Is it time for a new attraction at Disneyland Paris?

Anaheim, Orlando, Tokyo, Shanghai, Hong Kong; the Disney resorts around the world (excluding Paris), but also all the Disney resorts that have large scale construction projects announced. It’s a time of rapid expansion at Disney parks and resorts worldwide, but the glaring omission from this list is Paris. That could be down to the fact that Paris typically announces its new developments exceptionally late in the day (don’t forget that Ratatouillle: L’Aventure totalement toquée de Rémy was only announced in January 2014, for a June opening after years of fans tracking the development of the construction of the attraction), but also perhaps that Disneyland Paris do not have any major plans green-lit.

A brief history of new attractions

Disneyland Paris has grown rapidly since opening, that much is certain and eventually the rapid growth had to slow. In 1993, just one year following park opening, Disneyland Paris opened Indiana Jones et le temple du péril. Major attractions since then include Space Mountain: de la terre à la lune in 1995; Honey I Shrunk the Audience in 1999; the Walt Disney Studios park in 2002; Buzz Lightyear Lazer Blast in 2006; Toon Studio and The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror in 2007; Toy Story Playland in 2010 and of course Ratatouille in 2014. The time gaps in opening are rarely more than 4 years. The gap between Ratatouille and anything is currently sitting on 3 years and it’s likely to be a few more before we get anything.

Tower of Terror at Disneyland Paris

Does seasonal entertainment fill the void?

Disneyland Paris has been launching new seasonal entertainment as a way to attract new guests, and this really does work. For many parks, this long without a new ride (attraction) would see the park stagnating and begin to feel tired; Disneyland Paris has avoided this problem by creating unique seasonal entertainment and this does stand out on its own for being good quality and getting key franchises into the parks (such as during the Frozen Summer Fun celebrations in 2015 and 2016). Additionally new shows such as Mickey and the Magician have emerged which do delight guests. But a lack of new attraction does seem to be becoming increasingly apparent.

Swing into Spring at Disneyland Paris

Star Tours to Star Tours: The Adventures Continue

What we have seen are new attractions being marketed such as Star Tours: L’Aventure Continue, and whilst these are new attractions, they also are not. The core of Star Tours and Hyperspace Mountain remain the same regardless of ‘wow factor’ when riding them and rediscovering them as if it were the first time. The issue is that these are ‘reimagined’ attractions as opposed to something new, at its base you know exactly what to expect. Unlike that feeling when you, as a guest, step into a new land or new attraction with the anticipation and expectation that comes with it. These types of feelings are perhaps some of the most special for a fan of an amusement park (any amusement park, this particular feeling is not exclusive to Disney Parks).

La Place de Remy at Disneyland Paris

When can we expect a new attraction in Disneyland Paris, and what would it be?

Usually for a new attraction construction would begin at least two years in advance, so even if construction started tomorrow we would be looking at 2019. It’s unlikely that Disneyland Paris would be able to green-light the necessary funds for a while and this is OK. We’ve had a large scale project to update many of the classic Disneyland Paris attractions which is very admirable and vital for the future success of our Parisian resort. However, a growth will be needed in the coming years; it is perhaps unrealistic to expect this to happen prior to the 30th anniversary. It’s most realistic to expect this expansion to be Marvel-focused but many successful Disney properties would also be ideal such as Frozen.

Disneyland Paris is going through a period of transformation and it is unlikely that this new attraction would be arriving in the near future. Whilst this is disheartening to many fans – myself included – growth will be expected in the future and when that does happen we can start clammering over construction photographs and imagineering concept arts and blueprints once again.

The importance of “Theme integrity”

Phantom Manor at Disneyland Paris

For many, meeting a Disney character is integral to their experience of a Disney park. There are legions of Disney guests who do not care for rides and go to the resort exclusively for the characters. Amongst these fans, the words “character integrity” have emerged, essentially meaning that characters remain true and proper to their personalities, for example it would be inappropriate to see Jafar do the cha-cha-slide (no matter how amazing a prospect that sounds). But this ‘character integrity’ brings about a larger issue that is largely undiscussed in the Disneyland Paris community, the idea of ‘theme integrity’.

Chateau de la Belle au Bois DormantIs theme integrity really that important?

Everything in a Disney park really should immerse guests in a story and anything that detracts from that story is a violation of this idea of ‘theme integrity’. Put simply, if Jafar doesn’t dance, Big Thunder Mountain doesn’t have Jack Skellington projected onto it. We have recently seen excellent themed work from Disneyland Paris. When Big Thunder Mountain was under its year-long refurbishment, effort went into creating themed construction walls that really worked for the story of Frontierland where the easier option would have been to throw up the green walls with the image of the builder Mickey and have left them there for a year.

Disney parks go to great efforts to create these themes during construction and it is always frustrating to see temporary solutions being implemented for a quick fix. However, this year Disneyland Paris have been forced to move their Halloween celebrations from Main Street to Frontierland due to the celebrations of the 25th anniversary. There is no reason to be against this decision, guests will get to experience two great seasons and really enjoy them to their full. That was until the ghosts of Main Street moved:

This is an example of complete disregard for theme. Phantom Manor does not require ghosts outside and on its lawns. The ghosts only distract from the story and the mood that Phantom Manor successfully creates. On Main Street, these ghosts really do work and look good; additionally, they add to the story as each fits into the theme of the area in which they are placed (take for example the baseball ghost, who is usually placed on top of Casey’s Corner), here they do not look good at all and it really does feel as if they’ve been shoe-horned in. Disneyland Paris do need to know when it’s OK to simply leave things as they are.

Should we care?

