Posts Tagged ‘Disneyland’

Tony Baxter Masterclass

Friday, April 13th, 2012

April 12th 2012 was Disneyland Paris’ 20th birthday with special events and celebrations during the day. One of these special events was meeting Tony Baxter (Senior Vice President, Creative Development, Walt Disney Imagineering) who would talk in front of an audience of devoted Disney fans about Disneyland Paris and his big participation into creating it. It will be to nobody’s surprise that the whole audience was captured for this hour long masterclass with Tony.

The masterclass was being hosted by the two Disneyland Paris Ambassadors, Régis Alart and Osvaldo del Mistero, who both did a fantastic job. Not only did they get the questions to Tony, they also had to translate everything in French and sometimes those where very long sequences. Great job. But for those that could not be there, here is an almost full transcript of Tony Baxter’s Masterclass.

Tony started of with some explanation of the name Imagineers and how it put artists together with engineers and how this results in all the amazing things that they do and that work most of the time. After a first translation to French Tony asked “What did I say”, making the public laugh.

Before Tony took on the role of executive producer for Disneyland Paris he already worked on many other projects as Imagineer. The question to Tony was to talk a little bit about these projects. “I got to play a few years before tackling this project. First there was Big Thunder Mountain. It was designed for Walt Disney World but the first one got build in Disneyland but the best one of all is here in Paris. We all know what it does it, it goes under the river and back under the river and it is totally awesome.” Then he worked on Star Tour and after that he mentioned Indiana Jones and the Temple of the forbidden eye. Tony already said wouldn’t it be great if that would be our movie and years later they could indeed build attractions related to the franchise.

Tony mentioned how Disneyland Paris has somehow a duplicate Fantasyland compared to Disneyland abut how our Castle is spectacular. Tony went on mentioning Splash mountain, quickly saying that the best one is in Tokyo, but there are very good once in the US parks.

The next questions asked by the Ambassadors was how did he feel when they announced they where going to create Euro Disney (As it was know before changing its name to Disneyland Paris) and he would be in charge of it. “well it wasn’t like being the person being in charge as I couldn’t do this alone. I had five friends who grow up with Disneyland as children and all of knew on how to make it right. It wasn’t as being in charge of it but we get one more chance to do this. We know all the things about Disneyland, Walt Disney World, Tokyo Disneyland and let’s put all these things together and put it right creating the most beautiful Disneyland and it still is. That being said Disneyland is still the most charming, Walt Disney World the most spectacular, and DisneySea is amazing.”

A picture of a Disneyland Main street Picture was showing up on the screen. “I see my friends, Jeff Burke Frontierland, Tim Delaney Discoveryland, Tom Morris fantasyland, Eddie Sotto Main Street and Chris tietz for Adventureland. Chris is still working with us on Princess Fantasy Faire for Disneyland.

Next question was how did he take an American concept and adapt it to European audiences and made it relevant for them since they didn’t have the Disney park experience before. “It started with a wonderful trip to Europe. It started with a trip trough England, we went to Denmark, of course Germany and visited all the great sites tourists do. I went to visit book shops in small communities, so not in the center with the tourist, but to see what people would think about the rest of the world. Look at coffee table books to see what sells and look at what people are interested in.”

“Frontierland was easy because the French and Europeans are very interested and intrigued in the wild west. Adventureland, there where a lot of theme parks that copied the original Jungle Cruise from Disneyland. In fact, one I remember, had viking boats going past the guys that where going past the pool with the men going up. So we decided not to do that. We rethought Adventureland in more of an Arabian Nights fantasy because stories like Aladdin where very popular here in the same way the fairy tales from France where popular in America, so there was a shift.”

“Sometimes things where very exited for us. We knew pirates where going to be exited for the Europeans so we build a whole island based on Pirates of the Caribbean and strengthen the pirate ride as you see here. How did we know so many years later pirates was going to be such a huge franchise for the Disney company so it was fortunate that we made it such a big part of Adventureland.”

“The big question was of course Fantasyland and the castle.” Europe already had a lot of real castle so the Disney believed a replica of such a castle would not work in Euro Disney. “So we decided to go much more to the fairy tales and the story books and particular the art designed by Eyvind Earle”

“And finally here we are in Discoveryland. Part of the contract that we signed with the government in France was to develop an area based on celebrating European culture and when you look at space mountain , that is directly from Jules Verne’s Story from Earth to the Moon, the Orbitron out here could be Leonardo Da Vinci. These are the type of visionaries that really inspired the whole world to go into space to do the things in the future. This was a natural fit.”

(Tony was keeping Main Street for later, when talking about the hotels)

Next question was related how the Imagineers worked together to make this dream come true. “We where close friends, Tom Morris, who was in Fantasyland, came to me when he was in high school and he wanted to write a report on an Imagineer and as he went true college he became on board and we worked together on many projects and I think he was typical of what my relationship was with Jeff Burke and Tim Delaney and everyone else. I knew their specialties. Tim is a genius in doing futuristic imaginative art, Tom loved fairy tales, Chris loved adventures and if you look at Jeff Burke, he is a cowboy.”

“You always hear about Casting in the theme part, but the most important casting we do is at Imagineering and each one of these people was absolutely perfect so that made my job really easy.”

