Sorry to spoil any illusions you may have bought into at Les Mystères du Nautilus but, as every visitor to Discoveryland can clearly see at the moment, Disneyland Park only really has half of this famous submarine within its Discoveryland Lagoon. That’s perhaps a lucky thing for the project team who have just embarked on a last-minute refurbishment of Captain Nemo’s vessel and its surrounding lagoon, the final major restoration project before the launch of the 20th Anniversary. With the water drained, they’ve only the jagged spine of the submarine to repaint in fresh metallic tones — but even that is impressive enough when you see the unusual sight of a person standing right next to it.
These latest photos from DisneyGazette.fr show how guests are being treated to a full view of the hard work that goes into maintaining the “magic”. A temporary staircase, allowing workers to climb over the railings and down into the lagoon, has been hidden behind hoardings but the rest of the area remains completely open. As well as the Nautilus itself, the stone walls of the lagoon are being repainted to return them to their intended rusty glow. The walkthrough itself remains open throughout — just to further spoil the magic, did you know that it’s actually located in a building on the other side of the path, behind Autopia?
It’s the dawn of a new day. Construction walls have finally come down in Central Plaza, revealing the finished repaving project across the hub of the park following the much-celebrated removal of the overbearing stage which had resided here since 2009. After seven weeks of work through freezing conditions into the milder days of early spring, the completed Central Plaza is now a vast expanse of smoothly-finished concrete pavement — no obstacles, no obstructions, just a perfect view of Sleeping Beauty Castle and of course, the impending Disney Dreams! nighttime spectacular.
In fact it was Steve Davison, the director of Disney Dreams!, who grabbed these very first photos of the plaza without construction walls at 6am this morning. Though we don’t entirely envy Team Dreams with their nocturnal work shifts, seeing dawn break over a wide, open Central Plaza is one well-deserved reward. Steve shared the first photo above with the comment: “WOW! What a wonderful view! No Wall! No Stage. Just a beautiful view of the Castle. Enjoy!” He followed this up with further praise for our castle and a clearer critique of the poorly-integrated stage: “It’s so much better without the stage. It blocked this amazing piece of architecture. WOW! What a castle!”
That certainly suggests we’re not the only ones happy to see that back of the enormous stage, which presented three consecutive shows of varying popularity. Beginning with It’s Party Time… with Mickey and Friends in 2009, it then saw the far superior Disney Showtime Spectacular in 2010, before whimpering to a close with Mickey’s Magical Celebration last year. Even before those shows, the plaza was taken up by a smaller stage for the 15th Anniversary Candleabration show in 2007 and 2008, and for the castle lighting show of the previous Christmas, meaning the plaza hasn’t been open for guests since as long ago as 2006.
Deciding not the reinstate the small circular flower bed in the middle of the hub was probably a wise idea for crowd control during Disney Dreams!, but does such an entirely bare Central Plaza make an ideal heart for the park? Couldn’t they have done something more interesting with the floor, or is it best to just let the castle take all the presence here? Whatever your opinion, you’ll no doubt at least agree with Steve Davison that the view opened up is “Simply beautiful!”. We have a lot to thank Team Dreams for. Longer park hours, a real, nightly nighttime spectacular, and now a Central Plaza back to how it should be. No stage, just a beautiful view of the castle.
Poor Old Joe: so engrossed there on his ramshackle pier, waiting for the catch of the day, that he’s failed to notice the towering extension put up by his Thunder Mesa Riverboat Landing neighbours next door. In preparation for a sorely-needed complete rebuild of the Mark Twain, following that enjoyed by companion on the rivers Molly Brown last year, the entire drydock at the back of the Rivers of the Far West is in the process of being enclosed in a temporary hangar-like structure.