Temporary modifications can be quite alright and, yes, as a group of fans we’ll learn very quickly to live with the Halloween decorations described above. But the wider issue still exists, there are elements of Disneyland Paris staff (and it is not something limited to Disneyland Paris as this does happen worldwide) that have little regard for the original stories that are being told. Whether this is a breakdown between imagineering and entertainment, it doesn’t really matter; what does matter is that as a fan community we stand for high-quality show elements and that when we see something that we believe is not quite right or could do with some improvement that we say just that. Striving for Disneyland Paris to be the best it can be is no crime, by critiquing you are not being a bad-fan, you are simply standing up for something you think should be held in higher esteem. Disneyland Paris are on the right track, their efforts are getting much better and it really is noticeable and for me can transform an experience. There is still room for improvement, but that’s always going to be true.

Retheme or Expansion: A careful balancing act

Retheme or Expansion: A careful balancing act

With the opening of Star Tours: L’aventure continue and Hyperspace Mountain, Disneyland Paris has rethemed and repurposed two successful and popular attractions. Fans are divided on whether or not this is a good or bad thing. For some, any new experience is an occasion to be celebrated; others dislike how classic experiences are modified from their original design and that preference should be given to expansion.

Rethemes are not inherently bad

For many retheme=bad. But this is not always the case. Take the recent re-opening of Space Mountain with a Star Wars overlay which has opened to fan approval. There are other rethemes that have fans more sceptical such as the one that has recently taken place at Disneyland in Anaheim where the Tower of Terror has become Guardians of the Galaxy: Mission Breakout. It’s difficult to take an emblematic attraction and change it. Space Mountain is one of those attractions that is beautiful on the outside and inside but was difficult to market. Hyperspace Mountain is still beautiful from the outside but has an intense marketability. 

If the idea is good, the retheme will also be good. The worry is purely on whether the retheme is purely for marketing reasons or if there is an plausible reason to change the story.

Why not expand?

The more complicated question is answer is why not expand? Expansion is quite simply expensive. In 2014, Disneyland Paris inaugurated Ratatouille: L’Aventure totalement toquée de Rémy which included the attraction, shop, restaurant and mini-land costing €200 million. Additionally there is a recruitment of new cast members to cover the cost of a new attraction and increased maintenance costs. This should not stop development but it does go someway to explaining as to why new attractions don’t come daily or yearly. Ideally new attractions bring an increased number of visitors to the resort and higher revenues; however this was not the case in Disneyland Paris for the Ratatouille development. Rethemed attractions are not only cheaper but allow marketing for new experiences based on popular franchises. Hardcore Disney fans may object to a franchise being shoe-horned into the park, but the average visitor simply doesn’t care – they want to see a film and characters represented.

But retheme and expansion can work harmoniously

The two are not mutually exclusive. It’s not as if you can have one but not the other. In fact an expansion could work best when involving a retheme. For example, the previously referenced retheme in Disneyland with Guardians of the Galaxy involves a bigger plan, the plan for a Marvel superheroes land. One can assume that this will involve expansion. Thus an attraction has been used with the vision of becoming the gateway to something bigger. Something very similar could be happening at Disneyland Paris with the closure of Cinémagique; rumours are spreading that this theatre will become a Marvel-based stunt show. It is very possible that the Walt Disney Studios park will have a Marvel themed area and why not some of this being an expansion? It’s not entirely inconceivable after all.

Would this be a good solution to the loss of a beloved attraction? Potentially.

Are Disney prioritising retheme over expansion and new attractions?

Quite simply, no. Whilst the retheme of attractions seems to be recently prevalent it is certainly not new. The most known example in Disneyland Paris is the change from Space Mountain: de la terre à la lune to Space Mountain: Mission 2, but other things have been rethemed or renamed. Hakuna Matata and Agrabah Café have all been given new names over the past years at Disneyland Paris. Even looking at the trends in Disney parks across the world, expansion is still taking place. In Paris we have very recently had La place de Rémy, in Florida the expansions of Star Wars Land and Toy Story Land are underway and in Anaheim Star Wars Land is also underway. The Asian resorts are also seeing extensive expansions from the major projects in Hong Kong and Tokyo to smaller projects in Shanghai.

Paris is simply following an international trend and it’s OK. Whilst we all want to see the Walt Disney Studios park expand, sometimes the price for a new attraction is a retheme, and that is not necessarily bad. Providing story exists and make sense a retheme can be just as good as an expansion.

Retheme or Expansion: A careful balancing act

With the opening of Star Tours: L’aventure continue and Hyperspace Mountain, Disneyland Paris has rethemed and repurposed two successful and popular attractions. Fans are divided on whether or not this is a good or bad thing. For some, any new experience is an occasion to be celebrated; others dislike how classic experiences are modified from their original design and that preference should be given to expansion.

Rethemes are not inherently bad

For many retheme=bad. But this is not always the case. Take the recent re-opening of Space Mountain with a Star Wars overlay which has opened to fan approval. There are other rethemes that have fans more sceptical such as the one that has recently taken place at Disneyland in Anaheim where the Tower of Terror has become Guardians of the Galaxy: Mission Breakout. It’s difficult to take an emblematic attraction and change it. Space Mountain is one of those attractions that is beautiful on the outside and inside but was difficult to market. Hyperspace Mountain is still beautiful from the outside but has an intense marketability.

If the idea is good, the retheme will also be good. The worry is purely on whether the retheme is purely for marketing reasons or if there is an plausible reason to change the story.

Why not expand?

