1992: The Dream comes alive

Michael Eisner at Euro Disneyland Opening

The philosophy is so simple that I’m amazed that everybody doesn’t have it. It’s not like we’re figuring out how to get to the moon. All we do is bend over, pick up some paper, figure out how to design buildings with attention to detail and how to spend enough money so that everybody feels like a VIP.  – Michael Eisner

The formula may not be magic, but Disney always add extra sparkle to their parks that makes the formula special and magical. Disneyland Paris was opened in an evening of glitz and glamour, the likes of which the resort has never seen since. The event was broadcast live across the world as Euro Disney was finally unveiled to the world in traditional 90s fashion. Yes, the presenters may well have been cheesy, but that adds to the charm when it is watched back. Disneyland Paris emerges from a certain chapter in time and in the history of the Walt Disney Company.

Grand Opening Euro Disneyland

April 12 1992

The opening night was a unparalleled celebration. But this took place on April 11th 1992, the following day was to be much more important. There were to be no more quiet days, no more days off. Euro Disney was to become a 365 day a year park. The first guests to buy a ticket for the park were given a lifetime pass to the resort – who knows if they are still using it?

Michael Eisner at Euro Disneyland Opening

The opening speech took place on the balcony of Main Street Station with Michael Eisner and Sabine Marcon in attendance. They then hopped into a fire truck to the castle for the Euro Disney dedication speech.

“To all who come to this happy place, welcome.”

Once upon a time…

A master storyteller, Walt Disney, inspired by Europe’s best-loved tales, used his own special gifts to share them with the world.

He envisaged a Magic Kingdom where these stories would come to life, and called it Disneyland.

Now his dream returns to the land that inspired it. Euro Disneyland is dedicated to the young and the young at heart… With the hope that it will be a source of joy and inspiration for the world.

-Michael Eisner, 12 April 1992

And with that, Euro Disneyland was officially open. The park would see teething issues, of course it would. Europe is very different to the USA market, and that was an initial failing. One such notable difference in cultures was the banning of alcohol within the theme parks. European culture is very much more open to alcohol, in fact all quick-service restaurants will serve you a can of beer upon request with your meal.

Teething issues are to be expected, but the resort would have deeper issues. And they would take more to resolve.

Optimism and Anger – The growth of Euro Disneyland

The Disneyland Paris construction site in 1988.

The dream was alive, the agreements signed and Euro Disneyland in France was coming a reality. After all the hard negotiations, construction began on the site east of Paris. It was a period of optimism and joy at The Walt Disney Company. It only took two years from the signing the initial agreement to the creation of Euro Disneyland SCA.

1989 – A new company was born.

The 1989 annual report sets out the positive tone in its opening message

The year 1989 was particularly important in the evolution of EURO DISNEYLAND. Progress on the site, the organization and financing of the project, relationships with investors and participants, as well as a close collaboration with public parties are all concrete evidence of what has been accomplished this past year.

Just as important as our physical progress in 1989 was the progress made during the year in our financial and legal arrangements for the project.

In keeping with the provisions of the Agreement signed with the French public parties in March 1987, two key companies became operational in 1989: EURO DISNEYLAND S.C.A and EURO DISNEYLAND S.N.C.

What is also striking is that this park seemed to have success written all over it.

Even though we devote most of our efforts to opening day in 1992, we are already hard at work on developing new attractions that will be added to the MAGIC KINGDOM in future years.

In addition, we have just announced the theme of our second park: the Disney MGM studios-Europe planned to open in 1996.

The Disneyland Paris construction site in 1988.
The construction site of Disneyland Paris in 1988. Already visible is the core shape of the park.

The welcome letter also thanks those reading for their support in the project by becoming shareholders. The word project is important here – it was never really seen as a gamble, but it was however seen as an opportunity and one that worked rather nicely for Disney. The current ownership of the resort was as follows:

EDL Holding Company (wholly-owned subsidary of The Walt Disney Comapny) – 49%

Banque Indosuez – 20.4%

Banque Nationale de Paris – 15.3%

S.G. Warburg & Co. Ltd – 10.2%

Credit Agricole – 5.1%

The second gate, as previously discussed in this article, was officially announced on the 17th November 1989. The idea was clearly one that Disney had liked as this followed the opening of MGM Studios at Walt Disney World in May of that year. The provisional opening date was set for 1996. As we now know, this did not happen as planned instead opening in 2002.

