A quick break from our Refurb Roundup Day reports of the March 25th fan presentation now, for a bumper load of new World of Disney construction photos. The concrete walls of the resort’s future flagship store have grown incredibly fast since our last look just a couple of weeks ago. Now surrounding the site on every side, many appear to have reached their full height. You can see window openings and even the first doorway. The general curved shape of the building and its main entrance has begun to take shape, really making the concept art much easier to imagine in reality.
Here we go on our journey Around the World in 32 all-new photos! Read More…
Your Disneyland Paris park ticket will be celebrating the Disney Magical Moments Festival very soon. Like the past three celebrations, a number of different coloured ticket designs will be available, each featuring one of the key characters of the year. Whilst last year was all about the New Generation, this year sees some old favourites such as Timon and Pumba, Captain Hook and the Queen of Hearts given their own design. The golden tickets also now clearly state “2 Parcs” and the logo used this year is the main Disneyland Paris logo, rather than the festival logo. Although the tickets still have some way to go to beat the boldness of the 1990s designs, they might become even more collectible. As more and more visitors now print out their own rather drab “E-Tickets” at home, these “proper” tickets must surely be beginning to drop in circulation.
The resort’s four Annual Passports will also be updated, with Rapunzel’s huge box office success in Tangled scoring her the prized “Dream” spot already, from Woody and Buzz last year.
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!
Which countries were the biggest visitors to Disneyland Paris in 2010? Last week’s AGM presentation was published online this morning and includes the exact percentages for the past year, showing an interesting shift in where those 15 million visitors are travelling from. Here’s the big news: For perhaps the first time in the resort’s history, more than 50% of visitors came from France itself — a huge 51%, to be precise. This seems to show a big boost from the resort’s home country, but may hide continued falls in attendance from surrounding countries. Back in 2002, for example, the percentage of visitors from France was just 40%, whilst an impressive 21% of visitors had travelled across the channel from the United Kingdom. In 2010, that figure has dropped dramatically to just 12%, perhaps the lowest percentage of British visitors ever, after falling from 20% in 2006, 18% in 2007, 16% in 2008 and 14% in 2009 — a worrying trend of falling visitor numbers every year for the past five years now.
Visitors from the Benelux meanwhile have remained relatively steady in percentage terms over the past decade, with Belgium and Luxembourg making up 7% of visitors in both 2010 and 2009, having been recorded at 6% for 2002 and 2006. The Netherlands appears to have experienced a slight drop in prominence, at 7% of visitors for 2010 but previously having made up 8% in 2006 and 9% in 2002. One big success for Disneyland Paris in recent years has been in attracting more guests from Spain, but even here the draw appears to be waning. Back in 2002, Spain was even combined with Italy, for a total 9% of visitors, but by 2005 had attained this number all by itself. Spanish visitors appeared to reach their peak in 2008, making up 11% of guests, but this dropped to 8% in 2009 and 2010. Finally, visitors from the rest of the world have remained steady at 9%, having stuck at that percentage for the past decade (though Euro Disney SCA claims an increasing demand from visitors of further afield for 2010).
But wait — we’re forgetting somewhere. Making just 3% of visitors in 2010, Germany is at risk of barely even registering on the figures. This German market has dropped consistently for the past few years — from 4% in 2006, 5% in 2005 and 7% back in 2002 — despite being a wealthy country of 80 million where Disney is as popular as anywhere, with several big theme parks of its own. Those successful parks might be part of the problem, as might the lack of a direct Eurostar-style link, but surely this should be a bigger market for the resort. Back in 1992, it seemed to be expected that Germany would be right behind the UK as one of the biggest visitors. So, what’s keeping Deutschland away from Disneyland?
Never ones to tease too far into the future, as expected the operating company of Disneyland Paris spent last week’s Annual General Meeting mostly talking up this year’s new additions and projects. Euro Disney SCA didn’t even announce the huge World of Disney store, currently rising right in the middle of the resort. But the assembled shareholders did manage to get one piece of crucial information from Philippe Gas, CEO: The Ratatouille ride project is real and is well advanced. Yes, yes — tell us something we didn’t know — but it’s very reassuring to hear after the land for the project was cleared during Toy Story Playland construction only to lay completely untouched ever since.
Even rumours about the proposed dark ride have gone quiet. At one time we were hearing the attraction would feature everything from a trackless ride system to 3D glasses and ride-in projection screens, whilst it’s impossible to count how many times the ride has been “green lit”, according to various sources, when in fact Euro Disney SCA have apparently still yet to agree its financing. Nevertheless, we already have our Ratatouille “rue” and a ready-and-waiting patch of former forest. In December, skyam on Disney Central Plaza snapped the photo above of the cleared area of forest from Toy Soldiers Parachute Drop, whilst the aerial view below, from last Summer, shows the site from the reverse angle, over Frontierland.
What you immediately notice from both angles are the trees which haven’t been removed, sitting right in the middle of the site. The first photo gives a good idea why — if they were to be removed, the previously secluded area become horribly barren, with guests able to see right through from Parachute Drop to the industrial backstage buildings in the distance. The plan submitted to Chessy town planning office suggested a large area of greenery in front of the attraction and other proposals for the area have all tried to create the same, something resembling a city square park. Paris certainly has plenty of those, and the Studios still needs more secluded, green areas. But when will we finally be able to explore this true Parisian quarter?
