Nine years ago today, Disney’s tenth theme park worldwide opened its gates. For such a milestone, the original Walt Disney Studios Park of 16th March 2002 was perhaps not the best representative of the Disneyland ideals. Be it through desperate lack of budget or not, the park drastically missed the mark of what a European audience — or any audience — wants from a theme park. Forget the beautiful landscapes of Tokyo DisneySea, opened a year earlier; here there were almost no outdoor themed areas to speak of at all, just 25 hectares of freshly poured tarmac asphalt and 10 attractions housed in uninspiring “soundstages” of concrete. The bid to pay tribute to European filmmakers was noble but possibly misguided — Florida’s raining Singin’ in the Rain umbrella scene was changed to the barely known Les Parapluies de Cherbourg, for example — and the glitzy warmth of Hollywood was oddly missing. The park suffered from a complete lack of escapism, when what people really wanted was a whole park with the colour and spirit found inside, say, Disney Studio 1.
Because that’s the thing — the park has always had some great attractions. Nine years on, CinéMagique remains beautifully subtle and wonderfully entertaining, one of the best movie-based attractions ever. Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster starring Aerosmith might not be pretty on the outside but the ride inside arguably beats its kitsch Florida cousin, whilst after 9,000 performances it’s easy to take for granted just how impressive the stunts of Moteurs… Action! Stunt Show Spectacular really are.
Having dug itself a hole by ploughing too much (or, you could say, not enough) money into an unpopular park, it took Euro Disney SCA far longer than it should have done to begin expanding the second gate. The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror should really have opened in 2005 (or earlier), rather than begun construction that year, whilst the Toon Studio expansion of Crush’s Coaster and Cars Quatre Roues Rallye should have been there from the start, not five years after opening. No-one should have ever green-lit the Television Production Tour, now occupied instead by Stitch Live! since 2008 and Playhouse Disney Live on Stage! since 2009.
The modest Hollywood Boulevard turned out to be a great surprise and even Toy Story Playland, maligned by some corners of the fan community, is a marked step above any other themed areas in the park. To get the Ratatouille dark ride built in the years ahead would be an amazing feat: the first new dark ride at Disneyland Paris (ignoring Buzz) in all its 20 years and possibly the first real implementation of Audio Animatronics in the whole Studios park. But let’s just hope it doesn’t end there, that we see the park continue like its last four years rather than the first five. May the park continue to improve and expand, to revisit Theater District and fix the original areas, to add places to eat and places to buy things, and maybe, one day, rename Production Courtyard. We can but dream… Here’s to the future!
Starting on Main Street, U.S.A., Photos Magiques were keen-eyed enough to spot the disappearance of the balcony railing around the top of Disney Clothiers, Ltd. in their latest update:
Just a week later, and the building is fully encased in scaffolding and tarpaulin wraps for a complete exterior refurbishment:
Access to the boutique is still available through gaps in the construction walls below and from Main Street Motors and Boardwalk Candy Palace either side.
At the end of Main Street, the big project of the moment is hard to miss:
While the stone (or rather, concrete) bridge across to Le Château de la Belle au Bois Dormant continues its extensive reconstruction, the giant waterfall (Fungus Falls) and the waterways surrounding it have been turned off and, on the left of the moat area, had their perimeter dug up.
Taking a peek through the construction walls, the following photo appears to show the first section of the bridge’s walls have now been completely removed, matching reports that the bridge would be partly rebuilt. Previously, they lined up perfectly with the end of the green railings, curving up to the bridge itself. Now, nothing but a gap…
Since postings on various forums suggest some visitors have been told the Castle is “closed” it’s worth stating again that it most certainly isn’t. Following the smart “By Royal Decree” signs on the construction walls, you can still access the inside of Sleeping Beauty Castle, its two boutiques and first-floor gallery.
A great (and equally spectacular) way to enter the Castle during the work its via the Dragon’s lair to the left of the bridge — spot the path leading to it in the very first photo above.
Though all this time later, the ‘Walt Disney Television Studios’ lettering which used to span the front canopy has yet to reappear. And who can fail to notice, the colourful Art Deco/Streamline Moderne satellite dish mural on the building’s corner was hastily painted right over with a solid teal…
Unfortunately the same impulsive attitude hasn’t yet been applied to Disney Studio 1, which remains covered by scaffolding around 583 days since the refurbishment covering was put up and approximately 1656 days since that first Chicken Little billboard rose up in 2005.
Pictures by Dlrpteam, Photos Magiques (more) and DLRP Today.
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…
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.
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.
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?
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.
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?
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:
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.