The more complicated question is answer is why not expand? Expansion is quite simply expensive. In 2014, Disneyland Paris inaugurated Ratatouille: L’Aventure totalement toquée de Rémy which included the attraction, shop, restaurant and mini-land costing €200 million. Additionally there is a recruitment of new cast members to cover the cost of a new attraction and increased maintenance costs. This should not stop development but it does go someway to explaining as to why new attractions don’t come daily or yearly. Ideally new attractions bring an increased number of visitors to the resort and higher revenues; however this was not the case in Disneyland Paris for the Ratatouille development. Rethemed attractions are not only cheaper but allow marketing for new experiences based on popular franchises. Hardcore Disney fans may object to a franchise being shoe-horned into the park, but the average visitor simply doesn’t care – they want to see a film and characters represented.

But retheme and expansion can work harmoniously

The two are not mutually exclusive. It’s not as if you can have one but not the other. In fact an expansion could work best when involving a retheme. For example, the previously referenced retheme in Disneyland with Guardians of the Galaxy involves a bigger plan, the plan for a Marvel superheroes land. One can assume that this will involve expansion. Thus an attraction has been used with the vision of becoming the gateway to something bigger. Something very similar could be happening at Disneyland Paris with the closure of Cinémagique; rumours are spreading that this theatre will become a Marvel-based stunt show. It is very possible that the Walt Disney Studios park will have a Marvel themed area and why not some of this being an expansion? It’s not entirely inconceivable after all.

Would this be a good solution to the loss of a beloved attraction? Potentially.

Are Disney prioritising retheme over expansion and new attractions?

Quite simply, no. Whilst the retheme of attractions seems to be recently prevalent it is certainly not new. The most known example in Disneyland Paris is the change from Space Mountain: de la terre à la lune to Space Mountain: Mission 2, but other things have been rethemed or renamed. Hakuna Matata and Agrabah Café have all been given new names over the past years at Disneyland Paris. Even looking at the trends in Disney parks across the world, expansion is still taking place. In Paris we have very recently had La place de Rémy, in Florida the expansions of Star Wars Land and Toy Story Land are underway and in Anaheim Star Wars Land is also underway. The Asian resorts are also seeing extensive expansions from the major projects in Hong Kong and Tokyo to smaller projects in Shanghai.

Paris is simply following an international trend and it’s OK. Whilst we all want to see the Walt Disney Studios park expand, sometimes the price for a new attraction is a retheme, and that is not necessarily bad. Providing story exists and make sense a retheme can be just as good as an expansion.

The loss of Cinémagique – Je ne peux pas vivre sans toi

Rumours are surfacing about the closure of Cinémagique in March 2017. This classic of the Walt Disney Studios park has been a staple of the resort since the park’s opening in 2002. The level of praise this attraction has earned in its 15 years of operation is highly merited; and in 2003, Cinémagique was given the prestigious honour of being awarded Attraction of the Year by the Themed Entertainment Association. But last night a rumour surfaced on the Disney Central Plaza forum of it closing forever.

Production Courtyard at Disneyland Paris

Why do it?

A Marvel based show has a lot of attractivity. For starters, superheroes are popular right now and a show in which heroes could potentially be swapped and changed out depending on current popularity or film release schedule is certainly worth noting. The reasoning for having a Marvel attraction is solid, but this is about the loss of Cinémagique. Cinémagique is a rarity in the theme park, and indeed film based, world. It is an attraction that manages to seamlessly blend together the world of the cinema effortlessly. Where else can one believable transition lead you from Les parapluies de Cherbourg to 20,000 leagues under the sea to Pinocchio? Nowhere, these grand classics of cinema have been brought together in a masterful way for the very first time.

The Walt Disney Studios park should be paying homage to the world of cinema in the same way that Disney’s Hollywood Studios do with The Great Movie Ride, the genius of Cinémagique is that it blends together Hollywood classics and the wonders of European cinema in a way that all guests can understand. Additionally, when thinking of the core aims of the Walt Disney Studios park, Cinémagique is perhaps the only attraction that still meets this (We can also add Art of Disney Animation and Armageddon: Les effets spéciaux to this list).

Why no ride?

This is perhaps the big issue, Disneyland Paris have clearly made the executive decision to prioritise shows over rides. We all love to see a good show, Disneyland Paris is very much the sum of its parts. We all enjoy a little bit of everything. Since 2014 and Ratatouille: L’aventure totalement toquée de Rémy we have seen the launch of several new shows including (but not limited to): Forest of Enchantment, Mickey and the Magician and, of course, all of the Season of the Force festivities. It is simply easier and cheaper to create a high-capacity show.

Cinémagique at Walt Disney Studios park at night

But in reality, Disneyland Paris should be starting to look at its offerings and be evaluating the new ride scenario. They have to start considering this soon, we are looking at a very real possibility of a six year gap between rides and this should be alarming. The Walt Disney Studios park should be expanding, not simply settling for its current offering (and reducing it for potentially a whole year!).

The issue of Marvel is one for another and more detailed study, however it seems logical that Marvel would get a ride over a show (or as well as a show). There is simply much more that can be done with the ride scenarios that a show, perhaps this is part of a big future development and the ride will be following very shortly.

The Armageddon issue

We live in a world where Armageddon has survived longer than Cinémagique. This is not going to become a Armageddon rant, indeed this attraction also has redeeming features, but Cinémagique is a masterpiece and Armageddon is not.

Consistently lambasted by fans, Armageddon is a very one-dimensional attraction in which, essentially, guests stand in a series of rooms. You leave not having learnt more about the special effects industry, nor having taken any sort of journey. Cinémagique is an emotional journey through the history of cinema. Much like George, guests grow as the show goes on and gain a deep and mindful appreciation of ‘the seventh art’. In a world where Hollywood blockbusters dominate, this attraction very much feels like the public service that a Disney park should be doing.

In a way, we need to go back to the original aims of Disneyland, obviously part of the aim was to make money, but it was not the only thing. Disneyland is built on love and a love of nostalgia, it can also be a force for educational good. Cinémagique is and was always that.