Next question from the Ambassadors was what kind of challenges or problems he encountered when creating Disneyland Paris. “It was very cold” (laughter) “Sometimes it was so cold we had to put plastic covers and put heaters inside to keep the spray from turning to snow instead of landing on the rocks. That was very challenging. Midway trough the construction we had partnered with an English firm to manage the project and it so difficult, so Disney and so not normal, as they where used to with hospitals and hotels. We had to take the management of the project back and create our own staff right in the middle of construction and I think our management group at Imagineering did an incredible job of that switch over midway in the project”

“We had the same amount of money as Tokyo did to build that park and so the challenge for each of our designers was to find a way to get more of that money out where guests could enjoy it and I think they did a fantastic job. In Tokyo you find that the street is covered, and that cost a lot. We where able to put the arcades, and if you haven’t walked trough them, they are beautiful, they where a lot less money and with the remainder we put more beautiful details in the rest of Main Street.”

Tony said that Disneyland Paris is the most beautiful park in the world so the next question was to find out why he thinks so. “It is a combination of things. The climate, which can be harsh, also allows you to grow things we cannot in California and Florida, so as you walk into the park, especially now during spring time, the landscaping is spectacular. Our hardwood forest in Frontierland is more beautiful then in California or Florida and is the youngest. It already looks fantastic. Landscaping is a big part of it.”

“The Orbitron was placed on the ground so the extra money saved was used to put all the great ornaments on it so it became a gorgeous sculpture. Those kinds of way of thinking of the park was ways to make it more spectacular. We are next to the most beautiful city in the world, so we had to live up to that.”

Tony is now in charge of Disneyland California and the question now is how it feels to go back to the one that started it all. “I grew up with Disneyland, so it is my backyard and to get to play in your backyard is the best thing a kid can ever do.”

That where the questions from the Ambassadors, but now it was time to get some facebook fans questions. They where asked by the Disney Ambassadors from all the other Disney parks around the world.

The first question was about him meeting Walt Disney in person and to tell us about the experience. “I was working in Disneyland as an ice cream vendor, scooping ice cream, and Walt would come to the park every Friday, staying at an apartment above the fire station on Mainstreet and then on Saturday he would fire up one of the cars and drive over Mainstreet. I never thought he would visit a humble ice cream vendor but the word went out that he was coming so we had to work very hard to clean the area up. Then I saw him moving towards me and I had all these ideas that I wanted to share with him. I was going to tell him all these things we could do and I wanted to be part of it and then I felt his hand on my shoulder and he said – how are things going with you here – and I said just fine”. (big laughter in the room). “missed opportunity”

“My sister got to ride small world with him, she was younger, she was twelve. She saw him going to small world and she ask if she could ride it with him and he said of course you can. She and her girlfriend, one on either (of Walt’s) side went through and at the end he asked if the wanted to go trough again and they said of course. But you would have to sing this time. They sang the song and then he gave them a picture, an autograph and tickets. She still has those today.” The Ambassadors said they where jealous and Tony answered he was too.

“I had to work at Disneyland, scooping ice cream and my sister went to the big football game on new years day and Walt Disney was the grand marshal that year of the ball game. So she went down, she is 12 years old, she went up to him and said my brother had to work at Disneyland today and couldn’t come down to the game would you sign the program for him. So I have a signed program saying; Tony I thank you for working at Disneyland and I am sorry you weren’t here to see the football game today, Walt Disney” The audience loved it.

The next facebook question was, what was the best part of creating a Disney park in Europe and how did you came up with the design of Sleepy Beauty Castle. “The best part was getting to come to Europe and I took holidays every weekend to go visit Europe. It is all so beautiful and so different. Each country has its own culture and its charm. Regarding the Castle, I already told a little bit about it, we where very concerned that it would be taken poorly so we convinced management to recreate the castle from scratch. We made it a little bit smaller then Walt Disney World but bigger then Disneyland and the most important think was the shift in making it a fairy tale setting. In all of the other Disney parks the castle is flat on the same level as Main Street and we wanted to try and create that image where the castle is up on a hill side and the prince would ride up to the castle hill sides and dragons would live underneath it. Those where the things that guided us.”

Next question was, what is the best example of detail that went into the creation of this park. “Only one? I love all the thing in the park but the Disneyland hotel was such a challenge in the park and no money to do it. We had to convince Michael Eisner to get rid of one of the hotels out in the village and give us that funding to do that hotel. Everybody at the company said people would be standing in their underwear on the balconies, they’ll be hanging their clothing out to dry, they’ll be bothered by the parades on Main Street. There where million reasons why we shouldn’t do it. But Both Frank (Wells) and Michael agreed it was a beautiful design and Eddie Sotto worked very hard to incorporate that into Main Street. We shrunk the train station so the hotel works as the icon at the end of the street as the train station does for the other parks. It was the hardest thing as it was never been done before and now of course there is one in Tokyo, we have the Grand Californian in California and it has become a Disney thing.”

“The reason we build that hotel, as we studied how people go to resorts, there is a great appreciation in the European community on the scent of arrival. In the US you get processed a lot before you get into the beauty of the parks. It is a great gift to the people who arrive at the RER and train station to see the gardens and the hotel on arrival. We felt it was important to do this.”

Next was a question about all the homages to the original park that can be found in the park. Some of them are obvious but what is the most hidden or mostly overlooked tribute to Disneyland. “You better get the people ready in the Fantasyland restaurant after this. In Pizzeria Bella Notte patio there is a broken china pattern of mosaics in there. When we put in Start Tours in California we had to demolish a portion of Mary blair’s murals. The majority is still there, but a portion was destroyed and Tom Morris picked up all the pieces and if you look at that in Belle Notte and pick out the very orange pieces, that came from the sun from that mural.”

“The other one is mine. In Disneyland we had an exit sign that was off-centered because there was a beam. In Au Chalet de la Marionnette there is a sign that is perfect, in Disneyland I added a Figaro cat pulling the sign to make it look balanced. Here the exit sign was right so they asked what I was going to do this time. So I added a Figaro cat leaning on it showing we got it right this time.”

