Wednesday, 16th March 2011

Happy Birthday Walt Disney Studios: Disney’s tenth park turns nine

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!

Saturday, 16th January 2010

Monsters meet Dixieland – a New Generation roundup

First, an easy one — a new promotional image. Get used to these characters, they’re leading the band this year:

Disney New Generation Festival

It’s quite a brave move for Disneyland Paris to effectively put Mickey in the shadows for a year (at least in terms of advertising), since they’re often so over-reliant on the mouse, but it has to be applauded. The only additions to the line-up here are Mr and Mrs Incredible, who aren’t being used for any other ‘NGF’ promotions but will hopefully be much more visible in the park than recently.

Negatives? No ‘Up’ characters — which means no Dug, who’d be a sure-fire hit. Stitch could really have been given a year off… And let’s not get into the issues of the Castle being that tall from 7 Km away. Or teaching kids to hitch-hike. Moving on…!

The Spring/Summer 2010 brochures featuring the year have been landing on doormats across the UK last week, and most have been very pleasantly surprised to discover a nice foil cover on both the front and back, the first time Disneyland Paris have stretched to such extravagance:

Disney New Generation Festival

It might not show you anything about the resort and parks are actually like (read our thoughts here), but it really does look top notch design-wise. With the internet providing all the information and pictures you could need; if all these brochures now serve to be are shiny things to attract the attention of the public… they’ve got a hit.

Another print appearance of the New Generation Festival (or rather L’Année de la Nouvelle Génération) has come with the latest issue of Annual Passholder magazine Envie de +

Disney New Generation Festival

Disney New Generation Festival

The magazine again features some of the main characters of the year:

Disney New Generation Festival

And looks over the main events (nothing particularly new revealed here):

Disney New Generation Festival

Before having a quick chat with DLP Entertainment’s familiar artistic director Kat de Blois:

Disney New Generation Festival

The interview reads:

How much time have you spent working on this event?

We started the New Generation project in March 2009. So that represents more than a year of work. But for us — and hopefully our guests — it’s a great pleasure.

According to what we’ve heard, this project will be a world-exclusive?

Ah yes, Made In France! You know here, we have a real freedom to do some really unique things. Disney’s Once Upon a Dream Parade, for example, doesn’t exist anywhere else but here. And to celebrate the arrival of this new generation, we’re inviting our new Princess Tiana to join in with the other familiar royalty.

Exclusively for Disneyland Paris, we have revisited the grand cavalcade of Disney’s Stars ‘n’ Cars, originally from Florida, and added the Ratatouille car and its cancan music, which promises a deliciously comic moment.

What are you most proud of on this project?

Probably Disney Showtime Spectacular. Once a day, this show will reunite Mickey and the new generation characters on a 360-degree stage. The audience can therefore move round the way around it. There will be plenty of surprises, which I can’t reveal to you yet…

If you had to summarise the New Generation Festival in three words, what would they be?

“Family, Fun and Friends.” Sharing — with everyone around you and all their differences — is truly at the centre of this brand new experience, which will please the youngest just as much as the oldest.

A final scoop for our readers?

We are already working on your must-anticipated surprises for our 20th Anniversary. But that stays between us, of course… (Smiles)

Steady on! You’ve still got 2011 to figure out yet…

Aaaand finally — those new Monsters and Dixieland details we led with.

Though the texts here and seen previously have all been the usual, wonderfully vague Disney PR puff, there are more detailed press releases still being prepared and held back until just before the festival launches. One such press release posted by Disney and More gives some long-awaited details about two of the new character events being pushed for 2010.

First: Princess Tiana. Though it’s widely publicised that she’ll be joining the crowd on the Dreams of Romance float (with her Prince Naveen), many are asking if she’ll be featured anywhere else, available for meet and greet, autographs… Your answer:

The highlight of each day in Disneyland Park is a grand welcome to Princess Tiana, the newest star to join the Disney Princess family from Walt Disney Pictures’ latest animated movie, The Princess and the Frog. Each day, Princess Tiana and her Prince Naveen will meet ‘n’ greet guests and pose for photographs at Town Square Gazebo, with lively music by the Dixieland Band inspired by the music from the film.

