25: A park that sparkles

Central Plaza statues - Disneyland Paris 25th anniversary

Project Sparkle has all lead up to this. The 25th anniversary is here and the park has got a complete overhaul; blue and silver are the colours that have been chosen to represent this most magical of celebrations. These colours appear across the resort allowing the second gate of Disneyland Paris to join in the celebrations in its own way.

Main Street USA

The first big striking decoration in Disneyland Park is the decorated Main Street Station, fans of the resort have become familiar with decorations on the station but never quite like this. The large 25th anniversary medallion is animated and quite literally sparkles as it transitions from the 25th logo and the castle. During the day it’s less impactful than late at night when the effect is truly mesmerizing.

Main Street Station - Disneyland Paris 25th anniversary

Once on Main Street, the gazebo has been given a 25th anniversary makeover  – somewhat unnecessarily. The beautiful colouring on the gazebo is taken over by a rather ugly silver tarp which has been quickly and roughly put over the roof and features a Tinkerbell on the very top. At night this feature comes alive with sparkles spiralling round the roof at slight intervals. Whilst it does look nice in the evening, the feature seems slightly unnecessary and it decoration for the sake of decoration.

The decorations on the Main Street itself are quite minimal, gone are the gold banners of the 20th anniversary, in their place are blue and silver 25 medallions, these look very classy and still allow Main Street to shine in its own splendour which is a very nice touch.  Each lamp-post has a small Tinkerbell on the top of it in different positions and are a very nice touch.

Another Disneyland Paris staple are the Central Plaza decorations. Each of the four zones of Central Plaza receives a 25th anniversary statue and each are in the silver and gold colourings. They look nice enough especially at night when they are illuminated at quite literally sparkle in the night sky.

Central Plaza statues - Disneyland Paris 25th anniversary

Disneyland Park

Elsewhere in Disneyland Park decorations are minimal and this is for the best – not because the decorations are ugly, but rather because the 25th anniversary is a celebration of the park. After Project Sparkle, over the top decorations were not required as the park sparkles all over from the extra love and care that the refurbishment teams have been giving.

The extra decorations are pretty much limited to photolocations that celebrate the most famous attractions of the park’s past 25 years ranging from Big Thunder Mountain, to Dumbo and the Mad Tea Party. These are very nice touches and very welcome.

Walt Disney Studios

The Walt Disney Studios has also been allowed to join in the 25th anniversary, again in a very minimal way. Unlike the 20th anniversary where the Studios park only received a basic banner with the anniversary logo, the Studios gets a good number of specifically created banners that look exceptional. These banners represent Disney characters in a sort of constellation type look and looks very nice.

It’s always been a pet peeve that the Walt Disney Studios park gets overlooked in seasonal entertainment at Disneyland Paris, it’s nice that whilst the park is still overlooked somewhat that it has not been totally ignored and that the entire resort is joined in celebrations.

Main Street at Disneyland Paris 25th anniversary

Special Character looks

The Disney characters, as usual, have joined in the celebrations and have been given blue and silver style costumes and are happy to meet guests in these costumes during the day on Main Street USA. The costumes are very nice and classy, certainly fitting of the celebration look.

Mickey and Minnie 25th anniversary costumes - Disneyland Paris

It’s time to sparkle!

Overall, the decorations for this 25th anniversary are minimalist and refreshing. They are generally speaking very strong and allow for the park to shine as was originally intended 25 years ago. The decorations reflect this and evoke a celebration and an homage to the park.

Starlit Princess Waltz review

Starlit Princess Waltz - Aurora at Disneyland Paris

Aurora takes centre stage in this beautiful princess pageant The Starlit Princess Waltz. Too often the princess shows in Disneyland Paris have involved nothing more than twirling to generic music, this show seeks to change that perception and produce something more. But has it been a success?

Yes and no. This show is more than the normal princess show, but it still consists of primarily twirling and dancing. Having said that, it is much more enjoyable than previous shows of the same type at Disneyland Paris. Whilst the show does leave guests satisfied, you do wonder if Disneyland Paris can do more with the princesses.

Starlit Princess Waltz - Aurora at Disneyland Paris

Plot and staging

The basic plot of the show is that Aurora is inviting guests to join her for as her royal guests. Rosie and Louis are our master of ceremony for this show and Louis clearly hasn’t read his fairy tales as when each princess arrives on stage, he announces the “wrong one”. It’s kind of cute, kind of funny and allows princesses to dance with masks and fans. It’s a fun moment that, whilst it has a plot, is rather flimsy but looks good and is entertaining. It is when the show moves into its second half that it really becomes excellent. The dancing is skilful and is much more than twirling and once the princes arrive the lift between Aurora and Philip is a spectacular moment.

As plots go, there is very little here as in many of the princess shows at Disneyland Paris. It would be great to see a princess show that has a longer running time and a real storyline. Having said that, it is enough to leave you fulfilled.

Starlit Princess Waltz - Disneyland Paris

The staging of the show is spectacular. The new stage, especially designed for this show, looks phenomenal and works well for this very show. The choreography breaks some new ground for princess shows in Paris which is nice as the fear of the show being too same-y has not materialised.

Music

Music is a big part of this show, it doesn’t take any particular princess song and plays it as a dance track. This is all original, all new and actually rather good. The style of the music changes to reflect each princess’s music style – for instance the Rapunzel introduction has the air of At last I see the Light about it. It all works very well and ensures the music is fluid.

The second song is a more general piece that has a very clear and powerful message, that all girls are princesses, it’s the core message of the show and this song is a powerful way to power this message home.

Starlit Princess Waltz - Disneyland Paris

A nice twist on the Princess show

Princess shows are formulaic in Disneyland Paris, and this show doesn’t break the usual formula, however it is longer than prior princess shows and uses the stage effectively. The choreography is more complex than prior shows and that really does boost the enjoyability factor.

This is a nice show that is short enough to not eat up too much time into your day but has that wow factor. Next time though, it would be nice to see something very different with more plot.

Mickey presents: Happy Anniversary Disneyland Paris review

Happy Anniversary Disneyland Paris - Characters

The 25th anniversary of Disneyland Paris has allowed for the return of stage shows on a refurbished castle stage. This stage, located next to the Sleeping Beauty Castle, is typically used during the seasonal celebrations but left empty during the rest of the year. The anniversary celebrations sees a renewed focus on this stage with two unique performances presented daily.

Happy Anniversary Disneyland Paris is a show of pure joy and allows guests to see their favourite characters up close and personal. It is a true celebration of Disneyland Paris and all of its lands, a show for all fans to savour.

Staging and choreography

The show uses the castle stage rather beautifully with the castle being used as a central background piece which is especially useful towards the end of the show when characters pose for photographs for guests. As a wide open space characters and dance moves are able to be land-specific and give a real feeling of being a celebration of that area. This is most effective in the celebration of Adventureland as characters create a boat and appear to be sailing down a river.

Happy Anniversary Disneyland Paris - Adventureland

The finale of the show is staged especially well as characters flood both the stage and the ground below the stage and allow Mickey to be centred. When watching the show is feels like a celebration – exactly what this show sets out to do. It is not the most spectacular show that you will ever see, but it is a show of happiness and celebration and the staging and choreography really does hinge on these messages.

Characters

The amount of characters in this show is staggering, a large cast consisting of many characters that fit several different lands. The selection is near-perfect and has a character for everybody. The surprising inclusion of Max as a leading character is a welcome choice – it is often nice and pleasing to see a character on stage that we rarely see in the parks. The inclusion of Duffy will also please many fans as, again, he is very rarely seen within the park in recent years.

