Wednesday, 6th August 2008

End of 15th Anniversary set for 7th March 2009

It began 493 days ago. The 15th Anniversary Celebration of Disneyland Resort Paris has certainly rolled on for longer than we all expected — being extended for another year as it was with ‘The Celebration Continues’ — but, as the final end date has now been announced, it’s a worrying concept.

No more Disney Characters’ Express, no more Candleabration. No more Lumière banners at every turn or ’15s’ on everything in sight. We are now really, truly in the home straight on this epic — and, we have to say, wonderful — celebration.

The date it all ends, as confirmed by the latest Autumn/Winter 2008/09 official brochure: 7th March 2009.

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What will happen in the parks that day? Nothing is announced yet. It’s the days after, those three lonely weeks before the start of a new season in April 2009, that will be the most interesting.

Disneyland Resort Paris certainly feels to have settled nicely into its 15th Anniversary overlay, and so removing every tiny mention of the celebration — from merchandise through to advertising and all those napkins, cups and decorations between — will be a big task.

What won’t be removed? Well, unsurprisingly the expensive and incredibly popular Disney’s Once Upon a Dream Parade is here to stay. And don’t expect the Casey Jr. train and character meet ‘n’ greets of Disney Characters’ Express to go far. The concept of a main show on Central Plaza is also ready and waiting to be used again.

But, for the 15th Anniversary Celebration as we’ve known and loved it for so long, that we watched grow from those first logos and concepts through to the incredible launch night fireworks, time is running out.

You’ve got just 7 months exactly to “live your dream”, one last time…

[Images © Disney]

Monday, 21st July 2008

La Bougillumination abrégée

The trumpets begin their fanfare, Mickey Mouse arrives. Then, before you know it, the candles are illuminated and we’re getting the cutesy “oh Mickey, c’est magnifique” line from Minnie. Don’t worry, you haven’t just passed out and missed several minutes of your Disneyland Resort Paris holiday — Candleabration has now been abridged.

Since the start of the 15th Anniversary, the nightly ceremony has begun with a fanfare of trumpets, led into the dancing flags to the theme of “Flying”, then, only after the arrival of Mickey Mouse and his traditional French dance with a hat to Vasile Sirli’s “Proudlights”, would you see the castle illuminated. For a grand finale, all of Disney VIPs join the party and dance along to the theme song ‘Just Like We Dreamed It’, each playing their own instrument.

When The Enchanted Fireworks premiered a couple of weeks ago, however, the show was cut down to its shortest running time yet — just over 2 minutes, and that if we’re generous. Only Mickey and Minnie appear, illuminating the candles together and then going right ahead to personally introduce the fireworks.

However, this change didn’t bring about the expected appearance of Mickey and Minnie on the balcony of Sleeping Beauty Castle itself, as confirmed on DLRP Today.com by the show’s actual director, Christophe Leclercq, several weeks earlier. Instead, they appear on the regular Central Plaza Stage. The reason for the last-minute change is unconfirmed — perhaps it caused operational problems, perhaps the characters simply couldn’t be seen as easily, the scene didn’t work as well.

DLRP Today.com presents a brand new video of the new Candleabration, Summer 2008 Edition:

It seems unsure whether the show will return to its regular form when the fireworks come to a close at the end of August. Several entertainment Cast Members spoke about these changes as a “new version” of Candleabration, suggesting they are permanent revisions and not temporary allowances just for the fireworks. As always, watch this space…

[Pictures/Video: DLRP Today]

Sunday, 6th July 2008

2 Parks, 1 Plan – Meet the new, single park map

Some might say it’s a way to save paper. Others might say it’s to coax more people across to the Studios. The more romantic might even say the “love” theme of The Enchanted Fireworks brought them together at last.

In fact, several months in the planning and design, yesterday saw the launch of a brand new park map ready for the Summer season. As expected for a while now, big changes lie in store for us. There are no more “Little Park Guides” and no more blue or pink covers. No longer will each park have its own, unique leaflet to guide you around.

Meet the new… Plan des Parcs. Two park maps… in one.

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The pocket size of recent years is ditched in favour of a size more similar to the maps pre-2003, a regular leaflet size, which folds out across five sheets horizontally and double the size vertically. This seems like a big park guide, but then it does need to cover two entire Disney Parks:

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It’s a landmark day for Disney theme parks, the first time two parks have ever shared the same plan. But why? Well, imagine this scene…

You’re visiting Disneyland Resort Paris just for one day. Naturally, you pick Disneyland Park to spend all your time in and stroll straight past the entrance to the Studios. What’s in there? No idea. As you pass through the turnstiles and pick up your map, you get a full guide to Disneyland Park, and nothing more. That other park across the way looked like nothing more than a series of giant yellow buildings — there’s no way of really knowing what lies beyond the imposing Disney Studio 1. You can’t be blamed for missing such top-rated classics as Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster, CinéMagique or Crush’s Coaster.

