First details revealed for Legends of the Force at Disneyland Paris

Disneyland Paris Legends of the Force visual

Legends of the Force is the new name of the Disneyland Paris Star Wars celebration that takes place between January and March 2019.

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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.

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.

Hyperspace Mountain and Discoveryland

With the announcement this week of Hyperspace Mountain arriving in Disneyland Paris there is a question that needs to be answered: What has happened to Discoveryland?

Emerging from Tomorrowland

As many fans of Disneyland Paris will know, Discoveryland emerged from the ‘ashes’ of Tomorrowland. For many years a criticism of Tomorrowland in the Disney parks was that it would become out of date relatively quickly. The idea of the vision of the future simply does not work.

Discoveryland Entrance Disneyland Paris

Enter Discoveryland in Disneyland Paris, a land with a new theme. The idea here is to tell the vision of the future seen from the visionaries of the past. The idea seems ingenious, the visionaries of the past cannot ever become out of date – the ideas may be wacky and crazy but the core themes remain constant and relevant. It was through this way that Euro Disneyland, as it was then named, also fulfilled its key aim of promoting European culture by alluding to the works of Jules Verne and H.G. Wells.

Discoveryland: The early days

Discoveryland launched with attractions that were inspired by its core themes. Orbitron takes its inspiration from the star gazing of Leonardo Da Vinci. Le Visionarium was a Jules Verne circle vision film. This was joined by Space Mountain which took its inspiration from Jules Verne’s De la terre à la lune and the Nautilus submarine from 20 000 lieues sur les mers.

The theme worked, a collection of very strong attractions which were linked to no Disney IPs and were popular.

Space Mountain in the daylight at Disneyland Paris

The beginning of the end?

And then the changes began to arrive. Space Mountain lost its Verne theming (aside from the exterior). Then perhaps the most unforgivable (depending on who you talk to) change of all, Le Visionairium becoming Buzz Lightyear’s Lazer Blast.

Buzzlightyear Lazer Blast at Disneyland Paris at dusk

And then we began to see a calming. Things seemed to have reached a status quo.

Hyperspace Mountain arrives

The 17th October 2016, Disneyland Paris announced its 25th anniversary festivities and among it the Hyperspace Mountain which promised:

Guests will also be able to join the Rebel Alliance by becoming the drivers of Star Wars Hyperspace Mountain1 (Disneyland Park). The Force will be strong with this attraction, which hurtles through the Star Wars galaxy, following the twists and turns of TIE fighters and an intimidating Star Destroyer.

This marks a total departure from prior Discoveryland themes and raises the question of the future of the land? Will Space Mountain see any major exterior changes? Will the steam punk design remain as it is now across the land?

Space Mountain's Columbiad cannon at Disneyland Paris

Is this a destruction or an evolution?

It is difficult to say. Personally, I adore the theme of Discoveryland but this may be because I’m a bit of a Jules Verne fan and so am slightly biased. I also adore the current look and feel of the land. Discoveryland is probably the land I spend the least amount of time in, and anything that will encourage me to spend more time there cannot be a bad thing. However, I feel like a piece of the land’s identity is being ripped from it.

Nautilus submarine entrance at Disneyland Paris

Walt Disney did always say that Disneyland would never be considered completed as long as there was imagination in the world – perhaps this is a change we must accept and move on.

Let me know what you think in the comments or on social media!