In September 2017, Disneyland Paris announced a new series of events called Disney FanDaze, these events were designed for Disney fans and sought to give fans experiences that were out of the normal daily park operations. During the lead up to the event, we were told that it was fun to be a fan. The day finally arrived and, with a sense of anticipation, fans arrived from all over the world to celebrate their love for Disney.
But was it truly fun to be a fan? Let’s take a look over the event, the build up and where Disney FanDaze can go next.
The event was a success
Starting with a conclusion, the Disney FanDaze Inaugural Party was, overall, a success. The atmosphere in the park was electric with genuine excitement and awe at each moment as to what was going on. In general, the atmosphere was friendly with fans talking to each other in the queues and discussing their excitement for the meet and greet or other things that they have seen that night.
When leaving the party at nearly 3am, I saw nothing but smiling faces and good moods following me to the hotel complex and people already mentioning 2019 – there’s no higher praise.
Let’s take a deeper look at each element of the Disney FanDaze Inaugural Party looking at both the good and the bad, as well as a few suggestions for next time.
We first learnt about Disney FanDaze Inaugural Party in September 2017, fans were given lots of time to prepare themselves for the event and so that they could begin planning their celebrations which all started off quite well with Disneyland Paris releasing quite a lot of information in a short space of time.
However, once we entered 2018 and the package prices were announced, that communication basically came to a shattering halt. People had bought packages on little information (and some did not buy packages equally due to the little amount of information on them). We did not really know too much until the week before and the publication of the final event programme.
For such a big fan event (and Disney fans love to be good planners), it was a real mixed bag. There’s some work to do on this for next year – although now we have had one party, we have a much clearer idea as to what Disney FanDaze is. Perhaps part of the issue is that an event such as this had never happened before and that made fans nervous.
Entering the party
The queue system seemed to have a good amount of organisation. Three different queues were provided at the entrance of the Walt Disney Studios Park: one reserved for package holders (although not the Classic Package), one for Green and Orange cardholders and the final one for regular ticketholders (along with the Classic Package holders).
Once the ticket gates opened, the queues moved very fluidly and were extremely efficient. Very good news!
Guests were funnelled into the Production Courtyard to watch an Opening Ceremony. Most guests just wanted to head to their first destination and not watch the ceremony and so waited at the edges of the courtyard. The ceremony ended, and then guests were unleashed into the park; what occurred next was not pretty with a stampede happening with guests behaving like animals to get to their first characters. This really could have easily been avoided by allowing people to go where they want first. Let’s hope the lessons have been learnt on this one which was the only major issue of the night.
Oh my, Ortensia!
The big draw of the Disney FanDaze Inaugural Party was the world debut of Ortensia. This all took place in one of the cutest little shows we have seen in the Walt Disney Studios Park and one of the best themed too. Hollywood Boulevard was taken over by reporters awaiting the arrival of Oswald The Lucky Rabbit.
The show was filled with ragtime music – including a special remix of the Disney FanDaze theme – and, perhaps most surprisingly, the original 1920s Oswald theme tune. The dances were delightful and Ortensia arriving on stage really did feel like a huge moment in Disney Parks history – as a Disneyland Paris fan, this made me feel immensely proud of our resort.
This type of show is synonymous with what the Studios Park is missing, it’s a short reminder of the types of entertainment Disneyland Paris is brilliant at and should do more of – a real success!
Dance Your DuckTales Parade
Perhaps one of the most recognisable theme songs in any Disney cartoon, DuckTales arrived at the Disney FanDaze Inaugural Party in the form of a parade. This was much more than a parade though, it was part-parade, part-dance party and it really did work amazingly well.
The music was high energy with the parade section being based on the DuckTales theme song with many guests singing and dancing along. The parade consisted of many dancers wearing DuckTales themed dungarees and the Tricycles making a return to the parks with a duck- tastic makeover! This looked fantastic and was full of energy.
The parade then stopped twice along the parade route (once outside Hollywood Boulevard) and the other outside Armageddon. A dance routine broke out with one of the most catchy new songs and an incredibly easy to learn dance routine that was both energetic and fun. This was a parade where the more you put into it, the more you got out of it – I watched once to take photos and the second time I made an effort to join in with the dance and I much preferred it the second time (despite loving it on first watch too).
Again, this is another piece of fantastic entertainment which I would love to see return to the Walt Disney Studios Park in the future. I would certainly be very happy to see it again.
Max Live – Gettin’ Goofy with it
For many, the highlight of the night was the Max Live show. This took place on the massively expanded stage in Production Courtyard.
The concept of the show is that Max is visiting Paris and performing an exclusive concert. Luckily for us, he brought some of his friends from the Disney universe to join in the celebrations and to perform alongside them. The show was a lot of fun with projections being displayed on The Twilight Zone: Tower of Terror and numerous special effects, this was certainly not one to forget.
I only saw the show the once during the evening (the final performance after all the character meet and greets had closed), but loved the energy and attention to detail put into the performance; having bubbles floating in the air during the Under the Sea segment was genius for example. The show was also a perfect opportunity to enjoy seeing some of the more rare Disney characters and songs be featured within a show – I particularly enjoyed the Three Cabelleros section and the Emperors New Groove songs.
Perhaps Max Live featured too many obscure references to be a regular fixture on the Disneyland Paris agenda for regular guests, but for special fan events, it was absolutely perfect and really hit the target audience.
Imagineering Insights with Tom Fitzgerald
During the evening, a number of panel discussions were held: one on Duffy and Friends, another with Catherine Powell, and finally an Imagineering Panel hosted by Tom Fitzgerald. I was fortunate enough to have purchased a ticket for the Imagineering panel and so attended this in the Animagique Theater. This panel took place at about the mid-point of the night at 22:00 and was a wonderful way to sit down and relax.