Now, with the two maps in one, a visitor just stopping by at Disneyland Park opens their map to find a whole new park at the top, with plenty of rather interesting sights. Attractions themed to new films like Cars and Finding Nemo, not to mention truly special experiences like The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror and Stitch Live!. You’d want to hop over and check it out, wouldn’t you?

Rather than keeping visitors in the dark about what lies within the park next door, it does indeed make much more sense to advertise it to all, make the most of its great guest satisfaction scores.

Are there bad points? Sure. Beyond the fact that converging the parks like this might make their individuality a little less special, the new design has for some reason completely dropped the descriptions for some of the major attractions. How are first-time visitors really meant to know what happens in Pirates of the Caribbean, Phantom Manor or Art of Disney Animation? The restaurant listing also exposes a real horror for Walt Disney Studios Park‘s dining, listing its limited number of eateries in one category, alongside entire lands at Disneyland Park.

The good points and the positive effect this double park plan should have on guests’ awareness of the two, separate parks, especially now Walt Disney Studios Park has some top-notch themeing along with great attractions, will far outweigh any niggling negatives. Last month we consolidated our two cumbersome Entertainment Programmes into a single, simpler leaflet, and now we only have a single park map to carry around.

Not that we need a map to find our way around Disneyland Resort Paris, of course, but we still have that collection to think of…

[Photo credit: Mouetto, Disney Central Plaza forum]

Sunday, 29th June 2008

Secrets and surprises of ‘The Enchanted Fireworks’ revealed!

Since February this year, DLRP Today has had an exclusive relationship with the popular French backstage blog Media Magic. Sharing rare and fascinating interviews with the people behind the magic of Disneyland Resort Paris, the blog’s author, Jérémie Noyer, offered to provide us with full English translations of all the interviews, bringing the interviews about everything from Candleabration to The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror to a whole new audience.

Imagine the surprise, though, when the latest interview with backstage star Christophe Leclercq is sent over — all about directing Disneyland Park’s newest — and as yet, totally unseen — firework spectacular, The Enchanted Fireworks! From the music to the projections, to those all-important first and final blasts of fireworks, the interview gives a tantalising preview of what is to premiere next weekend.

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You can read the interview in full here, but, since this also fits neatly into our News category, we’re also providing a full, concise run-through of everything it divulges right here:

The Theme

‘¢ Love! Love will be the overriding theme of The Enchanted Fireworks. Surprisingly, we won’t be seeing simple movie projections of Giselle, Robert or Prince Edward on Sleeping Beauty Castle. Instead, since Enchanted tells how fairytale love can exist in the real world, the fireworks and projections will depict the stages of Love, set to the music of the film.

The Story & The Projections

‘¢ The fireworks will tell the stages of Love through 6 clear acts, each dealing with an aspect of romance. There will be projections, somewhat like Wishes, but using two TP6 projectors rather than four, since images won’t be overlayed on top of each other.

‘¢ Beauty. From the Overture comes an explosion of white flowers and projections of lace, like Calais lace — fine and delicate. The flowers evolve upwards from the base of the Castle and then all the towers are covered with lace. This section lasts 45 seconds.

‘¢ Seduction. Feathers caress the towers and turrets of the Castle. This section lasts 35 seconds.

‘¢ Charm. The idea of wooing someone leads to a dinner theme — the candles of the 15th Anniversary decorations glow as extra, spinning candles are projected onto the Castle. This section lasts 1 minute.

‘¢ Passion. Suddenly, your heart explodes! A rainbow and a fan of yellow colours opens outwards across the Castle, symmetrical and powerful, combined with the opening-out of giant spotlights behind the Castle.

‘¢ Love. Intertwined hearts, in colours from pink to yellow, going from the top to bottom of the Castle.

‘¢ Happy Ending. The dizzy feeling love gives leads to a spirally galaxy and starfield, before the “bouquet finale” is launched with fireworks exploding in the sky and sparkling outwards like cauliflowers.

‘¢ The show ends with all these words, which describe the show just seen, caressing the Castle from side-to-side.

