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April 2, 2009

Walt Disney Studios Park Paris – Part 1 – Front Lot

Disneyland Paris Walt Disney Studio Park


Disney has eleven theme parks around the world. I rank Tokyo DisneySea as my favorite and Disneyland Paris as my second favorite. I rank the Walt Disney Studios Park dead last. Visiting this park makes me long for Disney's California Adventure, which I rank at number ten.

The Walt Disney Studios Park was designed and constructed during the latter years of Michael Eisner's tenure as the head of the Walt Disney Company. This was during his "cheap" years and it shows. This park is soulless.

I often tell people that Tokyo DisneySea is so magnificent that you can pay your admittance fee, never go on one attraction, and you'll still get your money's worth. Just "being" at Tokyo DisneySea is worth the price of a ticket. On the other hand, if you pay your admittance fee for the Walt Disney Studios Park and go on every attraction, you may want a partial refund at the end of the day - or should I say half-day.

But of course, every Disney story needs to have a happy ending and I'm going to try to provide one here. I haven't been to the Walt Disney Studios Park in almost three and a half years. During that time, Bob Iger, the current CEO of the Walt Disney Company, is trying to fix this property (in the same way he's trying to fix Eisner's other fiasco, Disney's California Adventure). The company is investing money in both of these parks and trying to bring them up to Disney standards. My good friend TDLFAN has provided me with some pictures of the improvements made at the Walt Disney Studios Park during the last several years and things look promising.

That being said, I'm going to discuss what I experienced over three years ago, and what has changed and been improved upon during this time. I'm planning another trip to Paris in about a year and a half and I'm hoping that I can delete the opening paragraphs to this blog when I get home.


Disneyland Paris Walt Disney Studio Park Entrance


The Walt Disney Studios Park is situated somewhat next to Disneyland Paris. It's about a ten minute walk from the main gates of one park to the other. The entrance to the Studio looks like the quintessential Hollywood movie lot of the 1930's and 40's. There is a large arch, typical of many of the early studios and a water tower, characteristic of the era. Disney was smart when designing this park, the Imagineers placed the Earful Tower near the entrance where it could easily be seen by all.


Disneyland Paris Walt Disney Studio Park Entrance

Disneyland Paris Walt Disney Studio Park Entrance

Disneyland Paris Walt Disney Studio Park Entrance


Within the gates is a very pleasant courtyard. Shops and Guest Services can be found in the buildings that flank the square.


Disneyland Paris Walt Disney Studio Park Entrance

Disneyland Paris Walt Disney Studio Park Entrance


Character Meet-&-Greets are common in the courtyard.

Disneyland Paris Walt Disney Studio Park Courtyard


In the center of the courtyard are a fountain and a statue of Mickey as the Sorcerer's Apprentice.

Disneyland Paris Walt Disney Studio Park Sorcerer's Appretice

Disneyland Paris Walt Disney Studio Park Sorcerer's Appretice


When I visited this park in September 2005, Disney's animated movie "Chicken Little" was opening soon and they were promoting it heavily. The large building (covered by Chicken Little) is called Studio 1. It's actually an attractive structure if you could see more of it.


Disneyland Paris Walt Disney Studio Park


Studio 1 is the equivalent to Hollywood Blvd. at Disney's Hollywood Studios in Florida. Inside this massive soundstage is a movie set that is supposed to represents a quintessential "Hollywood" street during the golden age of film. To enter the park, all guests must walk down this thoroughfare. But what separates this street from its Florida cousin is that all of the buildings here are facades. Nothing is real.


Disneyland Paris Walt Disney Studio Park Studio 1

Disneyland Paris Walt Disney Studio Park Studio 1

Disneyland Paris Walt Disney Studio Park Studio 1

Disneyland Paris Walt Disney Studio Park Studio 1

Disneyland Paris Walt Disney Studio Park Studio 1


Behind these facades are a number of shops and a large counter service restaurant, the Restaurant en Coulisse. This eatery serves hamburgers, pizza, and salads. Note, there are no full service restaurants anywhere at the Walt Disney Studios Park.


Disneyland Paris Walt Disney Studios Park Restaurant en Coulisse

Disneyland Paris Walt Disney Studios Park Restaurant en Coulisse


Studio 1 opens about a half an hour before the rest of the park. This gives guests time to check out the shops and grab a quick bite before starting the day. At opening, grand announcements are made in French and English welcoming everyone to a day of excitement. All the while, search lights crisscross the street and buildings. When the doors finally open at the far end of the soundstage, guests stream out en mass. Outside, cast members applaud everyone as if they had just completed acting in a marvelous scene.