Happy Anniversary Disneyland Paris - Characters

Whilst the range is very strong, these are all characters we have seen often in the parks in Paris in the past (with the exception of Max) and it would have been nice to have some different and rarer characters in the show. A small criticism for a show that is flawless in most ways.

Music

The strongest aspect of this show is the musical score, it is extremely infectious in the best possible way. Each land has a unique and distinct sound and original song – each work alone as a perfect reference to each land and work together to make this fantastic show a complete piece.

The highlight is the Happy Anniversary song which is also currently the park opening announcement song. It is this song that sums up the feeling of this special celebration year and provides a fitting finale to a great show.Happy Anniversary Disneyland Paris - Mickey

An excellent show

This show is not the biggest, the grandest or the most spectacular show you will see at Disneyland Paris but it is the one that feels as if it has the most heart. It is a show the creates the feeling of joy and celebration to the anniversary year (where other pieces of entertainment are lacking this crucial element).

The show is enjoyable and I hope we get to see more shows like this in the future that manage to encompass a lot of themes, characters and are as strong on the music. Bravo Disneyland Paris, this is exactly the type of show that we were looking for.

Disney Illuminations: Good but not great

Disney Illuminations is the new nighttime entertainment spectacular at Disneyland Paris that has replaced Disney Dreams! Whilst the decision to replace Dreams! was met with surprise by fans and guests of the resort, the new show promised new scenes and a story centred around Mickey Mouse – whom for many guests is their favourite character. But does the show live up to expectations?

Following Dreams!

The first thing to note here is that following Disney Dreams! and being considered ‘better’ is a difficult task. Disney Dreams! was a highly successful show partially due to its song selection and films included, but the show also included a lot of emotion. For many, Disney Dreams! was a coming of age show, Disneyland Paris had long been seen as the ugly duckling of the Disney resorts, this was the first show that made others envious.

Disney Dreams! was also a turning point for Disney parks in general, projecting onto the castle was novel – no Disney park had done it in quite this way before, Paris was a pioneer. Now almost all Disney Parks do this genre of show and have even extended it down Main Street USA (see Disneyland Forever for the 60th anniversary of Disneyland Resort). Walt Disney World have recently launched Happily Ever After and Shanghai Disneyland opened with Ignite the Dream.

There lies our first issue with Disney Illuminations at Disneyland Paris – it is simply a copy of Ignite the Dream from Shanghai. Where Ignite the Dream had a very clear goal of introducing a Chinese audience (who, generally speaking, do not grow up around Disney stories) to Disney and their franchises, in Europe and particularly in Disneyland Paris we simply do not need this. But this is not the only problem with Disney Illuminations, nor is Disney Illuminations an entirely bad show – there are elements that are simply fantastic. In order to properly examine this show, it is essential to break it down into its parts, and that is what we will do here.

The opening of Disney Illuminations

The Opening Number – A Dream is a wish your heart makes

This sequence is actually very good. The way the castle dissolves is exceptional and the opening music does make it feel as if we are dissolving into a dream scape. A strong beginning with beautiful visuals on the castle as Mickey dives and soars through a floral landscape whilst a very strong version of the classic A dream is a wish your heart makes plays.

This scene is strangely the closest the show gets to being emotional, the music and visuals are very powerful and is spectacular, it offers a lot in the way of promise and builds up excitement. It is evident from this scene that the projection technology has moved on from Dreams! as the castle appears so much more crisp (there is a noticeable difference from the previous show to this) and that, sadly, is why we cannot move back to Dreams! as it once was. Going back to Dreams! would feel like a step backwards in many ways as the technology is so much better now.

The Lion King – Circle of Life & Can you feel the love tonight

Again, a strong opening section as Mickey opens the door to various scenes from the film in a comedic fashion. The beat seems continuous from the initial A Dream is a wish your heart makes making the transition seamless. Our previous show was very careful with its timings, other than the retrospectively added Brave scene, everything moved along at a near-perfect pace. Here, however, the Lion King scene overstays its welcome. There is no doubt that these songs are beautiful, moving even. But in a show that begins with a certain pace, it immediately slows itself down and that is an issue.

Lion King in Disney IlluminationsThe pyrotechnics in these scene create a beautiful environment with a near romantic feel. The issue with this scene is not so much content (although Disneyland Paris have found a series of ‘safe’ franchises that they reuse over and over), but length. The scene is simply too long, luckily it does end before it becomes a ‘boring’ scene but it does drag somewhat.

The Little Mermaid – Part of your world

Arguably the best scene of the show, this scene is beautiful and features some enjoyable graphics on the castle. It’s probably no coincidence that this is the most ‘dreams-like’ of the scenes in the show. What is particularly enjoyable about this scene is that The Little Mermaid gets very little in the way of show inclusion at Disneyland Paris, this scene allows for a beautiful song to be presented in a new way in the park which can only be a good thing.

The Little Mermaid in Disney IlluminationsThis section of the show is a clear highlight of the show as it takes the best from Dreams! and the best of Illuminations’ new technology. If the entire show was like this scene, we’d have potentially a Dreams! beater.

Finding Nemo

The link is clear, two underwater franchises have been linked together and they are both strong segments. The section is simple and again features beautiful music. We then move into a section about the East Australian Current and the music becomes stronger. The issue is that the scene doesn’t really have any impact, it’s enjoyable when watching but once finished it sort of vanishes from memory.

Pirates of the Caribbean

The first of the live action franchises is the Pirates of the Caribbean segment suffers from the same difficulties as the Finding Nemo section. The difference is that this section features a memorable soundtrack that has had some outstanding pyrotechnics attached to it.

However, like all of these live action pieces, it feels like basics have been taken from the films and that Disney are going for what appear to be cheap wins. Rather than making a show that moves and causes emotions to be stirred, they are going for the ‘oh cool, Jack Sparrow’.

Pirates of the Caribbean in Disney IlluminationsNevertheless, this section is enjoyable and calls back somewhat to the Step in Time section from Disney Dreams! proving that Illuminations does the potential to be good overall, but misses the mark.

Beauty and the Beast

This is THE weak link in the show and even causes harm to the show. For this scene Disney have simply taken the trailer to the live action Beauty and the Beast and projected it onto the castle. The issue? The new film is outstanding and features plenty of opportunity to move the audience and provide stunning visuals.

Beauty and the Beast in Disney IlluminationsUnfortunately, this feels like a desperate attempt at marketing and is laughable in its desperation. It simply isn’t good. We know Disneyland Paris is better than this and this scene deserves to be replaced at the earliest opportunity.

Star Wars

Preceded by the most random transition as the balloons from Up float past to reveal Chewbacca and Han Solo. This scene is actually quite cool but completely unnecessary in a resort  that is able to produce a Star Wars show right next door that is vastly superior to this scene.

Nonetheless, this scene is enjoyable and uses all the effects on Central Plaza including the lights in the trees to create a fully immersive environment. It features segments from The Force Awakens and paces them well to provide a fun scene.

Star Wars in Disney Illuminations

Frozen – Let it Go & For the First Time in Forever 

Naturally Frozen is also included (and is another of these franchises that Disneyland Paris considers ‘safe’, but on this occasion it is justified by it still being Disney’s biggest film) and is totally in French. The choice seems natural, a large chunk of the scenes are in English and Frozen itself was presented in English in Dreams!, here the language is used as a differentiator.