Fireworks & Effects

‘¢ The lights mentioned will be like those used for the Disney’s Halloween Soirée Fireworks last year, bright spotlights shining up into the sky that can both move and change colour. Following their success at that event, some were bought for permanent use by the park, and will be positioned on the roofs of Fantasyland.

‘¢ A new, world-famous company has been chosen to put Christophe’s ideas for the fireworks into reality, led by artistic director David Proteau. The company not only puts the firework ideas into a workable design, but manufactures the shells and rockets itself.

‘¢ A “fan of fire” going from left-to-right and back at “incredible speed” across the Castle’s horizon will launch the show. The finale will be what is known as a “cauliflower effect”, which first explodes in the sky and is then followed by the actual detonation sound — the “boom!”.

The Music

‘¢ As rumoured earlier, the largest part of the soundtrack will be the ‘Enchanted Suite’ as found on the Enchanted soundtrack album. In addition, Christophe mentions that a more pop-style cue from the ‘Girls Go Shopping’ track will be used as a small finale.

…And Candleabration?

‘¢ Here’s something guests will go nuts for, a real surprise addition: Mickey… and Minnie… standing on the Castle balcony. Yes, you read that correctly! The daily Candleabration ceremony leads directly into The Enchanted Fireworks with the happy couple standing on the first balcony at the front of Sleeping Beauty Castle, either side of the giant ’15’ medallion, to announce the start of the fireworks.

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In fact, work has already taken place to prepare their spot. As seen above in the photo by Scrooge on French fan forum Disney Magic Interactive, the two smaller Mickey and Minnie statues have been removed and replaced with a small golden support for the medallion.

Finally, the show had its first test performance on 24th June with another just two days later on 26th, allowing for any minor alterations to be made in between. The Enchanted Fireworks officially premieres this Saturday, 5th July 2008!

Oh Mickey, ce sera magnifique!

— You can find the entire archive of 10 Media Magic Interviews here.

Tuesday, 10th June 2008

New Programme fills every hour with magic

Since 6th October 2006, the show, parade and character meet ‘n’ greet times have been separated from the main Park Guide of each park with a special Entertainment Programme, later shortened to simply the “Programme”.

Similar to the Times Guides you find at other Disney parks around the world, these are printed on lower grade paper in a single colour tone. However, collect them all and you’ll be carrying around four separate leaflets to plan your day — for two parks which likely see more “park hopping” than any another resort. Excessive? It seems the park planners at Disneyland Resort Paris thought so.

The two Programmes have just become one:

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Compared to the previous design we saw at the start of ‘The Celebration Continues’, the new Programme immediately appears to boast a much more accomplished front cover design. The shiny wrapping paper and ribbon themes are carried through, with the two park logos on two labels. A new clock graphic with a ’15’ symbol at its centre sits next to the text “Show dates and times, Meet ‘n’ Greets with Disney Characters, Park opening hours”.

You’ll notice right away that the row of Mickey Mouse silhouettes carrying languages (such as FR, GB, ES, IT) which used to be at the top of the cover is now gone. The new Programme is instead intended to be a language-free affair, cut down from eight pages to four and using only French and English inside. Since the show and parade names are mostly the same for each language, certainly in announcements and signage around the parks, it makes sense.

On the back, you find the latest opening hours, a new box for any current attraction closures, the box advertising Walt Disney Studios Park’s new Bluetooth trial and an advertisement for character meals.

Open it up, however, and things are suddenly a whole lot different…

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Gone is the simple vertical list of characters, shows and parades. Instead, the times guides are turned on their side to stretch across the page. With each hour given its own column, the showtimes are then slotted into the relevant boxes, the idea here being that, say you’re in the park at 4pm looking for something to see, you can now go straight to the relevant column, rather than scanning the whole listing for any times close to 16:00.

Initially the table may appear slightly confusing and unnecessarily complicated, especially with the constant “French / English” doubling of text, but in practice, in the parks, the TV-guide style is likely much more convenient. The only downside? For the resort, it shows the gaps in the park entertainment schedule — no afternoon meet ‘n’ greets at Disneyland Park or not many shows close to the Studios’ closing time, for example.

For the environment, the new Programme means a huge 75% reduction in the use of paper to produce these guides every single day.

But what do you think? Another step forward, or a stumble backwards?

Monday, 9th June 2008

Candles joined by streamers for new finale

As Candleabration clocked up its 365th performance and continued into its second year as part of ‘The Celebration Continues… Big Time!’, the fifteen candles spread across Le Château de la Belle au Bois Dormant continued to have their flickering, orange LED lights hampered by the setting sun.