Besides all the initial construction work that took place in 1989 – which was a fair amount and particularly in the transportation sector of the agreement signed in 1987 – The Walt Disney Company seemed satisfied with their work. Appropriate European investors had been found and the company did reasonably well upon launch on to the European Stock exchanges in Paris, Brussels and London.

1990 – Growth and Dreams.

In 1990, the company continued to grow further. A brand had been created, Euro Disney.

“Euro Disney” conveys the essence of our enterprise. The new new logo combines a bold Euro with the quintessential Disney symbol, Mickey Mouse, and the distinctive signature of his creator. With its striking new colours, it symbolises Disney magic and creativity. “Euro Disney Resort” conveys the concept of a complete vacation destination, and is the name of the overall project.

“Euro Disneyland” is the name that best evokes the unique experience to be found in the Theme Park we plan to open in the Spring of 1992. We have decided, therefore, to reserve this very special name for our first Park.

And so another failing of the resort had been created. The name Euro Disney was seen to be uninspiring and too business-like.

The Euro Disney logo
The Euro Disney logo was criticized from being overly business-like.

However, despite this optimism is still the order of business in the new Euro Disney SCA. ‘Our business is building dreams’ and so it continues. Dreams seems to be the big word in 1990, ‘our dream’, ‘the dream’ etc. Recruitment plans were being drawn up and Cast Members were being trained in both the United States Disney resorts and Tokyo Disneyland. Everything is being set up perfectly for the completion of a wonderfully perfect Disney resort. The level of positivity was so high that in 1990, Disney submitted the plans for the second park to the French local authorities for completion as early as 1994.

And that’s still not all -we’ve even begun to think about the concept of a third park – perhaps a European EPCOT for the year 2000…

The European project was seemingly going perfectly, expansion could not happen fast enough. The land granted to Disney by the French state was one-fifth the size of Paris and Disney seemed to want to accomplish a lot on that land.

1991 – the dream is almost a reality.

1991 was perhaps the biggest year that Euro Disneyland has ever seen, completion of large parts of the project was beginning to loom and the opening date was set as April 12th 1992. After years of planning and building, it was about time for people to join in the biggest party Disney had ever held. A big theme so far in this article has been expansion, and 1991 was no exception:

Even as we prepare for Opening, your company has been hard at work on plans for the next phase of development. Design is almost complete on the Disney MGM Studios-Europe and additional hotels. Architects have been selected for the housing and development projects and discussions are proceeding with the French public parties for the signing the Second Detailed Program.

Planning has also began for the third Phase of the Project [Park Three] and our Imagineers have dreams that will carry us well into the next millennium.

It would not come as a surprise to you that at this time, Euro Disney SCA were operating at a loss – in fact it is only natural, they were spending and spending with no income yet possible. The overall tone coming from the company was a sense of optimism – this was the “dream” after all.

Main Street at Disneyland Paris.
Euro Disneyland was due to open to, what was hoped to be, large crowds each day.

Anger spreads

Whilst Euro Disney SCA were living their dream, others were living their nightmare. France is a conservative nation in many respects. The protection of French language and culture is vital. The Americanisation of France was something that was frowned upon very strongly by the French public and the pompous Académie Français [A body set up by Cardinal Richelieu in order to create a French dictionary and preserve the French language]. One French novelist described the arrival of American influences, and in particular McDonalds, as a rotting of French society. A way to spread shoddy morals and activities throughout France. Mickey was not the most welcome figure in France at this time.

Disneyland Paris had a mixed reception in France, the company’s initial years were filled with optimism and hope, but underlying it all were issues that would fast become apparent upon the resort opening. Cultural differences between France and the vision that Disney sought to promote were evident and blocking.

Next up: 1992 and the opening of a new Disney resort in Europe. The calm and celebration before the storm.

 

The 1987 Convention

The 1987 convention allows Disney characters to be used.

On April 12th 1992, Disneyland Paris opened its doors to the French public. But it was the 1987 convention that saw the creation of a Disneyland in France. The story of the choice of site for the project is widely known; various sites were studied in France, Spain and to a lesser extent the United Kingdom. Disney, of course, eventually settled on a plot of land of the eastern outskirts of Paris. Plenty of reasons were given for this, most notably the ease of access for guests across Europe.

