Tuesday, 16th February 2010

Refurb roundup: Disney Clothiers wrapped up

Starting on Main Street, U.S.A., Photos Magiques were keen-eyed enough to spot the disappearance of the balcony railing around the top of Disney Clothiers, Ltd. in their latest update:

Disneyland Park Refurbishments

Just a week later, and the building is fully encased in scaffolding and tarpaulin wraps for a complete exterior refurbishment:

Disneyland Park Refurbishments

Disneyland Park Refurbishments

Disneyland Park Refurbishments

Access to the boutique is still available through gaps in the construction walls below and from Main Street Motors and Boardwalk Candy Palace either side.

At the end of Main Street, the big project of the moment is hard to miss:

Disneyland Park Refurbishments

While the stone (or rather, concrete) bridge across to Le Château de la Belle au Bois Dormant continues its extensive reconstruction, the giant waterfall (Fungus Falls) and the waterways surrounding it have been turned off and, on the left of the moat area, had their perimeter dug up.

Disneyland Park Refurbishments

Disneyland Park Refurbishments

Taking a peek through the construction walls, the following photo appears to show the first section of the bridge’s walls have now been completely removed, matching reports that the bridge would be partly rebuilt. Previously, they lined up perfectly with the end of the green railings, curving up to the bridge itself. Now, nothing but a gap…

Disneyland Park Refurbishments

Since postings on various forums suggest some visitors have been told the Castle is “closed” it’s worth stating again that it most certainly isn’t. Following the smart “By Royal Decree” signs on the construction walls, you can still access the inside of Sleeping Beauty Castle, its two boutiques and first-floor gallery.

Disneyland Park Refurbishments Disneyland Park Refurbishments

A great (and equally spectacular) way to enter the Castle during the work its via the Dragon’s lair to the left of the bridge — spot the path leading to it in the very first photo above.

Heading across to the Studios, it’s been some time since the repaint of the Walt Disney Television Studios building finally finished up, massively improving the building’s look…

Walt Disney Studios Park Refurbishments

Though all this time later, the ‘Walt Disney Television Studios’ lettering which used to span the front canopy has yet to reappear. And who can fail to notice, the colourful Art Deco/Streamline Moderne satellite dish mural on the building’s corner was hastily painted right over with a solid teal…

Walt Disney Studios Park Refurbishments

Unfortunately the same impulsive attitude hasn’t yet been applied to Disney Studio 1, which remains covered by scaffolding around 583 days since the refurbishment covering was put up and approximately 1656 days since that first Chicken Little billboard rose up in 2005.

Pictures by Dlrpteam, Photos Magiques (more) and DLRP Today.

Friday, 5th February 2010

Riding INTO the Ratatouille Dome…?

Twenty-four hours later, we have our answers courtesy of the manufacturer themselves, constructor of the drywall dome known until now only as ‘Ratatouille Ride Element’. As they say themselves, it’s all about what the individual sees. Luckily, they’ve also provided some exciting specifics…

The extensive work to construct the metal stud framing we’ve all been looking at has since been covered in multiple layers of 3/8″ drywall. After that drywall was installed on top, the absolute highest level of drywall finish was applied — the smoothest possible. A complete “skim coat” to cover ALL the surface visible to the eye.

The reason for this extreme finish? It’s going to be a movie screen. Yes, it isn’t intended to sit on top of the building, but inside the building — as part of the ride. This dome is intended as a projection surface, to show specially-created footage as part of the attraction. Yes, really.

Ratatouille dark ride

In fact, the ride vehicles of the Ratatouille dark ride are apparently intended to “travel directly at” this dome/screen, making it seem as if the vehicles are travelling with the film footage being projected, “in 3D”.

The constructor knows no other details of the footage or the ride, but confirmed the dome is a huge 26ft in height with a 30ft radius. The photo we saw is just the prototype, the first dome created for the ride, which would explain why it’s been created so far ahead of the ride’s green-lighting or construction. When — or dare we say — if the ride is green-lit, Walt Disney Imagineering will want to know that the technology and effects they’re planning will truly work. This could involve setting the “dome” up at their own research & development facility in California, running test projections to ensure that whatever effect they’re going for is as realistic as possible.

Ratatouille dark ride?