The show is usually scheduled as the final piece of entertainment of the day, often exactly at the park’s closing time, but, for much of the year, this closing time just isn’t late enough to let the fifteen birthday candles glow. And so, as Mickey Mouse points up into the sky and toward the Castle, intending to send his magical energies to light up the candles, it appears as if he is merely making wild hand and arm gestures to the “Flying” soundtrack — a slightly uninspiring finale for any guests who don’t realise the problem.

However, since at least April this year, the illumination moment has been improved significantly thanks to a long line of streamers which burst into the sky from every side of the circular Central Plaza Stage. Now, every time Mickey points across to the castle, his hand gestures are joined by a golden streamer erupting from one side of the stage.

In Video

The streamers are rather a fitting addition considering the “presents” theme of ‘The Celebration Continues’, and a welcome addition for the many parents and children who didn’t quite grab one of the Disney’s Once Upon a Dream Parade streamers quickly enough…

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Summer and Christmas have so far been the only times when darkness could be guaranteed for the ceremony, due to the late opening hours and early nightfall respectively. The 15th Anniversary launch night on 31st March 2007 also saw a special edition of the show presented under darkness.

Tuesday, 29th April 2008

Tower of Terror: Spectacular inauguration (full video)

It was one of the most spectacular events in the 16-year history of the resort, but the official video of the event we just shared features only 4 minutes of highlights from the inauguration show of Marne-la-Vallée’s tallest landmark. The real thing lasted an entire 14-minutes from the chiming clock to the ghostly, wandering souls making their way toward the audience.

Would you like to attend the exclusive gala? Thanks to a source in the park, we’re going back to October 31st, 1939, with an exclusive full video of the entire inauguration show, including front-row shots of the Hollywood cars and zombified victims.

Turn down the lights, yank up the volume, click fullscreen and let Hollywood come to life…

You can also download this video as a WMV file here.

Did you notice, the American broadcaster reporting on the gala evening even announces its callsign as K-WDS? Now remember — don’t stop watching when the fog rolls in, there’s still one final scene waiting to grab you by surprise.

You have just entered into The Twilight Zone.

» Click here to see the full event in picures

» Click here to see official video highlights

Tuesday, 29th April 2008

Tower of Terror: Spectacular inauguration (official highlights video)

The audio/visual team of Disneyland Resort Paris spent days, weeks and possibly even months preparing for the spectacular inauguration of The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror, a unique show on and around the 183-ft tall attraction at Walt Disney Studios Park.

With 100 extras to capture and navigate amongst, a projection show on the Tower and several fiery bursts of fireworks into the sky, it required a full rehearsal the night before and perfect co-ordination between the creators of the show and those who would be filming.

It’s time to play back the dailies…

The Tower inauguration is followed by some extra B-roll footage (the kind of shots a TV company might intersperse between their own footage with a presenter, for example) from the attraction itself, Stitch Live! and the Celebration Continues launch ceremony, packaged with the video.

» Click here to see the full event in picures

» Click here to see our exclusive full video

Sunday, 27th April 2008

Tower of Terror: Spectacular inauguration brings Hollywood hotel to life (in pictures)

Walt Disney Studios Park, six years on. The crowds are bigger, the guests happier, the theming visible and the entire park dominated by a 183-ft monster that is about to be unleashed. The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror, legendary in Florida for over 14 years and under construction in Paris for the past three, an attraction heavy on style, thrill… and story.

Every Disney park fan in the world knows the story of the iconic Hollywood Tower Hotel, a “beacon for the show-business elite” which fell victim to a disastrous lightning strike and the grasp of The Twilight Zone, but has it ever been seen for real? On this fateful night, the chilling legend would come to life before the eyes of an exclusive audience, like never before and never again. This is the entire ‘Twilight Zone Spectacular’ from start to finish, in pictures…

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As guests left behind their exclusive buffet in the giant temporary domes behind Studio Tram Tour, The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror had suddenly been all wrapped up, ready to surprise. Bathed in pink and a pattern of ‘HTH’ symbols, a yellow string and ’15’ label tied the unusual package together — a late sixth birthday present to the park towering 183ft above the flat fields of Marne-la-Vallée.

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Walking back down the illuminated Hollywood Boulevard, guests were directed behind the raised control booth at the edge of Place des Stars, already filled with photographers and film crews aiming their lenses at the Tower. The courtyard would provide the perfect viewing spot for the nighttime spectacular.