Perfect! It’s not quite Tiana’s Showboat Jubilee but a bit of live music is never a bad thing — especially when it’s apparently scheduled in for “every day”. The band will presumably be made up of familiar faces from the resort’s orchestras, usually playing medleys of Disney songs and often quite rarely seen outside of high season.

Disney New Generation Festival

Second: Monsters Inc. Scream Academy, that now being the official name of this photolocation/meet and greet/character event… well, what actually is it? As we’ve discussed several times before, the Monsters Inc photo location in Walt Disney Studios Park has been there since 2006. What’s suddenly so new that requires it have equal billing with Toy Story Playland?

Everyone gets permission to be as loud as they want, and screams of delight are filling the air several times daily at “Monsters Inc. Scream Academy” at Walt Disney Studios Park. “Top scarer” Sulley from Monsters, Inc. looks for new recruits with his friend named Patty. Guests of all ages get in the action as they test the monster boogie, monster roar and monster scare – with as many laughs as screams. All are invited to participate in this family-friendly, high energy character interaction. Try your hand at being a Monster!

If not a “show”, this at least seems to be shaping up as some kind of new character interaction or event, likely comparable to the Sword in the Stone Ceremony in Fantasyland.

Will Patty be a monster or a human? And will they be joined by any other Monsters — since several others from the film do feature at other Disney parks, notably in DCA’s Pixar Play Parade — or in fact little girl Boo, who has been rumoured on our own comments?

Will the static Mike Wazowski figure stay there throughout the event or be removed? And how will guests actually see anything, since the corner is surely far too small for a proper event, visible only from one side and surrounded by planters? Ahh, an answer just opens up many more questions.

Basing an event around screaming doesn’t seem like the best idea, but you never know — it might be good fun. With High School Musical not due for a return, CinéFolies (the Hollywood street acts) still criminally cancelled and Disney’s Stars ‘n’ Cars not quite up to scratch on either its parade or show aspects (again, hard to see unless you arrive very early), the Studios will be needing all the live entertainment help it can get this year.

Images © Disney.

Tuesday, 31st July 2007

More gaps filled at Walt Disney Studios

…And, in classic Walt Disney Studios Park style, they did it on budget with just a bit of clever thinking.

Rendez-Vous des Stars Restaurant becomes Buffet Service

Like Disneyland Park in the early nineties, a simple change of service can solve the restaurants problem. Luckily, this doesn’t mean downgrading a restaurant (such as Explorer’s Club to Colonel Hathi’s), but rather turning the park’s “highest” class restaurant – the Art Deco cafeteria-style Rendez-Vous des Stars into a fixed-price unlimited buffet.

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The original idea was that the restaurant served as the dining place for the more prestigious stars and directors during their time at Walt Disney Studios. However swanky the interior, though, there’s only so much magic you can get from a canteen-service. As a Buffet Service from 27th August 2007, the restaurant will provide one menu price of € 23 and a dining quality very similar to that of Plaza Gardens Restaurant at Disneyland Park. Quite a step up for the actors and crew of the Studios!

Since the restaurant is already set up with long serving counters, the change will likely take place overnight at the end of the Summer season. Et VoilàWalt Disney Studios finally has a buffet service!

Toon Studio’s first merchandise location!

It’s bizarre that as the park’s most popular land, filled with popular and marketable Disney and Pixar characters, Toon Studio has before now only had the Disney Animation Gallery to its name – a boutique so small you fear for your life (or at least wallet) every time you try to navigate around the delicate glass ornaments and snow globes. Meanwhile, groups of large retail trucks populate areas such as Disney Bros. Plaza and Backlot.

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The balance has begun to shift – again in typical “small budget but clever thinking” Walt Disney Studios style. The sligthly barren piece of courtyard between Animagique and Flying Carpets Over Agrabah is now finally home to a brand new retail location. Simple in design, but nestled amongst the trees with colours and a curved roof matching Disney Studio 3 itself. The location is clearly more along the lines of “La Petite Maison des Jouets” in Fantasyland, though currently without its own name.