Imagine the possibilities — if the story sees us at rat size, being chased around a kitchen, picture this dome presenting Pixar-animated footage of humans towering around you. The concave of a dome could create some classic Disney forced perspective. Or, taking that very first colander guess, we could ride toward this dome projection screen, be trapped and then “carried” (through projections) to a different area in the kitchen, only able to see through those tiny holes, just like Remy during the chase scenes in the film. An altogether very different dark ride experience.

…But now we’re into more speculation. And based on the last 24 hours, WDI have some tricks up their sleeve that we weren’t quite expecting and as yet probably can’t fully imagine ourselves.

As Anton Ego might say, “Surprise us!”.

Images: Davidmackeydrywall.com, Disney/Pixar.

Friday, 5th February 2010

Mysterious ‘Ratatouille Ride Element’ uncovered

STOP PRESS! The mystery has been solved — click here.

When was the last time you got excited about a steel cage sitting in a warehouse? Well that’s exactly what we’re all doing, folks. Found on this vague website about drywall construction based in Burbank, California, the image sits inconspicuously in the sidebar, labelled “Disney Radius Dome Construction” and then… “Ratatouille Ride Element”.

Mysterious 'Ratatouille Ride Element' uncovered

Follow a few links around that website, and you can stumble upon a photo of drywall construction for a “Disney Sound Booth”. Both short-lived blogs were last updated in December 2009, though it’s impossible to tell exactly when the photo was posted.

But what is it? A cage? A giant colander?

Maybe we shouldn’t think about it sitting there on the ground. Imagine it higher up, and suddenly…

Mysterious 'Ratatouille Ride Element' uncovered

…it seems…

Mysterious 'Ratatouille Ride Element' uncovered


Mysterious 'Ratatouille Ride Element' uncovered


Mysterious 'Ratatouille Ride Element' uncovered


Mysterious 'Ratatouille Ride Element' uncovered


Those domes on Tower of Terror arrived pretty much complete at the resort and were only lifted into place a year before it opened. If they were already preparing this “element” as early as November or December 2009, that’s some head-start they’ve got. Not to mention a little presumptuous since, as far as we know, the ride hasn’t been fully green-lit just yet.

But could Rémy really be bringing another dome to the Walt Disney Studios collection, as part of his Parisian attraction façade? Well, there are plenty to inspire in the city itself…

Tip of the (chef’s) hat to fcoyote on Disney Central Plaza, RnRCj on magicforum
Images: Davidmackeydrywall.com, DLRP Today.com

Thursday, 4th February 2010

Toy Soldiers unboxed as Parachute Drop climbs

And so, Toy Story Playland really is coming.

Groundworks, foundations and queue buildings have been worked on for months already, but this is our first real look at the “look” of this new mini-land. And a first look for any Hong Kong fans, too.

These pictures from yesterday caught Toy Soldiers Parachute Drop just as it was topping out, being pieced together from large, tubular sections just like a toy set.

Toy Soldiers Parachute Drop

From this angle next to Cars Quatre Roues Rallye, it fits in quite well, doesn’t it? No? OK…

Toy Soldiers Parachute Drop

Toy Soldiers Parachute Drop

Our photo reporter Dlrpteam even caught the moment the construction crews, after about two hours of confusion and checking under all their tables and chairs twice over (“Well it must be here somewhere!”), found that last important piece — at the bottom of the box all along…

Toy Soldiers Parachute Drop

Toy Soldiers Parachute Drop

In fact, this is just one of several pieces which will hold the all-important rope/wire of our parachutes — note the wheel at the back, for feeding it down the tube into the ride mechanism.

Toy Soldiers Parachute Drop

Toy Soldiers Parachute Drop

The Parachute Drop tower is a considerable height, touching 25-30 metres, roughly as high as the front body of Tower of Terror. Now just about up to its full height, it can be seen between Studios 1 and 2 as you enter the park — and from the end of Hollywood Boulevard.

But it’s not the first piece of the Toy Story Playland playset to make an impact on the park. Even before the Parachute Drop tower, the queue buildings for Slinky Dog Zigzag Spin, RC Racer and Toy Soldiers Parachute Drop itself have grown as concrete and steel shells, becoming hard to ignore in the still rather plain landscape of the Studios…

Toy Story Playland

Above, the box of Slinky Dog has its ends ripped open, whilst below, RC Racer is due to be accompanied by a collection of Hot Wheels-style garages and playset buildings.


