Lost In Space? Why Buzz Crash Landed in Discoveryland

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Today, I’m pleased to introduce you to a guest post from Peter Bell. Peter Bell, as you may or may not know, is a former Disneyland Paris Cast Member. Peter has kindly agreed to write a series of blog posts, each featuring fantastic new information, for three websites. The previous post can be seen on Hollywood and Lime entitled ‘A Park in Bad Shape’ which focuses on the design of the Walt Disney Studios Park and its problems in guest flow. Here, you can read a post about just why Buzz Lightyear Laser Blast ended up in Discoveryland in Disneyland Park. Finally he will write on DLRP Roundup. I’ll now hand over to Peter, enjoy! 

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‘A great ride in the wrong place.’ That seems to sum up most fans’ opinions of Buzz Lightyear’s Laser Blast in Discoveryland. It’s unquestionably one of the great Disney dark rides (a fact that’s often obscured by the gimmick of waving a laser gun around) but we can’t help wishing it hadn’t taken the place of Le Visionarium. Not only did we lose a DLP original – something that was uniquely ‘ours’ – but Discoveryland lost its thematic centrepiece. The attraction had been a mission statement of sorts, a showcase for the land’s celebration of Europe’s scientific visionaries. Replacing it with a plastic Space Ranger was a creative blow from which the park has yet to recover.

So what happened?

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To answer that, we’ll have to leave Discoveryland behind us for a moment and head across the esplanade to the Walt Disney Studios Park, where the topic of my previous post raises its ugly head again – the park’s abysmal layout.

When the Imagineers map out a new theme park, they always design a few steps ahead. The park you experience on opening day is never the finished product but is primed and ready for future expansion. But such expansion requires some wiggle room, quite literally. The Imagineers build empty spaces – called ‘expansion pads’ – into the park’s design, knowing they can come back and fill them with new attractions when the time is right. These pads are often hidden in plain sight and, if the park is designed to a sufficient standard, you probably won’t even realise they’re there. (There are at least six that I can think of in the Disneyland Park alone. Care to guess where they are?)

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The Walt Disney Studios Park was designed with expansion pads as well, although absolutely no effort was made to hide them. Most prominent was the one reserved for the Tower of Terror, quite literally signposted with the hotel’s insignia above the construction walls, but there were two others – one between the Cinémagique and Disney Channel buildings (which is still there to this day – more on that in a future post) and another between The Art of Disney Animation and the Flying Carpets. It’s this last expansion pad, in the former Animation Courtyard, that was supposed to become home to Buzz Lightyear’s Laser Blast.

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That’s clearly a long way from Discoveryland. But according to the park’s original blueprint, the Animation Courtyard was supposed to be just that – a courtyard. It was never supposed to lead anywhere. Attaching Laser Blast to the Art of Disney Animation building would have completely enclosed that end of the park, hiding the ungainly costuming building from sight whilst adding a high-capacity family darkride to the roster of attractions.

But then the Studios Park failed and failed badly. Few people came and those who did tended to leave dissatisfied. More attractions were needed; a lot more than would fit into the existing expansion pads. If the park was ever going to succeed, Disney couldn’t afford to build themselves into a dead end. They needed more room.

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(Allow me to digress for a moment and remind you that the costuming building, which also houses a Cast Member refectory, locker rooms and various admin facilities, is only as old as the Studios Park itself. It’s a custom built nerve centre for the day-to-day operations of both parks, so eating up a chunk of its busy car park, as Toon Studio now does, goes to show just how desperate for space Disney had become. Equally problematic was the fact that the park now extended into areas never designed to be accessed by guests, which explains the awkward dog-leg around the back of Art of Animation, as well as the choke point approaching the entrance to Toy Story Playland, where the park quite literally squeezes between two formerly backstage facilities. Anyway, let’s get back to Buzz…)

It’s conceivable that they could have squeezed Laser Blast into the space where Crush’s Coaster stands today, but by this point DLP’s management faced a second, more nuanced problem in the Disneyland Park; Le Visionarium was losing visitors.

Audiences had been in slow decline for some time but things got serious when Renault withdrew their sponsorship of the attraction in 2002. The company had maintained a life size model of the Reinastella concept car (seen flying over Paris in the closing scene of the film) at the attraction’s entrance, which served as an important visual hook to passers by. When the sponsorship deal ended, the car disappeared and guest footfall plummeted as people swept past towards Space Mountain and Star Tours.