If you’ve ever spotted those merchandise trucks in Backlot, the sheer quantity of merchandise hanging out in the street might have given you the feeling of being at some kind of jumble (rummage) sale. Strangely, the Toons are being much more restrained with the amount of goods on their shelves, and the location even appears to be slightly understocked.

Now they have a place to sell merchandise, and have seen the hundreds of guests running to Crush’s Coaster each morning, will they finaly realise the Studios could have a mega franchise to exploit, and make some more merchandise? Not everyone can fit into a 7-year old’s T-shirt, after all…

Toon retail photos by Maarten on magicforum.

Thursday, 21st June 2007

Toon Studio Press Event: Animated Publicity

The set of photos released for the opening of Toon Studio is fairly small compared to the set featuring VIPs and celebrities against backdrops within the land, but the quality and amount of locations featured is far better than the frankly quite disappointing publicty photos of the 15th Anniversary launch.

Overall, the resort’s audio-visual teams have captured rather well the quirky style and impressive new attractions of the area… but what do you think?

Here is the full set of publicity photos, be sure to click on them to see the photos full-size!

General Toon Studio

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A new angle on the Sorcerer Mickey marquee captures the Peter Pan characters behind,
an incredibly colourful view of the Toon Town gate area with its twisted lamposts.

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‘Now in Producion’ sign next to Crush’s Coaster

Cars Quatre Roues Rallye

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Welcome to Radiator Springs sign, the famous Cars logo, framed by trees.

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The lovely blues and yellows (with a hint of red) of the Quatre Roues Rallye entrance,
the interior themeing, focusing on the amazing detail of Lizzie’s curios display.

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A sunny angle on Luigi’s Casa Della Tires (notice the fabric canopy was finally added,
just in time), and a low-down view of the canyon area.

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Views in the canyon. Notice the Sorcerer Mickey marquee included in the background,
along with – in the first photo – the Disney Cinema Parade passing by. This looks
like a favourite angle already to capture Cars from, with the iconic Studio 1 looming behind.

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One of the excellent on-ride captures from the special camera seen being installed
on the front of this vehicle here.

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Two brand new publicity shots only just added to the collection today.

Some official video footage of Cars has also been released, via the Disneyland15.com blog:

Crush’s Coaster

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The rusted and sea-sprayed entrance sign, a busy crowd shot showing the Crush area, but
not very many guests who look impressed.

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Two views of the turtle shells departing the big blue of Studio 5 – which one wins?

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The very first official photos from inside the attraction, we’ll probably see these used frequently,
as they show very well the colourful underwater sets and good lighting.

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An “in-production” shot of Crush undergoing final work from above the track, a final shot
positioning Crush against a big blue backdrop of Studio 5.

So, what do you think? A good selection of photographs and footage to advertise Toon Studio, or could they have done better? Whilst this set of official publicity shots has only just been released, we’ll likely be seeing them for years to come, especially as Walt Disney Studios Park continues to grow in visitors…

All photos © Disney.

Thursday, 21st June 2007

Toon Studio Press Event: Under the spell of darkness

Whilst the extended opening hours of the park to 7pm have given guests more time at the Studios, they still don’t go far enough to allow regular visitors to see the park at what almost everyone agrees is its very best – fully illuminated at night. From the flashing neons of CinéMagique‘s grand entrance to the flames of Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster‘s entrance and the searchlights of Disney Studio 1, Walt Disney Studios is more than a match for anything at Disneyland Park once darkness falls.

And the new Toon Studio developments? They look just as good…

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Toon Studio entrance / Sorcerer Mickey statue

A hidden detail we’ve never spotted before suddenly comes to life on the wand of Mickey Mouse – the star-shaped tip glows and shimmerings in a blue fibre optic effect. The “marquee” itself is also very subtely and lovingly illuminated, with lights positioned inside the several circular bases shining upwards.