Another question was if he had the possibility to expand a land, which one would he pick and why? “Discoveryland! If you leave today (the videopolis building) you’ll see two circles on the wall. They are tubes that would bring you to Space Mountain. All attractions would be connected with Space Mountain. It was going to be a land in there. Tubes would take you of to each of the attractions (some artwork was shown with the tubes). And that was how you where going to get to all the attractions. We weren’t able to do that, we couldn’t afford that. So I would love to come back now and spend some more effort and really complete this land. That would be great.”

The next question is about one of many fans favorite attraction. What is the mystery story of Phantom Manor as the whole fan base is torn between two possible explanations. First of all Henry Ravenswood would be the Phantom, or the second one could be the Phantom could be the result of a curse around Thunder Mountain. “You know I am going to be hung on this one” (laughter in the room) “There is probably 400 stories on this. I am going to give you my story. It is not official, it is mine. I love Charles Dickens’ story Great expectations. Miss Havisham (from the book), who is gilded as a bride, grow older and older and the rats came in, the spider webs and everything else and that was the basis that I saw in this (attraction). But I wasn’t the only voice in this. So we see the young beautiful daughter preparing for her marriage at the start. She is in the hall and all the guests are arriving. She is very wealthy, this is her fathers home who made lot’s of money from the gold rush from the mines of Big Thunder. Now she is waiting for her groom. She waits and waits and waits and gets older and older and older in the progress. When he finally comes at the end it is to late and the only place where the celebration can be is down under. So he invites us to descend down beneath the ground into the spirit world where all the residents of Thunder Messa come to celebrate this long, long overdue marriage. And of course she waves goodbye trowing us the flowers at the end. And that’s my version. (big applause). What is so special about Disney stories is that you write the stories. If we scripted the whole thing and give you a book report of a movie (attraction) that we’ve done it is not as exciting as if when you going home and tell your family and friends of what you saw and the different things that happened. It makes it very exciting to go on the attraction again. If it is the same old thing and scene, scene, scene, that’s not any fun.”

Ambassador Régis response that this is why after 20 years we are all still wondering. “And that’s why people keep going”

“And while the picture is up here (picture showing of Phantom Manor exterior building) you can see the importance of making it look readable visually. So instead of a sign telling you that is a haunted house we created a look that looked haunted because of the multiple languages here so it was really important to make it speak visually. The great actor Vincent Price by the way, here comes some trivia, Vincent Price provided the scream at the end of the elevator part. He also did the complete narration but we where warned against using it because the felt it was to  American even though it was in French but I think hearing an American accent would have actually been good and if you guys (to the fans) yell enough maybe we can bring that back. (applause) It was the last thing that Vincent Price ever did. And the other trivia thing is, the music was re-orchestrated by a young man who has gone on with fame and fortune, by the name of  John Debney who has gone on doing big motion pictures and it was a beautiful score.”

After this the Ambassadors thanked Tony and the fans did the same with a standing ovation. He was going to take some time to meet fans for pictures and autographs. Many fans wanted to meet him but a busy program forced him to stop early before every fan could meet him. He tried his best, even canceling one meeting but at the end he had to apologize and go as more cancellations where not possible. He mentioned he hated doing this and had hoped to meet everybody, but his filled agenda for today just didn’t allow the extra time. It does show how great Tony is and how much he cares to meet and speak to his many, many fans which all had a fantastic time during this incredible masterclass.

20 Years of Magic & Wonder

Friday, April 13th, 2012

Yesterday Disneyland Paris celebrated its 20th anniversary with regular guests and thousands of fans that had turned out for the occasion. Fans started lining up in front of the park#s gates as early as 2 hours before the official opening time – when the time came around the area between the gates on the right hand side of the entrance and the main doors leading to the lobby of the Disneyland Hotel was already packed. Soon guests were allowed onto Town Square, where they were held for a special opening ceremony featuring speeches (broadcasted on giant screens set up on Twon Square for this occasion), a fly over by two acrobatic planes and a giant flash mob / dance performance by hundreds of cast members on Main Street, U.S.A. After their performance they became a honor guard as guests and fans rushed into the park. While a large number of fans headed straight to the Videopolis to catch the presentation by Imagineer Tony Baxter about the creation of the resort other fans (in particular pin traders and collectors) headed into Frontierland to try to buy the April 12th, 2012 anniversary pin – limited to just 1,000 copies (many fans were turned away as the line apparently was still about 300 guests long when the last pin was sold at the Pueblo Trading Post). Throughout the day special entertainment offerings could be enjoyed as each land featured their very own celebration party with music, dancers and characters. Sounds interesting? DLP.info certainly was on-site for you … so check back later for more detailed news!

Mickey’s Friends Take the Disney Train

Tuesday, April 3rd, 2012

 The well known Disney train is back on “track” to brings the characters around the park to their meet and greet locations. This time’s incarnation name is “Disney’s 20th Anniversary Celebration Train”.

The train’s decoration has changed drastically and has been given a pallet of vivid colors. Yellow, light green, orange, red, blue and more are all screaming “look at me” with this new look. But the train looks fantastic and it draws attention at once. If the train doesn’t make you look then the new catchy song will. It burst out of the Main Street speakers for everybody to enjoy. The song is written by Scott Erickson, a man who already has a nice selection of Disney songs credits.

The train travels from Main Street to the central hub and on to the Castle Stage Area a couple of times during the day. It carries some special guests that are very beloved by the Disney fans and, of course, the children. There is Chip and Dale in the first wagon. They have brought special company, their friend Clarice. In the next wagon Minnie took place. She shares her train wagon with both Donald and Daisy. In the final wagon you’ll see Goofy and Pluto. What a great bunch of characters. Who wouldn’t want to follow that train all the way up to the meeting point?