Whatever you call this Imagineering creation — Toy Story Playland or plain Toy Story Land of Hong Kong — both names have unfortunately become poison in the Disney fan world. When the concepts were shown at the D23 Expo last year, they even apparently drew audible boos and unhappiness. Blog upon blog and countless forum comments have trashed the development at every turn.

It’s lacking in imagination, it’s cheap, it’s ugly, it’s just for kids… they say. And that’s before you even get into the lack of a restaurant, toilets or a shop (in the Paris version, at least). Or the minuscule capacity of sure-fire hit RC Racer.

Being the first piece that all Disney fans in the world will see of this development, the Parachute Drop tower is unlikely to win over anyone just yet. It’s unashamedly in-your-face — its plastic, simplistic pattern clashing completely with the course the park appeared to be heading with when it opened Hollywood Boulevard.

But — perhaps ignoring the bright orange Hot Wheels track of RC Racer — that’s the “worst” over with. From here, the land will be filled with a huge variety of props, details and in-jokes from the Toy Story films, all surrounded by 5 metre tall bamboo plants, like you see in Adventureland, to double up as tall grass. Should we be worried, or should we even be excited?

Since this project got going while DLRP Today was offline last year, it’s snowballed. From the original rumours to the Hong Kong clone, there’s a lot to catch up on now. And with the Parachute Drop now standing alongside Tower of Terror and the Sorcerer’s Hat, there’s no chance of leaving it on the “To Do” list any longer.

To be continued…

Photos by Dlrpteam for DLRP Today (1-7: 3rd Feb; 8-9: 16th Jan)

Wednesday, 3rd February 2010

Worlds apart? Walt Disney Studios, meet World of Color

Disney’s World of Color might be coming to Walt Disney Studios Park.

Do you need a minute to check the date? Ok, see — it’s not April 1st.

Worlds apart? Walt Disney Studios meets World of Color

The gigantic, multi-mullion dollar nighttime lagoon show is currently on course to première this year in Paradise Bay at Disney’s California Adventure (DCA), the second park at Disneyland Resort in California, as part of its much-heralded rebirth. If you don’t know the full story, this park opened just a year before Walt Disney Studios, in 2001, and suffered from the similar lack of funding and lack of Disney finesse.

But, unlike our dear Studios, Disney have long given up on a piecemeal approach to fixing the disastrous second gate and have thrown themselves (with perhaps more than a little pushing from John Lasseter and co) head first into a billion-dollar expansion and improvement programme. Check out the website here, if you’d like to be jealous.

Now back to Paris.

Though it appears DCA is getting all the luck with its $1bn investment, that doesn’t mean Walt Disney Imagineering haven’t also been planning the future of our second gate. Drawing up plans, throwing around ideas. Thinking about the future way, way ahead of Toy Story Playland and the Ratatouille dark ride; to a time where the Studio Tram Tour route would finally be thrown aside and the park allowed to expand outwards, along an extended Hollywood Boulevard.

Worlds apart? Walt Disney Studios meets World of Color

And what would be at the end of the new boulevard, according the latest proposals from a few years ago? A lake. Yes, water! In Walt Disney Studios Park! It’s a fan’s dream come true, finally a body of water in the parched concrete kingdom of the Studios.

But this wouldn’t just be any body of water. Though the talk of a lake or large area of water in the park has recently, and very quietly, turned from the dream of fans to something actually on the drawing board, no-one guessed what the Imagineers might use such an asset for.

Well, who’d have put World of Color together with Walt Disney Studios? But according to a recent blog post by Alain Littaye, that’s exactly what WDI and Euro Disney SCA are pondering for the future. At the end of this grand, extended Hollywood Boulevard, leading right up past the current service road, the body of water wouldn’t just sit there being all watery, it would become a giant nighttime spectacular — the first of its kind at Disneyland Paris.

Don’t head to the park this year — or perhaps even most of this decade — looking for something like that, though. This is a truly long-term project, major long-term. Alain says “don’t expect it before 2015”, but even that seems incredibly generous unless the proposals have since been rejigged to put the lagoon closer to the heart of the park.

