The most exciting thing about the 25th Anniversary isn’t even the 25th Anniversary. No — for every one of the new events, there are probably five more good reasons for any passionate fan or visitor to return to Disneyland Paris next year.
Disneyland Paris has formally revealed a four-point renovation plan to “reinvent the magic”, covering ten key attractions in both parks. In planning for several years with the codename “Project Sparkle”, the major slate of refurbishments and updates will both restore lost details and add fresh new features, aiming to bring the Disneyland Paris experience fully in line with its American counterparts. Read More…
It would be fair to say the last thing which needed changing to improve Studio Tram Tour: Behind the Magic from a guest’s point of view was the trams themselves. But here we are, with Disneyland Paris sharing photos of the new driving trucks which recently replaced the former twelve year old-plus vehicles.
Boasting more spacious cab areas, more fuel capacity and new sensors making them easier to manoeuvre, the four new trucks are now pulling the same original six-carriage trams through the attraction’s (almost literally) “backstage” route.
Along the way, guests can still discover action-packed sets including Catastrophe Canyon, Reign of Fire and, er, that’s about it. The (not particularly missed) Costuming workshop loop was removed during the construction of Toy Story Playland and is now occupied by La Place de Rémy, while the tour has had no genuine additions whatsoever since opening in 2002, despite several park masterplans in that time calling for improvement and expansion.
In fact, it might have been sensible to assume Disney would retire the attraction, ending the pretence that Walt Disney Studios Park is in any way a real working studio. The purchase of four new trucks would now seem to disprove that, at least for the foreseeable future.
Starting with the utterly pointless Dinotopia set and ending with Jeremy Irons’ ageing video commentary, come back next week for an article titled “100 Things Any Fan Would Change About Studio Tram Tour Before Replacing the Trucks”…
Drilling for rats? The Ratatouille Kitchen Calamity construction site has seen a new arrival with the start of pile driving for the attraction’s foundations. After clearing and levelling the area, then laying and compacting loose stone, work has now moved to drive in deep foundations for the future showbuilding using a pile driver: the tall, drill-like piece of machinery seen above. This moves around the site, planting supports in the ground at intervals to provide a solid base for the new building.
Also visible on the construction site, seen in these photos by the ParisCastMember blog, are several large steel “screws”, a shipping container and large pieces of wire frame. Not quite the usual recipe for a ratatouille, then. Costuming workshop Cast Members in the “Imaginations” building to the right now have an unimpeded view over the large construction site for the dark ride, thanks to the removal of the adjoining wall and awning which used to be part of Studio Tram Tour: Behind the Magic.
But the views are easy to obtain for guests and fans, too: as well as aerial sightings from Toy Soldiers Parachute Drop, a temporary gate, lower than the hoardings, has been installed in the blue construction walls here (below the camera), next to Toy Story Playland. Though intended to provide a temporary evacuation route, it would be more than welcome if this stayed in place throughout the construction, to allow visitors to easily catch a glimpse of the future — and a reason to return.
The article by Mathilde Visseyrias, which remains unchanged online, cites the Euro Disney group CEO as announcing that €150 million in credit agreed by lenders would be used “pour construire deux nouvelles attractions”. One likely explanation for the error could be that Mr Gas actually said a more vague corporate line of “de nouvelles attractions”, simply “new attractions”.
As Mouetto also points out, this isn’t the only error from this Figaro journalist regarding Disneyland Paris. A separate article also published on Tuesday states Philippe Gas as having been CEO since 1998, rather than 2008. Ironically, Visseyrias headlined the original interview as “Disneyland Paris ‘has learned from its mistakes'”.
So, yes… Happy birthday, Walt Disney Studios Park! While this confirmation couldn’t be timed worse, let’s try not to be too disappointed about an extra attraction which was never there to begin with. Ratatouille is still very much “on” for 2014, bringing with it the equally welcome trio of a full-size restaurant, toilets and possibly a new shop. And with the €150 million cited — which thanks to earlier announcements, we can confirm isn’t a mistake — that means one huge pot of cash to make Rémy’s world-exclusive ride something even Brad Bird calls “really cool”.
And those suggestions we shared for where the park could find a second new attraction: don’t forget those. They might just require a little more patience. It’s frustrating, because this extra-attraction-that-never-was could have been a great opportunity to tick one off the list early, improving at the same time as expanding the Studios. Investments such as Toy Story Playland have bulked up the attraction (and visitor) count but failed to add up to a more consistent, cohesive park. It largely remains a collection of top quality Disney attractions without the strong Disney glue between them. Merely sticking extra pieces on, however big-budget, won’t solve the overall production problems.
Asked as a final question “What will you do to avoid the park reaching saturation?”, he comments:
Knowing that a customer is satisfied when they can see at least six attractions in a day, we estimate our maximum capacity to be 17 million visitors annually. So we still have room for improvement, but we must grow. In January, our banks have given us 150 million euros in new funding to build two new attractions, which should open in 2014 in our second park, Walt Disney Studios. In 2010, we also obtained the agreement of the State to build a third park. We are looking at it very seriously, even if the decision won’t be made until 2020. We will also build new hotels, restaurants and shops.