The character made sure to look their best too with new gear. Inspired by the Disney classic Sorcerer’s Apprentice, they all look fantastic. Mickey must be very happy with the new look of the train. He was there during the press event on the special press tribune looking at it, waving at it and dancing to the music. Mickey had so much fun he even forgot to pose for the camera when the train passed by.

Katy Harris, Disney’s Show Director, said during a special meet up during the press event that they love their train. It is a success with the guests and the children and, although there have already been a couple of incarnations, it is here to stay as it is such a popular and fun Disney attraction.

Make sure to check the “time table” so you won’t miss the train full of Disney celebrities on your next Disneyland Paris visit.

The Disney Dreams! Dinner

Monday, April 2nd, 2012

After yesterday’s official grand premiere with invited guests and media “Disney DREAMS!” tonight saw its first two performances open for all guests of the Disneyland Park. Yes, two performances – anticipating huge interest in particular from local fans a first performance was scheduled for 9:30 pm in addition to the second performance as regularly scheduled for park closure.

Based on the fact that Central Plaza and the top of the Main Street was packed with guests way in advance of the first performance already this sure was a wise decision. About 1,000 holders of the Annual Passport Dream got the opportunity to watch the second performance from the dedicated viewing area usually reserved for guests booking a “Disney Dreams! Dinner Package” at either Walt’s – an American Restaurant (on Main Street U.S.A.) or Silver Spur Steakhouse (in Frontierland). Therefore, today the number of dinner packages was even stricter limited and guests received only tickets for the VIP viewing area for the first performance of “Disney Dreams!”.

The VIP viewing area in question is located on top of the Main Street, stretching from the top entrance of Casey’s Corner all the way up to the beginning of Central Plaza. It encompasses the left half of the Main Street and the according walkway which apparently is supposed to offer viewing space for about 1,000 guests.

It should be noted that the area had filled up (with guests that had booked the dinner package) already more than 30 minutes prior to the performance time today. According to first reports it was packed, but not as tightly as the surrounding area leaving guests enough space to move a bit from side to side to find a good view – without the constant pushing and shoving that many guests had to endure that filled up Central Plaza and the right half of the Main Street, next to the roped of VIP area.

Interested in the food of the dinner package? Take a look at the left which shows the current adult and kids menus for the package at Walt’s – priced at 40 EUR for adults respectively 19.50 EUR for kids. Compared to similar offers of dinner packages for Fantasmic! at Disney’s Hollywood Studios in Walt Disney World or World of Color at Disney’s California Adventure, Anaheim the pricing at Disneyland Paris is reasonable, however, the food selection is limited as well since at this time only two table service restaurants participated in the offering and the capacity of the VIP viewing area is limited.

Please note: due to the space limitation in the viewing area reservations for the dinner package must be made in advance. However, seating times are flexible throughout the evening with the limitation that each restaurant enforces a cut-off time to ensure that its patrons have sufficient time to enjoy the dinner and get to the viewing area in time.

Last resort for direct service to Endor

Monday, April 2nd, 2012

January 9, 1987 Star Tours officially opened regular services between Disneyland, Anaheim and Endor. The successful services with the reliable Starspeeder 3000 (and the maybe a bit less reliable robit captain RX-24, also known as “Rex”) was also added to Tokyo Disneyland on July 12, 1989, Disney’s Hollywood Studios at Walt Disney World on December 15, 1989 and finally Disneyland Paris on April 12, 1992 (where it is one of the opening day attractions).

However, on July 27, 2010 respectively September 7, 2010 the service was discontinued from Anaheim and Orlando as the Starspeeder 3000 was replaced with the Starspeeder 1000 for “Star Tours – The Adventures Continue” that opened on May 20, 2011 at WDW respectively June 3, 2011 at Anaheim. Now, yesterday Star Tours also ceased direct service to Endor from Tokyo Disney, where the new version of Star Tours is expected to open in spring 2013.

This leaves Disneyland Paris as the SOLE space port on planet earth with direct service to Endor operated daily by Star Tours and its fleet of Starspeeders 3000. Flights depart daily throughout the regular operation hours of Disneyland Paris.

At this time there are no rumors whether at all and if so when Disneyland Paris can expect a make-over of its Star Tours attraction. However, to some fans of Star Wars this might also be good news. This puts Star Tours as second entry on a unique list for Disneyland Paris – the list of attractions which only at Disneyland Paris have not received the makeover executed at all other Disney parks. The other entry on that list? Pirates of the Caribbean. As Captain Jack Sparrow has been added to the attraction in Anaheim, Orlando and Tokyo the only version without him is now found at Disneyland Paris.

Meet with Mickey Mouse backstage (updated)

Monday, April 2nd, 2012

As part of the 20th Anniversary celebration Disneyland Paris is providing Mickey Mouse with a new home! Well, it is preparing a new home for Mickey as it isn’t ready yet. Despite the work already going on since last summer the new location for a meet’n'greet with Mickey is unfortunately only set to open later in May.

For this new “Meet Mickey Mouse” experience the former Fantasy Festival Theater is completely reworked. Originally a covered out-door theater for shows featuring the fab five the theater was later enclosed and for several years used as home for the second version of “Winnie the Pooh and friends, too” show. Before its transformation into the new location for a meet’n'greet with Mickey started the theater was only for performances by guest groups as part of the Magic Music Days program.

