Don’t have kids under seven? At last, Disneyland Paris cares about you. Titled “Jen’s Surprise Week-end”, a new video posted without fanfare to the official Disneyland Paris YouTube channel sees a young British couple exploring the resort on a “romantic getaway” with the surprising closing tagline: also for grown up kids.
Watch the new 2 min 30 video below…
Filmed almost entirely from a first-person perspective, the video sees “Jen” being treated by her boyfriend to a surprise weekend at Disneyland Paris. The twenty-somethings arrive by train at Disneyland Hotel, ride Indiana Jones et le Temple du Péril, find their way through Alice’s Curious Labyrinth, sing along to “it’s a small world”, scream on The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror, eat candyfloss, work out the difference between Chip and Dale and even watch Disney Dreams! from a balcony of the exclusive Founders Club.
The promo is a follow-up to the incredibly popular Bad Boys at Disneyland Paris video, which launched in June and has since amassed over 4 million YouTube views, making it the most popular video both on the Disneyland Paris channel and for any video tagged “disneyland paris”.
Where that video began with its unusual subjects apathetic to the idea of a Disneyland Paris holiday — “why would we want to go to Disneyland?” — this new marketing work is thankfully warmer from the start, more like “why wouldn’t we want to go?”, with the couple providing a template for the fun any other couple could have at the resort.
There’s even a new page of the official website, titled “Grown-ups can also enjoy a lifetime of fun”, detailing the kinds of activities which might appeal to “Disney Adults”.
Some might baulk at the picture-perfectness of the good-looking couple; their impossibly chic home, their Disneyland Hotel budget, the fact that a personal video of their surprise holiday has somehow ended up on the official Disneyland Paris channel. It’s certainly contrived, and yet it’s impossible not to be overjoyed to find it there.
Not only does the video address a foolishly overlooked market for older visitors without children, it shows the general experience of a Disneyland Paris holiday — hotels, attractions, entertainment — in a way the resort all to often completely fails to present in its usual overly-computer generated, character-filled and child-focused promotions.
The irony of it all is that the idea “Disneyland is just for kids”, which this campaign tries to displace, is one implanted by Disneyland Paris itself through years of such advertising.
Even these two videos feel like a side project rather than part of their core marketing, but hopefully it’s only the beginning. With visitor numbers declining and families strapped for cash, they simply can’t play to a single audience of “Disney families” any more. These promos feel like we’re seeing the resort in a genuinely fresh and engaging way.
As Walt Disney said in one of his greatest mottos, “You’re dead if you aim only for kids. Adults are only kids grown up, anyway.”
Sonia Demay and Romina Grochow will be the Disneyland Paris Ambassadors for 2015 and 2016, as announced during a special public ceremony at Videopolis Theatre on Friday. Chosen from ten semi-finalists by means of a democratic vote, they saw off competition from fellow finalists Anthony Houdinet and Rut Sospedra, in the programme which awards Ambassador roles to high-achieving Cast Members from across the resort.
Assuming their Ambassador titles from 1st January 2015, this will mark the first female pair of Disneyland Paris Ambassadors, following three male-female pairings and an all-male leadership since the programme began appointing two Ambassadors in 2007.
Sonia and Romina are the 22nd and 23rd Ambassadors of the Parisian resort. For the next two years, they will represent the resort and its Cast Members in a wide range of duties including special events and community outreach programmes.
The official Disneyland Paris News blog provides profiles for both:
Sonia Demay (Product Manager – Product Development Department)
Native of Trinidad and Tobago and 40 years old, Sonia is the mother of three children. After studying foreign languages and communication, Sonia started her career in 2004 at The Walt Disney Company, before joining Disneyland Paris in 2008 as Product Manager at Product Development Department. With her team, she is in charge of product development of stationery, phone accessories and media items. For the Disney’s Halloween Festival, she was “particularly pride to contribute in producing the new line, Pop the Villains”. Committed to the values of sharing and diversity dear to Walt Disney, she wants to turn forward them during his mission.