Now, presuming Mr Gas doesn’t count the adjoining restaurant or those desperately needed new toilets which should be installed next to Ratatouille, this gives us an odd surplus in the new attraction count for 2014. So what are the possibilities? Again, this could depend on how you define a new attraction, but let’s throw Studio Tram Tour: Behind the Magic right out there straight away.
We had assumed that €150 million would only just cover Ratatouille itself, so a second attraction would likely be a smaller, less expensive project. We’re not expecting a Soarin’ here just yet. So presuming CinéMagique is safe and Aerosmith still have a few years left in them yet, the only likely replacements for existing attractions are Armageddon: Les Effets Speciaux and Animagique.
Armageddon suffers with its poor throughput and even poorer pre-show; having been the focus of a previous replacement proposal, to build a Chronicles of Narnia-based attraction in its place, could its time finally be up? Recent rumours have suggested that the licence to the 1998 Jerry Bruckheimer film itself could soon run out, further fuelling the desire for a replacement. With the more neutral Backlot location, this could be the perfect opportunity to introduce Disney’s recently-acquired Marvel characters to the parks, although the building’s small size would certainly be restrictive. It might not be the easiest way to add capacity to the park, as Philippe Gas desires.
Meanwhile, the live Animagique blacklight puppetry show in Toon Studio will be approaching its twelfth birthday in 2014. Popular though it is, that’s a long time for a live show, and considering the huge 1,100-seat capacity of Studio 3, the show provides the park with relatively little capacity. Finally going ahead with a long-mooted replacement by a certain 3-D film such as, ooh, Mickey’s Philharmagic would boost capacity in this part of the park enormously — and that’s precisely what Philippe Gas seems concerned about here, making it a very strong possibility.
Due to the live puppeteers involved, Animagique stages only around five shows per day in the vast auditorium, whereas a 12-minute projected film show such as Philharmagic is able to play continuously from park opening right to closing time; cycling through audiences every 20 minutes or so, and with lower operational costs to boot. The pair are practically cousins, conceived around the same time and both seeing Donald Duck getting lost in a series of classic musical scenes. But with 3-D films becoming passé again and Philharmagic due to be nearing 11 years old in 2014, could it still be viable as a new attraction? A belated opening at Tokyo Disneyland just last year suggests it certainly is.
As you can see, while two new attractions in one year may be a surplus, there’s still no shortage of possibilities in Walt Disney Studios Park to use that valuable credit on. Watch this space…
An unsurprising move is the removal of the awning along the side of the “Imaginations” Cast Member building, caught in this series of photos by Disney Central Plaza’s Mouetto. This was where, from 2002 to early 2009, our studio trams would drive up alongside the building allowing us to get a glimpse inside at the “real working costuming studio”. Reflecting the ethos of the original park this, of course, was not a real film studio costuming workshop but that for the entertainment Cast Members of the resort itself. Now perhaps symbolically, as the park stumbles towards a redefined identity, it is falling to make way for our new Pixar hero.
Elsewhere, changes are more unexpected. Given the effort Walt Disney Imagineering went to providing a ready-and-waiting Parisian street next to Toy Story Playland, and that they had already moved the Studio Tram Tour route for that very expansion, you might be surprised that the road is in the process of moving again. While the 2009 re-route gave plenty of room for the Ratatouille showbuilding, this new road, pushed ever further back, will allow construction vehicles easier access to the site.
A mysterious stone foundation could be seen disappearing into the trees in our previous update. Now the road looks laid and almost ready to open. The attraction is scheduled to re-open as soon as this Saturday. And yet still, the Dinotopia “set” remains…
Mouetto has also shared photos of the vacant corner in front of the Costuming building, where it is expected the attraction’s associated toilets will be built. And, from the elevated viewpoint of Toy Soldiers Parachute Drop, another element of the original Tram Tour already (or, at last) taken away to Euro Souvenirland: the green Pearl Harbor aircraft hangar.
The fact that much-needed toilets could be built here without eating into the operational Costuming workshop might add meat to the rumour that the attraction’s gift shop, rumoured to go into this existing building, won’t be ready at opening. Nevertheless, all this side of the hastily-christened “Studio 4” is still to be hidden, somehow, behind a new series of Parisian façades.
Soon we’ll all be able to feel a little less guilty about visiting Paris without actually visiting Paris…
Despite clearance beginning on the site during the construction of Toy Story Playland in 2010, a large patch of trees were left in place. As the photo above now shows, this was likely to prevent opening up unwanted sight lines before absolutely necessary. As well as a perfect view of the construction site (thank you, Imagineers!) riders on the Parachute Drop now have a clear view right along the route of Studio Tram Tour (which is currently closed) towards the main backstage area of the resort.