Differing from his prior meet’n'greet location (which was outdoor) the “Meet Mickey Mouse” experience (including its queue area) is indoors – protected from the weather – and features a themed environment specifically created for it. This setting is inspired by the 1937 color short  ”Magician Mickey” in which Mickey performs in front of an audience of orphans as magician on a big stage. Fans who have visited the Magic Kingdom at Walt Disney World, Orlando, might notice that a similar setting for meet’n'greets with Mickey has been set up there as well.

At “Meet Mickey Mouse” guests are invited into the theater and to go backstage where Mickey will meet them during the breaks in his magic show in his dressing room. When entering the former Fantasy Festival Stage through the right hand doors guests are stepping into the lobby adorned with posters of some of Mickey’s biggest magic tricks. The whole waiting area is designed to be fully wheel chair accessible. It leads guests from the lobby into the actual theater auditorium, where guests will have to wait approximately 45 minutes in switchbacks if the line is at full capacity.

However, during this time guests are entertained by classic Mickey shorts on a large screen placed on the stage. However, Disneyland Paris retained a fully working stage here allowing it to have live performances in here as well. For this purpose the stage is also equipped with three curtains: one rising up, one folding sideways (Italian style) and the final one sliding sideways.

Finally at the front of the auditorium guests will step backstage to see the magic in the making … and meet Mickey. However, in a first step they meet up with the stage manager of the theater – a cast member that takes the guests’ details and sends them through one of supposedly three doors. Behind the door finally Mickey will wait for a close up, personal experience. According to a feature released by Disney’s official fan club D23 online Mickey will even talk to the guests! However, this hasn’t been confirmed by any other source and it should be noted that while a talking Mickey has been tested in meet’n'greet set-ups in the US parks it is not yet a regular feature. Therefore it can not been ruled out that D23 was maybe a bit too fast with their statement.

Even so the experience is not yet fully finished Mickey’s backstage room already looks amazing. There is so much detail the short visit a guest is granted will not be enough to take it all in. There is Mickey’s big traveling trunk with stickers of all the various (Disney) locations he visited, Mickey’s hat from Fantasia, pictures of Mickey and even a very special hidden Mickey. Want a hint how to find it? Take a look in the trunk filled with Magic gadgets. There You’ll see three magic rings interlocked with each other and forming the hidden Mickey.

For those with a keen eye for details and love for the Disney classics there are many more surprises to discover as Mickey seems to have collected magic items from various Disney classics such as the black crow’s feather used to make Dumbo fly. Just before exiting Mickey backstage room guests can spot a book with the magic number 52 on it. 52 certainly stand for the deck of cards, but it also stands for the date when (what is today called) Walt Disney Imagineering was set up.

While meeting Mickey will be the highlight for many guests the magic doesn’t end once guests leave his dressing room. Outside Mickey’s backstage dressing room, still in the backstage area guests will walk an exhibition of some terrifying tools that could be used in some really funily scary magic tricks. There is a saw of death, a big water tank used for escape tricks and even a basket with swords sticking out.

Closer to the exit of the experience, back in the regular front of the house displays will showcase the photo of each guest taken with Mickey by the official photographer backstage (as usual there is no obligation to buy the photo and the photographer is happy to take a photo of the guests and Mickey with the guest’s camera as well for free). According to some hints placed during the 20th Anniversary kick-off event there might be a special message on the boards displaying the photos – but as these have not yet been installed it wasn’t clear yet how this would look like or work.

Continuing the approach by Disneyland Paris to be as inclusive as possible toward disabled guests and disabled cast members one of the counters at which guests can buy a copy of their picture is wheelchair friendly. This means not only that it is accessible without problem by guests in wheelchairs but also that it is set up in a way to allow a cast member seated in a wheelchair to work in the location. After this “shop” area guests exit the theater again back onto the large plaza in front of the Fantasy Festival Stage through the doors on the left of the building.

As already stated it currently looks as if Mickey has three rooms to welcome his guests, however the number four was mentioned during the 20th Anniversary kick-off event as well. We will keep you updated of course and also provide you with photos at a later point. Since the experience is still under construction no photos were allowed at this time.

Guests visiting prior to the opening of the new experience will be able to meet Mickey Mouse in a dedicated setting created in Frontierland on parts of the Cottonwood Creek Ranch (cast members stationed in front of the former Fantasy Festival Stage direct guests to this temporary locationUPDATE: after the kick-off event construction fences were put back in front of the Fantasy Festival Stage and signs were posted directing guests to the temporary meet’n'greet with Mickey on Cottonwood Creek Ranch). In the meantime the former meet’n'greet area of Mickey, in front of the Boarding House on Town Square, has been taken over by Duffy, the Disney Bear, who joined Mickey late last year already.

 

Andy, member of DLP.info, attended the 20th Anniversary kick-off event as invited guest of the resort and was granted a first look into the “Meet Mickey Mouse” experience.

Strike day 2 – but without impact

Monday, April 2nd, 2012

In a follow-up to our (near-live) coverage of the first day of a 48h strike by the four unions CFDT, FO, UNSA and CFTC on Friday we are glad to report that day two of the strike – which was Saturday, the day of the 20th Anniversary kick-off event – doesn’t warrant any major reporting.

While a small group of castmembers congregated in front of the RER / TGV train station early in the morning hours no disruptions of any kind inside the parks were reported by our team members on-site. The event took place without any noticeable impact by the strike, in particular the anticipated premiere of “Disney Magic on Parade”at 3:00 pm took place without the strikers being able to repeat their actions from Friday, when 50 of them were able to achieve a cancellation of the final ever performance of the “Once Upon a Dream Parade” by blocking the parade route in the Main Street. However, regular guests could notice an increased amount of security guards along the parade route in advance of the parade and also during the parade to assure that this first major element of the event would take place without interruption.