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The remarkable projection effects were achieved by several ultra-bright, high definition projectors pointing toward The Hollywood Tower Hotel from other buildings in the park. The technology was used to project the dreams of children onto Sleeping Beauty Castle during last year’s spectacular 15th Anniversary launch night and has been evolving and improving for years in the hands of the resort’s technical teams since its first use for the unique Phantom Wedding show on a Halloween Soirée night several years ago.

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With 1400 guests spread across the courtyard, many of the projections were doubled-up to not only appear on the front face of the Tower but also integrated into its left-hand side.

At 10.30pm, announcements went out across the park and both through the domes and the studios’ other restaurants, which hosted other groups such as celebrities, calling everyone to Place des Stars for a special gala event at The Hollywood Tower Hotel. The operating attractions — Crush’s Coaster, Cars, Flying Carpets, Armageddon, Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster and Stitch Live! were all temporarily closed.

At 10.45pm, with the crowds gathered and enjoying a medley of 1930s period music, the entire park was taken into total darkness.

“Good evening and welcome in front of The Hollywood Tower Hotel. ‘Tis magnificent, don’t you agree? Our evening will start in a few minutes. Do not be too impatient, you could regret it!”

Vintage cars, bellhops, pyrotechnic effects and over 100 extras were waiting behind the scenes — the assembled crowd knew nothing of what to expect. A traditional inauguration ceremony? A projection show? Some fireworks? As the jazzy music reached its crescendo, a ticking clock began to cut through the night atmosphere. The menacing “tick, tick, tick” continued for several minutes before the heavy, foreboding chimes of an old grandfather clock began to echo across the park…

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Eight chimes brought a collection of bizarre, bright green bugs to crawl across the package, disappearing around the front of the building, their legs tapping across the wrapping paper. An arm appears from the left, a bellhop’s arm, his white-gloved fist punching into the parcel and squashing an insect.

As heavy, chesty breathing rumbled from the Tower, the bellhop’s hand reached in again to tear away a piece of the wrapping paper, revealing the bright, clean façade of a well-kept Hollywood Tower Hotel behind. Undoing the yellow string and ripping a large section of paper from the front, the bellhop caused the entire package to unravel, paper falling down around the building to reveal a spectacular vision for real — The Hollywood Tower Hotel, at the height of its golden age.

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Projections highlighted the building’s features, making it appear new and clean. Windows lit. Music built to a great fanfare. The giant lighting rig behind the Tower emitted a startling fan of bright white lights, shining into all corners of the sky.

For anyone familiar with that famous wall mural in the Tower Hotel Gifts shop, this was the real thing, right before your eyes. The sight was spectacular, almost unreal, receiving great applause (and unprovoked applause at that) from the audience.

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At this point, as strings and horns swelled in the rousing Hollywood gala music and searchlights beamed across the sky, the inauguration took its first very unexpected turn. Eyes still focused on the Tower, movement down in the street below suddenly caught the audience’s attention.

Two traffic police walked toward the junction, swinging their batons and blowing whistles as the music continued to swell. From the left, a vintage 1930s car suddenly pulled into view. From Hollywood Boulevard, countless extras in period clothes busily congregated on the curbside, crossed the street and pointed upwards to the dazzling hotel. A second car pulled in from Vine Street in front of the hotel, more extras arrived — reporters with old-fashioned cameras and flash bulbs, newspaper sellers and glamorous couples.

As a third and fourth car arrived on the scene and traversed the junction, the traffic cops waving them through and helping the “show business elite” to cross the street to admire the hotel’s fountain. The entire scene filled the street with 100 extras and no less than five vintage cars ferrying the invitees around, bustling and exciting as if a real evening at the hotel, a living and breathing 1930s Hollywood right before the audience.

As couples swooned and flashbulbs continued to pop, the period crowd began to head toward to hotel’s entrance, the cars disappearing out of the scene just as quickly as they miraculously appeared.

The bright lights across Place des Stars faded as a roaring fire and warm orange curtains beamed onto the Tower, as if providing a view into the high-society event taking place in the legendary Tip Top Club on the hotel’s 13th floor. A couple enter the elevator to the club, a bellhop smiles.

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The famous jazz sounds blasted out, the same song we’ve come to recognise as the theme of the attraction from countless promotional videos and trailers. In the background, excited chatter from the hotel guests peppered the air. Two hands holding wine glasses moved in across the scene, clinking into the centre as the jubilant music continued.