Romina Grochow (1st receptionist – Castle Club)
Born in Frankfurt, Germany, Romina came to Disneyland Paris in 2005, just after obtention of her high school diploma, for a few months’ experience. She began by working in Merchandise team at Disney Village and continued in 2007 at the Disneyland Hotel reception to “deepen her skills in customer relations” and be closer to the theme parks. To continue her studies, she then returned to Germany for three-years of coursework in translation. Since 2012, she is working in the Castle Club. She was awarded as the third best receptionist in France in 2013. At 28, Romina explains that “it is the complicity between the Cast Members and especially the fact of representing the values and legacy of Walt Disney” which motivated to run for the position of Disneyland Paris Ambassador. This precious attention will now accompany her for the next two years.
Friday’s event saw the commemoration of 50 Years of the Disney Ambassador programme, with vintage video clips alongside a “best wishes” montage to the finalists from worldwide ambassadors and a highlights video for the current ambassadors, Antonella Giallombardo and Jonathan Rabeute, who finish their roles at the end of the year.
It also marked the first public appearance of Tom Wolber in his new role as Président of Euro Disney S.A.S., leading Disneyland Paris. Speaking in both French and English, Wolber said it was an honour to be back at “this great park” after 20 years away.
The ceremony, based around a Ratatouille theme, also saw a welcome reappearance of the hilariously overplayed Linguine face character first seen at the Ratatouille Grand Opening events earlier this year. Linguine for 2017-2018 ambassador..? No?
Keep reading for videos from the Disneyland Paris Ambassadors event… CONTINUE READING…
Yesterday’s big news day for Disneyland Paris and its operating company Euro Disney S.C.A. saw the Parisian Disney resort make financial headlines again, as news organisations around the world seized the chance to see “Mickey Mouse in trouble” and struggled, like us, to get their heads around the finer financial details of the deal.
Some articles, of course, peddled the same tired old “cultural Chernobyl” quotes, stories that the French were originally put off by “a ban on alcohol sales” (The Telegraph) and continued to mistake “Euro Disney” as the brand name of the destination rather than the company — a name it now hasn’t held in over 20 years. Oh, and don’t forget the classic gaffe: that photo of a different resort’s castle.
Variety at least got that right with a photo of Bob Iger at the Ratatouille grand opening (while pinning Tom Staggs, chairman of Walt Disney Parks and Resorts, as his potential successor as Disney CEO) and included the statement from new Euro Disney CEO Tom Wolber: “The ongoing economic challenges in Europe and our debt burden have significantly decreased operating revenues and liquidity.” At last, Euro Disney doesn’t speak innocently of the “economic landscape” but of their own longstanding problems.
It’s the breadth of news coverage that’s surprising, and that Disneyland Paris appeared so high up the agenda for many of these. Google News lists over 270 articles, most eschewing the word “recapitalisation” for “bailout” or “rescue plan” including BBC News, New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, Reuters and the -ahem- Grimsby Telegraph, who asked “Is Disneyland Paris losing its magic?”.
Though the intention of yesterday’s proposal is to give Disneyland Paris more freedom to improve itself, we have to hope such coverage hasn’t set the public’s impression of the destination back further.
The Guardian‘s later article includes some key words from Euro Disney’s financial chief Mark Stead that even have great interest for us fans. Stead is quoted as saying “the company’s €1.75bn debt burden had become so overwhelming it could not afford to keep the park looking sharp and fresh, let alone invest in blockbuster rides to compete against the theme parks of Florida.”
On the future, Stead offered hope — especially to the strong rumours of a major refresh programme for classic Disneyland Park attractions:
“We need to get away from tired-looking assets and make them look new,” Stead said. “We need to be ready for the 25th anniversary in 2017.”
He said the park would bring in more Disney characters and trademarks, although new blockbuster rides were unlikely. […]
Stead said: “We will be revamping attractions, bringing in new ride technology [and] new ride experiences. The look and feel will completely change. We hope to take technology from US parks and bring it here. We wanted to [do that in the past] and we needed to do that, but we haven’t had the financial flexibility to do so.”