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Sorcerer Mickey marquee / Crush’s Coaster entrance

Notice the purple lighting effects in Animagique in the background, and the rainbow colours of the Flying Carpets Over Agrabah backdrop, appearing to glow from behind when illuminated. The marquee of Crush’s Coaster is illuminated similar to Sorcerer Mickey, with low lighting on the signage itself and a single spotlight on his character figure. Through the lush beach planting behind, notice the well-chosen hanging lamps and even spotlights positioned throughout the sandy planters, illuminating the greenery.

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Colours of the Toon Town gate / Toon Studio from Flying Carpets lookout

Over at the Toon Town gate, the lighting department of Toon Studio have done an equally fantastic job, illuminating all of the multi-coloured buildings and even several parts of the Toon Town hills. Notice that the “Toon Town” lettering is fully illuminated for a very professional effect, and entire forced perspective design of this “street” seems much more convincing. The icing on the Toons’ cake would have been a few lights inside the security booth…

From the newly-reopened viewing platform by Flying Carpets Over Agrabah, the land’s countless lighting touches can be seen glowing in the distance. There aren’t actually any blazing spotlights here at all – just subtle lighting such as the many customised neons of Cars Quatre Roues Rallye – it’s green tower and red glowing logo standing out in particular.

When or if the Studios ever welcomes enough visitors and extra attractions to warrant a late-night opening, the Imagineers have prepared Toon Studio – and the entire park – with more than enough beautiful sights to keep them there until the gates close.

» You can see an excellent video giving a walk around the nighttime illuminated Toon Studio over at our partner site magicblog, along with several extra photographs. Click here.

All photos by Photos Magiques.

Wednesday, 20th June 2007

Toon Studio Press Event: Inauguration Ceremony

As with all attraction openings, there are two press events. The smaller, low-key public opening ceremony (already featured here) and the far grander, more show-y official inauguration ceremony reserved for press and invited guests. The last ceremony we saw like this at Walt Disney Studios, though, was…. well, 2002 perhaps?

The tendancy of the past five years to push Walt Disney Studios aside in favour of Disneyland Park has well and truly ended. There’s a lot of proud people within those Studio gates these days…

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Guests enter via the open studio gates, a very rare sight!

Entering the second gate through its unique grand arch, guests were welcomed by the Ciné Classics band, as seen on regular occasions inside Disney Studio 1 and more recently even as a pre-show for CinéMagique. Notice that the 15th Anniversary banners from Disneyland Park’s entrance have now made their way to the Studios, as it finally joins the celebrations.

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Ciné Classics band entertain on Front Lot before High School Musical begins.

Following this musical welcome, a special performance of High School Musical On Tour was presented just outside the entrance of Disney Studio 1 (more on this here), as this new summer show was a key additional feature in all of the resort’s communication and press material for the event, along with Ratatouille.

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Red carpet leads through Disney Studio 1.

The red carpet began in Disney Studio 1, leading right up toward the exit doors and to the entrance of Toon Studio, where Disney fans amongst the invited guests were met with an exciting photo opportunity…

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5 Years on, Director Mickey finally gets behind a camera.

To the side of the temporary Toon Studio gate installed several days ago, Mickey Mouse sat high on a crane camera with a live director, and even moved from side to side as he “filmed” the action of the grand opening event for his new animation studio. The image of Mickey atop this camera crane might be familiar to anyone who followed the Studios’ grand opening, since a similar photo from Disney-MGM Studios Florida was frequently used as one of those deceptive preview shots – it only took five years for the real moment to arrive!

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Ciné Folies stars help to prepare the set.

If you take a look at the video featured later in this article, you’ll probably notice something a little different about Mickey’s voice. No, not that he’s speaking French (the first time in a while – all the 15th events unveiled in April feature an All-American Mickey), but that his voice was apparently performed live! Since he called the make-up artist, special effects crew to the stage and joined the ceremony at various other points from his elevated spot, letting Mickey pre-record his track and sync this with live events might have been a bit risky.