Next, silhouette figures of jazz musicians danced across the Tower, their outlines and trombones in heavy black against the warm oak panelling and curtains of the club. Stretching their instruments across the Tower as they danced, the musicians began to fade as a more sinister tone began to take hold of the music. Symbols crashed, and crashed again, the brass heightened, grew fraught and uncontrollable.

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Suddenly, a warped black and white circles began to fall upon the Tower. Slowly, it fell further and further across the façade, swallowing up the jubilant scenes of Tip Top Club with it. Instruments crashed and collided, the tight jazz of the trombones echoed into a distant medley.

A giant clock appeared on the Tower, the clock from the hotel’s lobby, as the elevator panel climbed slowly to the top of the hotel and back, continuing to ferry guests to their rooms and the club, unaware that strange and mysterious forces were taking hold of the building.

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Tick tock, tick tock… the clock continued as the crashing music became almost deafening…

8.03pm… 8.04pm… 8.05pm… When suddenly…!

Lightning strikes! A huge flash of pyrotechnics hits the upper-right of the building. The scene instantly changes to a heavy rainstorm, pouring down across the hotel as electrical sparks bolt and zap across the front of the hotel. The scene created resembled exactly that of the attraction’s pre-show video, rain pouring and dancing across the hotel façade.

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For tiny split-seconds, the cracks of energy and lightning reveal the skeleton of the building’s structure in the projections. We hear the elevator machinery starting up, whirring and falling at high speed.

What happens next in the pre-show? The elevator shafts are destroyed, struck by lightning and crushed to nothing but rubble as the elevator cabins fall into an unknown dimension. We should have warned them…

Right away, sparkles cracked and flashed from all three elevator chutes, even the balconies on the left-hand side…

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Sparks continued to fly, pyrotechnics flashing and exploding across the hotel, from its iconic sign to the fallen rubble and cracked brickwork on its body.

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The hotel fallen from grace, music turns to a Gothic organ. We see the owl from the hotel’s lobby flying across the façade, a gargoyle appearing on the front body against a backdrop of thundering rain.

Another blast of pyrotechnics bursts from the roof of the hotel — the elevator cables have snapped. Dials and displays from the boiler room cover the tower as elevator doors open and close, cables fly and flap in the stormy winds…

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A final round of heavy pyrotechnics burst from the balconies and elevator shafts, now glowing a rich, supernatural blue against the yellow tower.

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Strings and cymbals continue to crash, a bellhop’s face appears, laughing, across the front of the building…

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From outside of Walt Disney Studios Park and across the east of Marne-la-Vallée, onlookers could see smoke clearing from the Hollywood Tower Hotel sign, the building bathed in a burnt and scorched overlay of orange and black.

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The scene fades to black as the last sparks flash from the building.

When the lights fade back up, the curtain is blowing in the breeze, the clock cracked and stuck at 8.05pm, as it is in the actual lobby, a sound of rusted metal machinery squeaks in the silent breeze.

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A golden key with a “Hollywood Tower Hotel” keychain swings across the front of the hotel…

“The Hollywood Tower Hotel is changed forever…”

The iconic keys of the unforgettable theme music begin. The hotel turns to darkness, then stars appear, covering every inch. Glistening and sparkling like the possessed fountain at street level, the logo of “The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror” glows across the building as the audience roars with woops and cheers, clapping along to the Twilight Zone theme.

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But the show isn’t over yet… the display inspired by the hotel’s dried-up fountain suddenly turns back to a cascading waterfall, a spectacular scene of gushing greens and blues falling 55 metres across the tower.

To the chilling musical notes of a slow ‘Somewhere Over the Rainbow’, sung by a child without the words, a black silhouette appears in the water. Arms outstretched, the haunting figure of a little girl — the little girl lost to The Twilight Zone when the elevator fell — reaches out and skips from side to side.

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Behind the tower, the fan of searingly bright lights flashes in a ghostly green as the silhouette is swallowed up by the falling water in a flash of green and yellow.

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Falling keys on a piano lead us into a tour of some of the hotel’s now-infamous rooms and locations. The first sees pipework cover the entire front of the building, the scene then changing to a steamy, dimly-lit boiler room where the entire body of the building flashes and glows as if coming to life like the giant turbines of the elevator machinery.

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The lights behind circulate in blues and oranges — the service elevators coming back to life, winding up and down through the lift shaft as they prepare to welcome their new guests.