That’s just about the first official line we’ve had pointing to the rumoured enhancement of those attractions, which should include Space Mountain: Mission 2, Phantom Manor and Pirates of the Caribbean, not to mention a 25th Anniversary celebration.
Less encouraging for the company are the thoughts of outspoken former Vice President of Park Operations, Pierre-Yves Gerbeau, who is quoted as saying Euro Disney management “had ‘fallen asleep at the wheel’ and failed to keep up with technical innovations and consumers’ diverging interests.”
“They’ve been running that place since we left pretty much on autopilot. You walk around and it hasn’t been maintained properly, it looks outdated and tatty. It needs a proper shakeup both in leadership and strategy,” he said.
“The customers are more sophisticated, more focused on how to spend their money and their time and [management] haven’t kept up with that. Every other service business has reinvented itself to attract more customers. That theme park hasn’t.”
Rupert Neate and Sean Farrell writing for the Guardian make one absurd statement, however, that Ratatouille: L’Aventure Totalement Toquée de Rémy has been poorly received. Did they miss the strong reviews from the normally apathetic French press, visits from the Paris mayor and lengthy daily queues?
Its latest €150m attraction, Ratatouille: The Adventure, which is based on the 2007 film about a rat who dreams of becoming a top chef, opened in July to less than rave reviews.
The statement is even more bizarre given the Guardian are running a piece alongside titled ‘Can Ratatouille rescue Disneyland Paris?’, for which author Anne Penketh apparently lingered around the park gates angling for quotes.
What did she find? “The Dubiez family said they particularly enjoyed Ratatouille: The Adventure, based on the animated film.”
Indeed, most of this sentiment in the press seems behind the times. Ratatouille and its sumptuous mini-land is more like a resuscitation than a rescue attempt; Euro Disney has pretty much been on dry land and planning for the future since The Walt Disney Company refinanced its debt in 2012. But that doesn’t make a great headline.
Euro Disney S.C.A. has today announced a proposal to improve the financial situation of the operating group behind Disneyland Paris, backed by The Walt Disney Company, to “enable it to continue investing in the quality of the guest experience”. It feels like we’re been here before (several times), so what’s new this time?
Four very important words, for a start: The Walt Disney Company. Since Disney refinanced the resort’s debt two years ago, the mouse house has no doubt been taking a far closer audit of how it might ever work Disneyland Paris to clear that debt, and then start bringing profits into the company’s coffers. Today’s announcement seems at once an admission of defeat and a statement of belief.
Contrary to usual frenzied speculation before the announcement, Disneyland Paris won’t close. But it also isn’t (necessarily) getting a “Disney California Adventure-style” billion-dollar investment in its parks. While The Walt Disney Company must surely believe the resort can work, it is admitting the long-standing debt situation is simply unworkable.
The headline one billion euros of this proposal actually boils down to a “cash infusion” of €420 million and the conversion of €600 million of debt owed to Disney into equity.
The proposal also includes deferring loan payments until a revised maturity date and consolidating existing lines of credit from Disney.
Of most importance for existing shareholders, the cash infusion would include a €351 million rights offering backed by Disney, at a subscription price of 1.00 euro per share, allowing shareholders to “participate alongside Disney” in the capital increase, at the same price. Saudi prince Al-Waleed bin Talal who currently owns 10 percent of the company has not yet decided whether to subscribe, according to Reuters, so we could even potentially see a change to those long-standing percentages behind Euro Disney (for reference, The Walt Disney Company owns 39.78%).
Mark Stead, Chief Financial Officer, discusses the proposal in this video…
And the outcome? Euro Disney states the proposal would improve the “cash position” of the group by approximately €250 million and improve the groups “liquidity” through interest savings and deferral of loan payments.