The replacements…

The discussions continue much like this regularly ‘What is this was made into that’. The idea of replacing attractions is not a taboo, it happens and can happen to a wonderful result. When something is bad, we replace it and fix it. However the consistent theme at Disneyland Paris at this very moment is replace rather than grow. Why can we not grow the Studios park rather than replace something that isn’t broken.

After all: if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.

Cinemagique at Disneyland Paris

The loss of a unique, beautiful attraction

The Studios needs to grow to become an improved park. It can never do this while Backlot exists. Production Courtyard has its issues, this much is certain. However whilst Backlot exists, the Walt Disney Studios park will always be at the end of jokes. Whenever people call the Studios park good, somebody will inevitable post a photo of the plaza by Moteurs… Action and the rest of the point you were trying to make becomes a lot more difficult.

Cinémagique isn’t perfect, it is dated – you can thank your precious smartphone for that – but it has the sense of nostalgia and love of cinema that you can only get in a Disney park. Everybody that sees this beautiful and moving film grows during it, they grow a deep appreciation for cinema as an art form. With that in mind, there is perhaps no greater attraction in the Walt Disney Studios park.

How will our perception of Disneyland Paris change in 2017

A lot will be happening at Disneyland Paris in 2017. That much we already know; the indisputable event of 2017 will be the 25th anniversary of the resort, but other exciting developments will also be taking place such as Season of the Force and an expanded Disneyland Paris Half Marathon Weekend.

But rather than asking the straight forward question of what is coming up which you can read in countless places and on social media, the better question is what will change in our minds. Disneyland Paris fans have become increasingly optimistic over the direction of the resort, but niggling doubts and negativity remains. And in the wider Disney parks community Disneyland Paris is still seen in some circles as the ugly duckling. But will that change over 2017?

Disneyland Paris is gaining in reputation

The answer to the above question is, undoubtedly. Each year and with each piece of news that Disneyland Paris releases the reputation of Disney’s European outpost increases. This is true not only with local fans but with the international segment as well. Returning to the 20th anniversary and fan appreciation of Disneyland Paris was at an all time low.

Since then Disneyland Paris has opened Ratatouille, launched a large scale refurbishment plan and swapped out annual celebrations and opted to run shorter seasonal celebrations which ensured guests experienced something very different on each visit.

This has worked, Disneyland Paris fans are consistently praising the work of those leading the parks and the quality of the refurbishments and new additions.

The big event!

This year all eyes will be on Disneyland Paris which will shortly be celebrating its 25th anniversary. The celebration is almost unprecedented, two new attractions, a new nightly evening spectacular, a brand new parade and a few new shows and happenings. On top of all of this there will be, presumably, some form of decoration in the park to create a festive atmosphere.

Disneyland Paris 25th anniversary decoration design
Decoration mock ups for the 25th anniversary

It is very difficult to imagine that Disneyland Paris emerges from this monumental event without its reputation in both the press and online communities increasing.

Season of the Force

The other big push at the moment is Season of the Force. Disneyland Paris has always suffered in the winter months after the Christmas season. Whilst many take advantage of the cheaper rates, many are put off by the colder weather meaning that the parks can be very quiet indeed.

To combat this, Disneyland Paris has launched the Season of the Force. This Star Wars themed celebration will attract many guests from a previously untapped demographic. We already know that this celebration shall be returning in the 2018 winter period, and next year will also boast Star Tours and the upcoming meet and greet in Discoveryland – Season of the Force may well be the first big celebration to span both parks!

Season of the Force team photo
Season of the Force team photo in Walt Disney Studios at Disneyland Paris

Beautiful refurbishments

The “Project Sparkle” refurbishment plan is scheduled to end this summer when Pirates of the Caribbean reopens. This schedule has been tough for fans with some key attractions closed for months at a time; the rewards of this, however, are marvellous.

Fan favourites are returning with increased colour and magic and the park genuinely is looking “as-new”. Painting a ride may seem trivial to some, but to fans it is greatly appreciated and is noticeable.

Disneyland Paris once had a reputation of being the ugly duckling of Disney resorts, but no longer. 2017 will be the year that everyone will take notice and look to book a trip.

Walt Disney Imagineering

Now for the negatives. I cannot ignore the change of Space Mountain into Hyperspace Mountain. Here’s the problem, I see this more as a reflection on WDI than Disneyland Paris – although the blame will, perhaps unfairly, land on the shoulders of the resort itself.

The reasoning is clear, Star Wars is popular and it sells. It’s easy to understand the commercial decision behind this swap and it makes commercial sense. However Disney parks have always been about more than pure commercial elements. We love the parks because of the story they tell, story is king – theoretically.

Hyperspace Mountain poster
The poster for Hyperspace Mountain which will open in Disneyland Paris in Spring 2017

As I have said, however, I feel this is a wider direction for Walt Disney Imagineering as similar switches have occurred in other parks (to Hyperspace Mountain as a seasonal change and the Tower of Terror change to a Guardians of the Galaxy attraction which is permanent.

A transformative year… and the best is yet to come!

2017 will be the year Disneyland Paris fans finally makes it. And by this I do not mean in the eyes of Disneyland Paris fans who, I think, have been careful watching the developments but to international onlookers.

Local fans have a reason to really brag about the resort and international fans a reason to visit. I cannot think of a better birthday gift for Disneyland Paris.

Disneyland Paris: A community park?

The Sleeping Beauty castle at Disneyland Paris

Many people compare Disneyland Paris to Walt Disney World. For a UK public, that is quite natural, Walt Disney World is heavily advertised over here. But are comparisons to Orlando fair? Well, yes and no. Yes because it is a Disney resort and should be aiming for the highest quality. No because Paris is much closer a model of Anaheim than Florida.

