Exciting times ahead for the Walt Disney Studios Park

Upon its opening in 2002, it’s fair to say that the Walt Disney Studios Park has left something to be desired. The park was the victim of a lack of real investment, patchwork theme and an overall vision that seemed lost and confused. Since then Disneyland Paris have put a lot of effort into fixing this problem, and to their credit much of it has worked, including the recent expansion of La Place de Rémy in 2014. However, many of the issues remained and have been difficult to fix without a significant investment on the level of Disney’s California Adventure.

Tuesday 27th February 2018 was the day that the fortunes of this half-day Park were radically transformed. Bob Iger (Chief Executive Officer, The Walt Disney Company) announced with Emmanuel Macron (President of the French Republic) an investment of €2 billion in the Marne-la-Vallée resort which is to be used to overhaul the Walt Disney Studios Park and to effectively double its size. The plan focuses on extension, theme and the incorporation of 3 much-loved IPs into the park including Marvel, Star Wars and Frozen as well as an expansion to Toy Story Playland (2010).

Robert Iger and Emmanuel Macron at the Elysée Palace
©PHILIPPE SERVENT / PRESIDENCE DE LA REPUBLIQUE

It’s time to dig into this in deliciously geeky detail and look at what the future holds for fans of Disneyland Paris.

Front Lot

Front Lot was always an area of the park that seemed to work, the glamour and excitement of Hollywood beckoned guests and truly does offer a lot of promise. Studio 1 was always the odd part of this set up; in the new concept art Studio 1 remains but is radically transformed and looks more fitting to the 1930s aesthetic that fits the look and feel of Front Lot.

Walt Disney Studios Redevelopment - Front Lot

I’m glad the soul of Front Lot is getting a boost rather than a subtraction. Obviously we cannot see inside Studio 1, but we can only hope that an overhaul is planned here to coincide with this new classy look of Front Lot. Exiting Studio 1 will now reveal an exceptional vista that will be difficult to beat in any Disney Park.

Toon Studio

Not much changes here, the classic Art of Animation building remains, as does Animagique Theater, Crush’s Coaster, Cars: Quatre Roues Rallaye, and Flying Carpets over Agrabah. Further round, Toy Story Playland and La Place de Rémy remain. This area was always one of the strengths of the park, so seeing little change here comes as very little surprise. It does look that the general criticism of the Walt Disney Studios Park has been ameliorated somewhat with increased greenery.

Walt Disney Studios Redevelopment - Toon Studio

The big news here is an increase in size of Toy Story Playland with what looks to be a new attraction (much like the Alien Swirling Saucers attraction coming to Walt Disney World this year). Whilst the expansion of Toy Story Playland doesn’t seem overly necessary, the new attraction is very similar to the Cars attraction and is nevertheless welcome.

Production Courtyard

Again, there’s not a huge amount of change here. Studio Theatre remains pretty much untouched and the biggest surprise was that The Hollywood Tower Hotel looks set to remain welcoming guests. The only question mark hangs over the old Disney Channel building which does look a little different but no detail was provided as to what will become of it. It seems likely that it will become part of the MARVEL area of the park.

Walt Disney Studios Redevelopment - Production Courtyard

MARVEL

Backlot will be unrecognisable following this redevelopment. In its place a MARVEL area which looks to feature at least 4 big attractions (including the recently announced Iron Man takeover of Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster). Departing are Armageddon: Les effets spéciaux and Moteurs Action… Stunt Show Spectacular, a move that fans are unlikely to bemoan.

The Stunt Show stands are still clearly visible in this concept art, which would make sense if we are to get a new stunt show based on the Avengers. The same applies for Armageddon, the building looks to be staying but with new hosts. Next to Armageddon is a new building and a Quinjet, which look as if they close off the path behind the Tower of Terror; unfortunately this will likely see us lose a piece of Disney history in Café des Cascadeurs.

Walt Disney Studios Redevelopment - Marvel Land

On the left hand side of this land stood the two restaurants: Restaurant des Stars and Disney’s Blockbuster Cafe. These look to have been removed in exchange for a more flashy building exterior, the building is pretty sizeable and so could welcome something of a reasonable size.

The look and feel of the area is very modern yet sleek and so could easily pass off as futuristic and whilst we know the Marvel look is coming we have very little idea as to what these buildings will contain. The incorporation of MARVEL into a previously unsightly area of the park is an ideal fix and does improve dramatically the biggest issue facing Walt Disney Studios Park. A comprehensive MARVEL themed zone in Paris as well as the new hotel will be a significant draw for fans of MARVEL and could very well see Paris as THE place to be for MARVEL fans.