24th March 1987

Whilst the 12th April is the key date in Disneyland Paris history, the 24th March 1987 is arguably even more important. It was on this day when all the great and good in France and The Walt Disney Company descended on Paris to sign the most important document in the history of this European Disneyland Project.

The key signatories were:

  • Jacques Chirac (Prime Minister of France, represented the French State).
  • Michael Eisner (CEO of The Walt Disney Company).
  • Michel Giraud (President of the Ile-de-France region).
  • Paul Seramy (President of the Seine-et-Marne département).
  • Paul Reverdy (CEO of the RATP – Paris Transport Network).

There were, of course, other people present, but these are the key figures in the creation of a Euro Disneyland. The images of this day were beamed across the world and was one of headlines of French news reports that day.

The Paris Region

The 1987 convention saw Euro Disneyland to be in the east of Paris. Paris, like most European cities, has areas that are more or less affluent than other places. Much like London, Paris’s wealth distribution in 1987 was very much west to east. It could, perhaps, be argued that this is still the case today; situated to the west of Paris are the wealthy settlements of Versailles and Saint-Germain-en-Laye, to the east poorer cities such as Noisy-le-Grand and Meaux. Euro Disneyland sought to bring some much-needed investment to the east through tourism and increased employment.

It is also necessary to have a larger understanding at the geographic structure of the Paris region. France is comprised of a series of Régions, and the one that Paris and Disneyland Paris is located in is called the Île-de-France.

A map of the Ile-de-France region
The Ile-de-France region with its departments indicated

Each region is composed of a number of département which are smaller administrative areas. Seine-et-Marne is one such département, which was represented at the signing by Paul Séramy who has a road named after him in the resort, and is the area that hosts Disneyland Paris. Historically, this area was one whose lead income was that of agriculture. Disneyland Paris itself is located on what used to be farmland, which lead to farmers protests whilst the resort was in construction. The 1987 convention sought to add another layer of income to the region, and one that could potentially be quite lucrative: Tourism. Disney was also compelled by the agreement to build an area on the periphery of the park, which is today known as Val d’Europe.

The 1987 Convention in detail

The agreement is an extensive document which goes in to great detail about many aspects of the resort. As many readers may already know, Disneyland Paris is not operated directly by Disney.

The creation of Euro Disney SCA

The Walt Disney company have decided to build a Disneyland in France. But The Walt Disney Company would not be operating the park on a daily basis, rather they would be an investor. Initially it would be Disney themselves but then a new company would take over. Until then, however, it would be Disney having full responsibility for the site and its construction. Immediately upon convention signing, Disney would deposit 100 million francs. This would be made into a bank account upon which the French State would act as a guarantor. Disney would be liable for deposits into this bank account for three years. In order to set up the operating company – Euro Disney SCA – several conditions had to be met:

  1. Capital would be transferred to the new company.
  2. The financiers of Euro Disney must put equity into the company of, at least, 25% of the Phase 1 cost.
  3. The new company must have enough funds to complete Phase 1 of the project.
  4. The new company has an agreement with Disney to use their properties for at least 30 years.
  5. The new company has reached an agreement with Disney on best practices in running a new resort.
  6. The new company signs the convention in Disney’s place.
  7. Disney take the steps required to withdraw themselves from the 1987 convention contract.
The 1987 convention allows Disney characters to be used.
The 1987 agreement allows for Euro Disney to use Disney properties for at least 30 years.

The steps for Disney to withdraw themselves from the convention are unremarkable. The most interesting point is that Disney would have to supply the other stakeholders with a full list of shareholders of the new company. When it comes to resort investment, the French state had several constraints specified. Both Disney, and Euro Disney SCA were obliged to make sure that all investors were either French or from elsewhere in the European Economic Area. The Walt Disney Company can never own less than 16.67% of the company.

Promoting European Culture

The 1987 convention also places a lot of importance on the promotion of European culture.

To allow foreign citizens to better understand France, the new company will take into account the theme of French and European cultural and historical heritage.

The agreement looks at Euro Disneyland playing French music. But more importantly a ‘circlevision’ attraction would showcase France. The attraction being referred to is Le Visionarium. Where possible, French will be the primary language within the resort but this may be used in conjunction with other languages. The French government were OK with Disney using the English title for big name attractions without translation. French must be the primary language of the resort, but translations in other languages was acceptable.

