Tuesday, 22nd July 2008

Waiting game at Studio Tram Tour goes electronic

Since the attraction, full name Studio Tram Tour: Behind the Magic, said goodbye to its billboard-style entrance façade last year and welcomed a new fully-themed Hollywood hills tunnel entrance, it has been completely without the electronic wait time sign that can be found at almost every other attraction.

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Now, as a final touch to the Hollywood Boulevard project, the small planter to the right of the tunnel has been fitted with a bright yellow, diamond-shaped roadsign to display exactly how long you’ll have to wait for your date with Jeremy Irons.

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Currently, it has yet to be fully-functional, the old magnetic board by its side still in use, but it shouldn’t be too long before it begins posting up those lengthy 5 and 10 minute queues…

[Pictures: DLRP Today]

Sunday, 20th July 2008

Studio 1: Returned to glory, by a billboard?

In our last report on the iconic entrance building’s plight, we discovered scaffolding climbing up its façade again. Not for a new billboard, we believed, but for a long-awaited refurbishment. Correct! What we would not have expected, for a building treated so badly by Euro Disney SCA over the past five years, would be a brand new –temporary — covering for the building.


A huge fabric/tarpaulin covering, hiding the scaffolding completely, decorated with a huge image of the building itself. See it from a distance, and you can’t even tell it’s there — Disney Studio 1 looks as if it’s back to its glory days already!

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As you get closer to the park, the effect of removing the second ‘Cars’ billboard truly becomes apparent. For the first time in years, we see beautiful reflections in the glass at the front of the building and the entire Place des Frères Lumière finally once again feels like the extravagant, beautiful, sunny entrance plaza to a true Disney theme park it should be.

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But wait — it gets better. Around the back of the building, we can spy a match-up we’ve been waiting years to see. The façade of Disney Studio 1… and a “Wet Paint” sign!

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The turquoise/green doors and ‘Studio 1’ signs were repainted here last week. There’s currently no word whether the huge wall of scaffolding might also move around here to repaint the arguably much worse-looking walls above, but let’s hope so.


To decorate the giant soundstage — at the time of construction, the largest in Europe — with a huge temporary façade during its refurbishment obviously shows that this first image guests receive as they step through the turnstiles is indeed very important. The same way Fantasia Gardens is a beautiful and inviting entrance to Disneyland Park, designed by the Imagineers because of their realisation that Europeans liked to be enchanted a little before parting with their money, Front Lot should be a glossy and relatively commercial-free area.

So, let’s keep it this way, please. No more billboards!

[Photos: DLRP Today]

Sunday, 6th July 2008

2 Parks, 1 Plan – Meet the new, single park map

Some might say it’s a way to save paper. Others might say it’s to coax more people across to the Studios. The more romantic might even say the “love” theme of The Enchanted Fireworks brought them together at last.

In fact, several months in the planning and design, yesterday saw the launch of a brand new park map ready for the Summer season. As expected for a while now, big changes lie in store for us. There are no more “Little Park Guides” and no more blue or pink covers. No longer will each park have its own, unique leaflet to guide you around.

Meet the new… Plan des Parcs. Two park maps… in one.


The pocket size of recent years is ditched in favour of a size more similar to the maps pre-2003, a regular leaflet size, which folds out across five sheets horizontally and double the size vertically. This seems like a big park guide, but then it does need to cover two entire Disney Parks:


It’s a landmark day for Disney theme parks, the first time two parks have ever shared the same plan. But why? Well, imagine this scene…

You’re visiting Disneyland Resort Paris just for one day. Naturally, you pick Disneyland Park to spend all your time in and stroll straight past the entrance to the Studios. What’s in there? No idea. As you pass through the turnstiles and pick up your map, you get a full guide to Disneyland Park, and nothing more. That other park across the way looked like nothing more than a series of giant yellow buildings — there’s no way of really knowing what lies beyond the imposing Disney Studio 1. You can’t be blamed for missing such top-rated classics as Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster, CinéMagique or Crush’s Coaster.