Disneyland Paris Walt Disney Studio Park Studio 1

Disneyland Paris Walt Disney Studio Park Studio 1


Standing outside the Studio 1 soundstage is the Partners Statue.


Disneyland Paris Walt Disney Studio Park Studio 1 Partners Statue


Here's my overall impression of Studio 1. It has its charms. I like that it's perpetually nighttime within the soundstage. This gives the area a nice atmosphere and the many animated neon lights are a lot of fun. And it does resemble an actual movie set - which is what Hollywood is all about. Also, on a cold Parisian winter day, I'm sure it's nice to have a place to escape from the weather.

But after seeing Hollywood and Sunset Boulevards at Disney's Hollywood Studios, I can't help but think that the Imagineers were given a directive to build "Hollywood" as cheaply as possible. They did a decent job, but it just doesn't compare to its Florida cousin.

In my next blog, I'll discuss Production Courtyard.

April 4, 2009

Disney Eggs

Just in case you're not getting your complete Disney fix while vacationing at Walt Disney World or Disneyland, the company has come out with something else to keep us happy -- Disney Eggs.


Disney%20Eggs%201.jpg


I don't know if they're available nationwide, but they're for sale in Orlando and cost me $2.69 at my local supermarket.

Each egg is stamped with one of six characters - so you get two of each. But different cartons contain different characters so if you're little one really loves Buzz Lightyear, you might need to open several packages before finding our Toy Story friend.


Disney%20Eggs%202.jpg

Disney%20Eggs%203.jpg

Disney%20Eggs%204.jpg

Disney%20Eggs%205.jpg


The TV commercial shows someone frying an egg in the shape of our favorite Mouse using a Mickey mold. But this MM mold was not for sale at my market. I know at one time they were sold at Walt Disney World, but I haven't checked lately so I can't guide you in that direction with any certainty.

I have to assume that the intended market for these eggs is children. But if I remember my own childhood correctly, I never saw the egg until after my mother had cooked it and served it to me on a plate. So I'm not quite sure what the appeal will be for the little ones. But hey, I guess we adults can enjoy these cute little eggs too.

April 6, 2009

Walt Disney Studios Park Paris – Part 2 – Production Courtyard - CinéMagique

Walt Disney Studios Park Paris Production Courtyard


Production Courtyard is the first "land" you come to when exiting Studio 1. One of the first things you'll notice is a large film-strip etched in the concrete. This is a pathway of sorts that leads from one end of the park to the other.


Walt Disney Studios Park Paris Production Courtyard


Also in Production Courtyard is a bandstand where live music is occasionally heard.


Walt Disney Studios Park Paris Production Courtyard Bandstand


Walt Disney Studios Park Paris Production Courtyard CineMagique


CinéMagique (Film Magic) is the crowning jewel of the Walt Disney Studios Park. In fact, it could be the crowning jewel of a lot of theme parks. This is truly a wonderful attraction - a true crowd pleaser.

The outside of the attraction looks like a soundstage and the queue area is unremarkable at best. This "history of the movies" is shown several times a day so check your schedule.


Walt Disney Studios Park Paris Production Courtyard CineMagique

Walt Disney Studios Park Paris Production Courtyard CineMagique


Inside the soundstage you find a large theater that seats 1,100 guests. And of course, this is where the magique takes place.


Walt Disney Studios Park Paris Production Courtyard CineMagique


Much of the charm of this attraction comes from the unexpected events that take place during the film. This is a spoiler alert. I'm going to describe what happens inside this theater. So if you're planning a trip to the Disneyland Paris Resort and want to be surprised when you see this movie, skip the rest of this blog. But please note, this is an absolute MUST SEE at the Walt Disney Studios Park.

You are seated in the theater, expecting to see a "history" of film. Before the movie begins, a cast member, dressed in an usher's costume of the 1930's, walks on stage. You are welcomed to the show and reminded that there is no flash photography or video taping and asked to turn off your cell phones. A moment later, the movie begins.

The first film clips shown are from the silent era. Piano music plays and you settle in to enjoy the movie. All of a sudden, you hear a cell phone ringing from a seat near the front of the theater. A man answers it and starts a loud conversation with the airline who it seems has lost his luggage. During his conversation we learn that his name is George. A cast member rushes to the man and tries to quiet him. In his attempt to ignore the cast member and continue his call, George gets up from his seat and walks up onto the stage. His back is to us at all times.

