Imagine the scene… it’s just any regular morning at Disneyland Park. You walk through Fantasia Gardens at a brisk pace, deciding where you’re going to head first. You get your park ticket ready for the turnstile and step under Disneyland Hotel to the entrance gates.
But, when you put your ticket into the machine and step through, you’re surrounded by confetti, cheering, Mickey and Minnie Mouse, Disney officials and a giant placard proclaiming you as the 200,000,000th (200 millionth) guests!
Today, Tuesday 12th August 2008, exactly that happened. The Yernaux family from Salon de Provence in France were given the momentous accolade of being our European Disney resort’s 200 millionth guests!
After a festive welcome and photos with Mickey and Minnie Mouse and Euro Disney Vice President François Banon, they enjoyed an unforgettable day at the park littered with special exclusives and VIP experiences. This evening, they will enjoy a special dinner at Walt’s – An American Restaurant in Main Street, U.S.A. and have been upgraded to a suite in the brand new Empire State Club at Disney’s Hotel New York.
With more than 14.5 million guests last year, fans with a calculator and a list of previous attendance records could well see that this occasion would soon arrive — as of 31st March 2008, overall attendance at the resort’s two parks totalled 194.1 million. And, as the Disney Hotels can now boast an occupancy rate of 89.3%, it all serves to confirm, 16 years on, that Disneyland Resort Paris is far and away the leading tourist destination in Europe.
The last attendance milestone, the 100 millionth guest, happened just 7 years ago in January 2001.
Today’s 200 million barrier also gives us an update on attendance so far this year. With first half (from October 2007) attendance of 7 million, we can now add 5.9 million — so far — for the second half. This gives us 12.9 million guests through the gates in financial year 2008 so far and therefore only 1.6 million more needed between now and the end of the year on 30th September to keep a steady 14.5 million, last year’s attendance record.
By comparison, last year’s second half brought us an incredible 8.4 million visitors, the highest in the resort’s history. A successful final month-and-a-half could well allow the resort to beat last year’s record. Beating the elusive 15 million mark, however — the annual figure Disney originally wanted after the opening of Walt Disney Studios Park — remains as challenging as ever.
What WALL-E lacks in his limited speech of synthetic sounds, beeps and whistles, he more than makes up for with a powerful message of caring for our planet. It’s not quite as overstated as a 90-minute power lecture from Al Gore, but it’s definitely there.
So, when you visit Backlot Express restaurant in Walt Disney Studios Park this Summer, you’re bound to feel more than a little guilty as you take your tray.
Because, not only will you be picking up food in plastic wrapping and a drink from a plastic bottle you’ll likely throw away in a few minutes, the people in charge of the Buena Vista-Disneyland crossovers (yes, the same movie distribution/park crossovers that brought us the famous Disney Studio 1 billboard) have thoughtfully lined your tray with a large sheet of crisp white A3 paper.
On it, you’ll find an advertisement for WALL-E — featuring the robot presenting a windmill to his love, Eve — and a message to visit the Shutterbugs photo studio inside Disney Studio 1. Here, you can pose against the green-screen backdrop to be transplanted into the world of WALL-E for a souvenir photo.
So first Buena Vista International ruined Studio 1, are they now going for the Earth?
It’s inevitable that a film with the agenda of WALL-E will come under fire for not practising what it preaches amongst the mountains of merchandise and marketing materials that need to be produced, but using literally tens of thousands of sheets of un-recycled paper to advertise it is rather an unfortunate decision. Luckily, Disneyland Resort Paris does claim to sort and recycle the vast majority of its waste, and has a very good record for doing so, but in this case did that waste need to exist in the first place?
On the opposite end of the AXIOM, the advertising for WALL-E in the park began with just three or four single posters outside Backlot Express, together seen by more people than these thousands of paper sheets put together. Even the guys at Walt Disney Records have given the film’s underlying message some thought — your soundtrack CD won’t arrive in a plastic case but with a cardboard wallet and paper booklet produced from 100% recycled materials.
Rather a more Earth-friendly way to do things, wouldn’t you have thought?