Now, with the two maps in one, a visitor just stopping by at Disneyland Park opens their map to find a whole new park at the top, with plenty of rather interesting sights. Attractions themed to new films like Cars and Finding Nemo, not to mention truly special experiences like The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror and Stitch Live!. You’d want to hop over and check it out, wouldn’t you?

Rather than keeping visitors in the dark about what lies within the park next door, it does indeed make much more sense to advertise it to all, make the most of its great guest satisfaction scores.

Are there bad points? Sure. Beyond the fact that converging the parks like this might make their individuality a little less special, the new design has for some reason completely dropped the descriptions for some of the major attractions. How are first-time visitors really meant to know what happens in Pirates of the Caribbean, Phantom Manor or Art of Disney Animation? The restaurant listing also exposes a real horror for Walt Disney Studios Park‘s dining, listing its limited number of eateries in one category, alongside entire lands at Disneyland Park.

The good points and the positive effect this double park plan should have on guests’ awareness of the two, separate parks, especially now Walt Disney Studios Park has some top-notch themeing along with great attractions, will far outweigh any niggling negatives. Last month we consolidated our two cumbersome Entertainment Programmes into a single, simpler leaflet, and now we only have a single park map to carry around.

Not that we need a map to find our way around Disneyland Resort Paris, of course, but we still have that collection to think of…

[Photo credit: Mouetto, Disney Central Plaza forum]

Sunday, 6th July 2008

Rémy makes exclusive ‘Living Character’ debut

Does it sound a little far-fetched? The rumours certainly did when they appeared out of nowhere just a few weeks ago.

Proving Walt Disney Imagineering really can still throw us a curveball once in a while, when member La Rouquine on Disney Central Plaza announced that you could be enjoying your meal at Rendez-Vous Stars Restaurant only for an animatronic Rémy to pop out from under a serving platter and interact with you, he wasn’t wrong.

The set-up relates to the original teaser trailer for Pixar’s Oscar-winning film Ratatouille, in which a waiter stops at a table in the classy Gusteau’s restaurant and offers the diners some cheese — only to lift the lid on the platter and reveal Rémy the rat, chomping away on a piece of Emmental.

Though the rumours for this unexpected exclusive ‘Living Character’ suggested Rémy would be making appearances at Rendez-Vous des Stars — which recently took on the name of his film to attract more guests — and more particularly the restaurants of Disneyland Hotel, it was in the streets of Walt Disney Studios Park, outside that first restaurant, that he was first spotted just yesterday.

Here it is, the first video:

Rémy wears his miniature chef’s hat just like at the end of the film, sitting on a platter with some cheese and grapes, looking upwards in a slightly hesitant way to the guests around him. The accompanying human chef plays up to the crowds, uses little words and presents the rat to his public.

Though the video cuts away after a few seconds, you get the idea. You might also have a few new questions, such as — will he speak? Well, in the world of Ratatouille as imagined by the wizards at Pixar, no humans can understand the rats. The film handles this fact beautifully through the great interactions between Linguini and Rémy, introducing a squeak for Rémy only in a single scene. But, when you’ve got Rémy right there on a platter… shouldn’t he say something?

Secondly, as Maarten on our partner website magicforum questioned straight away — is he really an animatronic? Certainly his movements and the positioning above a covered trolley could suggest that this little rat is merely a puppet controlled by a human beneath the cloth.

Either way, this is now the park’s second ‘Living Character’ after Stitch Live! and thus far a complete world-exclusive — not to mention a more accurate depiction of the furry movie star than the slightly oversized Toon Studio version, which will continue to meet and greet fans.