Anaheim vs Florida

These are two radically different resorts. Orlando is very much a destination. What do I mean by that? If you’re going to Walt Disney World, you are traveling to visit Disney World and very little else. Anaheim is a park that grew in and around a small town. Whilst Walt was aware that it was close to towns (building away from a population would have been financial suicide), he was perhaps unaware at the time the effects of this major attraction. What has occurred since then is wide-spread building around the park area. Disneyland became fenced in. The design for Walt Disney World is more open. The resort area would be sparse, Disney would have total control. Therefore, and returning to the original point, Disneyland is a park for local residents and Disney World is a vacation destination.

The Sleeping Beauty castle at Disneyland Paris
The best castle debate is not the only debate that Disneyland Paris fans engage with.

What does this mean for Paris?

For many of you reading this, you take your holiday in Disneyland Paris. You see it as nothing more as a holiday destination. But the park is surrounded by residential settlements and one of Europe’s biggest cities. 49% of guests to Disneyland Paris are from France, and many of them will drive by car. For many, Disneyland Paris is a stop for up to five nights. Perhaps before, during or after their visit they will visit other French (or European) destinations. All this must be taken into account when comparing what Disneyland Paris offers compared to other Disney destinations. Let us now zoom in on this when considering a few points.

Fastpass+

Much like in Anaheim, Disneyland Paris does not offer Fastpass+. For those unaware of what this system is, allow me to explain. Fastpass+ is an enhanced version of Fastpass that is in operation at Walt Disney World Resort. After having booked your holiday, you may make Fastpass selections up to sixty days before your arrival in the resort. This means that when you arrive, you have planned a good quantity of your days already. You then simply turn up at the attraction at the specified time and enjoy. If you are buying a day ticket, these selections can be made up to thirty days beforehand. This model is perfect for Walt Disney World. It is a place that very often you plan to visit for a year or so in advance. Disneyland Paris can very easily for the 11 million franciliens [Residents of the Île-de-France] be visited on a whim. It must also be considered that for a few million others, having a day trip to Disneyland Paris is a simple task. Fastpass+ puts these guests at a disadvantage.

Fastpass entrance at Star Tours in Disneyland Paris
The paper-based Fastpass is the version that will always suit Disneyland Paris more.

Depth of experience

Disney Parks are supposed to take you from your daily life and immerse you in something different – a fantasy. Disneyland Park at Disneyland Paris does this. It cannot be argued that this does occur in Paris. Walt Disney World expands upon this and immerses you outside the parks as well as in. Disney Springs is a destination in its own right . Disney Village does need improvement work, that much is certain. But it will never be the level of Disney Springs. Why is that? Because not 5 minutes down the road there is a large shopping and entertainment complex in Val d’Europe. 30 minutes further afield, one of the greatest cities in the world exists to delight and entertain all audiences. What chance does Disney Village have to ever compete against those? What Disney Village should be doing is investing in high-quality entertainment options as that is exactly where Disney excels.

Café Mickey in Disney Village at Disneyland Paris
Disney Village or Disney Springs? Both are very different shopping and entertaining complexes.

Walt Disney World vs Disneyland Paris

In reading the above, you would be forgiven in thinking that my position is that Walt Disney World and Disneyland Paris cannot be compared at all. Of course this isn’t true. The two are still Disney experiences. Walt Disney World is far superior in terms of food depth, something that a park in France should be far ahead in. Depth of in-park experience being another. Operationally, the two are very different. The point that is being made here is more that one should consider the full depth of the issue being discussed when pitting one Disney resort against another.

Fan relations in Disneyland Paris – what next?

Fan Group photo Ratatouille

In July Tom Wolber steps down from his position as president of Euro Disney SAS and Catherine Powell, head of The Walt Disney Company Australia and New Zealand, will take over. Upon hearing news of the move Disneyland Paris fans tracked her down on Twitter and started tagging her in everything from congratulatory messages to their own content. The best part of that? She has taken the time to read and respond to these messages. Interacting with fans of the organisation is not a new thing. Disneyland Paris has been doing it for a rather long time, the social media team keep a close eye on what is said on Twitter and a small selection of fans are reasonably frequently invited to media events in the resort. The most impressive event was the What’s New, What’s Next event which was held in September 2013 where a number of fan websites were invited to discover the upcoming plans for Disneyland Paris.

These types of events are brilliant, they keep the community engaged with the resort 365 days a year. We are excited when we hear of new elements coming to the resort, no matter how small they may be. But can Disneyland Paris improve this even more? The answer, of course, is yes. That is not to say that Disneyland Paris do a bad job, the sign of a top organisation is one that is always striving to be better. This is just a fun exercise to see where fan relations could go!

Events such as the one held for the closure of Star Tours create a real buzz around the community. I was delighted when the invitation arrived in my email inbox and was bouncing from floor to ceiling – I was devastated to have to decline the invite. This was a direct acknowledgement of a passing of a chapter in the history of Disneyland Paris. A sign of deep care and love for the park and those who call it their home. Whilst these events should not be taken for granted, it would be fantastic to see them occurring on an annual basis, even during regular park opening hours as the “it’s a small world” 50th anniversary celebrations were. These days are reasonably cheap to run, but allow each and every fan of Disneyland Paris the opportunity to take pride in their park.

Fan Group photo Ratatouille

Secondly, a dialogue between Disneyland Paris and fans must take place. This was something that occurred quite frequently in the Philippe Gas era through shareholder round tables but has stagnated in recent years. I understand this could be for any number of reasons, but it would be fantastic for round tables for both shareholder, and non-share bearing fans to return. And when they do return, please remember your international fans. Come to London, Belgium and the Netherlands (amongst other countries of course!). We’d love to see you!