All the while, the silent films continue to show on the screen. In the next clip we see a young sheik and his fiancée, Marguerite. They are in the midst of a love scene when they "break the fourth wall" and become aware of the annoying man talking on stage. After a moment's irritation, the sheik summons a wizard. The wizard takes one look at George and starts to conjure a spell. Then he sprinkles some magic dust and POOF, there is a blast of smoke on the stage and the annoying man disappears. A moment later, George (played by Martin Short) reappears IN the movie. Being a silent movie, no sounds are emitted when George tries to speak.

The sheik, who was angry to have his romantic scene interrupted, punches George in the face. But Marguerite (played by Julie Delpy) takes pity on George and attends to him. The sheik, seeing a tenderness developing between them, starts to chase after George. It's here that the insanity really begins.

Walt Disney Studios Park Paris Production Courtyard CineMagique

George runs through the castle looking for an escape route and finds a window. When he crawls through it, he's transported to the ledge of a skyscraper in New York City with Harold Lloyd. When he climbs down the fire escape, he joins a pie fight with Charlie Chaplin.

As he continues to jump from movie to movie he soon finds that he's in the age of the "talkies" and he can now speak. Next we find George at the St. Valentine's Day Massacre with Jack Lemon and Tony Curtis. Eventually color comes to the movies and soon, wide screen. All the while, George continues to experience the cinema first hand.

But Marguerite, who is falling in love with George, wants to find him and she too begins to jump from film to film looking for him. They occasionally meet and their love for one another continues to grow.

There is very little dialogue, and it really isn't needed to tell the story. When words are wanted, George speaks in English and Marguerite in French. But the story is so excellently told that you can understand everything.

George continues his journey and meets Pinocchio, Hannibal Lector, and Inspector Clouseau, just to name a few. He climbs aboard the sinking Titanic, dances in Mary Poppins, and is involved in a western shoot-out.


Walt Disney Studios Park Paris Production Courtyard CineMagique


Eventually, George and Marguerite are reunited in a medieval battle scene. But George is weary of the "movies" and wants to return to the real world. A chivalrous French knight agrees to help and climbs a nearby hill. He takes his mighty sword and flings it toward the screen. Magically, the sword slices the screen and is impaled on stage. The effect is magnificent and the audience applauds.

George exits the film via the sliced screen, but alas, Marguerite cannot. Then, as quickly as the tear appeared, it disappears and George cannot reenter the film world.

But all is not lost. The wizard, who originally brought George into the film world, creates a door on the screen. George opens it, walks through, and immerges back on celluloid once more. The movie ends with George and Marguerite walking down the Yellow Brick Road toward Oz.

CinéMagique is about 30 minutes long, but it seems shorter because you are so engrossed in the story. You will laugh and you will cry. And you will want to see it again! I can't recommend this movie enough. If you only see one attraction at the Walt Disney Studios Park, let it be this one.

I really wish Disney would bring this attraction to Disney's Hollywood Studios in Florida. It would be an instant success. But I've heard that Disney only secured the rights to show these film clips in Paris and nowhere else. If this is true, it's a real pity.

In my next blog I'll be discussing "Stitch Live."

April 8, 2009

Voyage of the Little Mermaid

I'm going to assume that most of you have seen the "Voyage of the Little Mermaid" show during one of your visits to Disney's Hollywood Studios. If you haven't, then you should. It's very cute.

I recently forced a friend of mine to experience this show for the first time. The exterior of the attraction hadn't impressed him and he thought it was just a "kiddy" show. Because of this, he ignored this wonderful bit of entertainment. Upon exiting the theater, he thanked me for making him see it and assured me it would be part of his agenda on future visits.

But my blog today isn't about the Voyage of the Little Mermaid show. It's about the holding area you wait in prior to the event.

Voyage of the Little Mermaid Waiting Area


I know that most of you are so happy to be in an air-conditioned space after enduring the heat and humidity that all you do is utter a collective sigh of relief upon entering this holding area. Then you spend the next few minutes relaxing and chatting until the theater doors open. But if you take the time to look around this unassuming room there are a number of treasures to be discovered.

Look closely and you'll find small signs attached to the wall at varying heights. These signs point out interesting bits of trivia - some of it very imaginative.