Buzzing electrics and power surges bring light back into the hotel’s reception area. The tower is dressed in projections to look like the pigeon holes of keys, the square front body to look like the reception desk itself. Echoing through the cold, rain-swept night is Vera Lynn’s “We’ll Meet Again”.

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In the Library, bookshelves covering the façade, the television stuttered into life, displaying brief excerpts of a distressing newscast coming live from nearby in Hollywood.

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“The hotel is filling with … There’s something going on … Lightning has hit the hotel! … We hear some people have disappeared … Storm’s … Worse all the time … Figure out what’s going on”

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The television picture fades to a blur, the interference too strong.

Music gets louder, strings swirling and building, louder and louder, circling in a climactic score that suggests the night is about to reach its grand crescendo. A face appears on the Tower, a bellhop.

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He speaks strongly, menacingly, staring into the audience…

“Welcome to the NEW Hollywood Tower Hotel…”

Raising an eyebrow and turning to one side, he steps backwards slowly to reveal the buttons of the service elevator.

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As the bellhop reaches to press the “Basement” button, music getting ever more dramatic, choir and strings creating an unbearable tension, he slowly spells out the ultimate proposition…

“DROP IN… If you dare!”

He grits his teeth, tenses his neck muscles and begins to laugh, mercilessly, cackling with a devilish spirit at the audience. We are no longer simply bystanders.

Elevator doors covering one half of the Tower creak open with a toe-curling screech as the chanting choir and pulsing strings reach their climax. Pushing open the doors, the bellhop. As the music echoes out at its height, a familiar theme fades in… Peter Pan’s “Flying”, from the 15th Anniversary!

“And don’t forget… The Celebration Continues… BIG TIME!”

Those bellhops really do have a sense of humour!

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Pulling the doors closed with another awful screech of rusted metal, the bellhop disappears as the newly rechristened Tower of Terror glows in a pulse in blue lights, a swirling vortex opening up on its façade.

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As the 15th Anniversary theme reached its blast of trumpets and horns, fireworks burst from the body of the Tower, shooting vertically upwards into the sky, joined by another huge line of pyrotechnics exploding outwards from its roof, met by shrieks of surprise and excitement from the audience.

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As the Tower of Terror returned to its starry, fibre optic-inspired guise of Twilight Zone imagery, the smoke of the fireworks slowly cleared from around the iconic Hollywood Tower Hotel sign. Loud, pulsing dance music filled the courtyard — were the audience being given a DJ party to follow up this spectacular real-life telling of the Hollywood Tower Hotel legend? Not quite.

Soon enough, the infamous high notes of The Twilight Zone‘s theme song were filling the air, the music a thrilling rock/dance tribute to the classic score. But again, the show wasn’t over yet. Thick fog, smoke, had filled the street in front of the hotel as the audience were mesmerised by the spectacular fireworks above.

Rolling toward the audience, up to 6 feet high, the heavy fog was suddenly dotted with bright white lights in the distance, walking slowly out of the hotel. Cast members preparing for the sudden influx of excited riders? As the figures moved closer, their ghoulish silhouettes became clearer…

The 100 invitees who entered the hotel around 10 minutes ago were now free to roam… but certainly not free from The Twilight Zone‘s command.

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Plodding, creeping toward the audience, the airmen, policemen, newspaper sellers, reporters and glamorous Hollywood couples showed no emotion as their faces and bodies gradually appeared out of the fog. Perfectly choreographed, they headed directly for the audience, possessed and zombified, walking slowly to the pounding, hypnotic theme of The Twilight Zone.

When they arrived at the crowds, they reached out with their lifeless arms, clutching and grabbing at the guests, pulling them closer, enticing them to step underneath the barrier and follow them to the hotel.

“You have just entered into The Twilight Zone.”

Seemingly thrilled rather than frightened by the incredible 14 minutes that had preceded, the audience then allowed the newspaper reporters to pull them toward the hotel, the old ladies of a bygone time to take them by the arm. Soon, they would all be a permanent resident… of The Twilight Zone.

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From the very first piece of advertising to this spectacular inauguration ceremony, the grand opening of The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror at Disneyland Resort Paris has been nothing short of breathtaking.

Deciding to relegate the “gravity defying” drop promoted so heavily in Florida and California to second place in favour of promoting the attraction’s incredible theme and story, it’s clear the six years Walt Disney Studios Park spent waiting for its beating heart to be unveiled were not in vein.

The campaign has been positioned so closely to the heart of The Hollywood Tower Hotel, from the website to the posters and billboards, that it almost seems as if the Imagineers did it all themselves.