STAR WARS

Remember looking on jealously when Star Wars Land got announced for Walt Disney World and Disneyland? Remember that jealousy bring upped when it became Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge and Batuu? Then seeing it in Star Tours in Paris? Now, we will shortly be able to boast our own Star Wars land!

Walt Disney Studios Redevelopment - Star Wars Land

On the concept art the land looks to be smaller than its American counterparts, but this could easily just be the artist impression and not wanting to show us everything. The architecture of the land does look very similar with its canyons and yellow domes, we can also spot a black X-Wing sitting there. Again, we have no indication as to what to expect from this land in the way of attractions, the US Star Wars areas will contain multiple attractions, shops and restaurants and it is difficult to see Paris deviating from this model.

Interactive experiences were mentioned by Bob Iger as he announced this expansion and so we can only hope that Star Wars will take full advantage of this. It’s thrilling to see this land being incorporated into Disneyland Paris and it will undoubtedly be incredibly popular upon opening. Star Wars is a huge franchise and its representation at Disneyland Paris has always been strong, but this is next level which Paris needed to match when faced with its American cousins. It looks like the challenge has been raised and met and this will become an integral part of the expansion upon completion.

FROZEN

Potentially the biggest Disney animated film ever finally gets a land in the Walt Disney Studios Park, this decision simply makes sense. The Frozen theme fits perfectly with the idea of creating an immersive landscape featuring potentially shops, restaurants and a big attraction. Imagine being able to eat dinner in the company of Anna and Elsa in Arendelle, this could be the potential big money spinner.

Walt Disney Studios Redevelopment - Star Wars Land

On a level of this concept art, we can see both the castle of Arendelle, a little village and Else’s Ice Castle which will be directly opposite the park entrance, something that will provide a stunning vista upon leaving Studio 1. The land looks much like the proposed Hong Kong Frozen land which, when we dive into Hong Kong concept art, gives us a clue as to what will be featured here. Frozen has a ton of characters that each provide a deep layer of the Arendelle universe to explore and in addition, by the time this area of the park opens we will have a Frozen sequel that will be able to be built into this area.

Frozen is a natural choice and rounds off the new lands in perfect style, the visual of the ice castle emerging will provide a stunning backdrop to the Walt Disney Studios Park and means that there truly is something in this expansion for everyone.

Lakes and Landscaping

But new lands are not where this expansion and investment ends, a large criticism of WDS was the lack of landscaping. These criticisms have been completely brushed away with the increase in size with more room afforded to greenery but most importantly (and impressively) a lake will be built as a hub for the park. The lake will become a wonderful and beautiful part of the park which will likely see shows performed on it and the route around the lake seems as if it will be given a parade.

Walt Disney Studios Redevelopment - Star Wars LandThe lake looks to be absolutely stunning, and is an interesting enough shape. Walking around it is likely to be an absolute pleasure. It looks as if a lot of effort has gone into making the park LOOK good and feel like a pleasant place to be, obviously this is just a concept and things can and will change but as a statement of intent it is impressive.

Walt Disney Studios Redevelopment - Star Wars Land

OVERALL THOUGHTS

We have been crying out for years for something like this (in fact, anything that would make the Parisian second gate better), and now it is here it feels a little overwhelming. I will admit that I’m still sitting grinning with delight over this expansion and will continue to do so for years to come. Many will have feared that an expansion would see only Marvel or Star Wars properties coming to the park, but not the case as Disneyland Paris really is catering for all fans.

Walt Disney Studios Park - Redevelopment concept art

Equally important is that from what we so far know, this investment will be predominately for the Walt Disney Studios Park, Disneyland Park will not be touched by this large investment of intellectual property. There is something pure about this, Disneyland Park has a lot of soul and whilst it would be fantastic to see investment head there, the Studios needs it and is the ideal place to incorporate all these IPs in a way that feels cohesive and sensible. The park will look and feel fantastic and that is a win for everybody.

The rollout of these changes will be from 2020 – 2025 and undoubtedly there will be a gradual influx of news as we go. Disneyland Paris is transitioning from a future of ‘what is happening next, there is nothing on the horizon’ to being genuinely one of the most exciting Disney developments ever.

It’s going to be a fun ride, and I can’t wait to share all the information and opinions (and listen to your views) as we go along.


ED92 Podcast Promo - WDS ExpansionTo discuss this large re-development of the Walt Disney Studios park, I was invited onto the ED92 podcast to join ED92‘s Ben, CuriousAxel and Michael McNeela. The podcast is avaliable now to download on all good podcasting networks including the Apple Podcasts app

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