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…
Well yes, quite a lot obviously. Just shows you shouldn’t go wandering into the Adventure Isle caves just before park closing… it’s been four long months!
If you’ve been similarly deprived of Disneyland Resort Paris news, given up trying to translate what they’re saying on the French forums, sit back and enjoy a quick and concise round-up of all the big stories of recent months — here we go!
SLEEPING BEAUTY’S BLING
Was it coincidence that updates here ended just about the time that Sleeping Beauty Castle succumbed to its most horrific, misguided meddling-with to date?
The birthday cake, the jester’s hat, the Epcot wand, the MGM hat… you’ve met your match. There truly aren’t enough negative adjectives in the dictionary.
— — —
MAGICAL PARTY LAUNCHES WITH MEGA-PARTY
‘You’re invited!’ …but not to this. Press and media types were schmoozed in spectacular fashion as new theme year Mickey’s Magical Party kicked off with fireworks, projections, lights and so many characters they couldn’t even all fit on the damn stage.
Did it generate headlines, articles, media coverage? No.
— — —
ACTUAL PARTY GROWS ON FANS
Frustratingly-titled new Central Plaza show ‘It’s Party Time… with Mickey and Friends’ initially looked rather like a drab flop on an overbearing and unnecessary new stage, but it has grown on most fans. The score by Vasile Sirli is actually plain fantastic (especially considering the lacklustre music in the year’s other new shows) and it provides a fresh, colourful heart for the year.
Over in Discoveryland, the other show with an annoying name — ‘It’s Dance Time… in Discoveryland’ — brought delights such as large, primary-coloured circles on the floor of a retro-futuristic land, and the expertly-chosen hits of Block Party Bash.
Despite the show being considered terrible on every level by most who’ve seen it, the performers put so much effort and energy into their routine they each almost deserve a window on Main Street.
Beyond the forced MMP hoopla over the other side of the esplanade, Walt Disney Studios Park gained a brand new attraction — its fifth addition since opening — in ‘Playhouse Disney – Live on Stage!’. Jolly good fun it is too — wonderfully staged, very charming. The Paris version even has a “1 Up” on the two earlier versions with a big new pre-show studio.
Changing its name to ‘Restaurant des Stars’, the far too interestingly-named ‘Rendez-Vous des Stars Restaurant’ gained a new logo, some new colours and a new entrance canopy.
— — —
DUDE LOOKS LIKE A FIRE!
In a quite bizarre coincidence, just days after fans launched an online April Fool suggesting Aerosmith would be succeeded by French rocker Johnny Hallyday as musical guests at Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster, a fire began in the roof of the showbuilding.
Luckily the damage was minor — though it did allow for these dramatic photos (below) as the inspection crews ripped off the cladding, checked and replaced it. The attraction reopened just the next day.
— — —
SMEE GIVEN SURGERY
Captain Hook’s bumbling first mate was given a random makeover by the worldwide Disney Parks character team and, unlike most famous faces, he returned from the cosmetic surgery with a face more expressive than before. Remarkable.
Hopefully they’ll tackle some of the clearly worse-looking characters next, like the dead-eyed Woody, Jessie and Buzz…
— — —
HIGH SCHOOL MUSICAL PARTY!
Now back for a third year, the Studios’ High School Musical show this year gained musical numbers from the third film but stopped short of going for the full ‘HSM3’ show the other resorts put on. ‘I Want it all’ is the standout number, but one that certainly won’t win over any new fans.
The ‘Smoking Areas’ inside the parks had been extended little beyond their miniature park map icons, so it’s reassuring to see that each area now has its own themed sign, tied into the location. Give it a few years and the public might actually use them.
— — —
STUDIO STORE OPENS UP
Behind construction walls last time we saw it, the Walt Disney Studios Store has now been completed, with three new doors and payment desks in front of new, large windows.
— — —
Main Street has always had the best-kept exteriors of the entire park, always popping with a fresh bit of paint here or there. A new development in recent years are the nice tarpaulin coverings given images of the building hiding behind. Even for tiny spots like this one on the end of The Storybook Store, the hidden façade is still presented on top.
— — —
PLAZA GARDENS GLEAMS
After a major refurbishment of the interior, including bringing the central fountain back to daily life, the whole Plaza Gardens Restaurant building was wrapped in themed tarps for an expensive top-to-bottom refurbishment and repaint. It didn’t stand out as being particularly bad before, there are other areas needing paint sooner, but it does look fantastic.
— — —
STUDIO 1 REFURBISHMENT CONTINUES
Over the hub, it’s surprising to see that the refurbishment of Disney Studio 1 continues, the huge centrepiece building of the park still wrapped up in scaffolding. Must be a bigger job than originally thought, right?
