New this year, the briar patch of Maleficent’s Court is about to take shape on Castle Courtyard in Fantasyland. The square behind Le Château de la Belle au Bois Dormant, normally home to the Sword in the Stone, will play host to the gang of Disney Villains for Disney’s Halloween Festival, meeting guests beside an enormous bramble sculpture.
The Earffel Tower, icon of Walt Disney Studios Park, will soon have a brand new face. As part of a general (and as we seem to always say, much-needed) refurbishment of the water tower in the Front Lot entrance of the park, the opportunity is also being taken to replace the original 2002 “filmstrip” logo with a new-look design.
Based on current progress, the “new” logo appears to have more classic, maroon red-coloured lettering with a simple black outline on a plain background. Without doubt the look has the potential to be much more 1930s in style, boding well for any future changes to the entrance of the park, which lacks any definable time period setting.
In terms of its actual typeface and size, the logo is similar if not identical to before, with only the “Walt Disney” letters flattened out from their wavy design following the filmstrip in the original, which used a modern palette of blue, yellow and red. The typeface, similar to ITC Anna, remains the same as seen around the area, including lettering on Disney Studio 1.
For Walt Disney Studios Park, it’s a wise and very welcome decision to come up with a logo design unique to the very prominent Earffel Tower.
The 2002 logo was created primarily for the promotion of the park in brochures and park guides, not to provide any kind of thematic detail within the park itself. Until now, adorned with just the standard modern park logo, the famous water tower hasn’t actually felt part of a specific period or place you’re being transported to. After all, you don’t see the garish pink Disneyland Park marketing logo on the entrance to that park.
Over in Florida, the Earful Tower remains somewhat hidden away at the back of the park, so less important thematically, though it too had a recent rebranding with the name change from Disney-MGM Studios to Disney’s Hollywood Studios.
Decorations arriving in the two Disneyland Park lands look broadly similar to recent years, following the festival’s gradual reinvention from 2010 onwards.
Today’s latest photos by InsideDLParis show the ghosts introduced to Main Street in 2012 returning with modest changes. Unlike the Pumpkinmen, who from 2003 painted the street orange with complete disregard for its storyline, one of the best things about the popular ghosts is that they reference numerous Main Street locations — including the Dr Bitz Dental School on Town Square, below.
Plenty of banners and “funky pumpkins” are already present, too.
Over in Frontierland, the Pumpkinmen actually had a slight reprieve, returning as “Harvest Festival” decorations alongside sunflower bunting and softer autumn colours. Their slightly menacing, jagged grins these days replaced by softer smiles, their context here is much more fitting than Main Street, even if the way some are bolted to the ground on large visible plates still seems a little “un-Disney”.
A minor revision in Frontierland sees the banners changed from orange and yellow to orange and black, as in Main Street.
One bigger change for 2014 is the scene on Royal Castle Stage. Previously briefly home to Mickey’s Halloween Treat in the Street show, now superseded by Mickey’s Halloween Celebration parade, the unused Le Théâtre du Château has lost its giant Mickey Mouse-shaped pumpkin, replaced by a smaller sunflower centrepiece.
The green vines entwining its towers have also yet to return, so it looks likely, without any show to present, that the stage overlay will now remain more low-key.
The introduction of a more “Harvest” style of spookiness is perhaps in line with rumours that Disneyland Paris will look to extend the Halloween season in coming years, perhaps having it begin earlier in September. Helping to spread the popularity of the season into an otherwise empty month, this would also support plans to invest more in new and better annual seasons, such as Swing into Spring, in favour of tiresome year-long “non-festivals” such as 2011’s Disney Magical Moments Festival.
Disneyland Paris has trialled a live Frozen sing-along event at the indoor Videopolis Theatre in Discoveryland. Taking place five times daily only this past weekend on 13th and 14th September, the 18-minute show — of sorts — saw a duo of live hosts take to the stage and encourage the audience to sing-along to popular songs from the hit movie including, of course, the inescapable smash “Let It Go”.
Using only English versions of the film’s songs, played out with film clips and classic sing-along subtitles on the large projection screen, the tests at least saw the two highly competent, energetic hosts engaging the audience in both French and English to some surprising success, given Europeans’ usual dislike of participation shows.
That said, and as announced in advance, the shows featured no live characters from the film and ultimately play out rather too much like watching the sing-along version of a DVD in a music class, right down to the awkward overhead projector.
For a lesson in how it should be done (or perhaps, how it will be done — see below), Disney’s Hollywood Studios at Walt Disney World already hosts the catchily-titled For the First Time in Forever: A Frozen Sing-Along Celebration as part of its surprisingly shrewd Frozen Summer Fun season.