The panel itself was fascinating, Tom described his Walt Disney Imagineering journey and how he went from fan to imagineer (as well as helping aspiring Imagineers do the same). Whilst not much was announced in the way of Disneyland Paris (and I do not think the intention was to announce anything here), we did get a few little nuggets of information:
- The Walt Disney Studios Expansion is just Phase 1, we have more to come!
- The aim of the expansion is to open up all the expansion pads we have for this park and to avoid the ‘boomerang’ park layout
- Elsa’s castle will be the park weenie (drawing you in)
- The Studios Park has no Main Street, however what the Imagineers are seeking to achieve is a ‘Garden Street’ much like the Tuileries in Central Paris. This green street will be a place to relax and enjoy time whilst walking up to the lake.
- The Vincent Price audio from Phantom Manor will be returning when the attraction re-opens in the Autumn
- Also when the attraction re-opens, guests will be able to find out just who the Phantom actually is.
The panel was a priceless experience, hearing Imagineers talk about their craft is a pure delight and something I almost wish we could do every day. Following the panel both Tom Fitzgerald and Catherine Powell were very accessible to meet fans and to take quick pictures – another wonderful memory of the night.
Upon leaving the Animagique Theater, guests were presented with a signed Star Tours attraction poster by Tom Fitzgerald. Guests who attended the Duffy and Friends panel received a signed Stella-Lou concept art piece.
These conferences really did extend the experience of the Disney FanDaze Inaugural Party and provide some fans with real and unique experiences that you simply cannot get anywhere else.
Character Meet and Greets
The main part of the evening was the rare character meet and greets. These were dotted across the entire park and special rules were put into place in order to make these encounters be as quick as possible allowing the most people to see as many characters as they could.
When these rules were enforced, they worked impeccably. Characters could get through almost 50-60 people within 10 minutes whilst each guest also feeling as if they got a good meet of character interaction. Really, it could not have been better. In the most parts, good queue etiquette was enforced by the Cast Members meaning the system was as fair as it could be for all.
The Character selection was wide and varied, there truly was something for everybody. From Disney Afternoon characters to characters from films such as Frozen and Big Hero 6, this allowed people to prioritise their era of Disney characters and really go to town by meeting as many as they could. It was impeccable and I would trust Disneyland Paris to make good selections at future events of this calibre.
From social media, I hear the Heroes and Villains Alley was not well organised, however as I did not even join that queue, I cannot comment on it.
The Disney FanDaze Inaugural Party ended with a special farewell parade at 02:00, this parade promised a final chance to see all the Disney characters who were present during the evening and was set to an instrumental version of the Disney FanDaze theme song.
This was a really special moment as all in attendance had had a fantastic evening, decided who they wanted a photo with and seen as much as they could – this ending allowed everybody to see all the characters they may have missed during the course of the evening.
Each character here was on foot meaning that they could go over for quick hugs or high fives with guests, it made for an extra special dimension to the perfect sign off.
Amazing Cast Members!
We have some pretty great Cast Members in Disneyland Paris. For Disney FanDaze many were working a lot more hours than we might think, and during the whole party they kept up their wonderful moods and seemed to be in high spirits. Some fans were difficult and rude to Cast Members at the party – this is never acceptable, but it is to the credit of each Cast Member that they politely smiled and dealt with these issues with true professionalism – all Cast Members working that night are a credit to Disneyland Paris!
PhotoPass Cast Members were also out in force at each meet and greet, this was fantastic to see and they all took amazing photographs – memories that we will all cherish.
Food and Drink
The main let down of the evening was the lack of planning in the catering department. The event was a long one and was busy, plans had not been made as to how to feed guests during the party. Restaurant En Coulisse was open, however, this was not enough to satisfy the crowds – unfortunately, two other restaurants were taken over by FanDaze events (Restaurant des Stars became a VIP lounge and Blockbuster Cafe was a TV Studio). This needs to be fixed next year as we do need to eat and get drinks as well as enjoy all the unique entertainment.
For the first time at a hard-ticket event, Disneyland Paris proposed a range of exclusive range of merchandise to commemorate the event. The range was predominately focused on Oswald and Ortensia but a nice range of FanDaze logo merchndise was also put on sale. The sale of this was mostly well-managed with a number of items going on sale on the Friday of the event with a few limited edition items being added during the event.
Some items (such as the baseball cap) sold out prior to the event which is completely unacceptable. The concept of selling prior to the event is perfectly fine (and allows attendees to better optimise their time at the party), but a reserve of stock should also be put aside for the event.
Pins were also put on sale during the night, whilst I did not join the queue system for these there were 400 of each of the 5 limited edition pin designs with a possibility of each guest buying 2 of each. In reality, this meant that only 200 people could get pins. For an event with an attendance of thousands, this was simply not enough and more should have been done to ensure that a greater number of people were able to purchase these collector’s items.
A FAN-tastic evening – Ready for 2019?
The Disney FanDaze Inaugural Party was undoubtedly a success, most of the guests at the party were in very high spirits and seemed to have an excellent time.
This party was a chance for Disneyland Paris to prove that they have understood their hardcore fan base, during the course of the evening this was proven and expectations surpassed.
As we ask ourselves what will happen in 2019 for this event, we can only hope that it does return as it is, without a doubt, the best hard ticket event we have ever seen in Disneyland Paris.
It really is fun to be a fan
For the Disney FanDaze Inaugural Party I booked a Classic Package in Disney’s Sequoia Lodge Golden Forest. This, based on 4 sharing, came to £1,315.