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The Toon Effect – More colour, more character

Saturday, 21st April 2007 at 16:28

Times are changing at Walt Disney Studios Park. Toon Studio continues to impress and Toon Town makes a bold - and unexpected - entrance. We've read words, seen concepts and previewed the maps - now the finished reality is in sight. With the 15th launch complete, everything is now focused on one mission - giving this 15-year old resort a real second gate.,

So what exactly does a second gate need? Let’s say… immersive themeing, its own character, attractions to rival those next door and enough to keep you busy for at least a day. Step into Animation Courtyard right now, and the Toon Studio project fills the entire area as if ticking these boxes piece-by-piece around the land.

The entire park is suddenly receiving a huge amount of interest from Walt Disney Imagineering, arguably more than any other Disney Park in the world. When you consider the four new attractions and two completely transformed theme areas they’re working on, it’s good to know that finally, after five years, Walt Disney Studios Park is getting more spells from the Sorcerer’s Apprentice wand than anywhere else.

Of course, much of the improvement (including the recently installed Toon Town backdrop) is still behind fences…

…But no-one can argue now that there’s a definite “buzz” about this second gate – especially not if you’re enjoying the Studios at the same time as countless construction workers…

This video features footage of the hills for the new Toon Town backdrop being lowered into place, with the briefly-presented new area music loop we mentioned in the previous Toon Studio update in the background – first a piano waltz of ‘Someday My Prince Will Come’, then an instrumental track from ‘The Rescuers’. The backdrop serves to not only place Toon Studio within its Toon Town location and cover the ImagiNations Costuming building behind, but also provide new locations for character meet ‘n’ greets along its bordering wall.

So that’s good, that’s it, the area is done. No, not by half – the old Walt Disney Studios Park might have stopped with a wall, but this Studio – for perhaps the first time – has a real trick up its sleeve…

This exciting brand new concept art was first posted by La Rouquine on Disney Central Plaza forum, and shows the expected Toon Town backdrop with its wall and studio entrance gate. A surprise addition, though, is the studio security booth. It was featured on the new map unveiled on 1st April, but with the area still under construction its presence in the final design was questionable – especially with this park’s history.

The wall, gate and archway are all distinctly more “toon” inspired than originally expected from earlier concepts, adding a huge boost of “character” to the Studios. It’s also fun to see that an idea from the very first Toon Studio concept has reappeared (and made it to reality) just in time – the “shooting schedule” board, which appears to give the times for character meets as well as details of the other productions (Crush’s Coaster, Cars, etc) currently filming.

Add it all together with details like the wavy yellow line along the middle of the street, the twisted blue toon lampposts and lots of new planting around this entrance square… and the Toon-y reality of this project is a stunning sight…

Simply a million miles from anything else at Walt Disney Studios Park, the area already exudes a fun, colourful atmosphere in these photos by Alain Littaye. Large planters hide pathways, details are everywhere and – in what could be a groundbreaking first for Imagineering – the reality actually looks more impressive than their original concepts. With Crush’s Coaster, Cars Race Rally and the new Toon Studio entrance area, this is three detail-rich areas in one relatively small space. Yet, thanks to the magic of the movies, it works.

Strangely, the “Toon Studio” lettering on the entrance arch currently faces inward, whilst on the concept – and according to logic – it should face outside of the studio, to the street where Goofy can be seen driving into the distance. An original idea here was for a food retail cart themed to “Goofy’s Catering Co.”, with the back end of the vehicle smashed into the wall. According to the latest word – and indeed to the new park map illustration, this theme is no longer planned.

Some details are still on their way, though, such as the 3D “Toon Town” lettering itself and several lights to fill the holes in the wall, like those seen on the concept above. Beyond this, the area will of course feature some brand new character locations. Mickey Mouse and The Incredibles have been shown in all recent concepts, but Ratatouille is the only confirmed taker for a spot in the new area, due to arrive in-person (or rather in-rodent-form) from 16th June 2007.

The photo above, by Scrooge on Disney Magic Interactive forum, shows the placement of the backdrop and security booth in relation to the rest of the new area, nestled in the corner next to Crush’s Coaster. The large bushes in front of this square, hiding it from guests passing by on “Route 66” outside Cars, can also be clearly spotted.

More hidden “weenies”, as they’re called in Imagineering terminology (like weenies in the distance drawing guests toward them) can be found a little closer to the current Animation Courtyard area. MagicMouse on Disney Central Plaza forum snapped the following photo over the fences a few weeks ago, giving an amazing angle on the new Studio 5. Picture Walt Disney Studios as you remember it, then take a look at this – the “Toon Effect” at its best…

The photo also shows details such as the green metal lamps attached to the dark wooden poles in the area, the blue fence surrounding the Animation Courtyard side of Cars and the light wooden supports for the future Crush’s Coaster entrance sign, which was recently revealed by WDSFans.com in an updated piece of concept art.

The effects of the project haven’t just been felt in the new area either. Finally, some major changes to the existing Animation Courtyard have been completed, such as Animagique‘s new blue colour scheme and the new flooring pattern. Interestingly, the flooring directly in front of and surrounding Animagique has yet to be completed, despite this area being re-opened to the public. Concepts and even the new park map have shown new planters and flowers here on the unused overflow queue area, so this could indeed be a possibility for the future.

One thing that’s certain – blue is without doubt still the “in” colour for Toon design. Even the wall bordering this part of the land is ready to receive a coat, just like the extended wall leading up to Crush’s Coaster has. One notable absence of blue, though, is on the new railings surrounding the trees added way back in October. Not only has the railing taken over six months to arrive, but it features exactly the same pale green colour and style as the others around Disney Bros. Plaza – hardly giving an exciting entrance to the wonders of the “Toon Effect” that lie beyond…

And so here we are – less than one month to go until Crush’s Coaster and Cars Race Rally are officially handed over from Walt Disney Imagineering to Euro Disney SCA for final operations tests. With the entire area expected to be complete by 9th June, this leaves exactly seven weeks for the Toons (and their Imagineers) to complete the transformation. They’ve come a long way already, but with an entrance statue to install, a Sorcerer Hat to decorate, flooring to finish and a whole new area to polish off, Mickey had better get working that magic wand…

Latest photos with thanks to Alain Littaye’s ‘Disney & More’ blog, Scrooge on Disney Magic Interactive forum, Mousy.be and Photos Magiques.

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