Café Cafés, the oddly-titled new coffee shop fashioned out of the enclosed former terrace of Rendez-Vous des Stars Restaurant, is just about ready to open its doors!
Well, it would if it had any. With construction fences now removed, we can see for ourselves what the designers and Nescafé sponsors have managed to create out of this relatively small semi-circular edge of the building.
Indeed, there are no doors, rather a large opening cut perfectly into the old glass-brick wall, leading into a covered area with a large serving counter. Decorated with (likely faux) mahogany panels and given a metallic trim, the counter already houses a display case for pastries and cakes, with several menu boards ready and waiting up above. If you were a new park visitor, you’d probably assume it was here all along.
The counter itself appears curiously similar to the on-ride photo desk at the exit of Buzz Lightyear Laser Blast. Nevertheless, there has always been a slight cross-over between the neons of Discoveryland and the neon Art Deco of Production Courtyard, allowing the same circular, ringed edges to feel at home here.
Inside — yes, there will be an “inside”! — the floor has been replaced with a continuation of the more durable patio stones from outside.Â Tables and chairs similar to those in the new Café Mickey terrace have already arrived and the walls and ceiling have been painted a colourful lilac. Unfortunately, it’s here that signs of the modern-day world begin to creep in rather more noticeably than if this were a true Imagineering project.
The hanging smoked-glass lights blend contemporary with Art Deco well, but a second type of lighting — a large coffee bean-styled piece of smoked glass embedded with halogen lights — seems like it could be taking the balance a little too far in the wrong direction.
Very visible speakers, identical to those which still plague La Terrasse, are also here, along with a long horizontal heater for those many cold days in this very open-to-the-elements area. The general layout seems to put the new location in the same category as Victoria’s Home-Style Restaurant, only with a less “home-style” environment. It’s “functional”, rather than “immersive” or “themed”, and certainly less than we’ve become used to from sponsors such as Coca-Cola and Perrier recently.
When you’re sipping your flavoured coffee, gazing out across the courtyard, will you care? Well, the experience likely won’t be quite as memorable as a coffee at Disneyland Park’s Cable Car Bake Shop, but it will finally give Walt Disney Studios Park a fifth indoor eatery.
Only the fifth, and only just “indoor”…? Make that a black coffee.
It began 493 days ago. The 15th Anniversary Celebration of Disneyland Resort Paris has certainly rolled on for longer than we all expected — being extended for another year as it was with ‘The Celebration Continues’ — but, as the final end date has now been announced, it’s a worrying concept.
No more Disney Characters’ Express, no more Candleabration. No more Lumière banners at every turn or ’15s’ on everything in sight. We are now really, truly in the home straight on this epic — and, we have to say, wonderful — celebration.
The date it all ends, as confirmed by the latest Autumn/Winter 2008/09 official brochure: 7th March 2009.
What will happen in the parks that day? Nothing is announced yet. It’s the days after, those three lonely weeks before the start of a new season in April 2009, that will be the most interesting.
Disneyland Resort Paris certainly feels to have settled nicely into its 15th Anniversary overlay, and so removing every tiny mention of the celebration — from merchandise through to advertising and all those napkins, cups and decorations between — will be a big task.
What won’t be removed? Well, unsurprisingly the expensive and incredibly popular Disney’s Once Upon a Dream Parade is here to stay. And don’t expect the Casey Jr. train and character meet ‘n’ greets of Disney Characters’ Express to go far. The concept of a main show on Central Plaza is also ready and waiting to be used again.
We reported the introduction of a second crush at Crush’s Coaster in Walt Disney Studios Park with the testing of FASTPASS tickets for one week in July. Then, we gave it an analysis so thorough that even Jaque’s Boat Cleaners would be proud. Ultimately, we accepted that the introduction of some kind of FASTPASS system at the popular yet capacity-starved attraction might just be inevitable — if only to stop the tide of complaints and questions from confused, queueing guests.
And the operations managers of Disneyland Resort Paris? They’re not quite so sure. Which is why, from 18th to 24th August 2008, the full FASTPASS tests will return again!