Though still not the full stage show many desire (and will likely have to visit Broadway to see), the event at least feels close to the film, rather than some unlicensed cash-in, and features the characters you’d expect.
We don’t know where Disneyland Paris might take the concept for themselves — whether they’d decide to include the characters instead of these generic hosts or perhaps perform shows with the songs in other languages — but we do appear to know the location that such a show could end up: The Chaparral Theater in Frontierland.
As noted by @InsideDLParis, the theatre is currently behind green construction walls.
Another currently wasted performance space, the former home of The Tarzan Encounter has the benefit of being bigger and, well, slightly more rustic-y. The stage has even previously had a snowy overlay for the long-running Mickey’s Winter Wonderland that wouldn’t look entirely out of place as Wandering Oaken’s Trading Post and Sauna.
What do you think — should Disneyland Paris run with this concept of a fully-fledged Frozen Sing-Along show or let it… well, you know?
Watch a complete video of the Frozen Sing-Along tests by InsideDLParis below
And for comparison, video of the Walt Disney World event
Antonella and Jonathan are about to hand over to a new pair of Disney “ambassadors”. The Disneyland Paris Ambassador Team for 2015-2016 will be announced on 3rd October 2014 at a public ceremony in Videopolis Theatre, Discoveryland at 11am.
No less than ten semi-finalists have been selected from those who applied for the roles, pictured below, chosen from all corners of the resort to represent Disneyland Paris Cast Members on the public stage for events and promotions.
The 2013-2014 team, Antonella Giallombardo and Jonathan Rabeute, will continue as ambassadors until the end of the year, when the new recruits will take over.
This year marks a special milestone for the Disney Ambassador Program as it records its 50th Anniversary, to be celebrated at the ceremony next month, having begun in 1964 at the hands of master Disneyland marketeer Jack Lindquist.
At Disneyland Paris, the visibility of the programme has improved noticeably in recent years, not least thanks to the use of social media, and helped by a run of enthusiastic and knowledgeable representatives, each truly raising the bar (tip: great Cast Members who also happen to be real fans make perfect ambassadors).
Originally just seeing a single candidate elected, the Disneyland Paris programme now elects two Ambassadors to represent the resort for two years.
• Ambassadors in action — Ratatouille: The Adventure opening day ceremony
While Osvaldo and Régis got to enjoy the 20th Anniversary and Antonella and Jonathan excelled at the Ratatouille grand opening events, we don’t yet know what our next two ambassadors could be cutting the ribbon on in the next two years… but we wish all semi-finalists, and the selected ambassadors, the very best of luck.
Update — The finalists of the 2015-2016 Disneyland Paris Ambassador selection have been announced today; they are: Sonia Demay, Romina Grochow, Anthony Houdinet and Rut Sospedra.
Mickey’s Halloween Celebration will receive its third new, original float for the upcoming Disney’s Halloween Festival at Disneyland Paris. The daily cavalcade is to be expanded for 2014 with “Raise the Rafters!”, a float featuring the Three Little Pigs, Clarabelle and Horace Horsecollar, pictured above for the first time in official concept art.
Those rare characters will stand amongst a spooky purple barnyard, entangled in the branches of trees with crows overhead and colourful mushrooms amongst the pumpkins on the floor of autumnal leaves. This final concept art was released by D23 in a recent feature on the season.
Joining the two dedicated Halloween floats introduced for the event’s debut last year, “Raise the Rafters!” will expand the Harvest-themed mini-parade, due to be performed three times daily and featuring up to 60 performers. Certainly a step-change for Halloween celebrations at Disneyland Paris, which previously only featured Halloween as an adjunct the main daily parade on a temporary seasonal float.
Last year’s floats were reportedly built from the bones of former Disney’s Fantillusion floats, so we can likely assume that a carcass from the thoroughly defunct nighttime parade has been recycled again — any guesses which one?
Original theme song “Vive La Vie” will return after a popular debut in 2013, as will Mickey, Minnie, Pluto, Chip, Dale, Clarice, Uncle Scrooge, Donald and all three of his nephews, while Daisy will be promoted to lead the parade as “Miss Harvest 2014”.
Watch the 2013 edition of Mickey’s Halloween Celebration below
Disneyland Paris has been named a three-star tourist attraction by the famous Michelin Green Guides, the highest distinction from the travel publisher. The accolade was accepted by ambassadors Jonathan and Antonella, dedicating it to the Cast Members who “offer daily hospitality and quality service to our visitors”.
Listed separately as Disneyland Paris and Walt Disney Studios, the two Disney parks are now both marked as “Highly Recommended” three-star attractions on Michelin’s Paris travel guide. Looking at the competition, Parc Astérix to the north of Paris has only a two-star “Recommended” rating, though the mouse shouldn’t be too complacent — Disney Village is marked out by only a single star.