So, when we said you won’t meet Rémy in any way other than that oversized character until the rumoured Walt Disney Studios Park attraction opens for the resort’s 20th Anniversary in 2012, we were wrong. DLRP Today eats humble pie. Or some cheese…

[Video: Novastarbuzz, YouTube]

Sunday, 6th July 2008

Rendez-Vous for a Nescafé

It’s strange how rumours come and go in the world of Disneyland. Sometimes things fade into nothing, but most of the time — as in this case — a very early sign eventually turns into something real.

Cast your mind back to March this year and you’ll remember we reported on the rumours of a new Nestlé snack stand right next to the windows of Rendez-Vous des Stars Restaurant in Production Courtyard at Walt Disney Studios Park. A strange position? Well indeed.

Eventually, the construction fences came and went leaving just a small patio. A terrace instead, perhaps? Well, when Photos Magiques visited the location back in June, that’s what it looked like:


But, this rumour came around to reality in the end. One of the large windows in the front of the restaurant’s circular art deco-inspired building has now been completely removed.


The logos on the new canopies give it away — Nescafé. This will indeed be the serving hatch for a new coffee kiosk, strangely located within part of the restaurant.

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Photos: Mousy.be

Like the similar recent food retail kiosks from other partners like Coca-Cola, this is financed in full by the partner. Compared to those exact locations (among which L’Arbre Enchanté and Hollywood & Lime), it does seem Nescafé are a little less willing to invest.


Inside, there are little clues as to how the kiosk will be run and whether this circular area is now completely closed for use by the restaurant — the park’s only buffet service location and growing in popularity since the addition of a faint Ratatouille theme. Just a few metres away to the left, another, larger patio left behind by a now-departed Studio Catering Co van remains empty.

The work continues…

[Photo credits: Photos Magiques, Mousy.be]

Saturday, 5th July 2008

Planning permission for Playhouse Disney

Quietly announced by Operations, talked about by Cast Members and introduced to the sales teams, the opening of a new Playhouse Disney: Live on Stage show alongside Stitch Live! inside the Walt Disney Television Studios building has so far not been allowed as anything more than a strong rumour amongst fans.

Will a Marne-la-Vallée authorities construction notification change that?


The sign is now posted along the road at the backstage of Walt Disney Studios Park, near the town of Val d’Europe, and reads:

Modification to studios 2, 3 and 4 of “Walt Disney International” building for use by the “Playhouse Disney” attraction”

Yes, curiously three studios will be affected by the Playhouse Disney attraction. Since Stitch Live! already uses one room, that leaves the former space of Disney Channel CyberSpace post-show arcade, a huge, long studio and a smaller room toward the back which may not be classed as a “studio”.


The important thing to note here is that the area occupied by Disney Channel CyberSpace was actually built as two separate studios before being joined together for use by park guests as the channel began to disown the building. However, the listing of three studios must at least mean that the long, thin studio well within the building will be involved — almost certainly as the show theatre itself, being the ideal shape and size.

Our plan of the building has been updated to reflect the new information:


The show-based attraction, which uses puppets along with a live host, is still officially pencilled in for March 2009, after the 15th Anniversary has ended. Nothing is yet known about languages or the design of the exterior entrance, where construction activity has now increased to include a small digger.


Playhouse Disney: Live on Stage will be the park’s fifth new attraction in just under two years.

[Photos: WDSfans.com]

Saturday, 5th July 2008

Studio 1: Scaffolding climbs…

Step into Walt Disney Studios Park today and you won’t see 2/3 of Disney Studio 1 covered by a billboard. No, instead you’ll see almost the entire façade covered with scaffolding.

Progress? Actually, yes!

As far as most reliable sources have indicated, the scaffolding has actually repositioned itself and grown to allow not for a new billboard — at least, not yet — but for a full refurbishment of the soundstage façade — it’s first since opening in 2002!

The following two photos, taken yesterday by dlrp team on Disney Central Plaza, show how scaffolding has been removed from the green windows and instead begun to climb either side of the area previously covered by the billboard:


The columns either side of the entrance doors remain visible and scaffolding has yet to reach as high as the number ‘1’ plaque atop the building, which does have some visible dirt.