Apparently being built by the firm De Boer, specialist in such constructions, the enclosure is being covered by a themed scrim created by a graphic designer working for Disney. With fake timber walls and large loading bay doors, this “trompe-l’œil” boathouse deceives the eye as a wharf for cargo loading. Details in the design, though hard to see clearly from the opposite riverbank, include “Deliveries” written across the false door and a surprisingly detailed “Notice” of some kind. The large number “2” above the door is reminiscent of the engine shed for Big Thunder Mountain nearby.
By comparison, the year-long Molly Brown refurbishment saw the far from ideal situation that the boat was fully stripped down and rebuilt in full view of passing guests, with only a scant covering of scaffolding and tarpaulin for cover. It’s also possible that, by shrouding the entire drydock with a roof, refurbishment work could be carried out in all weather, with fewer delays.
Both boats are still parked up here at the back of the river, out of service, but Molly Brown will return to operation from 24th March when the attraction finally re-opens, having been closed for the whole of 2012 thus far. Besides the work ongoing here, the deck of the riverboat landing itself has been completely rebuilt with fresh wood. Once allowed back on-board for a cruise around the waters, we’ll be able to get a closer look at the detail of the new wharf.
Reports from those close to the project suggest that the “hangar” will stay in place for at least two years, so Old Joe had better get used to his temporary — but not so temporary — new neighbour.
What’s that we spy on the horizon?! It’s the wraps finally coming down on the epic restoration of Captain Hook’s Pirate Ship in Adventureland! This landmark of Adventure Isle has been hidden behind a themed scrim and a mass of scaffolding for 10 months of solid work, seeing the ship stripped right back to its shell and rebuilt with fresh materials — and colours. One of the biggest projects announced at the special 20th Anniversary Refurbishments event we attended back in March 2011, the refurbishment faced several delays but now looks set to be ready for the big anniversary date as @InsideDLParis shares these photos of the scaffolding beginning to be taken down today.
In the process of its restoration, Imagineers at Walt Disney Imagineering Paris have given the ship a whole new colour scheme. Just like Sleeping Beauty Castle it takes the attraction back, closer to its original 1992 look, but comes with enough fresh touches and design choices to stand separately. A previous refurbishment of the ship had taken away some of the “fantasy” look of this Peter Pan legend, giving it a rather dreary appearance with darker exposed wood and black suddenly outweighing the brighter red. The ship no longer offered such a powerful bridge between Adventureland and the colourful, nearby Fantasyland that its more whimsical original colours provided.
Thankfully, Captain Hook’s new look takes the ship right back to those fantasy roots, and then some. The balance has shifted back to a crisp, bright red with black taking a smaller role. The skull and crossbones at the back of the ship has again been picked out in a crisp ivory white and the entire stern repainted in a vibrant red, contrasting beautifully with the luscious green palms of the tropical island.
White masts were an interesting feature of the 1992 scheme that haven’t been recreated, with the Imagineers opting instead for a dark brown that no doubt fares better in Marne-la-Vallée’s not-so-tropical climate. Instead, the big pièce de résistance of this restoration is, naturally, the gold. Peggie Fariss, head of WDI Paris, explained at last year’s presentation that they really wanted to emphasise the generous riches plundered by these pirates during their travels.
Captain Hook may be blundering, but he has certainly had his fair share of treasure bounties while sailing the seas, and that wealth should be expressed much more vividly in the ship itself. And so, rather than the plain, light exposed wood of the 1992 scheme, the 2012 version comes with a shimmering, golden finish to its edges and sides. Even the mermaid figurehead has turned gold!
This Pirate Ship is an important landmark not just in our Adventureland but in the history of Disney parks. In 1955, Walt Disney opened Disneyland with the Chicken of the Sea Pirate Ship based on Peter Pan, but this popular icon was removed in 1982 to make way for an expansion of Fantasyland. Spotting their perfect opportunity with a new park, Adventureland show producer Chris Tietz and the other Imagineers of Euro Disneyland recreated the almost-forgotten ship for Paris, ten years later, and it remains the only life-size Captain Hook’s Pirate Ship in any Disney park in the world.
After this momentary blip, may it remain sea-worthy and splendid for ever more.