Because, to get to the point where even just this lagoon, bay and stadium — yes, unlike DCA there’d be proper seating — are ready to be built, the park would have to expand right the way back, along the full length of the forest. That’s a major expansion and investment programme even before you get to the frightening cost of the lagoon itself.

Worlds apart? Walt Disney Studios meets World of Color

There’s a chance that by the time Walt Disney Studios Park is ready for this, World of Color might not seem so exciting. Plus as Alain points out, the people involved in these decisions at Disneyland Paris will also need to look in-depth at how it actually turns out. With the show still under preparation, they’ll want to know the full cost of daily performances, maintenance and of course, guest reaction, before it gets anywhere near Paris.

Although it seems like the odds are stacked against Paris for this one as we currently stand, a “nighttime spectacular” is certainly a very real aspiration for the resort. Not only would it extend guests’ visit to either park, prompting more nights in Disney Hotels, it would finally give the resort, well, exactly that — a real nighttime spectacular.

Being so constrained with firework shows due to nearby villages, a show involving comparably quiet fountains and pyrotechnic effects is the perfect solution. The parks would have a draw and a reason to open later for more of the year. And, if you’ve ever visited Versailles or Futuroscope, you’ll know that the locals are already very familiar with the format. They have expectations just waiting to be blown away.

…If they can wait 5, 10 or 15 years.

Images © Disney/Google Earth.

Friday, 29th January 2010

And for Monsters, the screaming’s over before it began

This is not official confirmation, of course, but from a very trusted source on the comments of our previous article, the Monsters, Inc. Scream Academy event, which is already being advertised as part of the New Generation Festival, has been cut before it even began.

Similar information has appeared as a rumour on French forum Disney Central Plaza in recent days. But, according to the new source, the performers were told only last week that they would be moved to other shows, and the auditions for the live host/MC were cancelled just days before they were due to take place. The event as it was planned is now assumed to be cancelled.

And for Monsters, the screaming's over before it began

And so the only certain live outdoor entertainment at Walt Disney Studios Park this year will be Disney’s Stars ‘n’ Cars, with the addition of that new Ratatouille car from 2nd April.

But what was this planned event? The latest excerpt from a press release read:

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 scare” 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!

With guests being invited to “test their screams” to become new Monsters, Inc. recruits, it sounded a lot like the character interaction of Merlin’s Sword in the Stone Ceremony crossed with a little of It’s Dance Time… in Discoveryland, held together by a live host called Patti. We expressed concern just a couple of weeks ago that this corner of Toon Studio surely isn’t big enough for a proper live event.

And for Monsters, the screaming's over before it began

If Monsters Inc. Scream Academy really is cut from the New Generation Festival programme, will it not look a bit embarrassing for Disneyland Paris, who have already advertised it in brochures, images and texts for the new theme year? Perhaps not. After all, the only texts released to the wider public are much vaguer than that above, advertising more the chance to meet Sulley and use the Scream Monitors which have been in place at the photo location since 2006.

In fact, it’ll only be a little embarrassing when dealing with eagle-eyed, frequent visitors to the resort. To much of the less fanatical public, that Monsters, Inc. corner could well be brand new this year. So rather than brushing this advertising under the carpet if the entertainment event is binned for good, they could, in theory, continue pushing this Sulley meet ‘n’ greet spot as a new addition.

But it wouldn’t be like Disneyland Paris to simply wipe something down and then pretend it’s brand new, would it?

Images: Disney; DLRP Today.

Thursday, 28th January 2010

High School Musical – the Party’s over

For the past three years, since 16th June 2007 to be precise, the streets of the Studios have come alive to the music of Disney’s hit TV movie musicals.

After that first year of High School Musical On Tour, the original show returned in 2008 alongside a new show — High School Musical 2: School’s Out!, more heavily promoted as part of ‘The Celebration Continues… Big Time!‘. Last year, the third show, High School Musical Party!, combined both of those together with new musical numbers from the theatrically-released High School Musical 3.

High School Musical - the Party's over

With that third film becoming but a distant memory and the proposed High School Musical 4: East Meets West (West Side Story rip-off by any chance?) not due until later this year, it seems there’s a lull in the “phenomenon”. Still looking to save money and focus on the New Generation of characters, Disneyland Paris has not renewed the show. No doubt that whole High School Musical overlay of Backlot Express restaurant is seeming like an even better idea now…

Naturally, this is a blow not just for High School Musical fans but for the cast themselves, many having stuck with the show over all three seasons to become recognisable faces at the park. In fact, they’ve launched a Facebook group titled “Save the Wildcats!” to state their cause.