— — —
FLOORS OF ADVENTURE, DISCOVERY
Tripped up in Disneyland Park recently? No wonder, some of the concrete pathways are literally falling to pieces. Thankfully, the first resurfacing works seen for many years have been taking place, with areas of Adventure Isle and vast swathes of Discoveryland closed off and given new flooring, the effect — especially just in front of Space Mountain — very noticeably making the whole land look brand new.
— — —
TENNIS, MICE, MAIN STREET
Some of the resort’s press and advertising efforts have been surprisingly inventive this year, like this — turning the top of Main Street into a full-size tennis court and inviting Gaël Monfils and Stanislas Wawrinka to play with Mickey Mouse.
Just a few days later, Serena Williams visited the park and was met in front of the Castle by Minnie Mouse, wearing a special tennis player costume.
— — —
Effectively the biggest change of the past few months, the news in April and subsequent official changeover in May that has seen ‘Disneyland Resort Paris’ — the resort’s name since the 2002 opening of Walt Disney Studios Park — change back to just plain ‘Disneyland Paris’.
It certainly makes sense — the extra word was always unpopular, confusing to non-English speakers and now, with every park from Alton Towers to your local fairground claiming itself as a “Resort”, it simply doesn’t have any value. “Disneyland Resort Paris” is cumbersome and never spoken, “Disneyland Paris” is short and very strong. Whilst things like the official website have changed over, don’t expect this to be an overnight transition — the new (or rather, old) logo will reappear just as and when things need replacing.
Unfortunately, this decision — made by new CEO Philippe Gas himself — came in April, just weeks after the resort had launched a whole new brand campaign for the theme year. These traditionally start in April, and everything from Cast Member name tags to park tickets and guidemaps had already been printed up with the full “Disneyland Resort Paris” name. Smart name reversal, silly timing.
There’s also a whole myriad of logo variations now available (above). Which should be used, when? The standard logo is being presented as two-colour, with the “Paris” in a gold gradient that already looks rather dated.
— — —
BURNING FIRES, FLOWING WATERS
Tasked with bringing back old and forgotten effects, a new “taskforce” within the resort’s maintenance department has been one of the most positive steps in recent months. We already appear to have seen some brilliant reawakened touches, such as the torches on Fort Comstock at the entrance to Frontierland (lit from nightfall)…
And the water channels leading to the drinking fountains beside La Cabane des Robinson.
Whilst a long way short of having the full irrigation system working again (water should be hoisted right up to the top of the tree by the water wheel, before being poured out and running through the channels back to ground level), it’s great to think someone took the time to figure this out.
Elsewhere, these moving fairground balloons inside Boardwalk Candy Palace have been back working again, for the first time in years.
— — —
CAFE DE LA BROUSSE
Mostly sitting closed, Café de la Brousse has never the less just had a large-scale refurbishment completed, bringing colour back to the “bush café” buildings. Dole is presented heavily as the host, but still no one thinks of bringing the legendary Dole Whip to Paris!
— — —
DISNEY VILLAGE NOW ‘COOL’
So. It took a Starbucks to make Disney Village “hip” again.
Yes, it meant losing the wonderful Buffalo Trading Co. and inviting a quite equally despised/appreciated corporation into a Disney-branded area, but the coffeehouse itself was built using genuinely eco-friendly ideas and looks really quite trendy inside, with a wonderfully modern exterior — industrial elements clashing beautifully with earthy materials.
— — —
ROSES PAINTED RED, FINALLY!
The on-off refurbishment of Alice’s Curious Labyrinth — with little areas regaining sparkle each month or so — has continued, the Paris-exclusive attraction even seeing… new paint! The red edgings of the entire labyrinth have finally been repainted, a year after similar edgings on the Fantasyland-Discoveryland path received paint before them, and scenes like the Caterpillar suddenly “pop” like they should again:
— — —
ROBINSONS RETURN TO LA CABANE
Also brought back to life this Summer is La Cabane des Robinson, previously the only other “blackspot” alongside the Labyrinth. For too long the treehouse has been bleak and worn. Props missing, effects broken, no colour. It was as if the Robinsons had long ago moved on from their treetop abode. Not any more — refreshed woodwork, new props and a complete clean-up really make it “pop”. Effects like the self-playing organ are still missing.
Even the water fountains were revisited and given an extra spruce-up:
— — —
WOODCARVER’S WORKSHOP RE-OPENS
Not entirely the amazing news that might suggest, but nevertheless the long-abandoned Woodcarver’s Workshop over in Cottonwood Creek Ranch, next to what is now Woody’s Roundup, has finally been brought back into service — selling drinks and souvenir photos from the character meet ‘n’ greets inside.