Now, walk the plank and see how the ship looked before restoration… (not for the faint of heart!)Read More…
Even more Main Street, U.S.A. addresses have now been decked out in gold for the 20th Anniversary. At Cable Car Bake Shop and The Gibson Girl Ice Cream Parlour (above), the regular semi-circular fans of white and golden fabric have been supplemented with a different, more extravagant style of bunting with great swathes of fabric hung around the balcony and the rooftop of the buildings respectively. Like several other “businesses” along the street, Gibson Girl spent much of 2011 under scaffolding for a complete refurbishment and recolouring of its palette; switching its green-striped window shades to red, for example. The gold additions give a dressy flourish to its spotless refreshed façade.
This seems to confirm that it won’t just be stonework, nor the front-facing façade of the station, that will see a golden overlay. The solid metallic gold effect takes away some of the intricacy of the previous two-tone colour of the arches, but does manage to catch the glow of the lights along the concourse, making those infamous outdated initials even more of a feature.
With lights (presumably new LED effects) said to play a part in the wider Main Street, U.S.A. Celebrates! overlay, this golden glow could be a preview of what’s to come.
The tents have gone from Central Plaza! Ever since a camp of five tents sprung up on the plaza at the start of February, the expected panic of those with impending visits — who just have to get that photo — has ensued. If that’s you, you’ll be glad to know this isn’t some “Lead Day” anomaly, the tents have served their purpose and been taken down. Insert brilliant current affairs reference to the end of the Occupy London camp here. Structured as one giant tent in the middle of the plaza with four smaller marquees over each of the wings, this crucial weather protection has allowed workers to continue through freezing temperatures as they relay the floor across Central Plaza.
This followed the dismantling of the former stage which dominated the area, having become unpopular with both fans and, apparently, management — especially as removing it frees up more vital viewing space for Disney Dreams!. Despite the effort gone to to protect the construction site, the results don’t appear too dramatic at all. Looking at some photos taken underneath the construction walls today, it appears the pathways have been rebuilt with the same regular pavement concrete as the rest of Main Street, U.S.A. without any major change. Railings and lampposts appear the same, if freshly repainted, though there does appear to be one missing element: the central flower bed.
Of course, removing this frees up even more space, but it does mean this is a Disneyland Park without a Partners Statue nor anything else at its heart. May we suggest a statue of Steve Davison, pointing to the skies above the castle?
“Will the person who lost a roll of 20 dollar bills in a green rubber band please come to the ticket office. Good news: we found your green rubber band,” goes the announcement. And now we know, after 20 years, what the porters at Main Street Station have been saving all those dollar bills for. For the 20th Anniversary, the entire front façade of the station, the beautiful stone edifice which greets every guest as they first step inside Disneyland Park, will turn… gold!
Matching well the fresh gold bunting going up elsewhere, the first tests for this bold makeover, captured by @InsideDLParis, are already underway. One pillar on the far right of the station was first painted in an alarming shade of yellow undercoat before revealing, just 24 hours later, its stately golden finish.
After numerous season and festival overlays, some more successful than others (most not very successful at all), you might think you’d seen it all on Main Street Station. But this would be by far the most dramatic overlay so far: completely changing the colour of the station for at least a whole year.
Surprisingly, it could also be one of the most appealing to date. Given its lavish architecture, “embossing” just this front-facing wall of the station in gold feels like a suitably extravagant way for it to celebrate. Where so many makeovers past have sought to cover up the station’s stunning ironwork, windows and organ, a gold shimmer could bring out its details like never before.
But what do you think — a bold feat of flamboyance, or a gold leaf too far?
If you’re reading this in Europe, no doubt you’ve felt a very seasonal but very sharp chill in the air this past week as winter has belatedly made its mark. Disney Parks, magical as they are, aren’t exempt from wild fluctuations of temperature either, which can lead to such surprising measures as this: covering the whole of Central Plaza in a series of temporary tents to make sure its remodel meets the deadline. With the over-dominating stage now consigned to history, the plaza has been left open and levelled for the first time since 2006. Disneyland Paris now faces the daunting prospect of ensuring it is completely rebuilt ready for the premiere of Disney Dreams! in less than two months.