The castle in Disneyland Paris is given a French name
French naming is prominent in the resort – such as Le Chàteau de la belle au bois dormant

Transportation

Public transportation was an important part of the Euro Disneyland project. The RATP would, at the cost of the State and Region, extend the RER A line from Torcy to Euro Disneyland. As part of this, Disney would promote the RER as the ideal way to get to the resort. If marketing was to mention getting to the resort by car, it must also mention the RER prominently. The tariffs on the extension of the RER line would be in proportion to travel on the existing line. If not enough people use the station (less than 25% of the 9,130,000 estimation), Euro Disney SCA would be liable to pay a fine to cover the loss made by the RATP. Disney would not be allowed to transport guests between Paris and the resort, except outside of RER operating hours and if the RER is down. As part of this, Euro Disney were required to charge parking separate to admission. If Disney ran a parking cost promotion, the RER would offer a similar promotion.

The station that was built was required to be as accessible as possible for the Disneyland Park. Disney were required to make sure that the distance between the ticket office for the park and the station exit was as short a distance as possible – and not more than 150m. The 1987 convention also compels Disneyland Paris to ensure that the path from station to entrance is be particularly well maintained and for Disney to study a direct station-to-park access. The bus station was also required to be close to the station exit. The station design would be determined by a architectural competition.

The Disneyland Paris train station was to be no more than 150m from the park entrance.
Everything was meticulous thought out, the train station included!

Finally, the State and Region would finance two autoroute A4 interchanges to service the resort. This would be completed no later than the resort opening date.

A plan with long-term impact

EURO DISNEYLAND EN FRANCE – as the official name for the project – was a plan for the long-term. Euro Disney SCA were permitted to decide upon a name for promotional purposes, eventually settling on Euro Disneyland. The 1987 convention envisaged a second park and resort expansion, but in a way that would make sound economic sense.

  • By 31/12/1997 the resort size was to be 600ha.
  • By 31/12/2007 the size would expand to 1250ha.

It would also give the French language and European prominence in the resort – something that was realized with Discoveryland receiving a Jules Verne theme. It would also set up The Walt Disney company to plunge Euro Disney SCA into a financial nightmare that has recently been alleviated by the refinancing of the company.

The convention, from date of signing, would be valid 30 years – so until 24th March 2017 unless extended. Euro Disney SCA have previously been successful in extending their land lease proving that the Euro Disney Public-Private experiment has been fruitful.

The second park was always planned in the long-term.
The French government envisaged a slow and steady growth, but sought a second park in the long-term.

The 1987 convention provided a good theoretical framework for Disneyland Paris. The concept was that Disney would build a ‘resort that is of comparable quality’ to those already in existence. Whilst elements of the convention have proven to be less fruitful, it permitted the construction of a place that we all have come to love.

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.

 

The moments that define Disneyland Paris – A 2016 article series

There are moments in history that seem small and insignificant but somehow take on a defining role in a generation. In 2017, Disneyland Paris celebrates its twenty-fifth anniversary, but the history of Disney’s European resort stretches more than the twenty-five short years. In 1923, Walter Elias Disney arrived in Hollywood with a suitcase and a dream. That dream spanned multiple different medias and dimensions. Little did anybody realise in 1923 that this one man would change entertainment forever. Entertainment was silent, it was simple and took in but two of the senses. Later in the 1920’s film evolved and the era of the talkie arrived. Walt Disney would use dialogue in his short films before himself innovating and creating a new art form: The Animated Feature film. Snow White opened to huge critical praise in 1937; the gamble paid off and allowed Walt Disney to be given an honorary OSCAR award and saw the film being the highest grossing talkie at the time. Without this one film, the Disney universe could not exist as it is today; without this one film, much of the entertainment we enjoy today would simply not exist.

Carthay Circle Theatre. Snow White premiere: December 21 1937. Image: Disney
Carthay Circle Theatre. Snow White premiere: December 21 1937.
Image: Disney

To some, Disneyland Paris is home, to others a place to escape for a few days each year. Different people may have differing fond memories of the resort, but there are certain moments that everybody can identify as important to the growth of the resort. Moments such as the building of Space Mountain saved the resort from financial ruin, the opening of a second park in 2002 began an important new chapter. In 1987, the Walt Disney Company created a new resort and a new dream for many Europeans. This article series over the course of 2016 aims to take at least one event each year over the course of the history of Disneyland Paris and explore it in more detail, the resort’s Golden Moments. The story of the Parisian resort is a colourful one involving the study of past mistakes, the appreciation of European history and the love of Disney film.