This information comes from member Chti Greg on Disney Central Plaza forum, who provided the original forewarning of the July tests — and just happens to work as a cast member on the attraction itself.
So, if you’re headed to Marne-la-Vallée’s little piece of the Australian reef this month, you might just be able to test the timeslot system for yourself. Yes, that’s important — test it.
Operations are apparently just as hesitant about adding FASTPASS full-time as the fans who complain it will cripple the attraction’s regular queue. So, they’ll have another chance to test it fully again and perhaps, just perhaps, convince themselves once and for all that it will or won’t work full-time.
Some called “Hurrah”, others called “Horror”. For Disneyland Resort Paris, this is just about the debate of the last twelve months — should Crush’s Coaster offer FASTPASS?
First, the arguments. If you’re a pro-FASTPASS visitor, you might be shocked at just how strongly some people feel against the system. Here is a way to let people spend the time they would be standing in a line enjoying themselves elsewhere in the park. You get your ticket, return at the time, and are guaranteed a shorter wait. Sounds pretty great all-round.
The big issue, that anyone against the system will tell you, is this: FASTPASS does not add capacity. It sounds obvious, but many — particularly those “everyday” guests in the parks — assume that if an attraction has FASTPASS it can, somehow, automatically accept a much greater number of people through its turnstiles every hour. Of course, not true.
What happens is that, whilst the flow of people through the FASTPASS queue is regulated and steady in accordance with the attraction’s actual capacity per hour (or throughput) thanks to the timeslots, the people deciding to join the regular queue can end up waiting longer.
“But it’s not our problem, they could have got a ticket too” you could say. True, they could — but not everyone can. Usually it’s only between 40 and 50% of all the guests going through an attraction each day. There will, always, be a vast majority who have to grin and bear the queue if they’re to get on-board.
“Well then, why not make the attraction FASTPASS-only, so that everyone needs a ticket?”. Sure, that would guarantee you a ride with a guaranteed shorter wait, but here you threaten to destroy completely the logistics and operation of an entire Disney theme park.
Disneyland in California learnt this to its peril in the early 2000s, when the much-maligned old management seemingly added it to everything in sight, answering the call of unknowing guests and hoping for significant increases in food and merchandise sales as people waited.
How much is too much?
In fact, those increases failed to materialise, because when you get a FASTPASS ticket you rarely think “right, now let’s go spend some money whilst waiting” — usually, you still want to actually ride an attraction.
Case in point — during the tests at Crush’s Coaster, the normally-sedate Flying Carpets Over Agrabah suddenly began to accumulate queues of between 75 and 90 minutes every day (equalling the Coaster itself), as guests grabbed a ticket and then went straight to the first nearby attraction.
With FASTPASS tickets in everyone’s hands, the walkways become crowded to the extent where the park capacity actually decreases, things become worn before time and complaints actually rise.
It’s not all bad — the system can work great on attractions that are designed with it in mind, or built with a big enough capacity that they can easily cope with both ticket holders and regular queuers. The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror, with its two huge loading floors, is a good example. Similarly, Space Mountain: Mission 2‘s two platforms mean that trains can be “prepared” in advance so that the throughput of trains stays steady and right up to the maximum capacity.
And now we arrive here — Crush’s Coaster. The E-Ticket that isn’t.
Joining the Crush
For all intents and purposes, this attraction IS considered by guests to be as important as Big Thunder Mountain or The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror. It’s a classic Disney “weenie” as you step toward Toon Studio, it’s a roller coaster, it’s based on the most successful animated movie ever made and it’s a LOT of fun. But it also has a capacity of just 960 people per hour, and that’s with turtle shells filled right up with 4 people departing regular as clockwork every 15 seconds.
Crush’s Coaster was never meant to be such an important attraction in the fabric of the park. But, whilst Toon Studio waits for its real high-capacity E-Ticket, it is always going to be. On this one, Imagineering simply struck gold with an idea and didn’t realise before it was too late.
