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Happy Birthday Walt Disney Studios: Disney’s tenth park turns nine

Wednesday, 16th March 2011 at 12:42

Nine years ago today, Disney’s tenth theme park worldwide opened its gates. For such a milestone, the original Walt Disney Studios Park of 16th March 2002 was perhaps not the best representative of the Disneyland ideals. Be it through desperate lack of budget or not, the park drastically missed the mark of what a European audience — or any audience — wants from a theme park. Forget the beautiful landscapes of Tokyo DisneySea, opened a year earlier; here there were almost no outdoor themed areas to speak of at all, just 25 hectares of freshly poured tarmac asphalt and 10 attractions housed in uninspiring “soundstages” of concrete. The bid to pay tribute to European filmmakers was noble but possibly misguided — Florida’s raining Singin’ in the Rain umbrella scene was changed to the barely known Les Parapluies de Cherbourg, for example — and the glitzy warmth of Hollywood was oddly missing. The park suffered from a complete lack of escapism, when what people really wanted was a whole park with the colour and spirit found inside, say, Disney Studio 1.

Because that’s the thing — the park has always had some great attractions. Nine years on, CinéMagique remains beautifully subtle and wonderfully entertaining, one of the best movie-based attractions ever. Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster starring Aerosmith might not be pretty on the outside but the ride inside arguably beats its kitsch Florida cousin, whilst after 9,000 performances it’s easy to take for granted just how impressive the stunts of Moteurs… Action! Stunt Show Spectacular really are.

Having dug itself a hole by ploughing too much (or, you could say, not enough) money into an unpopular park, it took Euro Disney SCA far longer than it should have done to begin expanding the second gate. The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror should really have opened in 2005 (or earlier), rather than begun construction that year, whilst the Toon Studio expansion of Crush’s Coaster and Cars Quatre Roues Rallye should have been there from the start, not five years after opening. No-one should have ever green-lit the Television Production Tour, now occupied instead by Stitch Live! since 2008 and Playhouse Disney Live on Stage! since 2009.

The modest Hollywood Boulevard turned out to be a great surprise and even Toy Story Playland, maligned by some corners of the fan community, is a marked step above any other themed areas in the park. To get the Ratatouille dark ride built in the years ahead would be an amazing feat: the first new dark ride at Disneyland Paris (ignoring Buzz) in all its 20 years and possibly the first real implementation of Audio Animatronics in the whole Studios park. But let’s just hope it doesn’t end there, that we see the park continue like its last four years rather than the first five. May the park continue to improve and expand, to revisit Theater District and fix the original areas, to add places to eat and places to buy things, and maybe, one day, rename Production Courtyard. We can but dream… Here’s to the future!

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  • There’s one key thing missing from the WDS expansions… movies! None of the new attractions are related to the theme of movie production.

    CinéMagique and the Tour are obviously movie-related, and even Agrabah makes an effort to look like a set. With the newer attractions, you could equally well place Toy Story Playground in Fantasyland as in the Studios.

  • @ Ilari Sani

    So true, that’s why so many people are so disappointed by TSPL. It doesn’t fit, the green tower is ugly and the capacity of the rides is also bad.

    Nevertheless I think WDS is a lot better than 9 years ago and with investment into a family ride, like Ratatouille and a nice table service restaurant, the park is on a good way to turn into a full day park.

  • Full park at the rate Eurodisney is developing the park could be 2030.

  • I thought they were making a The Little Mermaid darkride? o:

  • My sons are now adult, and we find that we spend equal time in both parks, as there are quite a few things in the Studios that we really like.
    I like the change in atmosphere going from the main park to the Studios, and usually less crowds.
    One thing I would love to see there is a Great Movie Ride, similar to the one in WDW, but more up to date. It is a good family ride for all ages, and certainly keeps the movie/ film studios theming.
    With large capacilty vehicles, this ride queue moves fairly quickly as well,and is the kind of attraction that people may want to do a few times.
    A theatre showing making movies like the Indiana Jones one in WDW would be good as well.

  • As long as they never get rid of Animagique! One of my favourite shows, ever. And I’ve seen Fantasmic and World of Color ;).

    While I agree TSPL isn’t all that awesome (far too focused on kids in what is typically a more adult-oriented park), I do find myself spending more time on the attactions there than in the main park. Maybe that’s just me :)

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