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Not only has Walt Disney Studios Park finally opened its real saving grace, it has truly — excuse the cliché — done it in style. The themeing is rich and detailed, the drop thrilling and exciting time and again, the advertising strong and true to the theme. The integration into Hollywood Boulevard and positioning in the park is so fitting it seems as if it were always there. The expertly-cast team of quirky, scary, friendly bellhops who provide a memorable experience every minute of the operating day… simply flawless.

And the grand opening event? It goes without saying. One of the most spectacular, well thought-out and well-executed inaugurations ever seen at any Disney park in the world. It is hard to imagine any inauguration that has quite so brilliantly celebrated a new attraction.

To the cast, crew and everyone behind the launch of The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror in Paris — congratulations. You’ve proved that even the wildest dreams of Disney fans can come true.

Walt Disney Studios Park has finally come of age, and we can’t wait to see where you take it next.

» Click here to see our exclusive full video

» Click here to see official video highlights

Tuesday, 22nd April 2008

The Celebration Continues… Summertime begins with HSM2 ‘School’s Out!’ premiere

Our day at Walt Disney Studios Park on Saturday, 5th April continues as clouds continue to gather above and turn ever darker. With the clock ticking to the park’s much-publicised new ‘Summer’ show, will it make it through before the rain begins?

The same “rolling” (or moving) stage of the first show, High School Musical On Tour, returns to the park following its Winter break, now redecorated to almost exactly match the stages of the two American versions of the sequel show. A banner to the right of the iconic High School Musical letters carries a large number ‘2’, the words ‘School’s Out’ across the front show that this show will take its name straight from the original versions and the colour scheme in general is altered to a less formal, more Summery look. The red stepladder pulled along by the stage in the original show is replaced by a blue trailer carrying the students’ golf club work equipment and beach accessories.

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Inspired costuming: “I majored in VACATION”

Rather than rolling into Backlot and continuing into Production Courtyard with The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror as its backdrop, the premiere edition was due to arrive just in front of the Place des Stars Stage, allowing more VIP press and film crews a clear view from the large cordoned-off area next to the Tower’s gardens. Regular guests would have to see the show, the only performance of the day, from the sidelines or from behind.

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Sunnier Summertimes: Rehearsals leading up to the premiere

As crowds gathered all around and the first spots of rain began to fall, fans could spot a flustered Katy Harris, show director of ‘School’s Out’ as well as ‘On Tour’ and of course Disney’s Once Upon a Dream Parade, directing and redirecting technical teams to make sure the premiere went without hitch. The cast had been rehearsing for several weeks beforehand, with several actual in-park rehearsals from the 31st March onwards.

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Show director Katy Harris

During the first week of the new show, which runs only in the late afternoons, they would also be preparing for the return of the original show, featuring songs from the first Disney Channel movie, from 12th April onwards.

Tick tock, tick tock… following a medley from the first movie, the clock began to countdown…

And then, the bell! Schoooool’s out!

As the video above shows, the Summertime songs and real smiles of the cast couldn’t hold back the heavy rain that began around halfway into the show. The cast continued uninterrupted in the usual Marne-la-Vallée Disney style — it seems nothing can stop them. Keep an eye out for show director Katy Harris rushing past toward the end of the video.

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Given that this was the official premiere and would be filmed and photographed by press from across Europe — as well as the resort’s own audio/visual team, almost the entire cast joined the show to give a huge team of over 20 singers and dancers in the spotlight. The usual performances do feature slightly fewer extras, but have larger casts than you might expect — thanks perhaps to the lack of a daily parade. Most of the faces amongst the Wild Cats were new, whilst some were returning from 2007.

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The show follows exactly the same set list as its American cousins, with dialogue alterations to allow most of the words which weave together scenes to be repeated in both French and English. The songs are presented entirely in English, as they are in fact in the “French” versions of the films.

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‘What Time Is It?’ begins the event as the students march to the show stop, with the routine including the now-infamous single line mexican wave. Cookery tools and mops provide props for ‘Work This Out’, swaying couples accompany the four key singers for ‘You Are The Music In Me’ and the basketball theme of the original show and movie is transferred to baseball with ‘I Don’t Dance’.

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A clever routine with blue sheets and parasols gives ‘All For One’ a beach feeling and, returning from the first show, ‘We’re All In This Together’ rounds out the duo of High School Musical shows.

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Both High School Musical 2: School’s Out! and High School Musical On Tour continue every day through the Spring and Summer right up until 30th September 2008.

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