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.