The new president of Euro Disney SAS has been made to feel very welcome to the community, I already am of the opinion that she will do an excellent job. Interacting with the fans is a big part of creating customer loyalty, and is something I believe that Catherine Powell will excel at. Disneyland Paris already treats its fan community very well, it is exciting and interesting to consider where this will go in the future. With the 25th anniversary on the horizon, I think it is safe to say that Disneyland Paris will have something up its sleeve for we, the fans, and I cannot wait to discover the celebrations next April.

Remembering the Main Street Residents

Two Main Street Residents in the Welcome to Spring show

When Swing into Spring debuted in 2014, nobody was too sure what it was to expect. Rumours were strife that the final go-ahead for the season was given just before Christmas in 2013 meaning that the resort had only four months to prepare for the ambitious new offering. The plans were huge, decorations lining the entirety of Main Street USA, this ultimately took a few years to really materialise – but 2014 was the year that Swing into Spring made its loud debut and since then it has grown from strength to strength.

Two Main Street Residents in the Welcome to Spring show

But one show has been left by the wayside, a show that was immensely popular but only had a one season outing. That show is called Welcome to Spring. But hold on, I know what you are thinking. Welcome to Spring is still very much alive, it occurs multiple times a day on the Royal Castle Stage. You would, of course, be correct. Although I am talking about a totally separate show, but I must say the Mary Poppins show is very good indeed. We cannot so much compare this show with the show I am about to discuss, so let us take them as separate shows that simply share the same name. However, for the rest of this article, when I use the show name Welcome to Spring, I refer to the 2014 iteration.

Dancers in the Welcome to Spring show

Welcome to Spring was a show that took, as its primary focus, the residents of Main Street USA. Why is this such an important thing to me? Put simply, they enhance the park. When we enter Disneyland Park, everything we see is supposed to be real. Therefore, the intention is to believe that Main Street USA is really a part of a mid-American town at the turn of the twentieth-century. A huge part of that would be the people. Therefore, having people dressed in the period clothing gave the entirety of Town Square a boost. But these character performers also acted as a meet and greet. Each of the characters had a slightly different persona and were entitled to do whatever they pleased. When a performer is essentially told that Town Square is your playground, that offers a lot of scope. I would quite often see these characters browsing the stores, or sitting on a bench and admiring the view of the castle. One of my particular favourite occasions was when I saw a couple of performers say goodbye to their friends and climb the stairs up to Main Street Station on the Disneyland Railroad. It made the area of the park a joyful place to visit. I must have spent a large portion of my 2014 Spring trip in Town Square admiring these characters.

Welcome to Spring at Disneyland Paris - Swing into Spring

But then eventually, music would begin and a show would take place. The Welcome to Spring show was very short. With the guests walking around Main Street, a musical soundtrack would be timing their every moves, the residents knew exactly when they needed to be at the Gazebo in order to begin their musical spectacular. The dancing is both romantic and fit beautifully with the season of Spring. After a short while, the show moves from the Gazebo area of Town Square and onto Main Street USA as the residents walk right down the middle of Main Street USA. The show was full of glee and joy and this stemmed from the wonderful show choreography.

Dancers in the Welcome to Spring show

The music choice is, as usual, picked fantastically by Disneyland Paris. Both the songs themselves and the style in which they are sung fit the show, the season and the setting. The show opens with the beautiful song Spring, Spring, Spring by Bing Crosby before moving to The Fountain in the Park and closing with Walking Right Down the Middle of Main Street USA and the Trolley Song. It was wonderful to hear Walking right down the middle of Main Street USA again in Disneyland Paris, it is one of those iconic Disney Parks songs. When I first viewed the show I couldn’t help grinning from ear to ear when the music began to play. To me, this was Disneyland Paris at its best; that is not to say that I don’t enjoy the other shows in the park, this was something so different from anything else.

Welcome to Spring at Disneyland Paris - Swing into Spring

This was more than a show, this was Main Street USA being allowed to blossom into a real life town. It was a show, a tableau of Main Street Life and a Character Meet and Greet all rolled into one. It ticked so many of the boxes of something needed to be included in a Disney Park. Recently, Disneyland Paris entertainment has been excellent, and this was another example of that. The highest compliment I can give it is that it felt right.

So my plea to Disneyland Paris is this. Please would you consider bringing back the Main Street USA residents and their show for the 25th anniversary? It is the little events like these that really bring a huge grin on to every guest in the park. Upon entering the park one is immediately transported even deeper into the story of Main Street USA. I would even advocate having a small happening in each area of the park much like this. It may only happen in my dream world, but it’s better than nothing.

For those of you who have not had the opportunity to enjoy the show, here is my own YouTube recording of it. I will admit the recording is not perfect, but I hope it conveys how amazing the show was. And for those who have seen the show before, I hope it brings back fond memories.

The magic of enchanting live entertainment

The closure of a much-loved show is a sad occasion. The 31st January 2016 saw tbe definitive closure of Animagique in the Walt Disney Studios Park. The show, which was part of the opening day line-up in March 2002, involved performers, who for several shows a day, performed in a dark-light theatre style. The closure came as little surprise, how often does a show complete a fourteen-year run in a theme park? In fact, the only piece of live entertainment at Disneyland Paris that has run longer can also be found in the Walt Disney Studios Park, Moteurs… Action Stunt Show Spectacular although this show has seen some changes since it was first introduced to the park fourteen-years ago.

Animagique Finale at Disneyland Paris
Animagique Finale at Disneyland Paris

Animagique was a rare thing for a show, it’s long run was not something that impeded it; it never felt old or boring, rather it was show that enchanted audiences on each and every showing. One thing that can always be said about Animagique was that it was extremely rare to participates in a showing with a near-empty theatre, quite the accomplishment for a theme park that runs 365 days per year no matter what the temperature or weather conditions outside. It may have been cold outside but inside it was toasty and warm, the cast members working the show had a smile on their faces and were always willing to welcome you to their theatre where Disney friends were bound to put a large grin on even the sternest face.