The comparisons to Peter Pan’s Flight across the way are spot on — a popular film, a great concept, with a low capacity and ‘E-Ticket’ status that wasn’t intended. Part of this, interestingly, seems to come from the conclusion of guests that FASTPASS equals a must-see attraction.
The only way to truly solve the Crush at Crush would be to build a second track for the coaster — which won’t happen. Or perhaps to build a second loading platform inside, to make sure its’ throughput stays steady — which won’t happen. Short of demolishing it (which again, won’t happen), FASTPASS begins to look like a good option. And that’s what the regular park guests think, too.
Questions and answers
If you’re reading this between the hours of 10am and 7pm, we can guarantee unquestionably that right now, in Walt Disney Studios Park, a Cast Member will be being asked “does Crush’s Coaster have FASTPASS?” or “why doesn’t Crush’s Coaster have FASTPASS?”. Maybe someone will even be making a complaint at Studio Services.
So now we find the real reason for these tests — they’re never going to make 100% of people happy with the situation at Crush’s Coaster, but if they can make 40% of people happy — and then tell the rest that “yes, we do offer FASTPASS, but they’ve all gone, it’s very popular, sorry”, then that seems to show, to these people, that Disneyland Resort Paris are trying to handle the situation.
In that sense, it almost seems inevitable. Hand out around 3,000 FASTPASS tickets each morning, and that’s 3,000 happy guests that otherwise would have faced a grumpy 90-minute wait. Cast Members finally have the ability to say the system IS offered, but all gone for the day.
It seems like a good solution, but there’s bound to be a negative somewhere… The 5,500 other guests who can ride the attraction each day, perhaps? Not only are they now waiting for slightly longer than before (since people pick up a FASTPASS who might not have otherwised bothered to ride at all), but they’re in a queue with fewer people and having to watch 30-or-so giddy FASTPASS riders walk right by every few minutes. So, for the “other 60%”, it begins to look less appetising.
And of course, we shouldn’t forget that for the recent tests Crush’s Coaster effectively commandeered the FASTPASS machines of its neighbour, Flying Carpets Over Agrabah. Not only does this throw off a little the themed environments Disney usually promotes, now the Cast Members at the actual entrance have to just replace their “there’s no FASTPASS, sorry” with “yes, FASTPASS is right over there”.
Workable or manageable
If the system is ever offered permanetly at the attraction, surely a more workable solution for the tickets would be needed? Unfortunately, the area around the attraction has been limited terribly by the original design. The entrance is often a bottleneck that could give even the area in front of Big Thunder Mountain a run for its money.
The area is so cramped, that the regular queue line practically never fits within its original boundary, running away around the palm trees in front of Flying Carpets, or even extending across Toon Studio in the mornings. The queue line itself isn’t anywhere near big enough, with the look and appeal of a sandy cattlepen. Many would agree it could do with having a touch more in common with the colourful, interesting, palm-filled entrance of the attraction.
Perhaps, rather than making guests’ wait for the attraction more enjoyable by giving them a return FASTPASS ticket, the answer could be to make their wait more enjoyable in the actual queue line?
[Pictures: DLRP Today.com]
Note: Several pictures were taken on a day in August 2007 when it was announced in advance that the attraction would be closed for maintenance, used here since the lack of guests gives a better look at the true amount of space around the attraction.
It’s the morning after Bastille Day, the date: 15th July 2008. As guests made their way into Walt Disney Studios Park, rushing off toward Crush’s Coaster as quickly as possible, they were met with a sudden, unexpected dilemma — queue up, as normal… or get a FASTPASS ticket.
Overnight, the overwhelmingly popular spinning roller coaster in Toon Studio became the proud owner of its very own FASTPASS system — courtesy of Flying Carpets Over Agrabah.
Had over a year of complaints and requests from guests, not to mention the short-lived tests earlier this year, finally caused operations to cave in and add the advance timeslot system to the low-capacity attraction? Not quite.