Frozen in Disney IlluminationsOnce again, using multiple scenes makes this scene feel like it is dragging on a little but the visuals are once again enjoyable. However, the scene is popular and is always greeted with a gasp and clap for loyal fans.

Finale

The show then once again launches back into the theme song of A Dream is a wish your heart makes and brings back all the stunning visuals from the opening. Like all Disneyland Paris evening shows, this finale is spectacular and blows away audiences. As if to rub in the fact that the show was taken from Shanghai, the lyrics even do include ‘Ignite your magic dream’.

Post-Show

This is the one section of the show I will say surpasses Dreams!, whilst the Cara Dillon outro to Disney Dreams! was enjoyable, this song matched with the new high quality projections on the castle is simply mesmerizing. This section (original to Disneyland Paris) is outstanding and deserves repeat viewings.

Disneyland Paris 25th anniversary castleA mismatch of themes and stories

The issue is not the replacement of an old show, it is what is sandwiched between opening and closing which work when we take them individually (with the exception of Beauty and the Beast but do not make a cohesive whole. This is the big weakness of Illuminations, Dreams! was a journey, it had a story that simply worked and acted as the glue to keep its parts together. Illuminations has no glue and works simply as a showcase, an impressive showcase but a showcase nonetheless.

A downgrade for Disneyland Paris

Dreams! always left guests moved and completely satisfied, Illuminations simply doesn’t., it’s very skippable and that is simply because it has no heart.  That is not to say that it is devoid of quality, as previously mentioned the introduction and finale are strong, as are the Little Mermaid, Lion King and Frozen scenes, but they simply do not work together.

We have been spoiled in recent years by the best night time entertainment that Disney has even produced and whilst it feels unfair to compare a show to another, it is completely necessary where the standard has fallen significantly.

Disneyland Paris is capable of doing better, when big budget entertainment such as this goes as wrong as this it is a problem. You should always be looking to beat what has come before, Dreams! was the benchmark for Illuminations and unfortunately the grade it is given is ‘must do better’.

Disney Stars on Parade: A 100% fun parade!

Disney Stars on Parade is the new daily encounter with the Disney characters in Disneyland Park at Disneyland Paris. This new parade is full of bounce, fun and excitement and marks a real change in parade style for Disneyland Paris. Out are the old floats that have been present in Paris for ten years and in are new and dynamic floats and a soundtrack that is so fun it’ll have you bopping away and fill you with absolute joy. These eight new floats have a unique soundtrack and a unique look.

Discover the Magic

The initial float of the parade is striking. It sets the tone that this parade is very different from anything that we have
seen before and is impressive. A giant book comes down the street and on either side Mickey and Minnie wearing the now famous ‘steampunk’ costume.  These costumes are wonderfully detailed and look like something that has come straight out Discoveryland.

Mickey and Minne are followed by Goofy who is floating up and down on a jetpack who is followed by a giant telescope with Chip and Dale.

Each character on the float, much like the entire parade, are located up high up allowing everybody to get a fantastic view of the parade no matter how far back they are in the crowds, a fantastic initiative and should cut down in the last minute kids on shoulders or pushing through to the front.

Discover the Magic float in Disney Stars on ParadeThis particular float is absolutely stunning and really does set the tone for a parade that is totally unique in any Disney park – a parade based in Steampunk designs of our favourite films. The problem? Whilst this float does exactly that, it falls apart quite quickly before re-picking it up for the dragon. Whilst this is not a problem – the parade is still fantastic – it does take away from a global theme which this parade does not have.

Discover Friendship

This Toy Story inspired float has one of the most impressive kinetic effects. Whilst the characters are very much front and centre in any parade, this parade has skilfully allowed performers to bring the wow factor as well. The star of this float is the giant wheel with performers rotating around to an incredible height. In many parades, this moment would be the highlight, however in this parade it is relegated to the place of a ‘cool moment’.

The characters themselves are the usual Toy Story affair, Buzz, Woody and Jessie can be found in, or around, the float which is colourful and fun in design.

Discover Friendship float in Disney Stars on Parade

Discover Adventure

If a float was given a land as an identity, this float encapsulates Adventureland. The dancers dressed in fantastic outfits which are spellbinding and the choice of characters are very much a Disneyland Paris classic. The issue here is not so much character choice but the lack of Baloo. Baloo is present as a static element of the float and not as a character. When we think back to Disney Magic on Parade, Baloo brought a lot of fun to that segment and is a real miss on this parade.

Discover Adventure float in Disney Stars on ParadeThe Lion King/Jungle Book split is a tried and tested formula at Disneyland Paris and falls rather flat in this parade. Where Disney Stars on Parade is dynamic and fun, this float is static and lifeless. The float itself is not overly striking and does not really incite any form of excitement. The fantastic choreography and music really does carry this segment through that feels like it is only there because of the popularity of the franchises.

The biggest issue with this float though is the costume for the character of Mowgli who looks more like Fred Flintstone than the intended Jungle Book. This is an easy issue to fix however and I am confident that a solution will be worked on.

Discover Imagination

This is one of the breathtaking floats of the parade. From seeing the Lost Boys dancing in front of the float the imposing swinging pirate ship with Peter Pan. This float is a delight for the eyes, Captain Hook sits on top of Skull Rock and has a chair that can move from side to side meaning that the entire audience can get that perfect view of him, this is followed by Peter Pan hoisted extremely high on a pirate ship swinging backwards and forwards.

Discover Imagination takes on a dreamlike look with the giant moon and skull rock and is a true standout of this parade.

Discover Imagination float in Disney Stars on Parade

Discover a new world

Perhaps the least impressive of the Disney Stars on Parade units in the Discover a New World section and the only reason for this view is that it feels rather static. Essentially, the float is a giant Crush that does nothing except speak a few lines. Whilst the Crush does look very good, the parade is extremely kinetic and this float simply isn’t.

On the other hand, however, the dancers that go with this float are in some of the most beautiful costumes designed for a parade. They scream ocean and do look stunning.

Discover a new world float on Disney Stars on Parade

Discover Enchantment

The centrepiece of this parade is undoubtedly this particular unit. Maleficent returns to Disneyland Paris in this wonderful steampunk look. The float, the performers and the music are spot on in this fantastic float that does quite literally steal the show.

Whilst the fire effect is on and off (and you have to be quite lucky to see the fire perfectly), the float itself is imposing and magnificent, this is a work of art and its pleasing to hear the crowds gasp as they see her for the first time. The fire effect adds a whole new level to this, the bright yellow flames are incredible and deserve every single clap of admiration they receive from guests. Moments like this make holidays and force people to come back and tell their friends.

Discover Enchantment float on Disney Stars on ParadeIt’s rare that one float missing will significantly weaken the parade, but if this float were to be removed the parade feels much less impressive and would leave you feel disappointed. This is a testament to the design teams who have worked on this piece both in Paris and in the US.

Discover Romance

After the villain, the heroines. The princess carriages from Disney Magic on Parade return for Disney Stars on Parade providing both continuity and similarity. There is not much to be said about this particular section of the parade as it is so similar to the previous offering at Disneyland Paris. There is a strong rumour that the princesses will be getting their own float in the next year or so and it is very much-needed.

Discover Romance float in Disney Stars on ParadeNevertheless, this is still a wonderful part of the parade and the new music and choreography do make for a pleasant moment and it simply would be impossible to have a Disney parade without the princesses, the two just go together perfectly.