A spectacular headline figure, though, even if the rest of this goes over the top of our heads, is that the group’s overall “indebtedness” would be reduced from over €1.7 billion of debt to a less precipitous €998 million. In simple terms, that changes it from something which, given the resort’s current financial results, seems completely, impossibly unachievable, to a figure that could, at last, be managed by the resort’s revenues.
Those results, meanwhile, continue to disappoint — though not as disastrously as it first sounded overnight. According to figures in today’s release, Fiscal Year 2014 looks set to see hotel occupancy settle between 75 and 76%, versus 79.3% last year, with roughly flat spending per room and only a marginal increase to spending per guest.
Park attendance will be reported at between 14.1 and 14.2 million. Not an horrendous drop on the 14.9 million last year, and only benefitting from three months of the new Ratatouille attraction which opened in July, but still highlighting problems with the resort’s product offer this year. Was it a wise decision not to advertise the Spring season in advance after all, and leave the year from January to late June effectively devoid of any reason to visit? And though Ratatouille opened strongly, was this development teased enough in advance, to actually build anticipation (and advance bookings) from regular guests? Lessons continue to be learned the hard way in Paris.
What’s new, then, is that the group now has just about the best lender it could dream of in The Walt Disney Company. Disney doesn’t want interest payments, it wants royalty payments, and for the debt to not exist. Two years after assuming that debt from the French banks, which made it so hard for Euro Disney to invest, this is the next stage to finally move the resort forward from 20 years of crippling financial stagnation.
What’s next will be the more difficult question. This proposal would certainly very quickly free up more money to spend on the parks and resorts, though it sounds like it will initially be in a hundreds-of-millions range rather than a billion-dollar overhaul. Enough to get them through the 25th Anniversary perhaps.
More important than a single lump sum could be the greater ongoing financial freedom, and what they spend on. With The Walt Disney Company now breathing down the neck of the resort, we can hope that future developments will be better considered and better leveraged to the resort’s advantage, not to mention more forthcoming.
Given the spiralling occupancy rates, a more serious and immediate plan for the Disney Hotels needs to be put into place, considering not just refurbishments but pricing and expansion. Refurbishments across the resort must continue apace, so that the Disney quality matches the Disney price tag. For Walt Disney Studios Park, perhaps it’s finally time to start thinking (and more importantly, building) longterm. It shouldn’t have to just be about dropping in box-ticking attractions any more. What do they want this park to be? How can they make what they’ve already got work better?
But an important final consideration: the word proposal. Euro Disney doesn’t have more money in its wallet today, nor has it seen almost half its debt wiped off the slate today. This proposal will need to pass both the Workers’ Council and Shareholders’ Approval. It seems unlikely to fall at either hurdle, but even then it will be the first half of the 2015 calendar year before things start moving.
And not 20 years too soon.
Mickey’s Halloween Celebration began its second season yesterday with a brand new float — the previously revealed “Raise the Rafters” barnyard number.
Alongside character rarity Clarabelle Cow, the Disney’s Halloween Festival parade now also has another unusual addition from 1930s Disney cartoon shorts: her boyfriend, Horace Horsecollar, seen for the first time at Disneyland Paris.
The Three Little Pigs, themselves originating in Disney legacy from 1933, occupy the blue and purple barn on the float, pictured here by DisneylandBerry, with ochre leaves covering the base. Fun details include an owl, a black cat and a spider falling from the rafters.
Colourful toadstools sprout from the rear of the new float, which is followed by a new unit of oddly beautiful mushroom dancers, to add to the many other weird and wonderful costumes seen in this relatively short cavalcade, performed three times daily.
Sandwiched between the Duck-filled opening float and Mickey and Minnie’s final unit, the new float expands this small parade further into an even more worthwhile, top quality seasonal addition. Will they stop here? Hopefully not — even though this probably won’t ever become a full-length parade, there’s surely scope to expand it a little further and certainly a rich back-catalogue of Disney barnyard characters to rediscover.
