Coup de Cœur: Le Château de la belle au bois dormant

Prince Philip and Aurora kiss - Window in Disneyland Paris Castle

It is the icon of Disneyland Paris; it is the one thing you cannot escape, it is the one thing people dream about and it is the image that sells Disneyland Paris to the masses. Le Château de la belle au bois dormant (Sleeping Beauty Caslte) is the unavoidable symbol of Disney magic across Europe. As the new Disney Pictures film Malificent has been recently released, let’s take a look at this masterpiece of Disney imagineering.

Le Château de la Belle au Bois Dormant - DIsneyland Paris

And what better castle in the world? Disney castles in America, Hong Kong and Tokyo were inspired by Disney’s love affair with European castles that were found in countries such as France and Germany. But what for a European audience? Disney required something quite different; something more, well, fantasy. After all, a European audience was not going to be happy with a replica of something they can see if they drive two hours down the Autoroute. Inspiration was drawn from many places, both real and fictional including that of the Mont Saint Michel in Normandy.

Le Mont Saint Michel
Image: Hans Hillewaert under a Creative Commons license

The square trees seen to the side of the castle? Well, they appeared straight from the film Sleeping Beauty (1959). The film, based on the La Belle au Bois Dormant by Charles Perrault was one of Disney’s masterpiece works, the film however was a disappointment at the box office forcing Disney to take a break from creating films based on fairy tales. The songs from the film were heavily based on the Sleeping Beauty ballet composed by Russian musical mastermind Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky – including the wonderful Once Upon A Dream song.

Few can argue that Le Château de la Belle au Bois Dormant is one of the most magnificent, beautiful castles in the Disney parks repertoire. Pictures do not do this beauty justice, one must visit and experience all that it has to offer. Let’s step inside and explore this landmark further.

Inside the Castle in Disneyland ParisA simple glance at the interior of the Disneyland Paris castle hides its complexity. This is a castle with multiple layers just ready to be explored. Perhaps the most exciting of which is the upstairs Sleeping Beauty walkthrough depicting scenes lifted straight from the film in a rather unique way.

Sleeping Beauty Book in Disneyland Paris

As we rise up the stairs, the story of Sleeping Beauty opens up to us in the magnificent form of stained glass windows, tapestries and statuettes; each of which telling a different part of the story.

Stain glass window, Disneyland Paris CastleEach one of these windows are beautiful, each one full of some bodies loving work – and it really shows. Let’s take a look at each window. (Click to expand)

As you move further around the castle gallery, the story of Sleeping Beauty becomes increasingly unveiled through both visual and literary mediums. Much like when we entered up the stair case and a book was displayed, as we move through, the pages turn and the story is told.

Sleeping Beauty Storybook, Disneyland Paris Castle

Tapestries have been woven giving the medieval realism to this fairytale. Perhaps what is most striking about this gallery is not just that the artistry is of an immense quality; it is also that we believe that we are in a real castle. The real is suspended and the fantasy comes alive.

Props and statues round off this beautiful tour of the classic fairytale, including Spinning Wheels, sleeping guards as well as our two heroes: Aurora and Prince Philip

And so that concludes the Castle Gallery section of this visit to the Château de la Belle au Bois Dormant.

Castle Gallery at Disneyland Paris

The gallery section leads out onto the castle gallery offering a stunning view of Fantasyland.

Fantasyland as seen from Sleeping Beauty Castle, Disneyland Paris

It is from up here that we get our best view of the castle turrets, which as you can see are all equipped with some the best technology that help bring Disney Dreams! to life each day for the guests of Disneyland Paris. The show, Disney Dreams!, has already been awarded the Brass Ring by the IAAPA (International Association of Amusement parks and Attractions).

Tech installations on Disneyland Paris' castle.

Descending the castle stairs and into the main hallway, we find two stores. The first, La Boutique du Château, specialises in Christmas goods. The store is beautifully decorated as if it were a real room in the castle.

Christmas Shop inside Disneyland Paris' castle

The second store, La boutique de Merlin l’Enchanteur, is a world apart. It is a store one must explore and find all the beautiful details. Inside, one can find plentiful references to Disney’s The Sword in the Stone. Many of the products found in the store are handmade glass products which may be customised upon request. Combined, all this contributes to a fairy-tale setting for traditional artisan goods.

