Behind the scenes during the Phantom Manor refurbishment

Between January 2018 and May 2019, Phantom Manor at Disneyland Paris went under an extensive 16 month refurbishment. Whilst many things in the Manor did change following the refurbishment, one thing remained constant: the dedication of the Disney Imagineers to their craft and creating the best illusions to surprise guests.

To celebrate the reopening, Disneyland Paris have released a 17 minute documentary which goes behind the scenes with some of the key creative figures involved in this magnificent refurbishment.

Is 2018 the most exciting Disneyland Paris year yet?

Happy New Year! And with each New Year period, it’s time to both reflect on the year that has passed but perhaps more fun is to be excited for what lies ahead. For Disneyland Paris, 2018 is set to be perhaps one of the most exciting yet with seasons based on our favourite heroes; galactic warriors and wonderful princesses and dazzling pirates, and that’s not forgetting that it will still be time to sparkle! 2018 is set to be the most exciting year yet for Disneyland Paris!

Saving the galaxy – Season of the Force 2018!

Season of the Force is back on January 13th 2018 for another year of intergalactic fun! Last year’s season was a pleasant surprise and the success of last year will be built upon for 2018. The highlights are back including Star Wars: A Galactic Celebration, the charming and thrilling night time spectacular in the Walt Disney Studios park. This show will be updated to include scenes from the new edition of the Star Wars saga and builds on the huge success of last year. Additionally, there will be a celebration of famous vehicles from the saga with an exhibition from the 501st legion.

Star Wars: A Galactic Celebration
The 2017 edition of Season of the Force made a usually quiet period more active and desirable to visit. Whilst the criticisms of 2017 included that the celebration was small, this year sees some growth and the addition of Star Wars themed attractions in Disneyland Park (which were closed for the duration of the season last year). This truly is becoming one not to miss.

Swashbuckle and Sparkle Princesses – Festival of Pirates and Princesses

The new addition to the 2018 roster at Disneyland Paris involves the Festival of Pirates and Princesses; whilst we still don’t have a lot of information on the season, we do know that there will be a big show on Central Plaza that will involve both Pirates and Princesses. There will also be some themed meet and greets for the season.

Pirates and Princesses logo

This season will take place from late March until May 2018 and will provide a nice filler between Season of the Force and the Superhero spectacular of the summer.

Be dazzled by Disney FanDaze

The item on some Disney fan’s agenda will be Disney FanDaze, we’re still finding out more information about this exciting evening of entertainment but it is already shaping up to be one of the most memorable in the history of Disneyland Paris. This is an evening that is all about fan service of the highest degree, be it classic Disney characters or an evening of attractions and imagineering presentations, this evening will be one to satisfy all Disneyland Paris fans.

The Disney FanDaze Characters

This special evening will take place during the first weekend of June 2018 in the Walt Disney Studios park.

Save the world! – Marvel Summer of Superheroes

Perhaps the most exciting new event of 2018 will be the Marvel Summer of Superheroes, this special summer of unique entertainment will take place in the Walt Disney Studios park and will see a unique show take centre stage in the Studio Theatre (formerly home to Cinémagique), a dance party and much more.

Marvel Summer of Heroes at Disneyland Paris poster

Marvel fans will want to keep an eye on all Disneyland Paris news in 2018 as the Disney’s Hotel New York closes to begin making way to the new Marvel-themed hotel. This special summer will take place from June until September 2018.

Fan favourites return – Halloween and Christmas

One of the stapes of the Disneyland Paris year are the Halloween and Christmas celebrations. In 2017 we saw changes in both celebrations, and it remains to be seen how this will develop in 2018. Halloween should grow back onto Main Street USA once again as this year it was moved entirely into Frontierland (in order for Main Street to celebrate the 25th anniversary). Christmas 2017 saw a large scale growth, 2018 should see some changes to the offering and hopefully further growth into the Walt Disney Studios Park.

Christmas Main Street USA at Disneyland Paris

A sparkling finale – 25th anniversary

The 25th anniversary has enchanted guests since March 2017, however on September 9th 2018 it must end. Until then we can still enjoy all the special entertainment that has been created for this unique celebration from Disney Illuminations, to Disney Stars on Parade via the two new castle stage shows.

It has been an amazing celebration, and one we can only hope that will be matched by whatever comes next following its conclusion.

A key refurbishment – Phantom Manor

Perhaps the most intriguing thing to come from Disneyland Paris this year will not be the seasonal celebrations (as enjoyable as they are), it will be this key refurbishment. Phantom Manor is a staple of Disneyland Paris, that attraction that you can’t miss on any visit (although, there are quite a few of those), and in January 2018 it will close for a period of time for a complete refurbishment. We have no precise re-opening time frame as of yet, all we do know is that the similar refurbishments recently have been of an exceptional quality.

Time will tell what is being reimagined at this highlight attraction, but it’ll be intriguing to know more.

2018 will be unmissable – will you be there?

2018 is going to be another stellar year for Disneyland Paris in which there will truly be something for every type of guest. What are you most looking forward to? Do drop a comment and let me know.

Otherwise, may I take a moment to wish you a very happy new year and all the best for 2018. I hope you have the best year yet!