The expectation that the ride would open during the 2013 financial year (so, any time from October 2012 onwards) still seems to stand, allowing the resort to extend the 2012 anniversary year in a similar style to the 15th’s “Celebration Continues” campaign. But given we’re already in March 2011 and the extended time-scale needed for a complex dark ride, it’s looking less likely that the ride could match, for example, the December opening date of Tower of Terror. A few months after a two year wait is a minor detail, however — simply getting the funding in place and signatures on dotted lines is what matters now. And judging by an interview Philippe Gas gave to the Telegraph newspaper last October, we’re not the only ones anxious to see Rémy receive his very own attraction at Walt Disney Studios. “High on Mr Gas’s agenda are the development of the Disney Studios, where he plans more attractions and restaurants with the intention of turning it into a ‘one-day experience’ […] ‘Ratatouille is perfect, as it is set in Paris,’ he said, pointing to a large wall poster of the film in his office.”
This new car is a full-size, drivable replica of Lightning McQueen, the “rookie race car” in the 2006 Pixar film which conveniently sees its sequel, Cars 2, released this Summer. Similar cars have been featured at Disney California Adventure and Disney’s Hollywood Studios parks since the original film’s release, whilst Walt Disney Studios Park has had a static model at Cars Quatre Roues Rallye since 2007. The role awaiting Lightning (known in France as “Flash” McQueen) in the Backlot stunt show so far isn’t clear. It’s likely he won’t replace the main “hero” car and will instead make more of a cameo appearance — but does that mean he will replace the show’s existing cameo, 1960s motor star Herbie?
More gates for the second gate! This new pair of turnstiles at the entrance to Walt Disney Studios Park which began construction way back at the end of October finally came into service at the weekend, to help ease queues at the entrance. No, really — if you’re not a frequent Disneyland Paris visitor, it’s actually more common to have to queue to enter the Studios than Disneyland Park next door. Though admittedly, yes, mostly because the Studios was originally only built with a modest 12 turnstiles, compared to more than double that number next door. Guest flow in the area also suffers because the park doesn’t have the two wider periphery exit gates on either side as at Disneyland Park, meaning its regular entrance gates have to gradually switch over to exit gates through the day.
Anyway, it may have taken over four months but the results are rather pleasing to the eye. Two new columns, exactly matching those of the Studios’ original entrance arches, have been built to support a new turquoise/green-painted wooden canopy, which gives the new turnstile cover without detracting from the main archway.
These two new turnstiles actually bring the total to 16 (perhaps a lucky number for the park..?), since back in 2007 an additional two were added on the other side of the plaza, next to Walt Disney Studios Store. Only given a cheap fabric canopy at the time, that gate has now been swiftly surrounded by the same construction walls used for the new turnstile, surely hinting that it’s about to be given a more substantial, matching canopy to give some symmetry to the whole entrance plaza.
The orange halfpipe of RC Racer was always unmistakably inspired by the classic Mattel car series, but now it’s official. Several Hot Wheels logos have just appeared around the attraction, including one on the base of the travel carry bag at the entrance and another stuck on top of the one of the 2D illustrations on the side of the “plastic” station building. In all advertising for Toy Story Playland featuring the trademark orange track, Disneyland Paris has been obliged to print a disclaimer stating the Hot Wheels inspiration, but this is the first in-park nod to the brand.
If you’re no longer an avid viewer of 50-year-old BBC children’s television show Blue Peter, this one might have passed you by as well. But late last year, presenter Joel Defries took a trip over to Disneyland Paris to experience first-hand the new Toy Story Playland, its attractions and what went into making them. As well as riding RC Racer and Toy Soldiers Parachute Drop, he met with Tom Fitzgerland, Walt Disney Imagineering Executive Vice President and Senior Creative Executive, and senior show producer Chrissie Allen, who gave some insight into the two year process of designing and building the new land which officially opened on 17th August 2010.
Bestowed with a good few minutes of Imagineering know-how, Joel is then tasked with dreaming up his own blue sky idea and goes out to explore Walt Disney Studios Park for inspiration (!). Before long, he concludes: “There’s no water here! I want to do something with water!” Good thinking, Joel.
Approaching nine years old, the bedtime rules for Walt Disney Studios Park could finally be about to change. The latest Disneyland Paris park hours show an extended opening schedule for the second gate on the first two weekends of March 2011. As a test, likely to gauge demand and guest feedback, the park will now close at 9pm rather than the usual 7pm on the 5th, 6th, 12th and 13th March. This will surely be a bonus for any fans and if positive could give a tantalising glimpse at a time ahead when the Studios can be enjoyed until nightfall, without the need to join the daily schlep over to Disneyland Park.
The cause for longer hours will have been helped by the three new attractions in Toy Story Playland (not to mention their long queue times), as well as the five other permanent attractions that have been added to the mix since the park’s hours were brutally slashed in late 2002. Up until November in its opening year, the park had closed no earlier than 8pm and stayed open through July and August from 9am to 9pm, but this was cut back to a solid 9am to 6pm schedule from 2003 as guest demand fell short and a financial restructuring (largely due to the cost of the park) required cost-cutting. The situation was so bad, you might remember, that Disney offered guests with a 1-Day 1-Park ticket to the Studios complimentary evening access to Disneyland Park after 6pm. It wasn’t until the 2007 Toon Studio expansion that the park began to live a little with later 7pm closing times on busy weekends.
But is the park even ready to stay open until 9pm? With just two counter servicerestaurants and a buffet, and only three stores, Walt Disney Studios Park has a long way to go to match the offer of its neighbour, an important factor as guests stay in the park later into the day. If the demand is there for a later closing time, we have to hope Disney will satisfy the demand for better dining, retail and entertainment that will surely follow.
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