Discover Wonder

The grand finale of the parade is Frozen themed. This float is simply magical, it feels both like it has come straight out of the film and toy-like. This is the first time that both Kristoff and Olaf have been on parade at Disneyland Paris making this a significant attraction in itself. This float is simply fun. Kristoff leads it out, Olaf sits atop of Sven and the royal sisters are on a castle balcony. As Frozen simply gets more and more popular, it was about time that the film received a dedicated float and this one is perfect.

Discover Wonder in Disney Stars on ParadeAs the grand finale, the float also sends snow falling in the air and covers guests as they wait for it to pass by or follow the end of the parade. This effect really does add a lot in atmosphere and gives Disney Stars on Parade a magical send off.

Music

Any new parade needs a new score, and Disney Stars on Parade is no exception. Whereas Magic on Parade had one song playing in a loop throughout the entire parade, this new offering has a full score that accompanies each float making it more story-like in nature.

The main score Lost in the Magic is spectacular, bouncy and fun (and now available on CD within the resort) and as the parade progresses each float has a unique sound with echoings of Lost in the Magic throughout to create a truly linear score. It can only be hoped that one day Disneyland Paris allow us to buy the entire score just like they did for the Once Upon a Dream parade which had the same musical feature.

This parade is energetic and has music to match, this song will be a Disneyland Paris classic.

Conclusion

Disney Stars on Parade is a new and fun experience to be added into the park, with the emphasis on the fun. Parades are always highlights of days and trips and this parade will be no exception, it is possibly one of the best parades produced by Disneyland Paris and leaves the entire crowd smiling, an accolade which is truly special.

Is this Parade perfect? No. Is this Parade very strong? Almost certainly yes. Is it one of the best parades we’ve had at Disneyland Paris? I would say so. Disney Stars on Parade is a huge improvement on Disney Magic on Parade, it’s toe-tapping, smile inducing fun. And after all, isn’t that what it’s all about? Mission very much accomplished and bravo Disneyland Paris for trying (and succeeding) at something very different.

Star Tours: A new galaxy of adventures

Star Tours has reopened at Disneyland Paris as Star Tours: L’aventure continue. With it, a new experience of over 70 different combinations of ride meaning that there are so many reasons to do this favourite over and over again.

This new attraction takes the Star Tours experience that you know and love and expands upon it allowing for a more immersive tour across the galaxy. Whilst Disneyland Paris is the last to this arrive to this party, it certainly makes up for it in style as a Star Wars mini-land has seemingly opened up with a Darth Vader meet and greet location; a new look Star Traders and the newly opened Hyperspace Mountain experience. All these experiences, along with Season of the Force prove that Disneyland Paris is focused on being the Star Wars hub of Europe.

A slice of a Galaxy far, far away in Marne-la-Vallée

The whole rear of Discoveryland has been reimagined to create a veritable Star Wars vibe to it, this also serves a double meaning as for guests familiar with Star Tours at Disneyland Paris, it also indicates that this experience is different to what has come before.

The most striking element of the new land, aside from its openness, is that the X-Wing has moved from its plinth next to the entrance of the attraction to the top of the old Star Traders boutique (now Starport) . Certainly, this provides better visibility for the X-Wing as a ‘weenie’ and should draw more people into the area (as it it were needed) however when in the area the X-Wing is barely visible and impossible to take photos of. The previously active X-Wing is taken into a more dormant look providing an impressive approach but for no pay-off in the slightest.

It is at night where this area is most alive, the beautiful blue colours are exceptional vibrant and really does bring this outer-galaxy idea to life. It is an absolute joy to spend time in the area as it is but it can’t help but feeling like a few bits of Star Wars streetmosphere (such as the Stormtrooper patrol currently in the Walt Disney Studios park) would really help this area become much more believable as part of the Star Wars galaxy.

The queue area

The old starport aesthetic has been maintained and improved upon during the year long refurbishment. The colour is much more polished now and the darker look compliments the reworked land colouring. The new LED screens are crystal clear, the darker interior really helps bring out the colouring of these screens and thus the advertised planets. The advertisements for the destinations offered by Star Tours and the information videos on the Starspeeder 1000 are in plentiful supply and will allow for no repetition even on a slower moving queue.

The downside to the early part of the queue is C-3PO and his over-the-top safety railings. This ruins a perfect photo opportunity of the droid that is so famous from his appearances in all the films of the Star Wars franchise that people are very eager to take a photo of (or with) him. It hardly seems appropriate to have so many safety fencings around an animatronic.

The final room in the queue is a delight. From seeing RX-24 sadly boxed up, but still saying phrases from the classic Star Tours attraction, something that will bring delight to all Disneyland Paris fans, to the luggage control droid who checks each piece of baggage and talks to guests. The luggage control itself is ingenious, it is the perfect place to sneak in Star Wars and Disney references that delight fans. Only here is it possible to see Mickey’s Fantasia hat in the Star Wars universe or Buzz Lightyear’s wings.

Another not-so-hidden gem in this room is the walk way, here we see various Star Wars characters go past from each and every film. It is a small element but entertaining nonetheless and is a suitable replacement to the baggage carts overhead from the previous iteration. The final surprise is the ‘heat detector’, this is the ultimate gimmick but guests love seeing their heat pattern appear on screen and will start waving and having fun in front of the screens. It doesn’t feel like much, but it’s clearly very appreciated by guests.

The ride

The ride itself is phenominal. Whilst the clear selling point is the sheer number of scenes that can be enjoyed, the real sticking point after having ridden the ride is simply how fun it is. It is proper immersion into the Star Wars universe and a lot of fun as well. Personally, I came off each of my rides grinning from ear to ear with the amount of fun that I enjoyed. Perhaps what Star Tours: L’aventure continue does better than the original Star Tours is incorporating familiar scenes at a high intensity. Yes, the original had the Death Star trench scene which is as iconic as Star Wars comes, but this new version allows Darth Vader, Yoda, Leia etc to show up as well as the possibility to follow the Millennium Falcon.

Each planet follows a clearly different series of movements with the clear highlight being Jakku and the pausing on an angle for a few seconds. Fans of Hoth will be thrilled with the possibility to visit this planet and then zoom into hyperspace and go back to the Death Star (yes, the dream of fighting against the Death Star can still be lived in this new version). What makes this ride doubly exciting is that new scenes will be able to be slotted in with ease allowing for us to be surprised with some eventual The Last Jedi footage.

The 3D element was very well done and was utterly believable which was a nice addition as often 3D feels very gimmicky and not an enhancement to the story; here in Star Tours though, it slots right into the Star Wars universe and allows additional elements of the story to come to life.

The ride, which was already unmissable, is now even more unmissable as you will want to be riding it several times each trip in an attempt to see each of your favourite scenes. I cannot wait to return to a galaxy far, far away.

Star Traders

But the ride is not the end of the Star Tours experience. The reimagined Star Traders boutique makes a fitting ending to the experience and is Europe’s largest Star Wars shop. The selection of merchandise is sufficient for what it seeks to achieve however lacks exclusive items to Disneyland Paris. A lot of what is on offer is generic Star Wars ranges that can be found almost anywhere. Of the exclusive merchandise, there is a really nice Star Tours: L’aventure continue t-shirt, pin and keyring which each look fantastic. There is also a station where you can create your own droid which is inventive and really quite cool. A few more exclusive to Disneyland Paris ranges will make this store unique and one of the best in Disneyland Paris.

The decor is very well designed with Starspeeders in their port. Essentially the theme of this store is to look up as it is all above your head. But it exists and looks exceptional.