 

Is Disneyland Paris an innovator?

How often have you heard that Disneyland Paris keeps things ‘safe’ or that it is not an innovator? That it is a Disney resort that typically does not take any major risks and is never really a leader in the Disney parks offerings? To suggest that Disneyland Paris is a risk-free resort is ignoring the impressive work that Disneyland Paris takes on launching new seasons (Swing into Spring and the Festival of Pirates and Princesses are just two examples of this); but also has taken in the past.

Disneyland Paris is a resort that indeed has never been afraid to try something new, in fact the resort has a rich history of doing so. Many things that seem normal to fans of a Disney park have started life in Marne-la-Vallée. Let’s take a look at four of the most notable Disneyland Paris innovations.

On-board audio

I think I can, I think I can. Rolling around the track on board Casey Jr. with the iconic song from the Walt Disney classic: Dumbo (1941) seems normal now; but upon opening in March 1994, a small revolution was taking place in Paris as on-board audio had arrived in a Disney park. This, of course, was not to be the only time this technology would be used in Disneyland Paris, it would feature heavily in another attraction that was due to open just one year later.

Casey Jr - Le petit train du cirque at Disneyland Paris

Space Mountain: de la terre à la lune opened in June 1995 to much fanfare and was the first Disney rollercoaster ride to feature on-board audio which was synchronised to a score composed by Steve Bramson (and rests a score that is much loved by Disneyland Paris fans to this day).

Since then, on-board audio has made it’s way to many other Disney attractions around the world including Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster Avec Aerosmith that can be enjoyed in the Walt Disney Studios Park as well as The Twilight Zone: Tower of Terror.

Lopping Rollercoasters

In 1993 Disneyland Paris opened an expansion in the Adventureland section of the park, the land opened in 1992 with just one major attraction (Pirates of the Caribbean) and an immersive Adventure Isle area. Towards the back of the land, something was being prepared that would break the Disney mould. Indiana Jones et le temple du péril is perhaps not the attraction you would first consider when looking for an innovator, but this was the very first Disney attraction to feature an inversion. Whilst Indiana Jones would only feature one loop, it would open the floodgates.

Indiana Jones et le temple du péril at Disneyland Paris

In 1995, Space Mountain opened in Discoveryland with three inversions. There are still very few Disney rollercoasters that feature inversions, but Paris features three of these coasters (the most in any Disney resort). Other Disney inverted coasters include: California Screamin’ (Disney’s California Adventure, Anaheim), Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster Avec Aerosmith (Walt Disney Studios, Paris; Disney’s Hollywood Studios, Orlando). and Raging Spirits, which is heavily based on Indiana Jones (Tokyo Disney Sea, Tokyo).

Projection Mapping

Whilst projections and projection mapping had been used in Disney parks prior to Disneyland Paris’s unique spectacle Disney Dreams!, nobody had quite done it just as Disneyland Paris was about to. Walt Disney World Resort projected Disney photopass photos taken during the day onto Cinderella Castle in The Magic, The Memories and You and in Disneyland Resort World of Color had opened to critical praise. Disneyland Paris were ready to take projection shows to the next level.

The Tangled scene in Disney Dreams! at Disneyland Paris

Disney Dreams! ran from March 2012-17 and was performed nightly at park closing, the show centred on Peter Pan losing his shadow which would be diving through Disney stories. The show followed a simple, yet emotional plot and earned Disneyland Paris worldwide respect. Shows such as Dreams! were swiftly copied at Tokyo Disneyland, Shanghai Disney Resort and Walt Disney World (who have recently debuted Happily Ever After). Disneyland Paris, however, have launched new projection mapping shows including Disney IlluminationsStar Wars: A Galactic Celebration and Goofy’s Incredible Christmas. But, of course, France has a large son et lumière tradition, it just took Disney a while to wake up to its potential in the parks.

A fire-breathing dragon

In March 2014 the Festival of Fantasy parade opened at the Magic Kingdom; the highlight of this parade was a new float depicting Maleficent that breathed fire. The Disney fan community went crazy for this this and praised its originality, Disney copied this float to Paris for Disney Stars on Parade which opened in April 2017, again it opened to similar plaudits.

However, the float was not as original as it may well have seemed. When Euro Disneyland opened in 1992, it featured a parade known as the Disney Classics Parade which featured… you guessed it, a fire-breathing dragon. Images of it can be seen on the Disney and More blog. It turns out, Disneyland Paris returned to its roots to celebrate the 25th anniversary and it just took Florida 22 years to catch up!

Is Disneyland Paris a sort of testing ground?

With all these wonderful new features that have been copied and transposed into Disney parks worldwide would make you believe that Disneyland Paris is a ‘testing ground’. Of course, this is not necessarily the case. Disneyland Paris is situated in Europe, a market that had not yet been cracked by Disney and is a very different market to the ones it has previously entered; to achieve success, modifications and attempts to please the local audience would have to be made. Inversions would likely fall into this category, as would the invention of Disney projection mapping shows. That’s not to say that Disney does not test ideas in Paris but, as with most things, it just isn’t that simple.

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.

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.