From the outset, these tests had a specific start and end date — 15th to 21st July, one week only. For the set-up, new, flat signage was placed above the Flying Carpets Over Agrabah FASTPASS return times, reading “Crush’s Coaster Fastpass Tickets Distribution” in the colours and style of the attraction. To the left, the Flying Carpets Over Agrabah logo itself was covered over by an arrow pointing specifically to this attraction’s slightly displaced entrance.
Original sign (15th July) / Altered sign (16th July onwards)
Join the queue, and you’d discover the machines looked exactly the same as always. Look upwards, and the changes begin. No longer were the times ticking very slowly by as they would with the old Flying Carpets tickets — now, you’d see the timeslots cycling through up to every 30 SECONDS, right before your eyes.
The morning “crush” at Crush’s Coaster was effectively split in two for the week, with guests rushing out of Disney Studio 1 to join either the regular line or the FASTPASS distribution. Eventually, the two rather awkwardly met right in the middle of Toon Studio, and trailed back further, side-by-side!
We’ve got a videoclip of the two queues meeting, which we’ve set to some music from Finding Nemo itself for some added amusement… is there a FASTPASS for the FASTPASS distribution yet??
Finally get to the front, and you’ll become the proud owner of the closest thing to Disney gold-dust — a real, printed Crush’s Coaster fastpass ticket!
Unlike the tests earlier this year, this week-long trial attempted to test the system as fully as possible, so the tickets were authentic and customised to the attraction.
And when you returned to the attraction at your set time, how was that experience?
The entrance, fresh from other recent changes, was roped off into two distinct lines — one headed by a Cast Member checking FASTPASS tickets and allowing guests through (though only every few minutes, not constantly), the other, as usual, stretching off to the right right around the palm tree ‘Oasis’ area.
The themed sign seen earlier this year, pointing out the two lines, had returned for the occasion.
Pass the Cast Member, and you’d be walking down the first part of the line, divided in two, until you reach the turnstiles and beach hut. Here, your FASTPASS would be taken by a second Cast Member and you’d turn immediately left to join the queue at the entrance to Studio 5 — as the hoard of waiting guests in the regular queue area stared intently. Rather than being mixed naturally, their queue was completely halted as a new group of FASTPASS guests were allowed entry every few minutes.
Photo: Chris500, Disney Central Plaza forum
From here, you’d have a wait of around 15-20 minutes before you’re on-board a turtle shell and speeding around the EAC.
Back outside, and would you be thinking of getting another ticket? You’d have had to think again — all tickets were completely gone on every day of the test before even 12:30pm, such the demand and limited number made available. With a poor hourly capacity of around 900 to 1,000 guests, 40% of this was reportedly made available as FASTPASS tickets — that’s just 30 tickets per each specific timeslot.
Maybe you’d have wanted to queue up in the regular line to enjoy the attraction again? Would the wait really be as horrific as you’d expect when 40% of the capacity is eaten up by the FASTPASS system? Not quite — the queue time indicator appeared to stay relatively steady at 75 to 90 minutes throughout the week. With the ticketing system in place, you were basically waiting the same length of time with fewer people in the queue.
Several members on the French forum Disney Central Plaza have also reported that the operations team intended to test several changes to the system throughout the week, such as increasing or decreasing the amount of tickets given out or even staggering their distribution throughout the day — an initial load at 10am and another at 2pm, for example.
Now that the tests are over, the signage put back to normal and the extra queue line gone, however, there is no word about when or even if the system will return. Was this a test that ran its course and gave the operations and Imagineers the research they needed, or is it something that could be rolled out whenever park capacity reaches a peak?
As always… watch this space.
Or, if you’d like to be a little more involved, vote in our Question of the Week — simply asking “Should FASTPASS return permanently to Crush’s Coaster?”. If you can’t make your mind up, don’t worry — remain seated with your hands, arms, feet and legs inside the website, because we’ve got a full analysis of all the pros and cons of FASTPASS at Crush coming right up…
Update: You can now read the follow-up analysis to this article here.
If you’ve had a chance to look through the merchandise at Tower Hotel Gifts yet, you’ll know that Disney characters dressed up in the recognisable maroon uniforms of the Hollywood Tower Hotel bellhops are more than just slightly popular. But so far, we’ve never been able to meet… a life-size one.