Starport: Meet Darth Vader

The final element of this new Star Wars mini-land is the Starport meet and greet space. There is not much to the queue area as it all takes place outside and is a simple out and back system around the edge of the old Star Traders store. Inside, however, has been themed to the Star Wars universe in a rather generic way but allows for great photos with the characters.

Darth Vader himself is a fun meet and greet from the outset. From the moment he comes to grab you from the queue to the end, it is a chilling experience. The addition of Darth Vader actually being able to talk to you is very well executed and has a wide range of phrases that allow for a fully-interactive meet and greet.

An exceptional addition to Disneyland Paris!

Star Tours: L’aventure continue is a wonderful addition to Disneyland Paris that places the resort at the centre of the European Star Wars universe. This alongside the newly launched Soirée Star Wars and Season of the Force provides guests with reasons to visit and revisit the park frequently. Even for the most casual guest, this area of the park is a welcome addition and completes the Discoveryland experience. Just like Frontierland feels strange without Big Thunder Mountain or Phantom Manor, Discoveryland really felt lacking without Star Tours – it is now back and better than ever and will allow for adventures for many years to come!

12th April 2017: An unforgettable day

It was clear that the 25th anniversary day would be one of surprises from the offset. The level of secrecy that surrounded the day was unprecedented for Disneyland Paris where leaks seem to be common. The reality of the day itself was even grander than expected; the day was full of magic and saw even more sparkle pumped into the resort. This was a day created for Disneyland Paris fans and, thanks to the live streams provided by the resort, the whole world was invited!

In the lead up to the event, all the talk surrounding the day was started by the time needed to be at the resort gates. 6am seemed to be the agreed time by all and so early nights were had and alarm clocks were set. April 12th was going to be a day like no other.

An electric atmosphere

A large part to the enjoyment of any big event is the atmosphere, and for the Grand Celebration it was electric. From the moment you arrived at the resort and queued for security, there was a feeling of excitement and anticipation the likes of which is rare to experience at Disneyland Paris.

Moving through to the turnstiles, guests sang Happy Birthday to Disneyland Paris in multiple languages with guests doing their best to join in with languages they didn’t understand. It was magical. And then once in the park this only continued with guests looking on excitedly at all the things before their eyes – characters and events that perhaps they never thought possible at Disneyland Paris. It truly felt like we were a part of a once in a lifetime celebration and that everybody there knew it.

[dt_quote font_size=”h4″ background=”fancy”]”It truly felt like we were a part of a once in a lifetime celebration and that everybody there knew it.”[/dt_quote]
12th April 2017 Grand Celebration turnstile queue

The Grand Celebration

The main event was a show that took place at 9am exactly on Main Street USA. Nobody knew quite what to expect except ‘big’. There was a feeling in the air that whatever we were about to witness would be something sensational. The reality was even better, this was a show that Disneyland Paris (and Disney fans in general) could only have dreamed of. There were so many characters and performers that it was impossible to know where to look. Each time you felt like you’d seen it all, something else would come along to shock and dazzle you. Each time you blinked a new character would appear and occasionally very obscure characters at that.

The show was exceptional and gave each land it’s ‘time to sparkle’, after the VIP’s (Mickey, Minnie, Donald, Daisy, Chip, Dale, Clarice, Goofy, Max, Duffy and Shellie-May) introduction it was time to move onto Main Street, then Frontierland, Adventureland, Discoveryland and Fantasyland. Each symbolised by a set of characters that would be at home in these lands and each accompanied by some of the most incredible costumes that Disney has ever created for their dancers.

[dt_quote font_size=”h4″ background=”fancy”]”This show was an absolute triumph for Disneyland Paris, it proves to the world that our entertainment teams are the best that Disney has to offer and once again made Paris the envy of the Disney world.”[/dt_quote]

The grand finale of the show-based section was ingenious. The delight from fans as they heard segments of past shows mixed together to form a ‘Disneyland Paris megamix’ was infectious. This, combined with the sheer number of ultra-rare characters to the resort made this one of the most exciting few minutes of live entertainment ever produced in the resort.

The extra surprise of 1,000 cast members performing a flash mob down Main Street USA was a pure delight and added to the emotion and pride that fans take in the resort. This show was an absolute triumph for Disneyland Paris, it proves to the world that our entertainment teams are the best that Disney has to offer and once again made Paris the envy of the Disney world.

The next big landmark anniversary for the Disney parks community is the 50th anniversary of Walt Disney World resort, the gauntlet has well and truly been thrown down. Disney have never before produced a show of this calibre and it is truly pleasing to see Paris be the recipient of this honour.

The Grand Celebration Cavalcades

For those who didn’t manage to see everything during the one-hour spectacular, two Grand Celebration cavalcades were laid on during the day for guests to enjoy the sight of these rare characters and beautiful costumes one more time. These cavalcades were bursting with fun and excitement and each second felt special and exciting.

The cavalcade really helped add some extra magic to the day as we were once again allowed to stand in awe of what we were in the middle of living. The energy coming from these special shows was infectious as confetti was flying all over the park as Everyday’s a Celebration blasted out of the speakers. Such was the emotion after the cavalcades that many people didn’t move wanting to secure their spot for the second showing which was an hour and a half later.

[dt_quote font_size=”h4″ background=”fancy”]”Such was the emotion after the cavalcades that many people didn’t move wanting to secure their spot for the second showing which was an hour and a half later.”[/dt_quote]

The kiss goodnight

Perhaps one of the most emotional moments of the day (which was full of emotion and celebration) was the kiss goodnight. This perfect ending saw the Everyday’s a Celebration song slowed down and the entire VIP gang back together on Main Street station to say goodnight to guests in their exclusive one day only outfits. Whilst there was not much to the show, it was a perfect farewell and closing of the day. It managed to stir some sadness deep down that such a special day was over and remains one of my favourite memories of the day.

An unforgettably magic day

When the history of Disneyland Paris is written, it is littered with amazing special events that are often billed as being once in a lifetime. It is to Disneyland Paris’s credit that they are able to pull over such magical big events; but the 12th April 2017 felt like a new chapter beginning. As lavish as an opening ceremony, this was a rebirth of Disneyland Paris and, as Catherine Powell mentioned in her moving speech, together we will help write the resort’s future. As new chapters begins, old ones must end, but this day didn’t end a chapter, it provided a nostalgia for what we have been so fortunate to enjoy at Disneyland Paris whilst also offering a small glimpse of what is to come.

The Grand Celebration was a day that made me immensely proud to be a fan, I was honoured to be in attendance and I know many at home were thrilled that Disneyland Paris live streamed the events so that many more fans could there virtually as well. It is a day that will live on in Disneyland Paris history as an extraordinarily special day and a day for Disneyland Paris fans to be immensely proud of.

[dt_quote font_size=”h4″ background=”fancy”]”It is a day that will live on in Disneyland Paris history as an extraordinarily special day and a day for Disneyland Paris fans to be immensely proud of.”[/dt_quote]

30 years of the convention: the social and economic benefits of Disneyland Paris

In March 1987 the famous convention was signed that signalled the official green light to begin construction on Euro Disneyland which was to be based around 30 minutes to the east of Paris. 2017 sees the 30 year anniversary of this landmark agreement and the official visit of François Hollande to the resort to celebrate the social and economic benefits of Disneyland Paris to the local and French economy.

In France, everything begins with a controversy, and ends with an anniversary. 

Often it is forgotten the controversy that surrounded building this big entertainment complex. It was, to some, seen as an American invasion, a degradation of the environment in the quiet and rural Seine-et-Marne département. But who could have foreseen how much Disneyland Paris would benefit not just France, but the whole of Europe? For the 30th anniversary of the convention, Disneyland paris released a report that details these benefits.