At the end of yesterday, Friday 4th July, scaffolding was also clearly ready to begin climbing the left side of the building, just visible in this photo from mouetto on the same French forum:


To begin such a large-scale refurbishment now, just as one of the resort’s two busiest seasons is beginning, seems an odd planning move to say the least. For all the months of advertising The Celebration Continues’ and The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror, those guests who booked earlier this year won’t get the ideal introduction to the new, improved Walt Disney Studios Park.

The removal of the billboard, surprising in itself after all this time, also brought another surprise — the façade actually isn’t looking too bad at all. At least not compared to the awful state of the façade on the opposite end of the soundstage, or that of Studio 3 (Animagique) facing onto Front Lot.

Though perhaps badly timed, this is hopefully just the first step in one of the greatest outpourings of yellow paint witnessed since 2002.

[Photos: dlrp team, mouetto, Disney Central Plaza forum]

Tuesday, 1st July 2008

Studio 1: The Billboard is GONE!

We’ve moaned, we’ve groaned, we’ve complained. We even wrote a sarcastic birthday message when it turned one year old and a hugely popular (count: over 3,000 hits) Wish List article pleading for it to be removed.

Now, the advertisement billboard that has plagued Disney Studio 1 for almost three — count them, THREE — years is finally in the process of being removed as you read this.

The proof came out of the blue, from Disney Central Plaza forum member mouetto last night:


The cameraphone image, taken close to 11pm last night, shows that the giant poster advertising Pixar’s 2006 release Cars had already, finally been removed for good. The poster was a giant matte PVC-type construction, wrapped around a tower of temporary scaffolding behind.

This morning, the sight is even more beautiful — helped by the bright blue skies over Marne-la-Vallée today. Grandmath continues the coverage with these two photos:



There, isn’t that better? Like the wand being removed from Epcot’s Spaceship Earth, this Disney park landmark can now be seen in a whole new light. Actually, it can now simply be seen.

From the photos above, the billboard also appears to have had minimal damage to the building itself. Though much of it still requires extensive refurbishment and repainting — particularly on the park-side facing Hollywood Boulevard, where the sun hits it spot-on, from a distance the area covered by the billboard does not appear as dirty or as dark (compared to the rest of the façade) as was expected.

Is this the end of the story? Unfortunately, as much as DLRP Today hates to be the bearer of bad news, probably not. The strong rumours of a 15th Anniversary follow-up year based around Mickey Mouse continue — key amongst them, decorations which include a brand new proposal for this space. IE: Another tacky billboard.

We can, however, reveal that only one of three main proposals calls for an obstruction as overpowering as the previous Cars billboard. Two others would slot neatly into the building’s glass area, more alike the Ratatouille, Enchanted and Prince Caspian posters that have been featured on the other end of the soundstage.

For more about the history of the billboard and why protecting the image of Disney Studio 1 matters more than you might think, click here.

Wednesday, 25th June 2008

Prince Caspian: Character debuts, White Witch returns

Since the White Witch’s appearances in the first half of 2006, following the release of The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe, Backlot has been the unlikely home of a little slice of Narnia magic — the frosty throne from her spectacular ice palace, housed within a covered black box as if a piece of the film set had been cut away and lifted here. To the side of the scene stands a figure of the Witch’s old assistant, Ginarrbrik.

We recently asked in our Question of the Week, “Which of the 2008 Disney Character would you most like to meet at Disneyland Resort Paris?”. Whilst an overwhelming majority of 79 votes to 21 voted for Pixar’s cute little waste-cleaning robot WALL-E to debut, the incredibly low likelihood of this means that, in reality, Prince Caspian has probably just won the competition.

