Friday, 11th March 2011

Attendance breakdown reveals where 15 million Disneyland Paris visitors come from

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?

VIA Euro Disney SCA

Thursday, 10th March 2011

Ratatouille ride confirmed by Euro Disney CEO as “well advanced”, but still a long way away

Ratatouille dark ride construction

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.

Ratatouille dark ride

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.”

VIA skyam, Jolly Roger, Grandmath (DCP), The Telegraph

Tuesday, 8th March 2011

Kachow! Meet the new Lightning McQueen car joining ‘Moteurs… Action!’ from April

Moteurs… Action! Stunt Show Spectacular will be welcoming a new cameo star from a certain automobile-based Pixar film this year, and he just made his grand entrance. At the Euro Disney SCA annual general meeting last Friday, the Cars-Moteurs tie-in was presented on the big screen and followed by Lightning McQueen himself then driving right out into the auditorium, Hotel New York’s convention centre, as seen in the video above. The Disney Magical Moments Festival preview show also featured some of the cast of new Central Plaza show Mickey’s Magical Celebration and gave us those finite dates for The Tarzan Encounter‘s heralded return.

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?

VIA mouetto (YouTube)

Wednesday, 23rd February 2011

Additional turnstiles come into service at Walt Disney Studios Park entrance

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.

VIA Photos Magiques

Tuesday, 22nd February 2011

RC Racer given an official Hot Wheels stamp

RC Racer

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.

RC Racer

Interestingly, it comes just after the nod to a rival toy brand — Hasbro — was removed from the giant blue Barrel of Monkeys. A stamp inside the barrel originally read “© Hasbro 2010” but was painted over last month. It’s unknown whether this was removed due to a conflict of commercial interests or a desire not to date this still “new” land now we’re in 2011. Hasbro is counted as one of the resort’s official partners, having replaced Mattel (who originally sponsored Autopia) around 10 years ago.

Now, how long before Mattel see the opportunity for a lucrative merchandise tie-in and let us pick up a more portable version of this unique Hot Wheels playset?

VIA Photos Magiques

Sunday, 20th February 2011

Here’s one we made earlier: Blue Peter goes to Toy Story Playland

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.

VIA Festival Disney (magicforum)

Friday, 11th February 2011

Walt Disney Studios to stay up late for two test weekends in March

Walt Disney Studios Park

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 service restaurants 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.

Tuesday, 8th February 2011

As California Adventure turns 10, Walt Disney Studios loses its running partner

There’s a grand “Happy Birthday” and many congratulations in order today — for Disney California Adventure, the problematic second park at Disneyland Resort in California which opened back on 8th February 2001 and is currently nearing the end of an enormous $1 billion makeover project that will transform the original, mediocre gate into a park worthy of the Disney name. If you’ve not been following progress, you’re missing out — be sure to check the official site, Yesterland, MiceAge, this fantastic infographic and all the other great Californian fan sites — it’s a fascinating look at what can happen when Disney really, truly puts its money — and more importantly, its heart — into making something work. Those three beautiful new attraction posters above, a Disney tradition brought forward for a new generation, are the final signature of intent.

What’s the relevance to Disneyland Paris? Well, it’s looking more and more like our own second gate, a similar project of early 2000s misguidedness, has just lost its running partner; been left behind at the starting block. Whatever analogy you want to use, Disney California Adventure is finally getting really good, really fast — and Walt Disney Studios Park, well, it’s still ambling along like all is well. Of course, though they’ve been lumped together for years as Disney’s follies, the two parks were very different. Where California Adventure had in many of its original areas and attractions a disheartening sheen of “hip” tackiness that Imagineering are now having to steam-clean out of the place, Walt Disney Studios was (and still is) simply massively under-built. And not under-built in the rather charming “there’s plenty of room to expand” style of 2005’s Hong Kong Disneyland, either. As a member on our forum succinctly put it, it’s like “a place filled with nice Disney attractions still in their boxes, waiting to be put in a Disney park.” Ironic, then, that Toy Story Playland, probably the best (at least, most fully-realised) themed area in the park is based around toys being unpacked from their boxes.

Even that expensive new land has almost entirely failed to be integrated into the park around it, as seen above. When Walt Disney Studios doesn’t even get a themed path leading to its new land, what hope is there for going back and readdressing the original, lacking areas, like California is doing? What for the original portion of Toon Studio — the barren, soulless area in front of Animagique — do Euro Disney SCA really consider that to be Disney quality? Will Studio Tram Tour: Behind the Magic ever be given a raison-d’être beyond being an extended drive out to Catastrophe Canyon? Whatever happened to those plans Imagineering dreamed up to turn the depressing and utterly theme-less corner of Production Courtyard into a buzzing Theater District to match Hollywood Boulevard, complete with Soarin’, a new period-specific façade for CinéMagique and new dining and retail? At one time, we we seemed sure to see the terrible, emotionless “Production Courtyard” name become “Hollywood Studio”, to match its “Toon” neighbour, with Backlot following suit. Where Disneyland has “lands”, the Studio would have a collection of different theme “studios”, and finally some vision.