A long way from the actual woodcarvers who used to create personalised souvenirs here, but good to see it alive and well in some form, eh?
— — —
ENCHANTED FIREWORKS DAMPENED AGAIN
The Enchanted Fireworks have returned for their second year — dampened again in similar style to the later shows last year, when the nearby town of Chessy apparently banged on the wall and issued a loud “shhh”. Fans, and even apparently some regular guests, aren’t too impressed with the “new” show.
— — —
ATTRACTION OPEN 12:00 – 12:05
The same limited opening schedule of attractions put in place last Summer has returned again this year, with visitors taking much more notice. Some say it’s fair enough that they have to close attractions early, since most people have headed to Main Street to watch Fantillusion, whilst others leave annoyed that the park’s advertised opening time of 10am to 11pm isn’t strictly true.
Most agree that the whole situation would be better if the limited openings schedule was at least published somewhere other than only at the attraction entrances themselves — on the tips board, in the Programme leaflet, for example.
— — —
GOOGLE EARTH 3D: WORTH THE WAIT
The much-publicised and subsequently much-delayed official 3D recreation of Disneyland Paris in Google Earth finally launched in mid-May and proved to be well worth the wait, offering a truly spectacular metre-by-metre recreation of every inch of the parks and resort. Visit www.disneylandparis.com/googleearth3d and lose a few hours.
A few days later, Google Street View was also added for small stretches of each park:
— — —
BROCHURE TESTS THE LIMITS
Have you seen the brochures and advertising for Walt Disney World? How grand and high-class it all looks. For Paris, however, the brochures in particular seem to be getting ever more garish and in-your-face with each publication. The latest, current brochure for Autumn/Winter 2009/10 features some truly frightening images of blurred children flying above the parks, with so much photoshopping and saturated colour you can barely see the resort they’re trying to advertise.
The actual, printed version also comes with a bizarre claim on the cover of “First ever interactive brochure”. Beyond the cut-out on the cover (Mickey is actually on the page behind), the only evidence of this is a French (+33) mobile number you can text to get a video trailer of the new theme year. Several weeks later, nothing received here.
— — —
VAT REDUCTION? VAT CHANCE
The French government has officially lowered the VAT rate for cafés and restaurants from 19.6% to just 5.5% in order to keep the industry afloat, and, while you’ll certainly find many notifications of this within the resort, you’ll be much harder pressed to actually find reductions.
Whilst some things, especially the Half Board vouchers, have come down in price, most scenarios have just seen the prices stay the same and Disneyland Paris pocketing the difference in order to prop up the large drop in food and beverage sales this year — mostly on account of the prices being too high during a recession. Good thinking.
— — —
ICE CREAM ARRIVES ON-SET
Walt Disney Studios Park must have been the only theme park in the world without a proper ice cream location until the latest change in its food & beverages offering. The Franklin Department Store façade (similar to the exterior of Gone Hollywood at DCA, international fans) gave up its wonderful 1950s-themed period window to become a new kiosk serving actual, real Ben & Jerry’s by the scoop.
The lost window was more interesting than the one remaining, featuring a mannequin woman sitting with a 1950s travel magazine, retro television and monster/sci-fi movie poster. The Tower of Terror across the way has such a minimal build-up in Paris that small period-setting details like this really mattered — the Imagineers would have put an ice cream kiosk in there from the start otherwise.
Couldn’t such a vital theme park component as ice cream have commanded its own building somewhere? Rather than expanding, the park almost seems to be imploding, with under-sized kiosks popping up all over where real, full-size boutiques and restaurants should be. More than anything, one single serving window for this in such a prominent position is madness.
— — —
BLOCKBUSTERS IN THE BACKLOT
Over in Backlot, the big news has been the complete gutting of Backlot Express, the “props warehouse” counter service restaurant, in favour of the more brand-friendly idea of themed rooms dedicated to the Pirates of the Caribbean and High School Musical franchises. The changeover began with the arrival of a plain Ford Focus outside the restaurant, plastered with “HSM3” stickers…
The new logo has been completed on the outside…
And as for the inside? Well, real props from these two trilogies have yet to appear, with the High School Musical area causing much fan hair-tearing already with its “themeing” of bland posters, banners and mini basketballs (taken from merchandise). The “East High” theme does sit well within the building, but this isn’t anything someone with a good printer could set up themselves. Are there not even any costumes from the film lying around over in Burbank?