Disneyland Paris has a very rich history of shows, so much so that it seems odd now to think that in recent years there was something of a live entertainment drought. Little did we know that plans were being concocted backstage to bring back the shows with a vengeance. Packing into a theatre seems so integral to a Disney trip, of those who have been fortunate to have been a Disneyland Paris fan for several years, who can forget the Mulan: La légende show? The soundtrack featured heavily on Disneyland Paris music collections, and even now hearing the music I can visualise the amazing performers in my head. Another show I have fond memories of is Pocahontas: Le spectacle. In preparing this article, I made a list of all the shows I can recall in Disneyland Paris history and each and every one of them made me smile like a Cheshire Cat. That’s the magic of Disney.

Pocahontas: Le Spectacle at Disneyland Paris
Pocahontas: Le Spectacle at Disneyland Paris ran from 1996 to 1999

Looking to the past is always a useful exercise. We trade memories over social media of our fond times at the resort, and smile as others mention your personal favourites. And yes whilst in recent years there has been a decline in stage productions, there has always been something else to entertain us away from rides and characters. It is here that I mention that, to me, one of the most important teams at Disneyland Paris are the one that adds the little extra sparkle to any day: the live entertainment teams. Disneyland Paris possesses a wide range of seasons, and none more impressive than Swing into Spring, this musical extravaganza will lift the spirits of all who walk through its gates. The resort possesses eight live music groups which perform on a daily basis in the two Disney parks. These groups add much-needed life and musical joy to each area and inspire the desire to return and watch them again at the earliest opportunity. The Jingle Bell Boys and Hall-o-swing orchestra are two of my favourite musical moments that I have experienced in Disneyland Paris, these street and stage bands add seasonal cheer with their musical talents. The point that is being made here is that Disneyland Paris’s live entertainment is fantastic.

Tangled Scene during the Forest of Enchantment
Tangled Scene during the Forest of Enchantment at Disneyland Paris

What is more, there is reason for optimism! Last week, the newest offering from Disneyland Paris The Forest of Enchantment opened its doors in the Chaparral Theatre following in a long line of high-quality entertainment that has taken place in the Cottonwood Creek area of Frontierland. The show is quite simply fantastic, and the return of live singing to a resort is marvellous. In this show, you will not find miming, you won’t find simple gimmicks designed to pull you in to the show. Instead, you will find a piece of live musical theatre worthy of its name as a Disney production. It brings me right back to the simplicity and heart in Animagique in that all the performers seem to be having such fun and the blend of music is near-perfect. The show calls back through the history of the Chaparral Theatre by including tableaux featuring Tarzan and Pocahontas. The show knows exactly what it needs to be, and then goes beyond it. The new beating heart of Frontierland exudes from the Chaparral theatre.

Mickey and the Magician Concept Art
Mickey and the Magician Concept Art

Beyond this, Mickey and the Magician will fill the theatre once occupied by Animagique, replacing this beloved show is a daunting prospect, but one that will be relished by the Disneyland Paris teams. Already a piece of concept art has been released by the resort giving a glimpse of what to expect come July 2016, the Art Deco atelier looks sublime. The show moves away from black light into a more traditional show medium and that is probably for the best. A show in the same vein as Animagique would probably attract comparison posts which would not allow the new show to breathe in its own space. The show will feature, much like the Forest of Enchantment, a range of Disney characters as Mickey must clean up the magician’s atelier. Time and time again, Disneyland Paris proves it that it has some of the best creative minds in Europe. Nervous about the new show? Don’t be, it’s in good hands and I, for one, cannot wait to see what magic they come up with to enchant us with for the next fourteen years!

Go further!

From Pocahontas to The Forest of Enchantment: 20 years of shows of the Chaparral Theatre Stage – Disneyland Paris News

Final curtain for Animagique before the launch of a new show – Disneyland Paris News

All photos in this article are Copyright Disney

How Disneyland Paris have missed the Star Wars buzz

Bob Iger and George Lucas

In spring 2017, Disneyland Paris will open Star Tours 2. The simulator-based ride will get a total redesign and a brand new story offering guests an exciting different experience on each ride. The updated Star Wars attraction opened five years ago in the two Disney resorts in the United States and three years ago in Tokyo. Much in the way that Disneyland Paris has the final untouched, original Pirates of the Caribbean, it also has the original Star Tours. This changes very soon, on March 16th the last flight to Endor will depart Disneyland Paris’s Discoveryland and the European resort will be space port-less for a period of around one year. Meanwhile, across the world the amount of Star Wars is only increasing! How did Disneyland Paris get itself in this position? Let’s trace this together.

Bob Iger and George Lucas
George Lucas and Bob Iger signing the deal that brought Star Wars to Disney

I was stood on Main Street USA when I heard the news, the Walt Disney Company had bought Lucasfilm. Naturally, I thought that the decision made sense – afterall, Disney Parks across the world were already invested in Lucasfilm properties such as Star Wars and Indiana Jones. Disney was the only option for Lucas if he wanted to sell his company.
Upon the purchase, CEO of the Walt Disney Company, Bob Iger, conducted a conference call. According to The Verge, Iger was quoted as saying:

‘Disney also confirmed some other plans for the franchise, including placement in its gaming and television business as well as its parks and resorts business. It sounds like we can look forward to more Star Tours, new Star Wars video games, and even more non-film tie-in products.’