Also the second major part of the event took place without any interruption – the evening program consisting of the gala dinner and the grand premiere of the nighttime spectacular ”Disney DREAMS!”.

Steve Davison Meets Disney Fans

Monday, April 2nd, 2012

Fans of the Disney parks always love to hear some of the stories and secrets behind an attraction or show. A the occassion of the kick-off event for the 20th Anniversary celebration of Disneyland Paris selected members of fan operated websites covering the resort online were invited to meet and talk to Imagineer Steve Davison who created the resort’s new nighttime spectacular Disney DREAMS (as reviewed in an earlier post). After introducing the attendants to his work he happily answered questions.

As Steve Davison explained the first time he was approached to create what would eventually become “Disney DREAMS” was over two years ago. Steve Davison revealed that interestingly the first contact concerning him creating a spectacular for Disneyland Paris came from … the marketing department.

The team of Disneyland Paris wanted to create a spectacular using video mapping on the castle – i.e. projecting on the three dimensional surface of the castle turning it into a unique canvas utilizing the actual shape of the castle for added effect. Story-wise one of the first ideas was to have it centered around the concept of “dreaming”. So this corner stone was in place from the very beginning of the creative process. However, they certainly looked also into alternatives, to be specific a total of four concepts were considered.

Not surprisingly Steve Davison didn’t reveal anything specific about these other three concepts. However, he went into detail about the creation of the on concept that made the cut explaining that the idea of using Peter Pan in the story came from seeing his image all around the Disneyland Hotel at Disneyland Paris. The many decorations based on this character inspired him to use him as the main character. The team then developed the idea further up to the point where they decided to choose Peter Pan’s shadow as the main story telling character. However, the various scenes feature numerous additional characters – including Quasimodo who was specifically picked because of the French location. This local aspect is also reflected in the team involved in the creation and execution of the spectacular which included US and French Imagineers – as well as the Pixar crew.

The process to laser map the castle to allow for the creation of the projections for its surface took three months as Steve Davison explained. As the animation was done in the USA. “Disney DREAMS” features a large amount of new, specifically created animation, some of which was handled by the Pixar Studios since it involved their characters – for example Remy from Disney Pixar’s Ratatouille. As far as the dialogue is concerned the team ventured to as many performances as possible by the original voice actors. For some parts they were able to repurpose old recordings after research in the studios’ archives while other parts were newly recorded specifically for the spectacular.

The completed sequences were then tested on a 3 meter replica of the castle erected in California. Differing from past projections on DLP’s castle for “Disney DREAMS” the projections are not only limited to the castle’s front but also wrap around the sides. This opens up whole different perspectives when watching the spectacular from different angles.

Compared to the firework displays featured at Disneyland Paris since opening day “Disney DREAMS” allows to keep a larger part of the park open during the night (as there is only much more limited security perimeter required). This also means that guests will not need to be pushed as far back over the Central Plaza into the Main Street creating more viewing space allowing up to 15,000 guests to enjoy the spectacular from various viewing areas –  even from the sides of the castle. While weather conditions could impact the spectacular they do not necessarily result in cancellations – not even in case of high winds. Instead these might only force the team on-site for the performance to stop the use of fireworks – but the spectacular could still go on featuring all other elements which still provide a magical experience to guests. Speaking of viewing points – Central Plaza certainly will be a prime spot. Steve Davison told the attendants that he specifically requested the stage placed in the center of the hub to be removed.

The unique setting for “Disney DREAMS” on and around the castle with the inclusion of specifically installed water fountains in the castle’s moat certainly created unique challenges. And as in every project of this scope not every vision can be executed in the end. For example the idea of projection on the water fountains from the back and the front was dropped as it was impossible to get them fit into each other as the water was always moving differently depending on wind and weather conditions. While it would have added an extra dimension, they had at some point to admit that it just didn’t work out.

As “World of Color” created by Steve Davison for Disney’s California adventure “Disney DREAMS” can be changed depending on the seasons. For example a new sequence could be added for the Halloween or the Christmas season. Although creating these might take a while, swapping them in once they are ready can be done with a push of a button. This allows the resort to run one version of the spectacular in the first night and a different version the following night.

The mix of various different (technical) elements also required the installation of various new equipment on and around the castle and the hub area. Some of that equipment is still visible at the moment or only temporarily covered at the moment during daytime. However, the plans call for all equipment to be themed / covered / hidden during daytime to limit the intrusion as far as possible and retain the magical views. Steve Davison emphasized that these plans are still moving ahead and everything should be hidden well in a couple of weeks.

Furthermore, some of the equipment will also be used for entertainment offerings besides “Disney DREAMS”. In particular the fountains in the moat are already programmed to present several times daily a little fountain show featuring music from the Disney Princess movies – in fact guests can already enjoy this experience since Saturday March 31st.

Even before the grand premiere speculations appeared online whether the spectacular might be copied for Tokyo Disneyland since executives of the Japanese resort visited Disneyland Paris recently – but Steve Davison was able to solve that mystery with one (or two) short sentences: NO. While they looked at the spectacular they will not get their own version. However, a new parade for Tokyo Disney is in the works – and their visit was related to that project.

Disney Magic on Parade!

Sunday, April 1st, 2012

As part of the kick-off event for the 20th Anniversary celebration of Disneyland Paris the new daytime parade of the Disneyland Park also had its official premiere after several soft-opening performances during the past weekend.