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Unwilling to foot the cost of the floundering attraction, DLP’s managers looked to Japan for a solution. Tokyo Disneyland had closed their version of the attraction two years earlier, replacing it with Buzz Lightyear’s Astro Blasters. The decision to follow suit in Paris must have felt like a no-brainer – not only did it free up the room they needed to expand the Animation Courtyard, it brought a popular, character-led dark ride to a corner of the Disneyland Park that was seen to need greater family appeal. Better yet, re-using the Visionarium building saved on construction costs.

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In retrospect, Buzz’s transfer from the Studios to Discoveryland was the most practical solution to a problem with no right answer and, had I been in Disney’s position, I can’t say I wouldn’t have made the same decision. We certainly haven’t done badly out of the compromise. But it remains a stark warning that poor planning in one area can have unforeseen and lasting consequences elsewhere.

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My heartfelt thanks to Geoff for lending me this space to ramble on DLP Town Square. You’ll be able to find my next post at DLRP Roundup within the next week or so, so stay tuned.

All images are sourced from a series of excellent DLP fan sites: WDSFans, DLPToday and Photosmagiques. Be sure to check them out!

 

I would like to thank Peter for writing this fascinating look into Disneyland Paris’ planning issues. All the words featured above are his own and he sourced the images from DLPToday, WDSFans and PhotosMagiques, I would like to thank them for allowing Peter to use them in this space. Make sure you do read the previous post on Hollywood and Lime as well as the future post on DLRP Roundup (Which I will edit a link into the article directing you there once it has been made online). 

A Family View: Ratatouille, Hotels and Disney Village

In Part Two of Tim’s guest post, he takes a look at the Newport Bay Club, Disney Village and the new addition to Disneyland Paris this summer: Ratatouille: The Adventure.

Last year we stayed in the Newport Bay Club Hotel. It was alright you know. We felt it was in need of refurbishment but would have stayed there again only for the walking. The extra bit down Lake Disney is a killer! And whattayaknow! They are in the middle of a compleye refurb! So this year we fancied the New York Hotel – which again was nice. In need of a refurb. And whattayaknow – they are going to be doing that too!!! I love the convenience of staying on site – and with the kids being under 7 and booking early it’s really reasonable. I would love to see them doing something with Disney Village. I wouldn’t know where to begin – which is why I am not an imagineer! But it does look tired. All that metal work doesn’t do it for me. But the places to eat and shop are fab. Soft spot for the Rainforest Café!! We also ate in Planet Hollywood, and while expensive, my word the portions were huge! I’d have been happy with the kids size fish and chips in the Rainforest Café and the Pizza for one in Planet Hollywood would have fed us all! Nothing beats the burgers at Annettes though! The Lego shop is a welcome addition and the staff there are mad, with 2 having a sword fight. It all added to the charm!

A main feature of this trip, though, was the Rat.

I have to say from the outset that I am not a massive fan of Walt Disney Studios. It grew on me a bit this time. It is a completely different experience to Disneyland. More grown up? As our 2 are small then maybe that’s why we don’t get as much out of it. The meet and greet with Spider-Man is a welcome addition, as is Woody right next to Buzz. Some folk don’t like the queuing for characters, but it does guarantee you meeting them, and the queue stops the jostling and pushy parents! It would be nice to see more characters strolling both parks.

We got there just after opening. The queue was significant. 90 Mins of significant. The fast pass machines were covered! I had had the tip off, though, that by doing fast pass we would miss the beautiful theming inside! So we joined the queue – just as the time clicked up to 120 mins! Ah well, in for a penny. The outside queue line is pretty standard (and some of the theming was crumbling already!) but there were some nice posters to look at. Inside, however, is a credit to the imagineers. Gusteau greets you as you wait in line adding to the excitement of the ride.

Seeing the Ratmobiles for the first time was a joy. It was almost balletic as we watched them glide gracefully in and out of the loading areas. We had never experienced a trackless ride, and I was worried that the 3D would leave me cold. I was worried about the whole thing as I had waited so long for this. Glasses on, we floated out and all my worries disappeared. Everything worked. I won’t spoil the experience, but needless to say we wanted to get right back on!

I would say, though, that Fastpass, once you have done the queue, is the way to go at the moment. To give you an idea on how quickly Fastpass goes, we got ours at midday – for 7:45 that evening! But we walked straight on and the second time was as thrilling as the first.

Another tip would be the single rider line. I saw couples getting on! Not sat next to each other, granted, but in the same Rat! One for the DINKYs maybe, as well as the individual guests.