Meanwhile, the rumoured project title of this long-awaited dark ride has just come to light: Ratatouille Kitchen Calamity!, or Ratatouille: Désastre en Cuisine in French. It’s not quite the tongue twister of Crush’s Turtle Twister, the project title for Crush’s Coaster, but it will still be very much open to change before Rémy finally throws open the restaurant doors sometime in 2014. Until then, Parachute Drop just became our favourite ride…
Now in its third year, the event has become popular enough that 2011 will see not one but TWO nights of frights in the second gate, multiplying to cover both the 29th and 30th October 2011. This is in addition to the returning Not-So-Scary Halloween Party nights at Disneyland Park on 7th, 14th, 21st and 28th October and the main event itself, Disney’s Halloween Party on 31st October, giving a grand total of seven Halloween party nights. Scary!
As with the construction of Tower of Terror, there’s been much worry about these tall new attractions appearing as unwanted icons on the Thunder Mesa skyline. The main lift hill of Big Thunder Mountain is the highest guest viewpoint in Frontierland, and here’s how it looks:
RC Racer is barely noticeable as you speed over the top of the hill, Toy Soldiers Parachute Drop stands out a little but not disastrously so and the Tower continues to dominate from every angle. In fact, it’s the hulk of the (in some places, unpainted!) 2007 showbuilding for Crush’s Coaster that blots the horizon the most. Once those trees have leaves, the newest additions will be even less visible.
And what about from the top deck of the riverboats, passing below here? Imagine the height of this lift hill against the height of the boats, and the Playland attractions should miraculously fall just — and really, just — below the berm there, right? Clearly Thunder Mesa already has planning laws about visual intrusion marked out for all but the biggest E-Tickets, and these attractions have been pushed right up to the limit.
From the main promenade of the Frontier town itself, none of these attractions are visible.
Still, it’d be nice to see this berm at the back of the land given a bit of “thickening up” to hide as much as possible… a few more fir trees wouldn’t go amiss. It’s an odd quirk of the Big Thunder lift hill that it offers such a view to break the spell of the otherwise flawless land. Perhaps the Imagineers of the early nineties just never envisaged plans for “Disney MGM Studios Europe”, as the park was originally going to known, encompassing any rides as tall as the Tower of Terror and co…
Anyway, onto the main news of this welcome midweek update from Walt Disney Studios.
This is a really wide outbreak of walls, too — swallowing up the whole queue and loading area…
…and even the old Fastpass distribution area, which hasn’t been used since 2002…
Current schedules on the official website state the attraction is closed for the whole of March and April 2010, but other sources suggest it won’t reopen until as late as 31st May 2010 — a full three-months of downtime.
Details are sketchy about why it needs such a lengthy closure, though you can imagine it’s partly to ease construction of Toy Story Playland, which sits right up against the tour’s route. At the same time, these months will surely be used to do something drastic about Catastrophe Canyon, which has been in a frightening state for years. Completely blackened and lacking its ochre colour, effects often patchy, the truck itself completely washed out. Who knew it used to be red?
Refurbishments and clean-ups are probably all we can hope for besides the ongoing Playland construction, but wouldn’t it be nice if they surprised us somehow? How much would a few new props, a re-dressed Dinotopia set, an improved queue line really cost? Don’t hold your breath.
That was no exaggeration to say the construction walls have engulfed the whole area. The path at the back of Art of Disney Animation has, at the same time, been squashed to almost half its size, providing a quite uncomfortably narrow link between Hollywood Boulevard and the back of Toon Studio:
Soon enough, the view below will see not only two of the new attractions but the “giant” Buzz Lightyear figure planned to stand at the entrance of the mini-land atop building blocks.
The sandy-coloured floor of the land will also “spill out” slightly, according to concept art, but it’s a shame the path here will eventually reopen to its full size… looking pretty much a same: An unthemed “no mans land”, when there are so many possibilities for Hollywood/Toon transitions…
The old railings and lights along it, which ended up lasting less than 3 years, appear to be long gone as we take a peek underneath the walls. The rest of the dull old asphalt has yet to be touched. At some point, planting of that tall bamboo “grass” needs to start here and new fences put in place around the future land.
Finally, Toy Soldiers Parachute Drop has just celebrated its own version of the classic Disney park “rope drop”. Yesterday, three of the six drop arms received their parachute cables — two each, dropping from the tower — soon to hoist the large six-seater parachutes into the air:
The cables are currently just dropping to the floor — there’s a lot of work still to be done before we see any movement and “test missions” from the Green Army Men here.
As an added “finally”, since so many people are asking… The vague official word from Disneyland Paris is that Toy Story Playland will open “late Summer 2010”. This is a slight rewording from the simple “Summer 2010” stated in brochures, the reason being that latest internal dates state an August 2010 grand opening — and no, still no exact date.
Perhaps a little disappointing given that it should be a big feature of the New Generation Festival year, and Toy Story 3 (released here in July) will already be old news in European cinemas by then. There will be a lot of people who haven’t checked the details arriving at the park from April to still find a construction site. All the more reason to visit again …or not?
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.