The encampment grew from a single, open-sided tent on Tuesday to three tents on Wednesday (below right) and eventually five, fully-enclosed tents today (bottom). Surprisingly, the whole area had been completely flattened, with all existing concrete dug up and railings taken down.
But is this a simple case of repaving? Conspiracy theories abound: forums and Twitter have been buzzing with the belief that Disney must be hiding something inside these structures. Rumours from last year of a new fountain on Central Plaza, that could function normally during the day but burst into multi-coloured life as part of the new nighttime show, were immediately resurrected. However, plans for the programming of the “fountain package” featured in the 20th Anniversary preview video didn’t appear to show any such addition; the middle of the plaza was left entirely empty.
Temperatures in Marne-la-Vallée for the next week are forecast for highs of 0°C and crippling lows of -8°C tonight, so the tents themselves are surely just sensible precautions to ensure the work is completed on time. As for the remodel itself, one thing we’d particularly like to see would be the lampposts around the middle of the plaza replaced with lower, shoulder-height lamps just like those in the specially-built World of Color viewing area in California, for example. For 20 years, guests have had their views of castle shows and fireworks impeded by those poorly-placed bulbs.
With the inner circle of lampposts — and much of the plaza — now hidden inside these mysterious tents, how will the heart of the park look when they come down…?
With attractions such as Autopia and Captain EO recently closed midweek in low season, a lengthy closure for Thunder Mesa Riverboat Landing this winter might have looked like more cost saving — or we should say, “demand-based” operation. In fact, it’s a renovation of the landing pier itself to cause for these two months of downtime (confirmed so far) from 1st January to 29th February. The exposed wooden deck has been completely taken up, likely to be replaced with fresh materials as has happened to wooden elements across the park, following some years of neglect.
After the complete rebuild of the Molly Brown last year, this famous riverboat landing will look fresher still — perhaps time to refocus efforts on the river itself? Even the most beautiful boat can’t distract from broken geysers or those poorly-hidden escape rafts moored at the back of the river.
Despite the 2011 refurbishments programme being announced almost a year ago, Disneyland Paris continues to work harder than ever before on the renewal and restoration of its original attractions. A quick look at the Closures & Refurbishments schedule shows a packed list ranging from Moteurs… Action! and RC Racer to Pirates of the Caribbean and Big Thunder Mountain, all scheduled over the next three months. Some visitors have parodied the resort’s current booking promotions by branding it “Three Irresistible Months… of closures”. Nevertheless it will be safe to say that, by the time the 20th Anniversary rolls around, barely a single corner of the parks will have been left untouched in the past year. A grand new beginning for the grandest Magic Kingdom of them all.
If 2011 was the year Le Château de la Belle au Bois Dormant regained its glory, 2012 might be the year La Tanière du Dragon regains its growl. The almost 20-year old dragon beneath Sleeping Beauty Castle, still a show-stopping exclusive of Disneyland Paris, recently awoke from a lengthy two month refurbishment in its snarliest mood since 1992. Not only has the lighting in the castle’s dungeon been renewed to cast a scene as dramatic as ever, the movements of the huge Audio-Animatronic itself have been noticeably “tightened up”. Now the dragon lifts its neck and growls with a renewed conviction; a tighter, snappier, more powerful series of movements that give a new realism to the dozing beast, which many say they haven’t seen looking this good since opening day. Our Photos Magiques friends braved the lair last week to update to capture some stunning new pictures and video.
Meanwhile, over on magicforum, DGRavenswood shares a lesser-known but apparently official version of the dragon’s backstory. This isn’t Maleficent, as so many deduce, but a dragon found in an egg by Merlin one morning and restrained here below his magic shop for safekeeping.
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