The whole Place De Remy is such a lovely place to spend time. The music loop is charming and it just so well put together. If it doesn’t stir your romantic heart then I can only surmise that you are dead! This is the place that, when I look at pictures of WDS, makes my heart flutter.

WDS is a much happier place later in the day. We wee there for the last couple of hours before closing and made it a lot more bearable. Like I say though, we could’t do much with the younger members of our party. I did manage to get on Crush’s Coaster this year though. It was a bit of a wait (its always a bit of a wait!) but it was well worth it. I love how the Turtle Shells spin without you wanting to barf. Definitely my favourite ride in WDS but it is desperately in need of a Fastpass!

Now we are back, I think back to WDS and I think it is a place I need to spend a bit more time in, enjoy some more of the attractions – but it would really help itself it it could find its identity.

We headed on back to Disneyland in time for Dreams. We give ourselves an hour to give us a good spot down by the front. I was amazed how full it was when we got there, even an hour before. So, I know if you have little ones with you it may seem madness, get there early for both the Parade and for Dreams if you want the best view.

Second time was definitely the charm for us! Sites like DLPTownsquare are invaluable when it comes to getting the best from your visit. Without them you wouldn’t notice all the little things. Duelling pirates was something I didn’t know people looked out for – I do now and I looked out for them (4 rides, 3 of them had them)! The accordion playing one wasn’t though!

And I found myself being extremely protective of the place. Whenever I saw an irate Guest I wanted to know what ailed them in order to help them! Or when a guest was climbing where they shouldn’t be I wanted to tell them. The worst I saw was one child just threw his empty carton of drink on the floor and didn’t seem to care. It really riled me this time when people had their flash on for Pirates ! I mean seriously, what is the point?! And don’t get me started on the idiots who put their hands in the water when riding Pirates or Small World!

That is the secret though. Its not letting other people diminish your experience. It is what ever you make it! For me, at 39, it really reminded me of what it is like to be truly happy. Not just happy – but happy in the way you were as a child.

I would like to thank Tim for his time in writing this two part article – and thank you all for reading. If you’d like to see more from him, make sure to follow him on Twitter and follow his Flickr page (Which is where all the photos in this article originate from)

Want to write a guest post for DLP Town Square – Get in touch! 

A Family View

In the first ever guest post on DLP Town Square, Tim Redgrave takes us on a journey to Disneyland Paris thanks to his recent trip. He also details his history with Disneyland Paris and how somebody went from not being the biggest fan of the resort, to a Disneyland Paris lover; a love kindled through the eyes of his two children. 

So, you’ve said “Yes!” like the advert says. What now?

Well… if you are one of those types who is unprepared to de-starch that upper lip and not respect the European flavor of this magical place – then move along there is nothing for you to read here.

If, however, you are ready to have one of the best times then there maybe something in this to help you on the way.

I can happily say that we, My wife and 2 children, have just come back buzzing from our second trip. We went last year, again this year and we are struggling to not go again next year!! We have fallen in love with this place. You can too.

I approached the 1st trip with trepidation – I had been in its first year of opening and I remembered feeling distinctly unimpressed with it. On reflection, I now know that this was purely down to my British approach to theme parks. This was not the Pleasure Beach. This was not Alton Towers, but the 18-year-old me was expecting that.  This feeling disappeared almost immediately as I saw my children’s faces light up when the music for the anniversary parade kicked in! I saw their joy and it filled my heart and it is here that my love affair with Disneyland Paris began!

I had no expectations from Main Street. To me, it was just the place you walked through to get to the other areas of the Park. How wrong was I? I would say that you would be doing yourself a favour by spending time here. Soak in the atmosphere, look at the theming, acclimatise yourself to what this wonderful world is all about. I know you’ll probably be champing at the bit to get to the rides – and maybe you don’t have the time. We took advantage of the 2 days and nights free – so 5 days in the park gave us the time.

It will be here that you learn the best lesson about Disneyland Paris if you go during regular season – it is busy. Proper busy. You have a culmination of all manner of cultures and all will have their own traits and intricacies. There will be queues. It is expensive. Accepting this is the key to enjoying it. I earwigged a “conversation” one British family were having. The jist was she was never coming again as the people were rude and it was too expensive. Funny that. She seemed to be the only one shouting!

I found everyone treated me as I treated them. The cast members were fabulous with us all – especially the children.

This year we found new ways of getting to each land within the park. These are really worth finding when it is busy as often they are deserted. Covered too for when it’s a bit hot or a bit wet! I was amazed that one minute I was in Frontierland and the next I was in Fantasyland and I couldn’t quite work out how I had done it! This, for me, only adds to the excitement of the Paris version of Disneyland. There is so much to find.