With Mickey behind the camera, we need someone else to step in and fill the role of glamorous host – who better than Minnie Mouse? She donned her glamorous white dress from the 2002 grand opening and waited on-stage for her cue as directors, technicians and make-up crew bustled around the “set”. You might recognise the actors in question from the daily Ciné Folies shows in Disney Studio 1 – some have been with the park for almost its entire five years, so it’s nice to see these talented performers rewarded with a cameo here.

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Pixar stars and a huge gathering of Cast Members pour out of the land.

As it is for these “performers” too! Usually Cast Members are relegated to regular operations during a grand opening event – keeping guests to one side, making sure the attraction is ready to open – but here the entire cast of Toon Studio was invited to join the precedings and clap their clapperboards for applause. The arrival of the several hundred Cast and countless famous Disney characters to the “Dreams” Peter Pan theme music was perhaps a little reminiscent of the Disneyland 50th Anniversary launch, starting out with only a few stars on stage before a huge crowd poured out of the land’s attractions.

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It’s Disney legends on one side…

You might notice something funny about the way those characters lined up either side of the red carpet… classic Disney stars on one side and new Pixar pals on the other, like a great face-off between the two animation teams! This was also the very first appearance of the Ratatouille main characters Rémy (grey) and Emile (brown) in Paris, arriving just days after their premiere at the US parks.

Notice also the stars on the temporary gate, with ‘Toon Studio’ written inside, which are very similar to the first ‘Toon Studios’ logo we saw way back in September 2005 at the special Videopolis fan event.

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…Pixar pals on the other!

Press photographers were situated on the tiered viewing platform for the ceremony, whilst the invited guests filled Disney Bros. Plaza and could watch the action on the large video screen installed the day earlier. With the smaller spaces of Walt Disney Studios and the Hollywood Boulevard construction taking up much of this area, they still managed to devise a layout that would ensure a picture-perfect view of the action. After all, these events are entirely for the cameras – not least when they’re at a film Studio!

The ceremonies are about to begin…

Sunday, 17th June 2007

Toon Studio: Opening day

For some of the guests at the official opening, there might have been a sense of déjà vu about the whole event – just one week earlier, they’d rushed into the park to be amongst the first to preview Crush’s Coaster and Cars Race Rally as Annual Passholders. The events were a big success, as shown by the long queues to enter the area (below), despite a Fastpass-style timeslot system being implimented to give each passholder a 2-hour slot in which to preview the rides.

Despite the queues, some technical problems at Crush late in the day and general overcrowding for refreshments at Salon Mickey and the mezzanine of Disney Studio 1, the Toon Studio Preview Event was a big success for all.

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(2nd June) Long queues for Annual Passholder previews.

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(2nd June) Imagineer Beth Clapperton interviewed for Disneyland15.com blog.

The same weekend also saw the first low-key invasion of the press, albeit Disney’s own. The Photos Magiques camera spotted Beth Clapperton, Imagineer for Crush’s Coaster and already seen in many behind-the-scenes glimpses at the attraction, giving an interview in front of the attraction itself. Look out for this on the official Disneyland15.com blog at some point.

One week later, with previews complete and everything finally neat and pretty, it was time for the grand opening. The general smaller scale of Walt Disney Studios might have given a slightly quieter impression than the anniversary launch events of April, just two months ago, but the crowds were just as eager. To a mix of music ranging from Disney’s animated movie scores to the Peter Pan “flying” theme and “Just Like We Dreamed It”, the ceremony commenced as Arnauld Gayet, one of the two 2007 Disneyland Resort Paris Ambassadors, climed onto a small podium next to the Sorcerer Mickey marquee.

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(9th June) Toon Studio grand opening ceremony.

With an impressive mix of French and English, Arnaud welcomed guests and introduced the special event, as the first Toon characters began to arrive behind him via the cadillacs of Good Morning Walt Disney Studios. Wendy Courquet, the second 2007 Ambassador, soon joined Arnaud from the empty Toon Studio behind, raving and exclaiming about each of the five attractions in the “new” land as Arnauld introduced them. Interestingly, despite the massive campaign on the esplanade, the ceremony served to inaugurate Toon Studio as en entire land, rather than to give special attention to its two brand new attractions.