Beyond the “torn bedsheets” (as described by magicforum members) hanging from the ceiling, the ‘Pirates’ area has defied the odds and just presented the first real surprise of this project — the removal of the metal railings of the raised “garage” area to be replaced with pirate ship-styled wooden banisters and a full ship’s wheel.
— — —
TELEVISION STUDIOS GOES ’50s
…Or is that wishful thinking? With a long-overdue repaint of the Walt Disney Television Studios building (home to Playhouse and Stitch Live) finally beginning back in April and only just making real progress, have the maintenance teams really taken a step back and reconsidered the building, rather than just bursting ahead with the same ugly yellows the original designers chose in 2002?
Yes, it seems so! The architecture was already within the period, but the colours didn’t quite fit. Now, a deep red has replaced the turquoise on the “fins” atop the building, with the yellow turning a much more earthy, peachy shade, in whole much closer to a 1950s Hollywood look and more pleasing next to the subdued tones of the Hollywood Tower Hotel just opposite.
— — —
ANIMAGIQUE KIOSK MARK II
The bland merchandise kiosk which appeared outside Animagique in 2007 now has a partner. Filling in dead space on the right of the same TV Studios building, this little location opened just this week, using the new colour scheme and dressed up in a pleasingly similar style of fins and neons.
Photo: Sean Hamilton
In any other Disney park, such a location would be given a name or some kind of personality (think Crossroads of the World at Disney’s Hollywood Studios). It offers the usual generic collection of character merchandise.
— — —
ROCKEFELLER PLAZA REBORN
Could this be the start of a new era for the environs of Disney’s Hotel New York? The Rockefeller Plaza building, a dull games arcade for far too long, has finally reopened as a lovely café refreshments location for the Summer.
— — —
MICKEY SWINGS INTO — AND ONTO — BUFFALO BILL’S
It was the controversy of the year — nay, the decade — and now it looks like Mickey Mouse has made home. The not-so-great poster previously stuck on the Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show entrance has just been replaced by a large model of Mickey Mouse abseiling down over the building.
Whilst it looks much smarter now, it has fans worried that the mouse may well be there to stay. On the subject of the show itself, the current Summer park programme leaflets are now advertising Adult tickets for the price of Child tickets. In high season? Maybe adding a mouse wasn’t the best way to sell the scale of this truly epic dinner show.
— — —
FASTPASS FOR MONEY
This one must be the second-biggest controversy of the year, then. In itself not a huge thing by any means, this could however be the first step of a huge shift in how Fastpass works. From 18th July to 4th August, guests staying at Disneyland Hotel, Disney’s Hotel New York and, it seems, Disney’s Newport Bay Club, can buy a special “Premium FASTPASS” for €80 per person per day.
The ticket is effectively a VIP FASTPASS, the unlimited-access ticket previously given only to guests in Club rooms and Suites, allowing you to use the FASTPASS queues for attractions as and when you want, as many times as you want to.
— — —
STUDIO 1 REFURBISHMENT CONTINUES
— — —
GOOFY’S SUMMER CAMP
Somewhere you won’t find Mickey this year is the new show at The Chaparral Theater in Frontierland. Yes, since we last updated the topic, The Tarzan Encounter was cancelled again — for good.
This new show is somewhat like the Summer cousin to the brilliant Mickey’s Winter Wonderland, only scuppered by a desperation for audience interaction, with too few scenes between. However, with a live country band as the big “plus” to replace the Winter ice rink, a great stage and some nice musical numbers, it’s winning more fans than certain other shows this year, and much more fitting for its location than Tarzan ever was.
— — —
MAIN STREET COMES ALIVE WITH MARCHING BAND
Last seen making brief appearances last Summer on the old Central Plaza Stage, the brass band has returned! Now performing a brilliant set of Disney music (even including Hans Zimmer’s Pirates score!) on Town Square, this is the kind of classic Disneyland entertainment we rarely see in Paris, so enjoy! The only problem — no one, not the makers of the park programme, nor the Cast Members inside City Hall, appear to have been given their performance schedule.
— — —
CARL’S HOUSE FLIES OVER FRANCE
The real-life version of the balloon-lifted house from Pixar’s next — and 10th — major hit, “Up”, travelled over to France recently and, amongst appearing in some truly spectacular hot air balloon festivals, paid a visit to Disneyland Paris early one morning.
— — —
Who’d have known — the Sleeping Beauty fountain inside the Castle gallery was actually meant to trickle down into the waterfall below, beside the staircase, as one, complete water system! Now, after truly years of being turned off and ignored, it’s fixed and running. The “crystal” at the bottom of the falls glows, too!
Wonderful. Utmost appreciation to whoever made this happen.