I always try to make Frontierland my next port of call. I love spending time here. I love the view of Thunder Mesa as you walk under the big arch. Again, here is some wonderful theming people just pass by. Go through the little door on the left and take a walk up the ramparts. There’ll be no crowds! I like to wander right down to the fence by the lake and watch the Molly Brown glide by to the sound of the screams from Big Thunder Mountain!

In the corner of my eye though is “my” ride. My boy and I love Phantom Manor – and as much as I want to ride it, I want to experience it. So without rushing we take an amble up towards the house. Taking in the theming. I have a slow walk past the Gazebo, just in case those tea cups move once again and then onwards as the music takes hold. More often than not the queue ride is so short you don’t get to experience the full line, but the theming is so good it would be worth the wait! Round to the front, where a cast member will begin the journey. Obviously, these differ each time and some are better than others. Into the holding room, look up and around (but stand to the far left!). In the next room walk to the right, again look up and around and take it all in. This is the stretching room – it will all make sense! In 2 years, though, I have ridden this 8 times and I still can’t make out the ceiling!!! And selfishly I miss Vincent!!!!

If you have time, take it all in, in the hallway. Look out for Walt! The doombuggy is just round the corner! You are now in the most unique and beautifully constructed stories in all the Disneylands in all the world. 8 times and there was something new each time. Honestly.

Once I have seen the 999 ghosts I am happy to go anywhere. This is just down to your choice really, though to be honest it’s usually Adventure land for my next favourite. Some people may like to do the entire land while they were there. We didn’t. We just went where we fancied! This is how we have found so many different ways to each land. Do take it all in though – I mean how stupid is it to only realise on the last day on the 1st visit that there was Excaliber right by the castle! Dear me! Hanging on to that last terrible habit of British theme park visiting – nothing to see… move along! There is loads to see. Disneyland Paris is not just rides. It has attractions. It has its identity. Those shops may seem the same, but they have very subtle differences – so don’t pass them by thinking they are! Boy, are they beautiful too. Expensive, maybe. This is Disneyland – not Poundland!

We’re not seasoned Disneyland Paris visitors yet – and maybe our habits will change. I have learnt so much from this very website to help enhance the experience. The highlight for this latest trip was the Parade. We had already seen it once this trip but we fancied seeing it again from somewhere different. Thanks to DLPTownsquare we found the perfect spot down by the Castle Stage – but disaster! We had arrived a bit too late. All the spots by the rope had gone. We had the kids dressed up as Peter Pan and Tinkerbell and I had let them down! I stood by the crossing, where cast members were keeping the pedestrian crossing clear and I was politely asked to move – and I hit upon on an idea! It seemed logical that they would block off this route when the parade started. They wouldn’t leave it open for people to rush the floats – I could see the extra rope and putting 2 and 2 together I held my nerve. We stayed right on the edge of the crossing. 15 minutes to go. No movement. Hold your nerve. 10 minutes to go. No movement. Still crossing. 5 minutes to go. No Movement. Fortune favours the brave. People had gathered by the railings. They had the same idea!! But we were by the rope. Magic on parade! No movement…..wait! Here came the cast member, who gave a serious look (and a cheeky wink) as he moved the rope in the way I hoped and we were right at the front. No camera this time. Just memories and thank goodness. So many of the characters spotted the kids and came over and interacted with them. Wow! I would say nearly all the characters came over, but notably Jessie, The Queen of Hearts, Mary Poppins and Burt, and Peter Pan. Those on the floats took the time to point over and wave, especially Tink! The absolute cherry on the icing on the cake. The grit in my eye was significant that evening I can tell you!

The Parade, and indeed Dreams, is a good example of where tolerance is a skill you must hone! There will be those who just rock up and think it is ok to stand in front of you at the last-minute. Far, far worse for me though is the phone, tablet brigade. Dear me! I am all for taking photos, but gosh these people will stick these right in your face! I did have to say though when, when having the ipad above my son’s head, the cover dangled down in front of his eyes. I don’t understand the point of ipadding Dreams either! I get wanting to see it again – I guess, but really Dreams is to be lived and loved. I haven’t seen a video that reproduces the live experience. So put your phone down – enjoy the show. It really is Magic.

In the next part of the report, Tim gives us his thoughts on Disney Hotels, Disney Village and Ratatouille in the Walt Disney Studios Park. Check back in a few days for Part Two! 

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