I draw particular attention to the plans for the franchise in the parks. It was evident immediately that this would likely involve some form of Star Wars Land. Disneyland Paris fans were very quick to draw up plans for the land within the european resort citing potential space in both the Walt Disney Studios park and behind the current Star Tours building – this plan involved transforming Buzz Lightyear’s Pizza Planet into a La Cantina style outlet. The idea seemed plausible, but were rumours and nothing more. At the least, Disneyland Paris could look forward to Star Tours 2, one hoped. Nothing official had come through – and no official press release has still come through at the time of writing on the 21st January 2016. Disneyland Paris management have confirmed in video interviews, although I cannot currently recuperate the link. If I am able following publication, I will update this article with a link. Star Tours 2 is all but confirmed by name. In a recent video about the ‘Reinvent the Magic’ project currently being undertaken at Disneyland Paris, Star Tours is described to become an ‘innovative and exciting experience.’

Darth Vader on Hoth
Darth Vader finishing what he started – the queue for Star Tours 2

Fast-forward to August 2013, and the Save Disneyland Paris petition was launched. The petition, addressed and sent to Bob Iger, cited a number of quality-control issues that Disneyland Paris experiences. Following the petition, Disneyland Paris launched a fan event entitled What’s New, What’s Next aiming to ease the minds of a fan base that were becoming increasingly disgruntled with the state of the resort. It was a good start, but nothing from Bob Iger. Just a few weeks prior to the launch of this petition, Star Wars Episode 7 was given a release date of December 2015. Star Tours 2 takes just under a year to install, if Disneyland Paris was to get Star Tours 2, surely it would be best envisaged to install it in time for the new film? That would mean that the very latest you could close the current attraction would be January 2015.
Announcing a new attraction when Disneyland Paris were already building one would be tough – especially since during the summer 2013, Disneyland Paris were denying the fact that they were building an attraction in plain view of the park’s guests. January 1st 2014, Disneyland Paris finally releases the most unsurprising press release that they could release. They were in fact building a new ride. Whilst Ratatouille: L’Aventure totalement toquée de Rémy has very little to do with Star Tours 2, there is a key link. The opening weekend in June 2014 saw Bob Iger visit Disneyland Paris. If ever there was a time for Disneyland Paris to have their major Star Wars development green-lit, it was now. The release date for the film was known, the approximate release schedule for future Star Wars films was also known. Star Wars mania was set to kick off in December 2015.
A compromise was apparently reached, Disneyland Paris would receive the Jedi Training Academy in 2015. This was fantastic news for all Disneyland Paris and Star Wars fans, providing that they were between 7 and 12 years old. Whilst Star Wars does have that very rare quality – that it is trans-generational – a large majority of Star Wars fans do happen to find themselves outside of these age brackets. The show seems to be a way to quieten european based Star Wars fans who were to cry out that in 2016 there was to be ‘no Star Wars in the park.’ Star Tours will close on March 16th and will not re-open until Spring 2017 (likely to be March or April in order to tie-in with the 25th Anniversary celebrations). By this time: Star Wars Episode 7’s hype will have died, Star Wars: Rouge One will have been released, we will probably already have a trailer for Star Wars: Episode 8. Essentially, Disneyland Paris misses the biggest year in the history of the film franchise due to poor planning. Star Wars: Episode 8 will not fair as well at the Box Office, the effects of the Star Wars drought will have ended (I’m not saying it will have a bad opening, meerly that it cannot hope to surpass The Force Awakens). The rush planning of Star Wars Night, which took place last month in Disneyland Paris, seems to suggest that Disneyland Paris has completely underestimated the pulling power and success of the Star Wars franchise. A miss that is baffling – the Walt Disney Company launched one of their biggest, and most expensive, advertising campaigns ever; the film has been teased and trailed for over a year; the press release stating that the film would exist in 2015 was released four years ago. Somehow, somewhere, Disneyland Paris has managed to mess up what is a cash cow for them. Star Wars would have brought guests to Disneyland Paris in 2016, a year where a large portion of the park remains closed. It is rather inconceivable that these planning decisions will have been made in ignorance of the film’s release, it seems clear that they were made in spite of it.

The poster for Disneyland Paris's Star Wars Night
The poster for Disneyland Paris’s Star Wars Night

At the risk of this article being overly negative – which, let’s face it, it is – Disneyland Paris and Walt Disney Imagineering now have potential to work with. Star Tours 2 at Disneyland Paris could very well be the best version of the attraction in the world. By the time it opens, The Force Awakens will have premiered in television and no longer protected by Spoiler Warnings, Rouge One will have been in cinemas. Disneyland Paris needs to capitalise on this and somehow get these films incorporated in the ride. Episode 8 will be a matter on months away, in theory the filming will be complete and the film will be in post-production upon opening, if Disneyland Paris can work with the film-makers and have the eight installment ready to go in the ride system for when the major marketing campaign ramps up, Disneyland Paris could very well find themselves being able to rake in a lot of cash.
I’m frustrated that Disneyland Paris has missed this vital opportunity. The park could have performed much better this year if Star Tours was opened in its new version already – and Disneyland Paris needs the money. The fact that Star Tours made it to the top 2016 highlight in the recent press release issued by the company means that the resort now knows that this attraction is big for them right now. It’s an easy fix, but I’m very confident that when the attraction returns in 2017, we will have the best version of it that exists. – Be hopeful!

Selected Links

Note: Due to a major technical error, I am currently unable to insert links. This will be fixed at the earliest opportunity. However, if you google the following exact terms, the correct page will show up.
The Verge – Disney buys Lucasfilm, plans to release ‘Star Wars: Episode 7’ in 2015 (Published: 30th October 2012)
Petition – Save Disneyland Paris (Now closed, but the letter to Bob Iger is still accessible)
Disneyland Paris News – Re-imagining the magic
Disneyland Paris – Jedi Training Academy
Disneyland Paris – Star Tours