That concludes our visit to La Château de la belle au bois dormant, the centre piece of Disneyland Paris. The storytelling inside is one of Disneyland Paris’ finest and deserves to be appreciated by all that visit Disneyland Paris in its entirety.

Coup de Cœur: Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show

Red sign for Arena entrance at the Buffalo Bill Wild West Show
From the moment you see the building, to the moment you leave; one thing is clear about Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show, that is its Wild West Rodeo nature. It’s easy to see the attraction of this, the second most viewed show in Disneyland Paris; the show features animals, stunts and food meaning that there is something for all the family.

As we enter the building, which is shared by the Gaumont Cinema; we can smell the smell of horses and buffalo. The sights and the sounds of the wild west begin to fill the air, we are greeted with a smile and our ticket is scanned. We are then placed into our ‘team’ for the night indicated by the chapeau that we are given, then into the western style saloon bar. It’s here we can order our wines for the evening (should we be inclined for a more sophisticated evening); meet Sheriff Mickey and be entertained by a country-style band, with a special guest… Goofy! It’s also here that we begin to meet and mingle with our new team mates, and rivals.

 

The music ends, the wait is over. It’s time to go to our seats and prepare for a night of action, and fun in what is Disneyland Paris’s 2nd most popular show. We have a good amount of leg room and table space, perfect for the night ahead. In front of us lies part of our starter for this evening dinner show. A slice of corn bread. As the lights dim, and the action begins, the second part of our starter is delivered to the table, chili con carne. The familiar western music begins to play, and all of a sudden the real stars of the show appear. The horses, which we have so often seen in training on the artisans du reve DVD and the France 3 documentary Disneyland et ses secrets appear.

The beginning of the show is a triumphant and joyous occasion, we begin to meet the stars of the show: Buffalo Bill, Annie Oakley, Sitting Bull and the Rough Riders; of course every show needs a Maître de céremonie, and this is the case here as well. The show begins to run through a wild west story involving various types of animal, stunts and effects. We meet the Disney characters who are all dressed in their western finery.
By now we are eating our western platter with the potatoes. This dish allows us to sample many different campfire foods on one plate, whilst sitting and enjoying campfire antics with the Disney characters. A real high point of the show was Mickey singing You are my Sunshine to Minnie, it was a sweet and tender moment in the show; and perhaps the only emotional moment of the evening.

 

However, if you went into the Wild West Show, having been assigned your team, to be able to just sit and enjoy the show, you’d be mistaken. The second act of the evening is a fun and games session featuring the newest recruits, you. Over the course of 45 minutes or so, spectators feel the highs and lows together. You may find that family sitting next to you become your best friend as you laugh and joke with one another. Of course, what is a game without prizes, a few gold coins have been found; can your team win the day and walk away with a gold coin?

Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show is a fantastic evening of entertainment, especially in the colder winter months which often see Disneyland Park close early. The mix of show, games and food will make sure no member of the family gets bored – and the hat gift always goes down well with guests!

Coup de Cœur: Disney’s Halloween Festival

A mickey shaped pumpkin on a vine

The word ‘Festival’ in the official Halloween celebration title ‘Disney’s Halloween Festival’ is not coincidental. For 2013 is the year where ‘spooktacular’ Halloween is replaced by a more humble harvest theme. It all begins as we enter Disneyland Park and we meet the friendly Main Street USA residents who have been replaced by ghosts for one month only.

We quickly learn that these ghosts aren’t here to terrorise us, but instead to socialise with us and welcome us to their favourite season. Everything about the decorations on Main Street Station reassure guests that a Disney Halloween is different. As we move through the station, we see more friendly ghosts on Main Street USA who’ve decorated their street in the Halloween colours. The lampposts have been turned green and a witches hat placed upon them. As we walk through Town Square we hear more of a playful cackle than the usual jolly loop we are familiar with, the sounds of Halloween fill the air, pumpkins are placed on the lush green grass and the colours of Autumn surround us. This isn’t the usual ‘ghost and ghoul’ style Halloween, this is something different. In one corner of Town Square, we see Goofy taking Halloween incredibly seriously; he is making all the candy for his friends who come and see him for a trick or treat. In another corner, Duffy is also enjoying Halloween by putting on his best Halloween outfit as he prepares to go trick or treating.

