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

Single Riders: Solving the capacity problem?

Toy Story Playland in the Walt Disney Studios Park at Disneyland Paris

We love the magic of Disneyland Paris; the moments shared in Europe’s number one tourist destination last a lifetime. But being the most popular tourist destination comes at a price – Queues! Capacity has long been a problem for Disneyland Paris, just how do you fill capacity when the numbers just don’t add up? For a long time the answer was to shout down the queue line “Une personne seule?” (One Person). This works to a limited extent, firstly you are hoping the Cast Member can project their voice enough so that the one person can hear them; secondly you are hoping the person understands French as this request is rarely repeated in other languages and finally you hope that they are willing to “skip” the queue. Does this work? Undoubtedly not.

New Crush Coaster Entrance in the Walt Disney Studios Park

Since 2011 and the launch of Toy Story Playland’s Single Rider lines, Disneyland Paris have seemingly found a way to solve the problem. Single Rider Lines. Disneyland Paris was not the Disney park to use this style of queue. In fact it was in each Disney resort in the world before heading to Disneyland Paris. The single rider phenomenon is certainly not unique to Disney either, all the major theme park brands in the world use it; and why not? It works. In Disneyland Resort in Anaheim, single rider lines were launched upon the reopening of the Splash Mountain attraction after a refurbishment in May 2002. The refurbishment changed logs from a traditional log flume to a series of five individual seats. It was around the same time that several other attractions in the resort upgraded to include these alternative queues. The advantage is simple – A family of four queues for Splash Mountain; you could either send the boat off with four people, or you could send it off full and hit capacity goals. The response was simple and guests can enjoy, what is usually, a shorter wait. Single Rider queues also exist in Walt Disney World in Test Track (both the old and newer versions) at Epcot and upon the 2006 launch of Expedition Everest in the Animal Kingdom and for Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster in Disney’s Hollywood Studios.

Expedition Everest in Disney's Animal Kingdom
“Expedition Everest” by Benjamin D. Esham (bdesham) – Taken by bdesham with a Canon PowerShot S3.. Licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0-us via Wikimedia Commons

Over in the Asian Parks, Hong Kong Disneyland became the first Magic Kingdom park to include single rider lines on its opening day and was (and still is!) the  only Space Mountain attraction to feature a queue for single riders. The park currently has single rider queue lines for Space Mountain, Toy Soldiers Parachute Drop and Big Grizzly Runaway Mine Cars. Its Asian cousin: Tokyo Disney Resort has three Single Rider enabled attractions: Splash Mountain, Indiana Jones Adventure: Temple of the Crystal Skull and Raging Spirits. In reality here, Disneyland Paris was over ten years behind on launching these new queue lines. But the future is bright as park management have committed to adding a single rider queue line to one attraction each year – this could co-incide with the rumoured ride updates that we will receive between now and 2017.

Toy Story Playland in the Walt Disney Studios Park at Disneyland Paris

2010 and the Walt Disney Studios Park had a brand new addition; Toy Story Playland. This out-of-the-box fairground experience has won guests over with its enchanting theming and fun rides. But little did we know that what was just around the corner would usher in something brand new and exciting. 2011 and it had arrived. Single Rider queue lines. Disneyland Paris had finally opened up the chance to unlock full capacity riders and guests lapped up the chance to slash their waiting times simply by experiencing the ride alone. 2013 and Crush Coaster, which for a long time had run failed FastPass experiments, joined the party with a trial of the Single Rider scheme. It was a success. Crush’s Coaster is the single most problematic ride concerning capacity in the resort, FastPass ended up extending queue times for everybody; what the single rider queue achieves here is maximising that capacity. A family of three joins the queue, for a four person shell, the single rider takes up the extra space. Simple? Wrong – the problem with Crush’s issue is almost the opposite to that previously mentioned of Splash Mountain in Disneyland Resort. A common European family size is four. There lies the problem and that is why Crush’s Coaster, whilst needs to be applauded for the single rider queue, has a long queue with not many people in it. Ratatouille: L’Aventure Totalement Toquée de Rémy is the turning point for Disneyland Paris on this topic, the first attraction where Single Riders have not just been an after thought, but part of the design. What’s more, it’s working perfectly. The high-capacity of the ride mixed with the number of people per Ratmobile has seen single rider queue times, even at the busiest points of the day rarely hit over forty minutes, and is often at five minutes. A real success for people who just want to get on it and quickly.