As can be seen, both the main logo and the four smaller signs all have depth to them, likely to be lit from inside similar to the Stitch Live! signage. The “Live on Stage!” portion of the logo sits on top of the Playhouse Disney Mickey Mouse ears.
Since the attraction will be known simply as “Playhouse Disney – Live!” to most non-English speaking markets, it’s interesting the Imagineers insisted on the full title for the entrance signage, probably to differentiate this stage-based puppet show from the video screen-based living character show next door.
The zoom-ins, courtesy of DisneyGazette.fr, continue with a view from the parking structure of Disney Village, which lies just behind the empty expansion slot in Production Courtyard. From here, it’s now possible to see the completed waiting area barriers, turnstiles and ticket booth-style Cast Member shelter, all similar to Stitch Live! next door.
There are four turnstiles, as for Stitch, but here they all lead into a single waiting area. As mentioned in a previous update, it is expected the show will be performed around five times a day, similar to Animagique, and likely with separate performances for French and English.
Whilst those electronic displays built into the roof canopy above will display the remaining seats for the next show, the full show schedule, it seems, will also be posted outside the attraction — on the grey noticeboard which Photos Magiquesrecently reported had been removed from outside Stitch Live!.
As NewsDLRP spots, the board has now reappeared outside Playhouse Disney – Live on Stage!, likely because Stitch’s 15-minute show schedules didn’t really require a full guide to be posted outside.
Though Stitch Live!, the interactive “living character” show at Walt Disney Studios Park, was an instant hit upon opening last March, its pre-show areas inside the re-purposed Walt Disney Television Studios building weren’t quite as successful.
Part of this was fixed in August 2008 when the main pre-show video — an advertisement for Disney Channel — was completely replaced by a new introduction featuring the stars of Lilo & Stitch beginning the storytelling before you enter the main theatre.
Now, you can finally take a seat while you enjoy this part of the show! Most guests would previously congregate at the back here before, leaning awkwardly on the covered windows, so this is a smart sign of spotting where the guest experience can be improved — if only with a simple bench.
The outside waiting area has also received a new screen as part of the latest changes. In its 2002 incarnation, this area featured a block of nine rear-projection screens which were both rather faint and rather dated in appearance from their introduction.
This time, the Imagineers have gone with a giant plasma/LCD flatscreen, housed within an indented border. The frame which surrounded the old screen has been entirely changed and the screen now displays an animated space scene and displays updates counting down each minute until you can proceed inside.
However, the screen does appear to have some issues with reflections in this covered outdoor space… and was it a good investment just to flash up how many minutes we’ve got left to wait? Why not explain how TV satellites work, or the history of Disney and television, such as the old ‘Disneyland’ TV show?
• Discover our brand new guide to Stitch Live! — find out how the technology works, the defunct attractions which used to be housed in the building and more!
Instead, the attraction’s entrance will be pretty much as we guessed in the last construction update way back in August — a modest little off-shoot from the Walt Disney Television Studios building looking just like Stitch Live! a few metres away. The indented metal covering on this new extended concrete roof has already been completed, and we can’t even see the join…
The latest construction confirms not only that the curved canopy has indeed been extended to provide a new entrance marquee, but that the new Playhouse will also follow Stitch‘s lead with an identical show times display…
Having the same display, with two sides, could also hint that the show will be presented in separate French and English performances. So far, nothing about the attraction’s language plans has been announced or even rumoured, but it is expected Playhouse Disney will run more alike Animagique than Stitch Live!, with only 5 shows per day.
Finally, the attraction has followed Stitch Live! again right onto the latest park map. Though, perhaps confusing for some guests, the two attractions’ logos and numbers are presented the wrong way round, with Playhouse Disney’s entrance apparently closer to Rendez-Vous des Stars Restaurant…
Well, at least that elusive Number 8 on the Studios map has finally been found!
Top of the bill for this major international press ceremony was to “reintroduce Walt Disney Studios Park as a full day experience”. With over two hundred million Euros of investment finally reaching fruition, there was certainly a lot resting on this particular Saturday.
Despite opening three months after The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror, Stitch Live! would be inaugurated first, the star of this joint ceremony to launch ‘The Celebration Continues… Big Time!’. For the first time, it was Disneyland Park in the shadows as Walt Disney Studios Park played host for the entire day, its Place des Stars Stage next to Stitch Live! transformed with a special backdrop and decorations.
The build-up to the grand opening of Stitch Live! included the little blue nuisance finding his satellite transmission “interfering” with various other video screens across the park.