With the introductions complete, several more characters welcomed (including The Incredibles) and the crowd appearing a little impatient, the guest of honour arrived to open his brand new studio – Mickey Mouse! It’s lucky that Hollywood glamour appears to never go out of style, since the dazzling white outfits worn by Mickey and Minnie might be recognised from the grand opening of the park itself, back in 2002. Mickey joined Wendy to cut the double ribbon of blue and gold, as Arnauld officially declared the new Toon Studio… “open!” with guests rushing to their chosen attraction.

The opening hasn’t been covered quite as heavily online as the huge 15th Anniversary opening events, but fans can always be relied on for capturing the magic as it happens. The following video is by Concombre2k7 on Dailymotion – ignore the apology for “poor quality”, this is just like being there:

Wait times for Crush and Cars remained impressive the entire day, with Cars Quatre Roues Rallye resting at around 50 minutes and Crush’s Coaster enjoying an everage queue of 1 hour 30 minutes, despite Cast Members warning guests the wait would be 3 hours from its entrance.

Across the park, attractions such as Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster and Studio Tram Tour apparently rarely had wait times above 15 minutes. Kinoo on our partner website magicforum reported that total attendance at the Studios was 14,000 for the day, with around 5,000 guests heading straight towards the new attractions upon opening.

With a simple “tea cups” like Cars (albeit a brand new one) gaining a 50 minute wait that guests were reportedly quite happy to endure, the fall-out from Toon Studio will, it appears, be to now try and coax guests out of this immediately popular area and to the rest of the park.

Photos by Photos Magiques (2/06/2007) and Aaronline.nl (9/06/2007); Video by Concombre2k7.
With thanks to the opening reports from members on Disney Central Plaza and magicforum.

Sunday, 17th June 2007

Toon Studio: Posters up, walls down

Wednesday, 6th June 2007. With just 3 days to go before the official opening of Toon Studio, construction walls finally disappear in the crossover between the “old” and “new” areas, forming one single, complete Toon Studio for the first time. Not only that, but crews had been busy overnight bringing in a brand new set of posters for the lighting rigs. We saw the first Snow White poster several weeks ago, and now Toon Studio is sporting a larger collection of the posters, their designs actually imported from Hong Kong Disneyland’s esplanade banners.

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With construction walls gone, Willy’s Butte (the rock formation of Cars Race Rally) can now clearly be seen from the original Animation Courtyard area, forming a barrier between the courtyard and the Radiator Springs canyon beyond. The fences here, originally a clean blue behind the fences, have been weathered and rusted up for an authentic Route 66 desert feeling, especially when complemented by the wealth of planting (including many cacti) amonst the sandy soil.

The repaint of Animagique is finally completed, just in time, and we can now see the full extent of its makeover. Whilst Art of Disney Animation features blue with pink and Crush’s Coaster uses blue with blue, Animagique is set apart with its look of blue and purple. With construction fences around the Flying Carpets‘ oasis gone, we can finally enjoy this unique area in the Studios to the full – an Adventureland-style area to hide from the “Action!” elsewhere.

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A final detail added to the land is the rename of the Studio Catering Co. locations. The two trailers now positioned in the land (one next to Art of Disney Animation, one beside the Toon Town gate) both feature a matching red and white colour scheme, and have been rechristened ‘Toon Studio Catering Co.’ with a slightly more prominent sponsorship by Coca-Cola. It seems that whilst Disneyland Park can have themeing delights like Cool Station and L’Arbre Enchanté, Walt Disney Studios Park must stick with a 2D sign.

Still, the new name at least separates Toon Studio even more from the rest of the park. But “the rest of the park” hasn’t been completely forgotten lately – lighting rig posters have now returned in almost all places, following their gradual demise and ultimate wipe-out through 2006.