Why? Because, he has arrived! The CharactersPhotos blog snapped the first pictures…


The new Prince Caspian is certainly a rather dashing figure of royalty, and surprisingly close to the Ben Barnes original as seen in the film. Whilst using the same costume of a green armour, black cape, brown boots and gloves and green sword sheild as the character, the Paris equivalent is rather more fresh-faced than the prince recently debuted over at Disney’s Hollywood Studios in Florida.

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As Prince Caspian signed autographs for the first time this weekend, soon the reasoning behind keeping the ice palace scene in place — rather than replacing it with, for example, something like the overgrown ruins set used in Hong Kong — became clear.

Not only has Prince Caspian debuted at Walt Disney Studios Park, the infamous — and very popular — White Witch has returned!

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Her icy glare is just as startling as ever, returning the exceptional costume introduced in 2006 to the park, complete with brilliant white (fake) fur coat, crystal-blonde locks, frosted crown and an icy staff. Note also the speckles of frost running down her cheeks, and the tiny white icicles on her eyelids.


The new guy Prince Caspian is going to have some competition for those autographs this Summer.

Exact times of the character appearances are not included in the regular park Programme leaflet, likely due to the small availability of these cast members that also affected the early appearances of Jack Sparrow. Keep an eye out next time you’re in Backlot, though — you never know when the door to Narnia might open.

Sooner than we thought, anyway — even if this isn’t yet the full attraction as rumoured recently.

« Part 3 of our Prince Caspian series ‘¢ Part 5 of our Prince Caspian series »

[Photos: © Characters Photos blog (more here) ]

The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian is released in the UK tomorrow, 26th June 2008.

Thursday, 19th June 2008

Rats! Has CNBC just confirmed the Ratatouille attraction?

It’s the much anticipated grand opening of dark ride Toy Story Midway Mania at Disney’s California Adventure park and the impending US release of sure-fire Summer blockbuster WALL-E that has brought the business world’s attention back to the mouse’s relationship with that desk lamp.

Whilst it was Disneyland Resort Paris that benefited most from the rekindled Disney-Pixar relationship last year, with inspiration for the Toon Studio expansion, all this talk of big-budget films and 4D interactive dark rides certainly doesn’t leave our homeland completely in the dark.


In a post on CNBC.com’s Media Money blog, found by member Yesitsme on magicforum, writer Julia Boorstin investigates how Disney has used the characters of Pixar to bring a new generation to their theme parks. Hinting at projects yet to come, she name-checks the well-known ‘Carsland’ expansion at California Adventure, and then something a little less well-known, for much closer to home…

There’s no question that Pixar is an increasingly important driver of Disney parks. The last big attraction Disneyland launched was its “Finding Nemo” Submarine ride last year, it’s working on a big “Cars” attraction for Disneyland and a “Ratatouille” ride for Euro Disney outside Paris. All these rides further proof of the fact that Disney’s acquisition of Pixar was about much more than just a movie studio, it was about building brands to exploit across all its platforms, which is CEO Bob Iger’s big strategy.

That’s it, folks. A ‘Ratatouille’ ride for Disneyland Resort Paris!

More specifically, as we’ve all already guessed, for the back of Toon Studio at Walt Disney Studios Park. To repeat the rumours from DCP forum member Grandmath we shared in our last update, some current plans spotted backstage show a very large showbuilding connected onto the Costuming building and sitting across part of the current Studio Tram Tour road, which has been rerouted.

The balloon height tests appeared to suggest a building about the same height as Studio 5 — the Crush’s Coaster building. The exterior is widely suspected to be based on Gusteau’s restaurant from the film, but this fact has yet to extend beyond a guess.


What kind of timescale are we looking at? If DLRP Today sources are correct, don’t expect to meet Rémy in any way other than a meet ‘n’ greet on Toon Studio Plaza for some time yet. The good news here, though, is that this attraction will reportedly be something quite special. As in, something good enough for the 20th Anniversary…

But, thanks to CNBC, the Rat is officially out of the bag a full four years early.

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