It’s not just in Town Square where friendly ghosts come out to meet their guests. As we wander further down Main Street USA we meet ghosts from all sorts of different walks of life, ever wondered who really fixed the vehicles of Main Street USA? Who really cooks your food in Walts? The residents of the town, for one month only, have arrived to meet their favourite clients, you!

Three times a day on the parade route through Disneyland Park, the ghostly atmosphere is interrupted by Mickey and Friends who have come along to celebrate a more traditional harvest festival (To read more, check out this article by our friend at Dedicated to DLP). The parade soundtrack alludes to the more playful side of this harvest festival by referencing things such as ‘climbing trees’. The floats themselves bring the image of harvest through the country crop themeing along with the characters you know and love in their farmyard outfits. Character hunters will be pleased to see Clarabelle making her Disneyland Paris debut along with all the Ducks. What is particularly well done with this parade is the sheer number of performers involved, for a short two float parade this achieves the same satisfaction as a twenty-minute parade. The gaps before, after and in between floats are littered with dancers in beautiful costumes and with beautiful props. From the moment the parade reaches you, to the moment it has finished passing by, there are plenty of things to see and enjoy, which is its charm. This is a parade worthy of the Disney name, and will only grow in the future. We’re excited to see its evolution.
As we continue walking down Main Street we hit Casey’s Corner, and Minnie’s Costume Couture where we see her outdoor fashion house. We all know that Minnie is a fashionable mouse, but we’ve never before been allowed so close to her workspace. And, if you are lucky you might even get a photo with the designer herself, who is happy to pose for photos with her friends!
We move closer and closer to the Chateau de la Belle au Bois Dormant, and as we arrive in Central Plaza, we begin to notice some familiar faces in a rather unfamiliar form. We all know that Halloween has become synonymous with pumpkins. What perhaps we did not expect was that we would see Mickey and friends in pumpkin form; providing guests with a perfect photo opportunity.
Frontierland is the home of Halloween spooks, with pumpkin men welcoming you to their home in Thunder Mesa, as well as the ever spooky Phantom Manor attraction which takes on a particular thrill at this time of year. But, just outside Phantom Manor why not take time to visit Jack Skellington at his spooky cemetery.
As we stroll throughout the enchanting Disneyland Park, our ears are filled with the music of bands playing Disney Halloween favourites. We reach our final destination of our walk through Disneyland Park this Halloween, and we receive a less than warm reception from the Disney Villains who have gathered close to the Chateau de la Belle au Bois Dormant, ready to spook us.
Halloween 2013 is one of the best seasonal line ups we have seen in recent years, and just thinking that Christmas is usually taken even more seriously and that every year Halloween will get bigger sends a shiver down our spine. We look forward to finding out just what Christmas is like next month.
Coup de Cœur is a monthly feature on DLP Town Square celebrating what we love about Disneyland Paris and the details that make the resort so unique.

Disney’s Halloween Festival runs from the 5th – 31st October 2013

Coup de Cœur: Tower of Terror

La Terasse and the Hollywood Tower Hotel

Hollywood, 1939. Amidst the glitz and the glitter of bustling, young movie town at the height of its golden age. The Hollywood Tower Hotel was a star in its own right, a beacon for the show business elite. Now, something is about to happen that will change all that.

We enter a Hollywood boulevard, but perhaps not a Hollywood boulevard that you are familiar with, this is the Hollywood Boulevard of a bygone age, its golden age; the 1930s. Early department stores are ready, the recovery from the great depression is getting into swing and a great sense of optimism fills the street. Hotels, movie theatres are open and booming. Hollywood is announcing itself onto the world stage. As we walk down the street, the sounds of the movies greets us and the sense of both optimism and magic fills the air.  Just before we entered the street was a statue of Walt Disney and Mickey Mouse, one of the great Americans and a real symbol of the American dream. As we walk further down the street, there are even more little Disney hints for us to enjoy.
The El Capitan theatre located at 6838 Hollywood Boulevard opened to the public in 1926 by property developer Charles E. Toberman, and was a thriving theatre with performances of plays that people would flock to, helped in part by the lavish interior, the likes of which had never been seen before. In the 1930s, the art of motion pictures arrived in Hollywood and El Capitan needed to keep up. After the premiere of ‘Citizen Kane’ at the theatre, it closed for renovations and to become the movie theatre it is today. Now, the theatre is owned and operated by the Walt Disney Company.