Up until the 3pm opening, when the satellites finally aligned with the Disney Channel building, Stitch could be seen popping up on the pre-show screen of Art of Disney Animation, on the giant videoscreen of Moteurs… Action! Stunt Show Spectacular or even on the often overlooked Silly Symphonies projection screen inside Disney Studio 1.
Before the show began, music from both parks filled the courtyard, a kind of ’15th Anniversary megamix’ comprising various tracks such as the Fantillusion theme, Just Like We Dreamed It, Remember the Magic, Candleabration, ‘Flying’ from Peter Pan and more — even a chance to hear some rare instrumental versions of ‘Tous en Train’ from Disney Characters’ Express and ‘The Feeling of Aloha’ from the retired Lilo & Stitch Catch a Wave Party.
Resort ambassadors Wendy Courquet and Arnaud Gayet introduced the ceremony, arriving in a similar style to the ‘Shooting Live’ streetmosphere shows which now entertain on the stage — pulling up in a golf buggy to the music of Roll out the Red Carpet from Disney Stars and Motor Cars Parade.
Wendy and Arnaud introduce the ceremony
Outgoing Chairman and CEO of the resort Karl Holz was welcomed to the stage and wasted no time in emphasising the Walt Disney Studios Park location, or the fact that the two parks are “right next door”. Speaking of the original 15th Anniversary Celebration, Mr Holz announced guest reaction was “overwhelming”, quoting the record 14.5 million visitors of 2007.
“We intend to continue the success with today’s launch of our bigger and better celebration,” he continued. “During ‘The Celebration Continues… Big Time!’ our guests will experience twelve more magical months of bigger thrills, exciting entertainment and interactive character experiences…” At which point, Karl was cut short by loud rustling and frenzied movement from within the giant red present on stage.
The present begins to shake… and smoke
With a shrug of the shoulders, the introduction continued with a pointer to The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror behind the assembled crowd, due to be inaugurated later in the day, along with the new High School Musical 2 show. A third interruption from the box causes smoke to pour out from inside. Choking on the smoke (and playing along well), Karl whispered “Are we ok?” as the ambassadors pretended all was going smoothly.
Finally, with the tension becoming too much as Karl moved on to announce the continuation of the original 15th Anniversary events at Disneyland Park, a blast of smoke and a scratch and rip of the wrapping paper saw none other than — you guessed it — Stitch burst out of the present.
Stitch bursts from the 15th birthday present
Arguing in French, the blue alien shouted “Karl has forgotten Stitch!”, to which to Euro Disney SAS CEO answered “Of course, we didn’t forget you. We were just saving the best ’till last!”.
Karl, Wendy and Arnaud attended acting school for 6 months to prepare for this moment
With an impatient space creature on stage, Karl Holz wasted no time in officially declaring Stitch Live! open, as golden streamers burst from the stage, confetti fell from behind and the four stars posed on-stage for photos from the press.
As the ceremony came to a close, announcements invited guests to “discover Stitch Live! throughout the rest of the day”, whilst minor celebrities from various European countries were invited for press pictures against the ‘Stitch Live!’ backdrop.
Guests and the press dispersed across the park for the next couple of hours, the VIPs enjoying priority access to the Tower of Terror via the Fastpass entrance and to Crush’s Coaster via the exit.
The Celebration Continues… Big Time! Launch & Stitch Live! Inauguration
Despite the important events of the day, with almost 2,000 invitees and an expected 14,000 regular visitors, attendance and queue times felt relatively normal. Though it would have been laughable just a year ago, waiting 70 (Tower of Terror) or even up to 90 minutes (Crush’s Coaster) for attractions is now often a reality at the park, however.
Everyone would reunite at 5pm sharp for the grand premiere of ‘High School Musical 2: School’s Out!’ — the only performance of the new show all day — which is where we take you next…
We arrive on the evening of Friday, 4th April 2008 and head straight for the resort hub, the promenade, Centre Court. The day has already been one of bustling activity for the resort — alongside good guest attendance, many resort officials, VIPs and press crews have already arrived to begin their own preparations.
The day before, Thursday, preparations were made in the mezzanine of Disney Studio 1 for live radio station broadcasts on Friday morning — Paris’ Voltage FM from 6:30am to 9:30am and the UK’s Heart FM broadcasting live all the way from 7:00am to 10:00am.
Reserved zones were set up for The Legend of the Lion King, Disney Characters’ Express, Disney’s Once Upon a Dream Parade and Candleabration throughout the day.
That’s where we’re headed, follow the bellhop…
So, here we are, on the hub of Disneyland Resort Paris, with the giant billboards and bellhops pointing the way to our first point of call – The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror. But before then, a little surprise from the gardeners — brand new flowers right around the promenade!
