLRP Today, Mouetto, NewsDLRP.

Sunday, 22nd November 2009

It’s a Small World – Celebration all-round!

Alongside a full refurbishment of the ride, the two weeks of closure from 9th to 20th November saw 200 dolls redressed in brand new costumes, the addition of 150 special props and accessories and, for the first time ever, the addition of the special Christmas soundtrack, never before heard in Paris.

The Celebrations begin outside, where the whole attraction signage has been switched out for a new design of flags in red and green, dotted with snow flakes, sitting on golden yellow flagpoles.

It's a Small World - Celebration all-round!

It's a Small World - Celebration all-round!

Captured by Scrooge on Disney Magic Interactive, the exterior decoration also features dressing on the boat, a “Celebration” caption on the secondary entrance sign and an additional notice explaining that throughout our cruise we’ll see “the traditional celebrations which bring all the children together”.

And inside? First we direct you to a special interview with costuming production senior manager Hélène Hanquez on DLRP, all about the returning overlay. Not only will you find some exclusive photographs, like that below, but it’s full of interesting details behind the overlay.

It's a Small World - Celebration all-round!

It appears it was none other than George Kalogridis, our departing operations chief, who suggested the return, with the entire project — including repairing or entirely replacing many of the old costumes — completed in just 4 months. The results, even from the few photos seen so far, are beautiful.

“There are some absolutely splendid costumes, sequinned, satiny, with an enormous amount of feathers and fabric more radiant than ever before…” — Hélène Hanquez

Though no doubt, the most exciting revelation from Hélène is the inclusion of seasonal music in the overlay for the first time. Coming from the American parks, the Small World Christmas mix features the classic Sherman Brothers theme interspersed with festive songs such as Jingle Bells — naturally, sung in several languages. A 15-minute compilation was released on the Musical History of Disneyland CD box set, and a festive mix is reportedly being played even outside the attraction, replacing the regular area loop!

It's a Small World - Celebration all-round!

All this is quite a pleasant surprise from a resort usually timid to attempt seasonal overlays of its attractions. An interesting post from a member named “RiverRogue” on magicforum might explain some of the background to the project — which appears to be distant from the Entertainment department, who usually reign over Christmas:

Well suspected; from what I’ve gathered seasonal entertainment didn’t have much to do with this year’s “Celebration”. Its project manager comes from a business-related department and was a long-time operational cast member. When he proposed the project he was given a very tight budget and in my opinion made the most of it, not least because he’s very hands-on and did a lot of things himself.

As for the graphics and music, he enlisted a friend of his (also a former operator) in the merchandise division to do the graphic design and audio mixing. The signage was then physically produced in the resort’s Central Shops while Imagineering and the audio maintenance crew installed the new music.

Lights, projections, sequins, feathers, shimmering costumes and sparkly music… This might just be the Celebration to top all others. Bravo and all our greatest thanks to those who pushed for its return and worked so hard to complete it to this standard.

Though the oceans are wide and the mountains divide, you want to see Christmas in Disneyland Paris more than ever now, right?

Friday, 20th November 2009

Studio 1 repaint hits… “technical difficulties”

Yes, the company which brought us Audio-Animatronics and countless other innovations is clearly having a few issues with this project.

From an advertisement billboard to a larger advertisement billboard, to the current refurbishment tarpaulin, it feels like this will never end. The last official line said the refurbishment had already begun and would be finished by December. It never began.

We now appear to know for sure that the front of Disney Studio 1 won’t see the light of day again this decade. If you should happen to write or email asking what on earth has been going on, the new standard reply seems to be more about buying time than giving dates and details, as the previous response.

Here it is:

Thank you for your email concerning Disneyland® Paris.

To begin with, I would like to thank you for your loyalty in Disneyland Paris. Indeed, it is truly heartening to learn that you have visited the Resort on so many occasions.

Further to your query, I regret to inform you that due to unforeseen technical difficulties with the refurbishment work taking place on Studio 1, the work has been exceptionally delayed. Therefore, we are unable to confirm when the scaffolding will be removed.

Now 15 months and counting since the refurbishment scaffolding was put in place and 4 months since we were told the refurbishment had just begun, this appears to be a pretty exceptional delay. The shell of a building was probably built in less time back in 2000/2001.

What can you say? Well, you can email… and please do.

And if anyone happens to actually know what these “technical difficulties” are, get in touch. The magicforum members have been coming up with a few good possibilities, let’s see what you make of these…

• They lost the ladder so that they can climb onto the scaffolding to start work. Any donations of a ladder greatly received by Disney.

• The contractors are scared of the dark, so couldn’t go under the fake Studio 1 frontage.

• The contractors don’t have hopper tickets and are stuck in Disneyland Park trying to dig a tunnel into the Studios.

• The weather is not good enough – they are waiting for snow.

• They ordered orange and green paint, but red and white came, so they painted the Character Express horrible colours instead.

• Someone stole their hardhats and replaced them with Mickey ears.

• They are on strike – holding out for Castle Club rooms rather than the Empire State Club.

• They are stuck on Wilderness Island without a canoe.

• The materials are coming via Royal Mail.

• They are waiting for the railroad train to stop at Adventureland.

Or maybe…

• They decided to have a quick ride on Crush’s Coaster before starting last year and still haven’t reached the loading dock.

Feel free to add your own suggestion below, we’ve plenty of time…

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