An economic benefit

Since 1992 and the opening of Disneyland Paris, the resort has benefitted the French economy by €66 billion in added value. That is indeed the headline figure of this report, the sheer reinvestment that Disneyland Paris has offered into the French economy which averages out at €2.7 billon per year (N.B. Added value here indicates the amount of money offered into the French economy that wouldn’t otherwise have been spent), the resort has paid €6 billion in tax (this figure includes VAT paid) and whilst Euro Disney has invested €7.9 billion in France, the French state has only invested €691 million. For every €1 that the French state has invested, €11.4 was privately contributed to the project and has meant that the French state has had a large return on investment in a resort that accounts for 6.2% of all French tourist spending.

Photo: Disney

The initial investment required was €5.06 billion to create the resort, the area surrounding the parks as well as the hotel complex and Festival Disney. This was topped up by a second park in 2002 which required €646 million. This money has created Europe’s number 1 tourist destination which receives more visitors per year than the Eiffel Tower and Château de Versailles combined which is aided by the fact that over 300 million people live within 2 hours of the resort

Disneyland Paris is a huge driver of spending through guests. Over the past 25 years, guests have spent over €80 billion at Disneyland Paris. In return, Disneyland Paris has become a large player on the european supplier market. In fact, over the course of its existence Disneyland Paris has spent over €3.7 billion with its suppliers; this is predominately in France (82% to be precise) but €77.5 million of this has been spent in the wider European area – the United Kingdom is the largest European supplier outside of France accounting for 30% of the resort’s expenditure outside of France. Within France, Disneyland Paris predominately sources its suppliers locally within the Ile-de-France region which accounts for 70% of the resort’s French suppliers.

Part of the 1987 agreement also saw Disney develop a local community in close proximity to the parks. Today, Val d’Europe is home to 30,000 residents who are housed in 12,000  homes. The development has also seen the creation of a new university, lycée (high school) and even a hospital. Val d’Europe has been such a success that 93% of residents recommending living or working in the area. When discussing the benefits of Disneyland Paris, it is the local area that has benefitted most of all with the region receiving a total of around €60 billion, around 87% of the total amount raised by the development.

A social revolution

Of course the benefits of Disneyland Paris on France (and Europe as a whole) go way beyond pure economics. Disneyland Paris is now home to 15,000 Cast Members (the term Disney gives to its employees) who are divided up into 52% male and 48% female which makes Disneyland Paris the largest single site employer in France. Even more impressive is that 13% of Cast Members have worked at Disneyland Paris since the opening in 1992. The average tenure of Cast Members in Disneyland Paris is 9 years with 85% of contracts being CDI (permanent positions).

Disneyland Paris also takes its responsibility to its employees incredibly seriously. In fact, Disneyland Paris have increased the number of training hours it offers over the past 5 years (2010-15) by 30% (around 400,000 hours of training per year) and has a training budget which is 3 times higher than the national minimum required by French law. Additionally, 80% of promotions to manager positions are internal recruitment meaning that Cast Members at Disneyland Paris have good progression potential.

Photo: Disney

The enormity of jobs at Disneyland Paris is not to be underestimated either. For every 3 jobs created in France, the 4th will be at Disneyland Paris. To understand why this is, we need to look at the construction of Disneyland Paris jobs: there are 500 different jobs in the resort staffed by over 100 different nationalities allowing for over 20 languages to be spoken. To recruit these talented Cast Members, Disney have hosted recruitment sessions in 12 European countries. Whilst this is a vast recruitment operation, Disneyland Paris Cast Members are comprised of 70% French nationals with the rest of Europe making up 18% of Cast Members.

Whilst Disneyland Paris itself employs 15,000 Cast Members, the real impact of the resort is much wider. The resort is responsible for 22,000 direct or indirect jobs (indirect jobs being jobs that have been created because Disneyland Paris exists) which has also seen residency rise in the area. Upon the opening of Disneyland Paris, just 32% of Cast Members lived in the Seine-et-Marne département, this has now risen to 73% and 17% of Cast Members live in Val d’Europe. The resort, therefore, has provided real social change for the local area; once a domain of farmers, it is now a vibrant area for young people to live and work.

The tourist centre of France

30 years ago, Chessy was a small village in the middle of a farming area just east of Paris. Today, it is the heart of European tourism. The train station located at the heart of the Disneyland Paris development has become the number 1 TGV hub in France with 54 towns serviced from this station ranging from Marseille to Brussels and London. All these guests flooding into the resort also need a place to stay and so Disneyland Paris has become the 5th largest hotel hub in France (behind places such as Paris and Lourdes) offering 8,500 hotel rooms (5,800 of these are offered in Disney hotels) – 49.5% of the hotel capacity in Seine-et-Marne.

Photo: Disney

The resort offers much more than a place to stay and a theme park – Disneyland Paris is also 2 conference centres, a golf course and offers guests over 115 restaurants and shops.

Only 44% of visitors come from France, with 56% of guests from elsewhere in the world (although primarily from Europe). With such an influx of foreign visitors, it is important to note that 52% of the foreign guests to the resort take the time to visit the city of Paris. Guest mood is calculated by Cast Members who survey guests around the park, each year 300,00 of these are completed to allow Disneyland Paris to constantly evolve according to guest expectations.

It’s not just France that benefits!

Whilst the big beneficary of Disneyland Paris is France and the French economy, Disneyland Paris is about much more than France. The resort has been used as a force for good across Europe. Discover how:

Germany

  • 4th most visitors from Europe (representing 12% of foreign guests to Disneyland Paris
  • Guests from Germany stay on average for 2 nights
  • A family from Germany was the 100 millionth guests at Disneyland Paris!
  • Disneyland Paris uses 58 suppliers from Germany – in particular plant suppliers.
  • 110 Cast Members are German
  • The average tenure of a German Cast Member is 10 years and are mostly attracted by the ability to use their language skills.

Belgium/Luxembourg

  • 5th most visitors from Europe (representing 11% of foreign guests to Disneyland Paris)
  • Guests from Belgium/Luxembourg stat on average 2 nights
  • Disneyland Paris uses 77 suppliers from Belgium – notably, chocolate suppliers.
  • 130 Cast Members are from Belgium/Luxembourg
  • Average stay of a Belgian/Luxembourg Cast Member is 7 years and are mostly attracted by their proximity to the resort.

Spain

  • 2nd most visitors from Europe (representing 13% of foreign guests to Disneyland Paris)
  • Guests from Spain stay on average 3 nights.
  • Disneyland Paris uses 40 Spanish suppliers – most notably for the construction of parade floats
  • There are 520 Cast Members from Spain
  • The average stay of a Cast Member from Spain is 6 years.

Italy

  • Italy represents 6% of foreign guests to Disneyland Paris
  • Disneyland Paris uses 43 Italian suppliers – most notably architect firms.
  • Italy represents the largest nationality for non-French Cast Members: around 900.
  • The average stay for an Italian Cast Member is 7 years.

Netherlands

  • The Netherlands represents 13% of foreign guests to Disneyland Paris
  • The average duration of a stay for a guest from the Netherlands is 2 nights
  • Disneyland Paris uses 63 Dutch suppliers (20% of the overall suppliers) – most notably for flowers.
  • There are 120 Dutch Cast Members who have an average length of stay of 10 years.