Borrowing a leaf from the concepts of Tokyo Disneyland the new “Disney Magic on Parade!” at the core could also be described as a new, updated incarnation of the popular “Once Upon a Dream Parade” that premiered as part of the resort’s 15th anniversary celebration.

The first difference that guests will notice (besides the new name certainly) is the new song of the parade. The theme titled “Magic Everywhere” is played in a continuous loop for the whole parade. In other words: there is no float specific music anymore or any instrumental pieces between the song.

Side note: at this time the song is not yet available for purchase at the resort, however, the resort is preparing a CD release that can be expected to hit the shelves soon. Unfortunately technical difficulties delayed the release which management had hoped to have available in time for the parade’s premiere.

The parade opens with the three fairies from Sleeping Beauty “floating” along the parade route in front of a new opening float featuring the highest turret of Sleeping Beauty Castle from Disneyland Paris stretching out of the turned pages of a fairy tale book. Fittingly titled “Making Magic” and featuring such magic creating characters as the Blue Fairy (from Disney’s Pinocchio), the Godmother (from Disney’s Cinderella) and Merlin (from Disney’s Sword in the Stone).

Following this large scale float are three “horse drawn carriages” with Snow White, Cinderella and Sleeping Beauty with the respective princes that hold the reigns of the elegant horses. These smaller, whimsical floats are all new additions created for “Disney Magic on Parade!” and feature dedicated decorations fitting the princess that is seated in the according carriage. Also take a close look and note the subtle differences in the horses, in particular their articulated faces.

Following the “Princess Carriages” is the first float that regular guests will still remember from the “Once Upon a Dream Parade” – now called “Magic of Romance”. Still featured on the float are Ariel and Prince Eric above the waterfall. On the downward slopping section behind them (formerly unused) now Tiana and Prince Naveen are standing (which used to be one the final float of the “Once Upon a Dream Parade”, where they replaced Belle and the Beast). The spot of Jasmine on the swing has been taken over by Rapunzel with Flynn standing besides here. This also means that Aladdin and Jasmine are no longer part of the parade (as are Belle and the Beast who in the last version of Once Upon a Dream walked between this float and the final float). Going with the new set of Disney princesses on this float some redecorating has taken place here as well.

However, the next four floats are nearly unchanged from the prior parade – they are now called “Magic of Laughter & Fun” featuring Alice and Pinocchio, “Magic of Friendship” featuring Winnie the Pooh and the gang of Disney Pixar’s Toy Story, “Magic of Adventure” featuring the casts of The Lion King as well as Disney’s Jungle Book and finally “Magic of Fantasy” featuring Peter Pan, Captain Hook and Mary Poppins with Bert.

These floats are still as impressive and detail rich as when they first premiered enchanting guests with ease. They underwent some minor changes, e.g. the addition of little flags  with “20″ on them designed to fit into each float’s setting. Unfortunately the aerial artists on the Pinocchio float are gone now replaced with large puppets on a string (but first time guests won’t even notice).

Also there have been some changes concerning the characters featured, e.g. Wendy has left Peter Pan alone with Captain Hook on his pirate ship (in the past she was on it with Peter Pan, while the captain had to walk in front of it) and Gepetto has now replaced Pinocchip on the float as Pinicchio has joined the dancers in front of the float – who received new costumes just as some of the dancers at the other floats as well, such as the bumblebees behind the float “Magic of Friendship”.

Before the grand finale of the parade one more change will hit many long time fans of the “Once Upon a Dream Parade” hard: the spectacular float featuring the Disney villains, titled “Dreams of Power” is no longer part of the parade. However, maybe we will see a return of the float in the future – say during a Halloween season. But again, this change will only be noticed by long time fans, not first time guests.

On to the grand finale … before the spectacular oversized float “Magic Everywhere” rolls in sight dancers in colorful costumes swoop along the parade route followed by a group of glittering magicians (or witches) that are floating along adding unique grace to their movements befitting the magical theme of the parade.

So who is still missing from the parade? Certainly Mickey and his friends – and they are the stars on the re-envisioned float that was home to the classic Disney Princesses as “Dreams of Romance: Finale” in the prior parade. The float now features a glimmering, blue paint job. In the gazebo at the front of the float (originally home of Belle and the Beast, then of Tiana and Prince Naveen) Minnie and Donald stand in their new costumes for the 20th Anniversary.

The bridge (now adorned with a big twenty at the highest point ) is now home to Chip’n'Dale, while Goofy and Duffy, the Disney Bear have taken over the place on top of what used to be the little hill in the back of the float and is now a magical rock. This is the first time that Duffy is featured in a non-seasonal parade at Disneyland Paris. His only other parade performance before was in the “Dreams of Christmas” segment added to the “Once Upon a Dream Parade” seasonally. For this occasion Duffy received a special outfit in the style of the 20th Anniversary costumes worn by Donald, Minnie, Chip’n'Dale, Goofy and Mickey.

Speaking of Mickey … behind Goofy and Duffy the rock climbs high up into the sky in a new addition to the float with brooms holding water buckets lining up on the sides. On top of this scene inspired by “The Sorcerer’s Apprentice” from Disney’s Fantasia stands Mickey in his astonishing 20th Anniversary Sorcerer costume waving his magical spell over the guests.

This certainly is the highlight of the parade – but there is one little extra, so guests shouldn’t leave the parade route too early. Fans might still remember the cute little baby dragon seated in the back of the float originally. Well, bad news: he is gone. Good news: in his place now Tinkerbell is seated waving toward the guests along the parade route and those following the parade (during one of the soft openings she had been replaced by Donald, but at the official premiere, she was back in her new place).