As we walk along this street, we turn towards ‘La Terrasse’, here the world takes a pause of a wide open Hollywood terrace, perhaps to enjoy a refreshing cool drink in the sun, but something looms behind in the background; The Hollywood Tower Hotel.

All does not seem to be well at this glitzy hotel, we heard some screaming coming from high up. Not to worry, we somehow managed to get a reservation (that’s not easy for this hotel, you can be on the waiting list for a long time!). A friendly bellhop greets us outside ‘Bonjour’. Before we enter the lobby, we take a little look around the grounds.
The grounds are littered with signs for things such as ‘Valet Parking’, ‘Swimming Pool’, ‘Tennis Courts’, everything you’d expect a hotel of this class would have, the hits of the day, songs such as Vera Lynn’s ‘We’ll meet again’, are being played through a loudspeaker adding to the almost majestic nature of the hotel. Could it really be as grand as it seems from the outside?
As we approach the doors into the lobby, we can’t help notice the Hollywood Tower Hotel logo in the concrete outside the front, again adding to the grandness of the hotel, the doors are ahead of us. We take that final step. We’re here, ready to check in! But wait… something seems very wrong.
In front of us, a card game. Abandoned. Cobwebs growing on the lamp, a cup of tea left on the table. Suddenly the music doesn’t feel as fashionable and now seems to create a more creepy atmosphere. We look up, the lamps are covered by cobwebs, and the wall is cracked. Unsure what we should do, and to satisfy our curiosity, we continue to look around.
We slowly move towards reception. This was no accident, something terrible must have happened here. Why else would there be abandoned suitcases? Looks like we’re not checking in here today. But what is this? A bellhop invites us forward and directs us to our left, to the hotel library. We’re told the lift is out of order, well this is evident, the doors are bulging out. What happened here? We’ll be taking the service elevator to our rooms, apparently.
Judging by what we’ve seen so far in the hotel, we’re really not sure if we even want to take the service elevator. But our curiosity drags us in. Suddenly, lightning strikes, the doors close and the television turns on.
Tonight’s episode of the Twilight Zone is somewhat unique, and calls for a different kind of introduction. This, as you may recognise, is a maintenance service elevator still in operation, waiting for you. We invite you, if you dare, to step aboard, because in tonight’s episode, you are the star. And this elevator travels directly to… The Twilight Zone’. 
The doors open, we step out of the library and into a sort of ‘backstage’ in the hotel, the service area.  Despite us, and our fellow guests, crowding the area, there is an eery feeling. It’s dark, the lights are flickering. That must have been some lightning strike, the place just seems lifeless.
We’re greeted by a bellhop ‘How many?’. We reply ‘One’. ‘Mwhahahaha’. The once proud, friendly bellhops have been replaced by creepy, possessed bellhops. We are assigned the far right hand side elevator. And now, we wait.
Hang on a moment, we suddenly notice that despite the 12 floors displayed on the dial above the elevator, that our elevator has somehow reached a 13th floor. How could this be? The nerves start to kick in, perhaps it was a mistake to keep exploring, perhaps we should have turned away as soon as we noticed something was wrong. But we just can’t help ourselves. We wait for the elevator. Suddenly ‘DING’, the doors open slowly. A bellhop awaits, but screams as the door opens. He invites us on board. Everything seems normal, well aside from the fact that this elevator has seats. In fact, we take our seats and are quite content. We get a safety briefing. ‘Any questions? Too late!’ as we move backwards? Like everyone, we’ve taken many lifts in our lives, none of them have ever moved backwards. We ascend, in front of us a mirror, lightning strikes, the lift violently shakes as we descend a floor. We start to think all this has happened before as a family of five appear ‘five people stepped through the door of an elevator and into a nightmare. That door is opening once again, and this time it’s opening for you’. Uh-oh. History is repeating itself. The elevator drops suddenly and quickly, before re-ascending. Now we realise what the screaming was. The doors open in front of us, an impressive panorama presents itself. We admire the sight of Disney village, of the Disneyland Hotel and of Front Lot. However, there just isn’t enough time to take it in.
Our nightmare ends with the lift going forwards, the bellhop once again appears. Counts us in and we leave with a warning. ‘The next time you make a reservation at an abandoned hotel on the dark side of Hollywood, make sure you know what kind of vacancy you’re filling. Or you may find yourself a permanent resident of The Twilight Zone’. With that warning, we quickly leave the elevator and towards a guest area.
We walk down the corridor, and back into the safety of a guest area, and a non-deserted guest area, as if nothing had happened.
But, as we leave we notice a big clue that not everything is as it seems. The hotel sign flashes ‘Tower of Terror’. As we walk away down Hollywood Boulevard, we can’t help but smile at the thrill we’ve just experienced.