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Finally, a look at all the brand new Toon Studio character posters so far, compiled by our partner WDS Fans. The characters featured are: Snow White, Jiminy Cricket, Tinkerbell, Goofy, Cinderella, Buzz Lightyear, Ariel, Woody, Pluto, Winnie the Pooh and of course, Mickey Mouse. Who’d have thought it – decorative banners without Lumière?!

So that’s it, Toon Studio appears to be complete – finished, polished, rehearsed and ready to open…

Photos by WDS Fans and Scrooge on DMI, 5-7/06/2007.

Friday, 1st June 2007

Toon Studio: A closer look at animated touches

Let’s try not to rush right up to that backdrop too soon… From near the entrance of Cars Race Rally, the Toon Studio Plaza nestles neatly in the corner beside Crush’s Coaster, with two oddly-shaped curved planters either side, enclosing the area in the middle.

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The Toon Studio Plaza

Did you notice the floor on these photos by Joel? None of that strange black and grey checkerboard here — this is actually more alike what we might have expected from the project over in the old Animation Courtyard. There’s still random shapes amid straight lines, but in pale red and blue paving and sandy squares, the finish is far more appealing.

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Walking further into the Plaza, surrounded by planters.

Sure, the Imagineers working on the project really wanted a different look for the old Animation Courtyard area — a more professional, serious tone — but would a nice coloured floor like this really have been such a distraction from that idea? The cost may have been prohibitive, but the final look is nothing but Disney quality.

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The studio gate, with Toon warning signs and lamps.

Speaking of Disney quality, let’s get closer to that studio gate. Overlooking the similar annoyance of the ‘Toon Studio’ sign facing the wrong way, we can get a better look at just how that confusing backdrop works. The back wall features the building Goofy has crashed into, whilst two pieces of a backdrop are then positioned at an angle to form the row of buildings. Characters can walk in and out of the area via the path on the right.

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Details of the Toon Town backdrop.

Along with Toon Town Skool and Laughing Academy, you’ll find Toontown News and Funny Business amongst the businesses located on the town’s Main Street. In the hills above, you might spot Mickey’s House from the actual Toon Town lands at other Magic Kingdoms. Along with Goofy crashed into the backdrop, this is one of a few clever character references throughout the area.

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Donald’s security booth?

One of the most obvious references — yet one which many people might not have noticed — is that the Toon Studio Security booth clearly appears to be inspired by the captain’s cabin of Donald Duck’s boat, as seen in the Magic Kingdom attraction and the short film “Boat Builders”. As we saw inside during the last photo tour, a faux Cast Member costume even features his beak as the peak of the hat.

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Mickey Mouse aspirations for the security Toons.

The Imagineers have filled the inside with endless clutter, from files, paperwork and a brightly-coloured (Sony) computer to Mickey Mouse ornaments…

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No wonder they didn’t fancy their lunch after looking at that keyboard…

…and somebody’s lunch.

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Mickey’s House, in Paris!

Off to the right is the second photolocation we didn’t see last time, featuring a direct view of Mickey’s House as seen at Disneyland in California. As with The Incredibles’ photolocation to the left of the studio gate, this one could also be changed quite easily for a new film or series of characters to take its place.

At the moment, Mickey has yet to be spotted here. He’s still appearing every day at his trailer over in Production Courtyard — which was repositioned from the current entrance of the new expansion area here around 18 months ago. Will Mickey move over to his house at some point, or will it be left for the mischeivous Chip & Dale to overrun each day?

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The big cheese is expecting quite a queue.

Whoever becomes the long-lasting attraction of this spot, the Imagineers have certainly planned for some big crowds. Whilst character locations elsewhere at the resort have been added as an afterthought, they’re now considered a key part of Imagineering, and an organised queue like this should put some comments to rest about the behaviour of guests trying to reach their idols.

Notice also a door into the rockwork of Crush’s Coaster, and the continued dark blue hue which now stretches across this side of the building. Silver hanging lamps have been added along the wall, whilse another twisted blue lampost is positioned here. Lights and lamps are one thing the new Toon Studio is definitely not short of, especially considering the lights around Crush’s Coaster and Cars, the neons of Radiator Springs and the show lighting pointing to Crush’s façade.