United Kingdom

  • 28% of foreign visitors are from the United Kingdom (The most amount of foreign guests)
  • 30% of foreign suppliers are from the UK (135 suppliers) – most notably fireworks and special effects.
  • Over 400 Cast Members come from the UK, most of these in the parades and entertainment department.

Disneyland Paris is a motor of huge economic growth and change in France, and has even seen benefits across the whole of Europe. In its construction as a unique enterprise that has seen a partnership between public and private enterprises, it is right that it has been celebrated as such by the French president. The 30 years of economic growth is only a start, Disneyland Paris will continue to grow and bring even more benefits to France and Europe.


This information has been compiled from the excellent 25 ans de contribution économique et sociale report that was published by Disneyland Paris in February 2017.

I would like to extend a big thanks to Mathias Dugoujon of Disneyland Paris for his help in obtaining this report.

The future of Swing into Spring at Disneyland Paris

As the 2016 iteration of Swing into Spring comes to an end, it is time to think ahead to 2017 and beyond. The season, which was launched in 2014, has only gone from strength to strength. Each year the season expands, adds brand new decorations and shows. It has become, to many fans, their favourite season and a staple of the Disneyland Paris annual calendar. So, what is the future of Swing into Spring?

2017 is a big year for Disneyland Paris. April 12th will see the European resort turn twenty-five years old, and with it a year of celebration which itself has become a Disneyland Paris tradition. Unfortunately, this means that Swing into Spring will not be returning next year. But what is the future of the season in 2017, but perhaps more importantly in 2018?

101 Dalmatians topiary
One of the five themed toparies in Central Plaza during Swing into Spring

2017: Can some elements of Spring be saved?

The joy of the Spring season is that, in theory, elements can be saved and be presented as special happenings in their own right. On top of the list must be Minnie’s Little Spring Train, or at least some form of it. The Sunny Bunnyland song is far too popular to go away in the cupboard for a couple of years, it illuminates the entire park and really lifts the already joyous atmosphere to an even higher level. Therefore, the top of any list of things to ‘save’ from Spring has to be that song.

Other elements that could very well be brought across include Goofy’s Garden Party and/or Welcome to Spring. Both shows do not heavily rely on the Swing into Spring theme, but mention Spring very briefly.

The new Easter Egg decorations can be used quite easily in the park during the month of April for the Easter Holidays as they do not require too much in the way of preparation and maintenance.

Naturally, not all of these elements will return, but individual bits can quite happily co-exist at Disneyland Paris with the 25th Anniversary. Much like Halloween and Christmas which will be largely unaffected by the celebrations (as in previous anniversary years).

Minnie's Little Spring Train
Minnie’s Little Spring Train was the highlight of the Swing into Spring season.

2018: Swinging back into Spring?

The 25th Anniversary could very well end in April of 2018, although it most probably won’t. Does this mean a 2018 return for the Swing into Spring festivities? This is quite possible. The complication with 2017 is that Swing into Spring and the 25th Anniversary would both launch at quite similar times of year. This will not be the case in 2018. If the 25th Anniversary ends in April 2018, then it could be assumed that Swing into Spring returns. If the anniversary continues, it could still return in a modified state as it will next year. Potentially, this means that the next Swing into Spring season could be in 2019, three years from now! That seems rather a long time for something as popular as this new seasonal celebration.

So, what is the future of Swing into Spring?
Props for the Swing into Spring season

What is the future of Swing into Spring?

Naturally, this is the question on everybody’s lips. Swing into Spring is a very impressive season, it has fantastic live entertainment, enjoyable decorations, delicious snack options and well-designed merchandise. The more Spring that finds its way into the Disneyland Paris parks (and yes, Walt Disney Studios should be included), the better! Let’s cross our fingers for more innovation, more shows and parades and more special character meets for the most colourful and fun time of the year to be in Disneyland Paris!

Let’s start our own campaign for Sunny Bunnyland to come back for the 25th Anniversary year, tweet a photo of the train or its flashmob with the tag #BringBackBunnyland

Fixing the Anaheim headache

Anaheim caused a headache, the kind of headache that splits the mind in two; the gamble of a Disneyland had paid off and people were enjoying the park. But there is also the issue of expansion, the major tourist attraction attracted a lot of businesses who were eager to make a money from Disneyland. Walt Disney did not have a perimeter around his park, something that he was keen to put right. Walt very much saw his park as something to be protected, thus the idea of having a Disney bubble. This served two purposes, it provided the ideal escapism in his perfect environment for ‘daddy’s day’. Escapism from what? Big corporations? Unlikely, Disneyland was riddled with advertisements and financial pressures; the park was, after all, a business attempting to get money to escape the wallets of guests and into the bank of Disney’s company. Secondly, it boxed Disneyland into the area of a block. There was no room to grow. Walt Disney World, therefore, was born of frustration over control of surrounding enterprises and the promise of expansion.

A map showing the Disneyland Resort in Anaheim

The company started buying land, and lots of it. Multiple holding companies were buying up small pockets of land near Orlando, Florida. Walt’s Magic Kingdom would be surrounded by acres upon acres of park land. This provided the desired effects, the park was removed from the commercialism of Anaheim and provided plenty of room for expansion. Walt Disney was a controlling man by nature, he sought to control everything within the parks and the park area. This tradition has been carried down to this day – take Disneyland Paris, everything that is within your sight-line at any one moment is controlled. Walt’s original concept for EPCOT was a tightly controlled community, not just in a visual way, but in a political one as well. Whilst EPCOT became a theme park, many of Walt’s original ideas were conserved and brought to Disneyland Paris in the form of the Val d’Europe area.

Walt-Disney-EPCOT

A framework had been laid down, a framework that Disney took international Plots of land under Disney control, telling the story of one of the world’s biggest superpowers all whilst providing a fun, safe and enjoyable location for families to enjoy their time. Walt’s dream was going global. In 1983, Tokyo Disneyland was opened in Japan. A new ownership model devised where the Walt Disney Company were not the full resort owners, rather they licensed their content to a third-party company. A model that would later be adapted and used for a park in Europe. The plans were studied, multiple locations considered but in the end, Paris was the choice made.

Next month: Why was Paris chosen? The signing of the agreement in Paris and how Euro Disney SCA was set up. 

Walt’s Dream: A family project

Walt Disney outside his Sleeping Beauty Castle

In attempting to tell the story of the history of Disneyland Paris and identifying key moments in the history of the European resort, it is necessary to go further back in time than the short twenty-five years that the Parisian park has been in existence. It’s necessary to go further back in time, and to cross a vast ocean and even then cross the American continent. I seek here to go back as far as the mid-twentieth-century and to Walt Disney’s Disneyland which recently celebrated its sixtieth anniversary. Without the fantastic success of this initial park, and the dream of one man, the Disney empire wouldn’t be in existence today. But the story of Walt Disney, France and Disneyland Paris crosses multiple borders. It is said that the Statue of Liberty was a gift from France to the United States and eventually, this became true; however the initial idea for the sculpture was born in a much darker time. Just over fifty years after the French Revolution brought the fall of the absolute monarchy in France, Napoleon III came to power and imposed upon France the Second Empire from 1852. Gone was the revolutionary ideals of democracy and Liberté, Égalité, Fraternité, in came a totalitarian regime designed to suppress certain freedoms. It is important to note here that not all freedoms were removed, it was a more controlled freedom. Paris became littered with sculptures and monuments designed to bring forward the idea of pride in the state. The assassination of Abraham Lincoln wasn’t as widely condemned from France; at this moment, however, a group of revolutionaries were plotting a symbol of friendship between France and the United States: The Statue of Liberty, which was to be designed by Auguste Bartholdi. In 1886, the statue was inaugurated. The statue looking out to sea, and to France, became a great symbol between the two nations. It is this that is celebrated in Disneyland Paris in Liberty Arcade.