Brand new flowers for the hub / New brighter colours for Town Square
All the areas bordering the paths here were previously just grassy banks, with the exception of a small parcel of flowers around the new information board and flags installed one year ago. Now, the lower section of all the grass has been given over to thousands of new flowers.
Hopping quickly over to Disneyland Park, the gardeners have made another change — last year’s yellows and blues replaced by multicoloured yellows and pinks in honour of ‘The Celebration Continues’ colour scheme.
Enough diversions, let’s head straight for Walt Disney Studios Park:
Film crews prepare next to Beverley Court
Here, the Tower of Terror is already buzzing with preparations and special set-ups for the evening and days ahead. Beverley Court, the building on the edge of the new Hollywood Boulevard, is providing a convenient storage location for equipment whilst the film crews set up their equipment on the patch of pavement next door.
The Studio Catering Co. van usually here has been moved to allow the area to be used for exterior VIP shots and film footage against the backdrop of the Tower.
Temporary HTH posters / Lighting rig tests behind the Tower
In preparation for the grand inauguration ceremonies to come the following night, movie posters on the lighting rigs, which are still to be found in this area, have temporarily been replaced by ‘HTH’ Hollywood Tower Hotel logos, as those on Disney Bros Plaza were with Crush and Cars imagery last June. Unfortunately, George of the Jungle, etc did return on Sunday.
Now, what’s that behind the Tower? Don’t worry, not a wrecking ball… a giant lighting rig, elevated by crane to sit behind the building. When the press and VIPs stood in their reserved areas for the show the next day, it was completely hidden, emitting an incredibly bright ray of lights from behind the hotel, making it look just like that famous mural in the Tower Hotel Gifts boutique.
Show control/film crews’ podium
The crane had been elevated sometime in the late afternoon of Friday to prepare for the evening’s massive rehearsal of the inauguration show, which began just half an hour after park closing at 7:30pm and, for the 100+ extras that would bring a living, breathing Hollywood night to life, continued right up until midnight.
As seen above, the podium and control booth from the 15th Anniversary and Toon Studio launches was again present, providing a clear view of the Tower through a gap in the trees and Hollywood Boulevard buildings.
Saturday, 5th April 2008
The big day is finally here, The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror is about to be inaugurated at Walt Disney Studios Park over six years since the park first opened. Of course, the day also marked the launch of the entire ‘Celebration Continues… Big Time!’ year, not to mention the grand opening and inauguration of Stitch Live! across the courtyard.
The park was already busy at 7:00am, when rehearsals began for the ceremony that would kick off the year and officially open Stitch Live!, with Karl Holz joining the rehearsal from 8:30am.
Giant lighting rig for Tower / Signs park-wide indicate Tower closes at 5pm
The white podium was suddenly joined by barriers and fences all around the Tower and Place des Stars area. The resort’s audio visual crew had the crane camera in place, ready to be moved around for various events throughout the day, and — as if you could miss it — a second giant lighting rig was now extending into the sky, ensuring the Tower stayed in bright light despite the typically cloudy press event weather.
The lighting rig behind the Tower wouldn’t extend into the sky again until later in the day, when preparations for the real show began. For that reason, and for the surprising amount of pyrotechnics that would be scattered across the hotel’s facade, the attraction closed to day guests at 5pm.
Film crews and Bellhop actors on standby for VIPs at the Tower
All day, celebrities, VIPs and invitees were enjoying the attractions of Walt Disney Studios Park. At Tower of Terror, the resort’s own film crews and photographers were on “standby” for their arrival, with special acting bellhops inside and out ready to pose for the cameras.
Used in the background of many of the photo shoots… something rather familiar…
Familiar prop from London reappears for photo shoots
Look out for another article soon covering in detail the VIPs and celebrities who attended the event.
Finally, the location of our first event of the day — Place des Stars. The stage was dressed up overnight for the official kick-off ceremony, a ’15’ symbol surrounded by shiny golden wrapping paper and a backdrop of illuminated Stitch Live! logos.
On the stage, a red podium wrapped up in a golden ribbon and ’15’ symbol, with a giant red present topped by a gold bow. Now, who do you suppose could be hiding in there, waiting to burst out? Yes, he’s mischievous alright… In fact, if you took a look behind that backdrop, you’d have seen a second red square of wrapping paper for the front of the present… just in case.
This is where we head next, as our ‘Celebration Continues’ series… continues!
Some items copyright Disney. This website is independent of and not supported, endorsed by or connected to Disneyland® Paris, The Walt Disney Company, Euro Disney Associés S.C.A., Disney Enterprises, Inc. or their subsidiaries and affiliates.