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Fairy lights, forever?

Slightly less permanent are these LED lights spotted by Photos Magiques. They’re a staple of many trees over in Disneyland Park around Central Plaza, but are these ones to stay forever in Toon Studio? They could simply be for the nighttime events of the Press Event on 16th June — if not, the Imagineers are planning well in advance. The park doesn’t open late enough to be seen in the dark until the deep months of Winter.

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Ice cream truck re-opened.

Photos Magiques also reports in their latest update from the land that the food truck positioned against the back wall has re-opened, selling mainly ice creams for the Summer season.

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The New Walt Disney Studios Park

Here we are, June 2007. This is the month when the first new attractions at Walt Disney Studios since its 2002 opening are finally inaugurated and officially opened to the public. That familiar view of Disney Studio 1 from across the park will never seem the same again — no more wide, empty courtyards or simple showbuildings for attractions. There’s definitely a “New” Walt Disney Studios atmosphere now, so much that you might even begin to feel a bit of nostalgia for the “Old” park.

But not for long, eh? Enjoy the Toons!

You can find out more about the history and development of the new land and see a full map of the area before and after its transformation at our updated Toon Studio Guide.

Photos by Photos Magiques and Joel.

Saturday, 26th May 2007

Toon Studio: The Sorcerer’s Apprentice has arrived!

Well, here it is! Over eight years since concepts were first drawn up for a Sorcerer Mickey statue on this spot, the idea has finally become a reality. The statue, plinth and lettering looks almost perfectly like that seen on the concept art of February 2007, but keen-eyed fans will already notice one important change…

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Mickey is presented full-colour! Not golden or bronze, but fully coloured in blue, red, yellow and more. With three other statues of the mouse that started it all already featured at the park (including one in almost the exact same pose at Front Lot), this detail at least gives the statue a unique appeal.  We can notice also that the star and detail on the plinth has been presented not in gold as expected from concepts, but instead in silver – hinting that the stars and sketch lines on the Sorcerer’s Hat itself won’t infact be repainted to a matching gold.

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But don’t forget the rest of this work of Imagineering art – the stylised, gradient-painted plinth is also an impressive piece of beauty for the eyes, decorated as expected with a design mimicking the Sorcerer’s Hat and featuring golden ‘Toon Studio’ letters against blue and silver for a stunning effect. The exaggerated curves of the plinth are exaggerated even further with several extra outcrops behind the main blue base, painted in gradients of gold.

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The actual size of the statue on these photos above is quite deceptive. Whilst Mickey appears as quaint and modest as you’d expect a little mouse to be, the following photo below shows the full scale of this impressive new entrance marquee. As seen in the ‘Tales from the Laughing Place’ magazine when the statue was being sculpted, Mickey infact measures taller than most humans. And when atop the large blue plinths, his marquee easily reaches over 15ft in height.

Currently, no sign of the golden spark due to arc across the parade route can be spotted. Mickey’s wand also appears as if it wouldn’t support such an addition, and no further preparations have been made at the spark’s landing spot on the opposite side. Whilst the Sorcerer’s Hat did welcome Wendy, Peter Pan and Tinkerbell last week, we now can’t be so certain that any of their friends (Ariel, Flounder, Dumbo and Winnie the Pooh were shown) have made it across the Atlantic. As it stands, we’ve got pixie dust and sorcery – already more than enough for a spot of Disney magic to happen!

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In place for only around 4 hours, the statue is already providing a special detail for guests to point to, to stop and admire, and to pose for photos in front of. Positioned on its own separate planter at the entrance of Toon Studio, the Sorcerer’s Apprentice signals that the end is almost in sight on this well-thought out (and well-received) expansion and makeover of Animation Courtyard.

As the very first expansion of Walt Disney Studios Park since it opened in 2002, the Studio hasn’t half done badly from Walt Disney Imagineering this time around. And, since Sorcerer Mickey is the unmistakable icon of the Imagineering department, their work will now be rememered long after the construction walls finally fade…

All photos by Photos Magiques.

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