Liberty Court
Liberty Court entrance to Liberty Arcade in Disneyland Paris
Liberty Arcade Mural
Liberty Arcade presents a brief history of the Statue of Liberty – A symbol of Franco-American friendship

The birth of the theme park is largely attributed to Walt Disney and Disneyland – one can argue that this is indeed the case, the mold of having one park segregated into many self-contained lands is that of Walt’s invention – however it is a park just seven miles north-west of Disneyland that is one of the key inspirations for Walt Disney. Knott’s Berry Farm in Buena Park features a ghost-town area, this is in existence now as it was when Disney visited. Prior to this, this idea of an amusement park was rather sleezy; the original amusement park was what we today give the title of ‘fairground’, these simple rides mixed with fairground games. These were given a rather negative image. In discussing the concept of Disneyland with his wife, Lillian Disney told Walt that amusement arcades brought in negative clientele. Walt wanted to change the image of the industry, craft it in his own unique way – it was to become an extension of a film. Disneyland is one of the great productions, it is the film that is in constant production. For Disney, the cinematic medium can be completed, handed over and forgotten. The theme park can never be finished, this concept intrigued Walt. The rather well-known story is that Disneyland was a concept that was considered on a park bench when watching his children play. Children’s playgrounds are a rather one-generational affair – the children play and the adults watch the children play; the pleasure for the child is immense, the pleasure for the adult is the spectacle of watching his or her child having fun – Disney envisaged a park that crossed generations, a place for all to enjoy. It could quite easily to said that Disneyland was a park born of Walt’s frustration with the status-quo, he sought to enjoy with his children as opposed to instead of them for Walt was a child at heart.  As a child, Walt visited the Electric park in Kansas City which was modeled after the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago, the park contained wonderful architecture with popcorn lighting, it was a park that was beautifully designed and crucially in the formation of the Disney park, contained a railroad and an evening firework show.

Electric Park Kansas
Electric Park in Kansas City. Disney would have visited here during his childhood. It had a powerful effect on his future plans.

Walt researched heavily in the theme park industry before committing to actually realising his dream, he visited the Tivoli Gardens in Denmark. The park was the perfect model for Disneyland in many ways, and addressed Lillian Disney’s concerns over the amusement park concept as discussed in San Gennaway’s The Disneyland Story:

Walt told him [Art Linkletter – a good friend of Walt] how impressed with how clean the park was, how orderly the layout was, and how there were plenty of places to sit and relax. Tivoli Gardens did not sell alcohol and there was no raucous entertainment. At night everything was well. It was just a nice place to be. Walt learned, “Anything that I build will be kept clean, and the employees should feel that they are part of the show.” When he saw the Tivoli Gardens, he turned to Lillian and said, “Now, this is what an amusement park should be.’

The Disney studio possessed a tiny corner across the street from the offices. He tasked his designers to fill this little ten-acre plot of land. They happily did this, there were to be merry-go-rounds and a Bavarian village would greet guests at the entrance. It was obvious that this plot of land was too small. The Second World War hit and the Disney’s studio profits were hit as well, the park was sidelined, it simply was not affordable. Disney was a determined man, once he had an idea he was going to make it a reality, he would find a way.

But financial woes hit the Disney studios, the war was undoubtedly bad for business. In 1946, Disney took a $1 million loan from RKO in order to escape insolvency – the studio continued to make films, and some of their finest films such as Cinderella. The theme park idea remained very close to his heart, the war took its toll on the American people, it was time for Disney to provide people with escapism; that is what Disneyland was and still is, surrounding the park is an impenetrable barrier which keeps the world’s troubles out and allows Walt’s dream of ‘Daddy’s day’ to flourish. Disneyland is timeless, is seeks to be a place of happiness and optimism:

To all who come to this happy place: Welcome. Disneyland is your land. Here age relives fond memories of the past, and here youth may savor the challenge and promise of the future. Disneyland is dedicated to the ideals, the dreams, and the hard facts that have created America, with the hope that it will be a source of joy and inspiration to all the world.

A reminder of the American dream is exactly what America needed, and Walt was desperate to finance it. The canny business man hatched an idea, his films and television series were near-guaranteed hits, and so Walt financed his dream in a rather atypical sort of way. He pitched a television show to the big television networks.

Walt Disney outside his Sleeping Beauty Castle
Walt Disney outside his Sleeping Beauty Castle

The two biggest networks NBC and CBS passed on the opportunity. Walt turned his sights to ABC [Now a part of the Walt Disney Company it is useful to here mention]. ABC was in a ratings struggle, it needed Walt and much as Walt needed it. Walt would produce a series entitled Disneyland in which he would give previews of his project, it was essentially an advertisement for the resort. Walt could build his dream. But the next question would be: where? As already established, the studio ten-acre plot was far too small for what Walt had in mind. It was rather evident that Southern California was the place to be, but again the question was where? Walt enlisted the help of Stanford University who suggested that the future growth would be in Anaheim, and the rest is history. Walt found his space and began to build. This Disneyland that is ‘dedicated to the ideals, dreams and the hard facts that have created America’ is heavily rooted in Europe. The original ten-acre site was to be modeled on a Bavarian village and the centre-point of Disneyland was to be Sleeping Beauty Castle. Disney loved the European fairy tales, and modeled his centre-piece on Neuschwanstein Castle in Bavaria. Disneyland Paris takes its inspiration from French, British, German and Italian architectures throughout its resort. Europe is omnipresent and so the European park could be seen as an inevitability in the future. Walt worked tirelessly during the construction, he was on hand each and every day in Anaheim right up until the opening. The park was Walt’s hobby, his passion, his legacy.

Disneyland opened on July 17th 1955, sixty-years later it is still in existence, as popular as ever and is still widely seen as the birth of the theme park [Whether it deserves to be or not]. The park was rich in American iconography, it was designed to be a bite-sized symbol of American history and vision to the American future, a manifesto of American greatness. But at the heart of it was the empirical past of the old continent. Disney did not seek to promote negative feelings to what America had broken away from, instead he glorified it, turned it into the romantic heart of the park. The American town of Main Street is pure commercialism, the American Frontier is American entrepreneurial spirit, but Europe is something more. Walt embraced the world, he was a citizen of something much bigger than the United States, he sought to unite not divide. In this sense, his crowing glory is perhaps not the park itself, but “it’s a small world”.

it's a small world in Disneyland Paris
“it’s a small world” is a celebration of the cultures of the world, which was first inaugurated at the 1964 World’s Fair in New York.

Disney grew frustrated in Anaheim, there was very little room to expand and the success of Disneyland created the birth of Anaheim as a major touristic town. A Florida project was born, it was to be bigger, and much more controlled. Disney would never see his vision of “Daddy’s Day” expand, let alone go global, but the world would embrace Disney and his ideals.

The next article will dive in and investigate the birth of Walt Disney World and Tokyo Disney Land and look at how these influenced the design of Disneyland Paris. 

References

The Disneyland Story – Sam Gennaway. Unofficial Guides 2013

More Cute Stories Vol. 1 – Rolly Crump, Jeff Heimbuch. Bamboo Forest Publishing 2014

Walt Disney – American Experience. PBS 2015

La statue de la Liberté: Naissance d’un symbole. Arte 2015.