Yes, Walt Disney Studios has been given Toy Story Playland whilst California Adventure will get an expensive Little Mermaid dark ride and an enormous Cars Land, but right now this isn’t about size or scale, it’s about vision and intent. Disneyland Paris doesn’t have the money for a Cars Land, but it probably doesn’t need it. The best part of the California makeover isn’t the new attractions but the sensible and thoughtful re-touching of the original park — adding detail, atmosphere, charm and soul. Paris could spend as much as it likes on that mythical Ratatouille dark ride to be nestled at the back of Toon Studio, but it will just be another self-contained patch of quality. The park as a whole still won’t work if the original areas remain unfinished. Luckily, these corners of the park are so devoid of anything that they’re practically a blank canvas. There’s no giant tile mural needs knocking down here. The attractions are top quality, they just need to be unpacked from their boxes, wrapped in a cohesive theme. So where is the vision for Walt Disney Studios, the intent? Maybe it’s still to come. We’ve heard rumblings of a “30-year plan” — but that means if you’re in your 30s today, you’ll be just about retiring by the time the park has moved forward. Today, to the eyes of a visitor, the Studios isn’t going anywhere — and the worst thing a Disney park can ever be is static.

Thursday, 20th January 2011

Monthly payments, more prestigious AP Dream being considered for Passeport Annuel?

Notes from a Shareholders roundtable meeting at Disney’s Hotel New York back in December suggest some changes to the Passeport Annuel programme could be on the way this year. The first has already taken place: the launch of an official fourth ticket, the Passeport Annuel Classic. Primarily given away free via other companies a promotional tool (to “convert a new population to annual passports”, as the roundtable notes put it), the ticket offers 277 days of park access within each year (that’s 88 blockout dates). Where this gets interesting is that the ticket reportedly went on general sale at the parks on 17th December, costing €98. That’s just one Euro less than the freely-available Passeport Annuel Francilien, which offers a full 300 days in the parks. Confused? Though the Classic has yet to be listed on the official AP pages, the price point and the offering would make it a likely successor to the Francilien, whose name causes confusion (it’s not just for those in the Paris region) and whose advantages are arguably just a little too generous for the price, compared to regular tickets. Discontinuing the Francilien in favour of the Classic would even-up the benefits of each pass. We’ll see…

At the other end of the scale, the Passeport Annuel Dream already gives holders some fantastic discounts and year-round access, but has jumped in price a little lately to €199 after several years at €179. This is still a real steal compared to similar APs at other Disney resorts — and even Paris’ own top-level tickets in years gone by — but the roundtable notes (PDF) reveal that an even more “prestigious” and interestingly, “personalised”, pass could be developed, offering even more benefits. What benefits those may be exactly is unclear — the return of that Disney Hotel parking privilege is unlikely.

Finally, and what could be the biggest change of all: subscription payments. At the moment, each Annual Passport is sold as a one-off ticket, and though the holder should receive an offer to renew at the end of their pass, it’s a considerable hassle for the customer (particularly if you don’t speak French or don’t live in France) and must present quite a drop-off of potential on-going customers for Disney. The meeting notes state that a number of improvements are being studied regarding customer relations, which could lead to “development of tailor-made offers, loyalty programmes and payment by monthly instalments”.

This same idea is currently being discussed quite actively for the American parks, and would mean that an Annual Passport effectively becomes an open-ended ticket to the parks, paid directly from your bank account each month with no need to queue at the Passeport Annuel Bureau each year or send off any renewal forms. Presumably passholders would still need to pay for, say, their first 12 months up-front or be locked into something resembling a phone contract, but in the long term this would surely be very popular for most frequent visitors and fans. Your thoughts, passholders?

VIA Disneyland Paris Corporate – PDF, mouetto (DCP)

Monday, 17th January 2011

Magical Moments previews for 2011 roll out along walkway to the parks

Disney Magical Moments Festival

This year’s Disney Magical Moments Festival has already manifested itself along the moving walkway to the parks, replacing advertising for the New Generation Festival and Toy Story Playland with an incoming style of thick typefaces, bold colours and glittery backgrounds. From the first general banner above, announcing the French title of Le Festival des Moments Magiques Disney with a big “2011” and the Sorcerer Mickey icon for the year, guests roll upwards along the walkway past six more “moments”.

Featured for the celebration, beginning 6th April 2011, are Lighting McQueen, for his new cameo in Moteurs… Action! Stunt Show Spectacular, the new Alice in Wonderland event, the Jungle Book and Lion King meet ‘n’ greet events, the Peter Pan happening, Mickey Mouse, presumably for the new Central Plaza show, and the Disney Princesses for their advertised new meet ‘n’ greet experience in the former post-show “World Chorus” of “it’s a small world”. You can see the full collection here.

VIA DisneyGazette.fr

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