Though ironically in this same week, Disneyland Paris chose to send out a Wildcats-themed email promotion to UK visitors:

High School Musical - the Party's over

Maybe you’re one of those people which didn’t like the ‘HSM’ shows and their overbearing soundtracks trundling through the park — so is this good news for you? Probably not, because there’s no replacement. Given the whole economic crisis shambles we perhaps can’t complain too much, but it is just another area of the Studios’ live entertainment crossed off the programme.

In the time since the first High School Musical show, a lot has changed. Check out our article from back then, proclaiming a “blockbuster” Summer for the park. Besides the opening of Crush’s Coaster and Cars Quatre Roues Rallye, there was Lilo & Stitch Catch the Wave Party on Place des Stars Stage, Disney Cinema Parade on the parade route and — the real star — CinéFolies in Disney Studio 1. Those, of course, became known as “Shooting Live” when they were moved to Place des Stars for Summer 2008, only to be cancelled — rather than moved back to a street-based location — when they didn’t prove quite so successful.

Though Disneyland Park has also lost some big, popular and high quality shows in The Tarzan Encounter and The Legend of The Lion King without replacement, it has at least kept a good array of smaller entertainments — such as Mary Poppins, Sleeping Beauty — not to mention Mickey’s Winter Wonderland and the still-wondrous contender for Best Daytime Parade Ever, Disney’s Once Upon a Dream Parade.

High School Musical - the Party's over

In 2010, the only new live entertainment over at the second gate appears to be Monsters Inc. Scream Academy, which from the very vague details we’re guessing will be something small along the lines of Merlin’s Sword in the Stone Ceremony. Except, instead of pulling a sword from a stone, we’ll be invited to scream as loud as we can and, of course, dance. Screaming kids? We’ll see you there!

From the time these shows began, it’s disappointing how visibly the “party” has come to a crashing halt. Economic crisis or not, the Studios hasn’t seen the faintest touch of “plussing” for some time — revenue-driven additions like the Production Courtyard kiosk add little to the experience and even Toy Story Playland will be an entirely self-contained addition, not improving the existing park.

Where once Hollywood Boulevard was rising from behind the construction fences, promising a rebuilt, properly-themed Studios, and little details like the Monsters, Inc. photo location itself began to appear, it now seems the park is deemed “good enough”. And with High School Musical no longer partying in the streets, whatever your opinion, the park just lost one thing to distract visitors from the fact that it still really, definitely isn’t.

Images © Disney, DLRP Today.

Friday, 22nd January 2010

Two-tier Ratatouille with a side of shopping, please

Since the footprint of the Imagineers’ proposed addition to the Studios was published via the “mairie” of Chessy, the town just behind Disneyland Paris, we can finally just about picture what this ride could look like if it gets the green light within the next few months.

On the left, the outcrop with angled sides matches perfectly with the corner of Gusteau’s restaurant as seen in the film Ratatouille itself. Just behind, the walls of the proposed building jut inwards to create a small square courtyard — surely the back alley and entrance to the kitchens, where we saw Linguini park his scooter and Rémy’s friends come scavenging for food.

Ratatouille dark ride
Plan (thanks to Mouetto) compared to Tokyo’s existing trackless ride.

An even more exciting match-up can be found with the shape of the rectangular building behind. Since the rumours have persisted almost since the outset that this ride could use the trackless (or “GPS”) technology of Pooh’s Hunny Hunt at Tokyo Disneyland, it’s incredibly satisfying to see that the showbuildings of both this existing ride — and the possible future ride for Paris… are the exact same dimensions.

We don’t know that this plan submitted for approval by the local town hall will be the final design — after all, the plan of Toy Story Playland to come from the Chessy mairie showed two RC Racer halfpipes, side by side — but we can now see for certain that Walt Disney Imagineering have really, truly been using Pooh’s Hunny Hunt, that roaring success of a dark ride, as the template for a ride at our humble Walt Disney Studios Paris.