The big question is: Do Single-Rider queues solve the capacity problem? Undoubtedly, yes. Do guests enjoy shorter waits? In most circumstances, yes. There are exceptions however. Earlier this Summer, Disneyland Paris introduced a single rider queue to Crush Coaster – has this been a success? Yes, but queue times are still rather higher, shaving only around 10 minutes off the standby queue. Elsewhere the system has been a success, Toy Soldiers Parachute Drop sees a drastic saving of time – up to thirty minutes – and RC Racer sees a shorter queue as well. The big success at Disneyland Paris is Ratatouille where up to 80-90 minutes can be shaved from the standby wait. In every case the capacity issue is solved as attractions can run to as close to 100% capacity as possible.

La Place de Rémy in Disneyland Paris

Single Rider queues have revolutionised the Disney theme park experience, not just for guests, but from a business sense. A ride that runs at near 100% capacity makes business sense and costs less, parks may also market these single rider queues as taking less time indicating a win-win situation for the parks. I look forward to seeing more of these queues entering Disneyland Paris in the years to come.

Since writing this article, Disneyland Paris have shown some members of the fan media a game which will be playable in the Queue line of Crush Coaster. This game will be activated via a special WiFi network in the queue and will allow guests to explore 5 levels of a game allowing guests to have a more pleasant queue experience. This could be the future for attractions with longer queues and allow for a more agreeable queue for all with guests being distracted on their phones.

[expand title=”Bibliography” tag=”p”]

Disneyland

http://micechat.com/forums/disneyland-resort/14771-quick-question-what-rides-have-single-rider-lines-dl-dca.html

http://www.themeparkinsider.com/news/response.cfm?ID=500

Tokyo Disney

http://mousepad.mouseplanet.com/archive/index.php/t-66964.html

Hong Kong

http://www.themeparkreview.com/hkdl/hkdl2.htm

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Crush’s Coaster: The Game launches soon in Disneyland Paris

New Crush Coaster Entrance in the Walt Disney Studios Park

A new game has launched in the Crush’s Coaster queue line in Disneyland Paris. This game seems to offer you a new interactive Disney experience whilst waiting in line for one of Disneyland Paris’ most popular attractions.

This simple game sees guests operating as Crush and moving him by using their finger on their mobile device. Access to the game is via a WiFi network named ‘DLRPCrush’, once connected you will be redirected to a dedicated webpage in which you will have access to the game. The following is information directly from Disneyland Paris as to the aims of the game and how it all works:

What is it about?
Crush’s Coaster, the Game is an interactive mobile game for smartphone and tablet, available in French and English. Visitors do not need to download the game on their smartphone or tablet, they directly play from their web browser.

What is the purpose of the game?
The mission is to help Crush become the best surfer in the East Australian current and avoid obstacles while gathering a maximum of starfish.

The program includes 5 levels with increasing difficulty and between each level, riddles to solve with their family or friends.

In level 1, Crush has to reach 4000 points to get to the next level. The player has to avoid boulders and running speed in the game area is very slow.

In level 2, Crush has to reach 9000 points to get to the next level. The player has to avoid jellyfish and running speed in the game area is slow.

In level 3, Crush has to reach 15000 points to get to the next level. The player has to avoid mines and running speed in the game area is average.

In level 4, Crush has to reach 22000 points to get to the next level. The player has to avoid sharks and running speed in the game area is fast.

In level 5, there is no limit of achievable points; the player has to make a maximum of points possible until he touches a foe or an obstacle. All foes and obstacles are present in this level and running speed is going faster and faster.

When will the game be available?
Crush’s Coaster, the Game will be available in September 2014.

Where can visitors play?
Visitors can play at Crush’s Coaster, the Game exclusively in the covered exterior waiting line of Crush’s Coaster ride thanks to a free Wi-Fi network.

Do we charge for the game?
The game and the connection to the Wi-Fi network are completely free for all visitors.

Is it possible to navigate on the Internet with the Wi-Fi network?
The Wi-Fi network is exclusively dedicated to the connection to Crush’s Coaster, the Game.

Also included in this release were some images of the game in action:

The game sounds simply enough to play and should provide a distraction to guests in the Crush’s Coaster queue line – is this the start of a new generation in Disneyland Paris queue line interactivity? This is possibly a simpler, cheaper option than to create truly interactive queue lines whilst offering an element of interactivity. Either way, this is a step forward for Disneyland Paris. It is perhaps a step towards park-wide WiFi, but not the sort of WiFi we were expecting. In a queue such as Crush which is devoid of any form of interest until guests enter the interior queue area, this can only be seen as a good thing; however, what we do not need in Disneyland Paris are phone zombies. The parks are a family destination – would mobile games kill family interaction? We already see this in homes across the world, why should Disneyland Paris be any different? What we really do not need is phone screen lights lighting up queue lines in Pirates of the Caribbean. Though perhaps this is a move that will liven out exterior queue areas?

The only way to see if this is going to be a success is to go to Disneyland Paris, stand in the queue and observe people – this you will be able to do when the game begins testing in September 2014 at the Walt Disney Studios Park in Paris.