With its catch pop theme song, the already popular detail rich floats from the “Once Upon a Dream Parade”, a new opening unit, the new Princess’ Carriages and in particular the stunning “Magic Everywhere” finale featuring Mickey and his friends the parade won the audience over in a whim during its official premiere and can be expected to do so for many more performances. For the park’s fans “Disney Magic on Parade” re-envisions the prior parade making them marvel once again by adding new magic to beloved features. Fans of the Fab Five will in particular love the grand finale that places Mickey in his rightful spot – and in a visually amazing setting. True Disney magic.

Don’t forget: there are ADDITIONAL PHOTOS in our earlier post of first impressions from the parade’s premiere!

Disney DREAMS Premiere

Sunday, April 1st, 2012

On Saturday March 31st Disneyland Paris officially kicked-off its 20th Anniversary celebration including the premiere of the new “Disney Magic on Parade!”. However, the highlight of the event certainly was the grand premiere of the new nighttime spectacular “Disney DREAMS”.

To bridge the gap between the daytime program and the premiere of the nighttime spectacular the invited guests attend a gala dinner in the convention tent next to Lake Disney. After the dinner guest were treated to a “review” of 20 years of Disney magic in the making. The video presentation featured photos from various construction sites from the past all over the resort and every new attraction or show that opened during the first 20 years of Disneyland Paris. After this “history lesson” current CEO Philippe Gass welcomed the guests on Town Square. promising a stunning evening with a fantastic new spectacular.

As the invited guests walked down the Main Street to claim their spot on Central Plaza for Disney DREAMS one could feel the anticipation grow even further – especially since as word already spread that cast members who attended the special cast member preview on Thursday night had been amazed by the spectacular and greeted it with thunderous applause and cheers.

Soon enough the lights went down … the guests fell silent … and … the castle would slowly light up with colourful patterns and magical pictures, fireworks erupt from the castle and the all new soundtrack featuring famous Disney melodies and songs filled the air (additional loudspeakers were added around Central Plaza not just for the event but for the regular performances of Disney DREAMS as well).

As the first water screens rise up guest are introduced (or one could say: re-introduced) to the main character featured in the story: Peter Pan (speaking English) who is then joined by Wendy (speaking French). However, some might call the Sleeping Beauty Castle the main character of the spectacular as it is a stunning canvas that the Imagineers under the leadership of Steve Davison painted the magic on.

As Peter Pan is calling out for Tinkerbell to help out with some pixie dust form wendy he is surprised by the playfulness of his shadow. Trying to get away from him Peter Pan’s shadow is knocking the magic out of the famous second star to the right and is spreading it all over the castle – and thereby setting up the main element of the storyline for the spectacular as Peter Pan’s shadow then travels through the settings of various Disney movies that are appearing thanks to the magic of the Second Star to the Right that has covered the castle.

— SPOILER WARNING … the following paragraphs describes details of Disney DREAMS!

The shadow of Peter Pan first meets Lumiere (from Disney’s Beauty and the Beast) who sets an up-beat mood with a performance of “C’est la fête” (the French version of “Be Our Guest”). As his journey through the magical worlds of Disney continues in the spectacular Peter Pan’s shadow gets to meet many more characters including Remy (from Disney Pixar Ratatouille), Quasimodo (from Disney’s Hunchback of Notre Dame – and star of the resort’s 5th anniversary celebration), Mary Poppins, the cast of Disney’s Jungle Book, Rapunzel (from Disney’s Tangled) and of course a selection of Disney villains.

The beauty of the show however is how the story is told through a unique combination of various elements. Foremost there are the high definition projections of the characters and specially animated scenes on the castle as well as on water screens. However the spectacular is also featuring fountains shooting high up from the castle’s moat, fireworks around the castle as well as on the castle itself, flames errupting from the castle walls and the surrounding area, light and laser effect and of course last but not least a wonderful new musical score.

By combining the various elements – most of them never seen at Disneyland Paris in this setting before or greatly improved – Steve Davison and his team have created a whole new experiences that continues to surprise over and over again throughout the approximate 20 minutes the spectacular lasts. In one scene the effects even give the illusion of the castle moving side to side – simply amazing.

Peter Pan was the right choice as the story’s main characrer, or – to be more correct – his shadow was as jumps from scene to scene and even takes a short flight on a magical carpet. Many of the show pieces have a real wow factor and got immediate reactions from the guests attending the grand premiere. From the first second on the spectacular captures the attention of its audience fully – no matter the age of the guests. Some of the highlights among the scenes – of which there are too many to mention them all – are the appearance of Remy (as he looks amazing), Quasimodo jumping around the Notre Dame (which is simply breathtaking), the waterfalls projections covering down the castle, the mechanical “steam-punk” creation engulfing all visible sides of the castle or the fire shooting up the walls of the castle.

It’s important to understand that it is not a fireworks display, but that the firework is used as one of many elements to enhance a true Disney spectacular. Fireworks and fireworks effects are utilized in many scenes, but they are designed not to be the center piece but to support the spectacular and in particular the projections of animated scenes based on the beloved Disney classics on the canvas, that is known during the day as “the castle”. However, the spectacular also is not “just a movie projection”, neither is it a fountain show. In the end Disney DREAMS is a magical spectacular of its own kind.

There is so much going on in this nighttime spectacular, and a spectacular it is, that it is simply impossible to see it all on the first time. This experience will keep guests inside the park and will keep them coming back to see it again and again. It’s a fantastic spectacular that will put a smile on many guests faces and that will be remembered for a long time. In other words: a fantastic job done by a fantastic group of Imagineers who worked very hard to make sure that Disneyland Paris would get nothing but the best.

 

Andy, member of DLP.info, attended the event as invited guest of the resort.

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