And so, those new details to spill: In responding to questions about the plan on the Disney Central Plaza message board, member La Rouquine confirmed several suspicions — and raised expectations higher.

Ratatouille dark ride
Artwork from Ratatouille.

Positioned right up against the existing costuming (ImagiNations) building, the planned attraction wouldn’t extend properly into the adjoining space but the costuming workshop itself, as previously seen from Studio Tram Tour, is intended to be moved. This freed-up space would then make true a rumour heard many months ago — that the building could house a Ratatouille boutique.

The workshop is the perfect size for a connecting store, and would finally bring the building at least partially within park use. As the main building for Cast Members, providing their costumes among other services, the building is ideally placed right between the two parks. Though it presents a difficult barrier for future Toon Studio expansion, there are apparently no plans for the rest of the space to be absorbed into the park for a long time to come, it only being opened back in 2001.

So, point number two — the size of the new building. Though the rectangular showbuilding at the rear matches perfectly with Pooh’s Hunny Hunt, the total floorspace appears much lower. How could this new development really fit in everything that’s rumoured — the dark ride, the shop, the restaurant – perhaps toilets? By going up.

Ratatouille dark ride
Ratatouille: Going up?

Oh yes, it appears WDI really do want to give this “parking lot theme park” of flat, single-level attractions the depth (or perhaps height) it needs by building Ratatouille on “several” floors — explaining its modest size in the plan seen. Think of the stretch room in Phantom Manor; the multi levels of Pirates of the Caribbean. This kind of design adds a lot to the experience.

Though, this isn’t to say that your trackless ride vehicle could also climb to a second storey — more likely, that the queue line or restaurant (if it really hasn’t been cancelled) could be located above one another. Perhaps imagine queueing through the elevated rat restaurant seen at the end of the film as real-life diners enjoy a meal in Linguini’s real restaurant below.

What now?

Rumour has it, John Lassetter has been involved in the planning, and a model of the proposed attraction already exists. Many people are now getting twitchy — if this is to be the main 20th Anniversary addition, doesn’t construction need to start soon? Two years is about as quickly as a ride like this can be developed, after all.

In fact, we’ve heard that the attraction plans have now been signed off by Imagineering and the powers that be. It’s a go! — well, almost. Those plans are now lying in the hands of the resort’s financial backers, waiting nervously for that green light to be lit.

Let’s hope they do just that, since the cost-to-benefit ratio of this addition must be off the scale. A dark ride in any sense — even the quaint Snow White/Pinocchio style — would transform perceptions of the Studios. A trackless dark ride would blow visitors away.

Then there’s the theme. Not only was Ratatouille a smash success in France, it’s oh-so-French style would be perfect for the resort’s international visitors, allowing them to experience the feeling of Paris during their trip without stepping a foot out of the resort. For the locals, it would finally put a bit of France back into the parks, an influence that has been noticeably missing since Le Visionarium and its subtle showcasing of the country closed up in 2004. What better way to celebrate the 20th Anniversary in 2010 than with an expansion truly celebrating the country’s great capital city.

Ratatouille dark ride
The moment of realisation.

It almost goes without saying: the ride would be a must-do for every age, it’s trackless technology setting up a kitchen chase that could be moderately thrilling yet family friendly. The overwhelming success of the Japanese cousin is there to see. No other ride in the entire park would have such a wide age spectrum of satisfaction.

Clever use of projections in place of expensive sets and only more simple Animatronic figures, as at Pooh’s Hunny Hunt, would help bring the overall costs down. Since the technology is already developed and is currently being used for the Mystic Point addition to Hong Kong Disneyland, further cost savings are there for the taking. Having the construction crews “retreat” and start work on this site as soon as Toy Story Playland nears completion makes further sense. The resort already has a permit to remove the trees currently covering the site.

But now, we must wait. Not even able to watch through the kitchen doors. Just cross our fingers and hope beyond hope that they too have a fork-hitting-the-floor moment — where it all makes sense that this absolutely, positively, has to happen.

Images: Via Mouetto, DCP; Disney/Pixar; Google Earth.

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.

Monday, 28th December 2009

Chessy town planning office infested by a… Rat!

This plan from the Chessy town hall, another great scoop from Mouetto and the Disney Central Plaza team, could be a real vision of the future. Slotted in at the back of Toon Studio, beyond Toy Story Playland and the ImagiNations costuming building, a show building… for a dark ride and restaurant.