Step up to the elevator doors, Goofy! Disney’s infamous disaster zone is undoubtedly the perfect fit for the accident-prone hotel, now arriving every day this Summer next to the dried-up fountain for photos and autographs with his fans — in the full Tower of Terror costume.
“Aw gawwsh, which way is the hotel again?!”
Pins, plushes, T-shirts and more have all been dedicated to Disney characters dressed as bellhops over the years at the other two Hollywood Tower Hotels in California and Florida. Never before though, has one worn the costume for real. Another “petit exclu” for Walt Disney Studios Park!
Though times are not published in advance, you should be able to find Bellhop Goofy to the left of the attraction entrance every afternoon at the Studios, with appearances often right up until the park closing time of 7pm.
Rendez-Vous des Stars Restaurant may well still be the highest class restaurant at Walt Disney Studios Park, and only a buffet restaurant at that, but this Summer it gained one significant selling-point that is sure to win over even the most stubborn critic — a new chef.
The Stitch Phone, Lucky the Dinosaur, Turtle Talk with Crush, Muppet Mobile Lab, Stitch Encounter and Monsters Inc. Laugh Floor… It’s funny to think that Walt Disney Imagineer’s latest creation has arrived exclusively at this humble Production Courtyard eatery, just a few metres from their last installation — Stitch Live!.
Now, since the Imagineers have stayed true to the film, Chef Rémy doesn’t talk directly to you — he merely squeaks. But, as this cute little Audio-Animatronic sways from side-to-side to the tune of “La Vie en Rose” (also note the Pixar connection to WALL-E) or even jabs his pointed nose left and right to a modern disco song, your heart will melt…
Rémy is not only the exact, perfect size he should be, the Imagineers have clearly used the actual computer models from Pixar incredibly well.
Look closely at his face, the drawn-out body and particularly his eyes, and this is almost as good as stepping inside their computers alongside the real thing.
Only Disney and Pixar could create a turn of events that has them pushing a rat on a trolley around the tables in a restaurant, to smiles of delight from guests…
Could it be a test for the rumoured future Ratatouille attraction in Toon Studio? Perhaps. What it does prove is that Walt Disney Imagineering can create incredibly small, life-like animatronics that hold up remarkably well to close viewing.
We aren’t zooming by this one on a mad-dash dark ride or splashing by on a boat with plenty else to distract us. Chef Rémy is there, on the platter in front of us, with kids getting as close as possible, right up to his face, and he still seems real.
Sometimes these days, you really think you’re seeing things at Walt Disney Studios Park. You have to look twice. A 75-minute wait for Flying Carpets Over Agrabah? The billboard finally removed from Disney Studio 1?
Over in Production Courtyard, however, Nescafé’s new signage for its ‘Café Cafés‘ …err… café really will make you do a double-take. Installed just last week, it arrived just days after fans were wondering whether the old signage above the location, reading ‘Rendez-Vous des Stars Restaurant’ would confuse guests into thinking that this small new coffee stand is infact that restaurant.
Problem solved — replaced by Café Cafés!
Though the name itself is perhaps somewhat strange for a location that borders so closely on the park’s “Hollywood” area — and indeed may become part of it in the future, the signage has clearly been designed with a few quirks of the building’s art deco style in mind. The rounded letters, stylised drawings and old-fashioned white supports all lend it a good overall style.
Now, fans may suggest, the ‘Chef Rémy’ sign for the restaurant next door should be moved or removed to avoid clashing with the new signage below.
Inside the semi-circular area still surrounded by construction fences, countless wires hang from the ceiling and work continues throughout the week. It is as yet unknown whether guests will be able to walk inside this area to order, or what kind of seating — if any — will be provided.
The new refreshments stand is due to open in August, as listed on the latest park guide. The guide also gives an interesting clue about its products. We’re used only to small paper cups of Nescafé, perhaps with a squirt of cream on top, around the parks. If this listing is anything to go by, however, Café Cafés will be the first location to sell flavoured coffees.
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