Watch a video of yesterday’s first performances by DLP Welcome below…
It’s true after all that Aristocats are “never found in alleyways or hanging round the garbage cans”… For the duration of Disney’s Halloween Festival, Marie the cat is making her debut for daily scheduled Disneyland Paris meet ‘n’ greets, sharing the Boarding House location on Main Street, U.S.A. with Winnie the Pooh.
This will no doubt be exciting news for character hunters who missed her previous appearance on Valentine’s Day in 2013, alongside siblings Berlioz and Toulouse. In fact, the high-class kittens have mostly been retained for private events until now, such as when a certain Saudi prince then reportedly celebrated his graduation by spending 15 million euros on a three-day character extravaganza.
The resurgent popularly of The Aristocats now sees Marie meeting guests in Magic Kingdom, Florida and Tokyo DisneySea. Berlioz and Toulouse
have yet to make wider appearances. (Correction: They can be seen in the Tokyo parade Happiness is Here)
Paris is a natural fit given the French location of the film, even if Main Street and the Halloween festival aren’t. Nevertheless, she wears orange for the season and is more interesting for visitors than a certain Disney Bear in this spot any day.
Taking turns with Winnie the Pooh, dressed up for Halloween, the pair have their own smart sign to clearly tell guests which characters are appearing and when.
The “new” Maleficent Disney Villains Promenade isn’t really that new: yet that certainly isn’t a complaint. As speculated, the daily Disney’s Halloween Festival event has seen the return of the mighty “Dreams of Power“ float to the Disneyland Park parade route, forming the main feature of this character procession from Fantasyland to the drawbridge of Le Château de la Belle au Bois Dormant on Central Plaza.
Last seen as part of Disney’s Once Upon a Dream Parade, the float was retained in storage when that 15th Anniversary parade was made-over for the 20th Anniversary‘s Disney Magic on Parade!. Despite being one of the best units in the original 2007 parade, it was perhaps deemed unfitting for the “Magic Everywhere” 2012 revision.
Now, the sorely-missed float is back for one month only, complete with its original star, Maleficent — though she doesn’t wear the same stunning, original and fiery creation as in the earlier parade (below).
Joining alongside for its welcome return are villains including Captain Hook, Jafar, Gaston, Claude Frollo and Cruella De Vil. Snow White’s Evil Queen, who stood beside the cauldron on the float, is now on the ground too; allowing her to gather with the rest of the “gang” in front of the castle for a photo opportunity.
Featured on the float itself are moveable puppets of Scar and Ursula, controlled from an operator within the float, plus static models of Hades, snake Jafar and Fantasia‘s Chernabog atop the spewing volcano.
The Maleficent Disney Villains Promenade takes place at 10.30am daily.
Update — French fansite DLP Welcome has posted one of the first videos, below… CONTINUE READING…
Works completed with just a day to spare, turning the space behind Sleeping Beauty Castle into a foreboding centrepiece for the Halloween “Gang” of Disney Villains to meet and greet guests. The usual Sword in the Stone at its heart has been completely concealed, with clever décor giving the impression that its stone walls have been warped and entangled by the spiny green briars.
Towering over 30ft high, the decoration is in fact an embodiment of Maleficent’s dragon alter-ego — look closely at the pictures by InsideDLParis below and you might spot the sharp jaw line, twisted horns and neck bending down towards visitors.
Even without Disney Villains surrounding it, the feature has already become an impressive photo opportunity for Disneyland Paris photographers. Already we’ve seen it captured as a tangled mess through the archways of the castle (by Radio Disney Club, top) or juxtaposed with the towers of Le Château itself, in a way we’ve never before seen Fantasyland in over 20 years (by DisneylandBerry, below).
Besides a new float for Mickey’s Halloween Celebration, this is perhaps the biggest “new” element of Disney’s Halloween Festival in 2014. It’s a real delight to see this festival continue to go from strength to strength, becoming not just more impressive but ever more fitting within the park’s lands themselves.
Update — The Disney Villains make their first appearances around the Maleficent’s Court briar, which seems to be gently erupting smoke, in a photo by DisneylandBerry:
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