Ratatouille dark ride at Walt Disney Studios Park

Shown in red is the new showbuilding, whilst green shows area development / placemaking in front of the attraction.

There’s no explicit mention of Ratatouille, of course, but everything aligns. For over two years, a dark ride — possibly a trackless dark ride, a la Tokyo’s Winnie the Pooh — dedicated to Rémy and friends has been firmly placed on the horizon. From early mentions by MiceAge and slips from Disney themselves on CNBC to near constant rumours from Cast Members, the plans for Toy Story Playland — with that large extra path outside the land, next to the costuming building — seemed to seal the fact that Toon Studio still had another trick to come.

It’s important to note, though: Nothing is being announced. Nothing is confirmed. This new plan, published by DCP on 25th December, is apparently around a year old — as proved by the abandoned concept of two RC Racer halfpipes — but it’s our first look at what could be.

The huddle of a façade, with sticky-out bits and sticky-in bits, to use the technical terms, matches perfectly the Parisian street setting we’ve been expecting. Perhaps the building jutting out to the left could be the corner of Gusteau’s Restaurant (below), whilst the indented middle could resemble the back alley and restaurant kitchens, where Linguini parks his scooter.

Ratatouille dark ride at Walt Disney Studios Park

Most interesting about this concept submitted to the Chessy planning office, however, is that the proposed building joins right up with the existing costuming building. For years fans have suggested that the building could become part of the park, rather than a barrier to future development, and this appears to suggest exactly that. The new building joins right up with the actual costuming workshop, which used to be visible from Studio Tram Tour: Behind the Magic.

Given that the Cast Members here have already had to put up with seven years of being gorped at by guests, it’s unlikely they’d be subjected to working with no windows — so would the new development “overflow” into this space? Another reason that thought springs to mind is size. For a dark ride — let alone a restaurant — this building is rather on the small side, with large spaces left on all sides.

In any case — don’t get too attached. There was word earlier this year that the very smart restaurant aspect of this development was unlikely to go ahead, in line with Euro Disney SCA’s plan to have everyone eating out of vans and kiosks, so the situation with the Rat’s floorplan and layout may have already changed quite a bit.

Even the fact that this attraction could be the resort’s big 20th Anniversary addition, seen as almost a certainty just a few months ago, has recently slipped. Back in July, Alain Littaye bravely announced:

“Forget about Splash Mountain, Indiana Jones Adventure or the Little Mermaid, the next Disneyland Paris big E-Ticket will be the Ratatouille attraction! This awaited E-Ticket which will be build at the Walt Disney Studios has been approved by the park’s management and it’s now confirmed – not officially, of course – that Ratatouille will be DLRP 20th anniversary E-Ticket.”

Before going on to enthuse with a description that seemed to tick every box:

“Of course expect on the outside some Paris decor, but also inside the building as the queue line decor will put the guests on the rooftops of Paris with breathtaking height feeling, thanks to forced perspective.

“Guests will then board in what will be probably LPS controlled vehicles – the same technology used at the TDL Winnie the Pooh attraction – and will be “reduced” at the size of Remy. No Mighty Telescope here, but a ceiling probably as high as the one inside Pirates of Caribbean as WDI imagineers will build giant decor to give us the feeling that we are as small as a rat.

Ratatouille dark ride at Walt Disney Studios Park

“The ride will begin inside Gusteau’s restaurant kitchen where we will be chased by some of the cooks and especially Skinner, the chef. I don’t want to tell you too much about the storyline to don’t spoil you the ride, but what i can tell you is that the ride itself will not follow the chronological order of the movie scenes, although WDS visitors will be pleased to find some of the key scenes from the movie.

“Of course we can expect Audio-Animatronics figures during the ride. As guests are supposed to have the size of a rat, any rat Audio-Animatronic will not be a problem (in terms of dimensions), but what about human figures which in all logic should be gigantic to respect the proportions. Well, WDI imagineers found an intelligent answer to this problem and sometime we will see – just like Remy in the movie – only the legs of a cook…”

Like Rémy, as he pored over his cook book, we can but dream for now…

Images © Disney; Plan with thanks to Mouetto, DCP.

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