Many will of course remember the excellent series of classic Green Guides or “Guides Vert” and fold-out maps produced by Michelin in the early years of the resort. Providing concise and clear overviews of the resort — and now, a fascinating glimpse into its history — they’re well worth hunting down on places like Amazon Marketplace.
Disney’s Halloween Festival is just two weeks away from its 2014 season, promising a series of new additions alongside the successful returning investments of recent years. With the call to “Join the Halloween Gang!”, Disneyland Paris is focusing its marketing this year on the ever-popular Disney villains — the timely Maleficent in particular — as it launches a new promotional video and website.
Following Captain Hook, the Evil Queen, Dr Facilier and Cruella De Vil as they assemble inside a spellbound Sleeping Beauty Castle, the well-produced teaser video builds anticipation of the upcoming festival and its new Maleficent centrepieces — including a giant bramble structure in the middle of the Castle Courtyard.
Watch the new “Join the Halloween Gang!” teaser below
On the new mini-website, visitors are supposed to answer a few questions to find their perfect villain match, after providing a series of personal details (who knew the villains were so big on data collection?). You can take a look for yourself here.
CEO, president, head honcho — however you say it, Disneyland Paris has a new guy in charge as of yesterday, 15th September 2014. Tom Wolber has begun his role as Président of Euro Disney S.A.S., with outgoing chief Philippe Gas heading for Shanghai Disney Resort as its first General Manager, a sure sign of Disney’s satisfaction with his tenure here.
Tom is in fact making a return to Paris, having been a part of the Grand Opening team in 1992. Since then, he has held leadership positions at Disney Cruise Line, Disney Vacation Club and Walt Disney World Resort in Florida, most recently overseeing Orlando’s 28 resort hotels and transportation network. Tom is German and speaks 4 languages: French, Dutch, English and German.
It may be notable that Euro Disney badges Wolber as having overseen a number of expansion projections including the Disney Dream and Disney Fantasy cruise ships and the masterplan for Disney Springs, the revitalisation of Florida’s Downtown Disney. He arrives in Paris at a time of fevered rumour for expansion and revitalisation of our own resort, including attractions such as Star Tours 2, expansion of Walt Disney Studios Park and continued growth of Disney Village.
Departing president Philippe Gas will without doubt be remembered as one of the resort’s most successful and charismatic CEOs. Arriving in September 2008 just as the global economic downturn bit and 15th Anniversary expansions such as The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror dried up, he took on a resort that was still all too often unreliable and erratic in the level of “Disney quality” it provided.
Six years later, the list of good decisions is so long as to be impossible to collate and attribute, but it certainly began in April 2009 with the renaming of Disneyland Resort Paris back to a strong and simple Disneyland Paris. The opening of the three lower-spec Toy Story Playland attractions in 2010 may have divided opinion, and gone almost unnoticed to the public, but this summer’s grand Ratatouille: The Adventure unveiling proved a pivotal point for the resort and its second gate, expertly led from planning to construction to opening. Meanwhile, the 20th Anniversary of 2012 provided a landmark with Disney Dreams! — both its stunning quality and the adjoining extension of Disneyland Park operating hours continuing to equalise Paris with its international cousins.
Two new websites, new apps, new technology such as PhotoPass+ and the rollout of free wi-fi leaves plenty left to achieve, but huge ground gained. Better understanding of and communication with the fan community has been an icing on the cake, including better merchandise such as The Art of Disney on Demand and more one-off events like the 50th Anniversary of “it’s a small world”.
An enormous campaign of “cleaning the decks” with endless and huge refurbishment in almost every corner of the resort has coincided with a quiet plotting of future courses — the Villages Nature, Disney’s own hotel expansion, Disney Village improvements and plenty rumoured for the parks. The horizon feels ever bigger, if not any closer.
What’s needed now from a new president is to actually, at last, see those plans through. Countless times, grand visions have been drawn up for Disneyland Paris and its parks only to fall by the wayside. If Philippe Gas’ reign was about steadying the waters and getting the ship up to standard, let’s hope Tom Wolber can finally let this resort set sail.
Bring us that horizon, Tom.
• Press release 15/09/2014: Tom Wolber to assume leadership at Euro Disney (PDF)
• Press release 1/08/2014: Philippe Gas named General Manager of Shanghai Disney Resort, Tom Wolber, from Walt Disney World Resort, replacing him at Euro Disney (PDF)
Below: Official corporate video introducing Tom Wolber
Follow DLPGuide on Instagram
for magical daily Disneyland Paris photos!