Coup de Cœur #1 – Front Lot

Flower in front of the Earful Tower

You’re standing in the resort hub in the inevitable queue for the security control, and in the distance you hear the Star Trek theme, it’s ironic that there is the theme to a film from a rival studio that lets you know that you have arrived at Disneyland Paris.
Gates to the Walt Disney Studios ParkAt Disneyland Paris we are lucky to have two Disney parks with beautiful entrances, the grand Victorian entrance to Disneyland Park is unique in the world and is, in my opinion, the most beautiful theme park entrance in the entire world. The second represents a Hollywood film studio, we are invited in with the words “Welcome behind the scenes” as we delve into the world of film making and tributes to the seventh art form (Cinema). As we walk to the park entrances we are greeted by the lot entrance gates featuring the Studio emblem of Mickey Mouse
Sorcerer Mickey Statue operating a camera, as we veer off to the sides we are greeted by Hollywood ‘porters’, with a polite ‘Bonjour’ they take our ticket place it in the turnstile and give it back to us. ‘Bon Journée’. The sights and sounds of the Studio surround us, in front of us the impressive Studio 1 building, the ‘gateway’ to the park, and for us an opportunity to see a Hollywood sound stage set up with its props and reading for a day of filming. In the centre a fountain with our studio emblem once again returning, Sorcerer Mickey from the 1943 Disney Classic ‘Fantasia’ representing one of the most iconic pieces of Disney animation ever created, Mickey controlling the brooms filling up with water. This provides us with one of the early photo opportunities of the park as we pose with the broom on the pavement. To our left, the Walt Disney Studios store designed with beautiful studio theming, the walls adorned with photos from the Walt Disney Studios in Burbank, California, all of which featuring the man himself, Walt Disney. The store almost feels like a studio set itself with its dark ceiling and lighting rigs and a dangling lighting fitting. We truly have entered the wonderful world of the silver screen, this is no functional film studio, this is the glamor of what we have dreamed it to be, this is the showcase section of the Walt Disney Studios Park.

Place des Freres Lumieres, Front LotAs we move back into the Place des frères lumières, so named as the Lumière brothers were the french inventors of the art of film making, just across the square is located Studio Services and our studio lot clock tower (Well, we need to know what time we have to be on set!), underneath the clock tower we can visit the Studio Photo store, which essentially is a slightly smaller version of Town Square photography in Disneyland Park, nevertheless the theming is once again that much more magical and links perfectly to the park’s theme of the movies with its old film cameras from an earlier era of cinema, the walls feature film reels and clap boards, and this is when we realise, we’ve made it on the studio lot! As we turn our backs on the photography store and head towards Disney Studio 1, we enjoy the sight of the ‘Earful tower’, of course it’s not a functional water tower but it’s almost a staple of a film studio such as the Walt Disney Studios in Burbank, our water tower in this studio has been given a pair of Mickey ears, again to pay homage to the biggest star the studio has produced, who knows? Maybe we might just bump into him today, I’ve heard he likes to take photos with the extras! We continue towards Studio 1, walking with the excitement of what awaits us. We are living the magic of the studio. What’s that? PLACES EVERYONE! That’s our cue, to the set!

Coup de Cœur is a regular feature in which we take a look at a particular attraction of Disneyland Paris in detail and enjoy what makes Disney parks so beautiful be it a ride, a walk through experience, a shop, a restaurant or an entire land.