I think these signs speak for themselves and need no further narrative from me. But keep in mind, I'm not showing them all to you. There are more to be discovered.


Voyage of the Little Mermaid Waiting Area

Voyage of the Little Mermaid Waiting Area

Voyage of the Little Mermaid Waiting Area

Voyage of the Little Mermaid Waiting Area

Voyage of the Little Mermaid Waiting Area

Voyage of the Little Mermaid Waiting Area

Voyage of the Little Mermaid Waiting Area

Check out the AllEars® Photo Gallery for this Attraction.

April 9, 2009

Walt Disney Studios Park Paris - Part 3 – Production Courtyard – Stitch Live

Walt Disney Studios Park Paris Production Courtyard


Walt Disney Television Studios

When the Walt Disney Studios Park opened, the "Walt Disney Television Studios" offered guests a backstage tour of the Disney Channel's French headquarters.

When I took this tour in September, 2005, I was never so bored in all my life. Most of the tour was presented in French with English subtitles. But beyond the language barrier, the subject matter was exceedingly dull - no matter how hard they tried to breathe excitement into it. This attraction closed in 2007 to make room for "Stitch Live." Thank goodness.


Walt Disney Studios Park Paris Production Courtyard  Television Studios


I have not been on the Paris version of "Stitch Live," but my friend TDLFAN tells me that it is almost exactly like its cousin attraction "Stitch Encounter" in Hong Kong, which I have seen.


Walt Disney Studios Park Paris Production Courtyard


The picture below is from Hong Kong, but the interior of the two attractions are practically identical.


Walt Disney Studios Park Paris Production Courtyard


"Stitch Live" uses the same technology as "Turtle Talk with Crush" in Epcot.
However, the story here is a little different. Using one of the Disney Channel satellites, your human host hones in on a ship in outer space and contacts Stitch. From then on, this mischievous prankster interacts with the audience in real-time conversations. The shenanigans are different with each contact and no two shows are ever exactly the same.

To be honest, I'm not a big fan of Stitch, but I loved this attraction in Hong Kong. It made me laugh both times I experienced it.

Since the Walt Disney Studios Park must deal with two languages, "Stitch Live" is presented in either French or English. Outside of the attraction is a marquee that lists the show times and the associated language.

Rendez-Vous des Stars Restaurant

Next to "Stitch Live" is the buffet restaurant Rendez-Vous des Stars (Meeting Place of the Stars).


Walt Disney Studios Park Paris Production Courtyard  Rendez-Vous des Stars Restaurant

Walt Disney Studios Park Paris Production Courtyard  Rendez-Vous des Stars Restaurant


This art deco building offers the most upscale dining experience of any of the restaurants found at the Walt Disney Studios Park. The interior is large with over 300 seats. But despite its considerable size, this establishment can get busy during the lunch hours. The "storyline" of this eatery is that it's a place for the cast and crew to grab a bite to eat between takes. The walls are decorated with photos of movie stars and the bill of fare is European.


Walt Disney Studios Park Paris Production Courtyard  Rendez-Vous des Stars Restaurant


Disney Cinema Parade

No Disney park would be complete without an afternoon parade and the Walt Disney Studios Park is no exception. In keeping with the Hollywood theme, each float is given a movie-making touch to showcase a given film. For example, we see Minnie in her dressing room and Mary Poppins on reels of film.


Walt Disney Studios Park Paris Disney Cinema Parade

Walt Disney Studios Park Paris Disney Cinema Parade


This parade is a lot of fun and if you have kids, this is the perfect way to let them see an abundance of characters. The procession lasts approximately 20 minutes.


Walt Disney Studios Park Paris Disney Cinema Parade

Walt Disney Studios Park Paris Disney Cinema Parade


There are a number of good spots to watch the Disney Cinema Parade, but Production Courtyard offers a lot of space to line the street.

In my next blog I will discuss the Tower of Terror and the Studio Tram Tour.

-------------------------

It seems a few things have changed since my last visit. Please read Marnix's comment below.

Tren-D – Downtown Disney Update

A few weeks ago, I wrote about a new shop at Downtown Disney Marketplace called Tren-D.

Today (April 9, 2009) Disney held a press event to kick off this new boutique. This shop is a stylish destination with a designer flair and eclectic offerings.

Inspired by Mark Perrotta, Director of Product Design and Development for both Disney World and Disneyland, this shop has been in the works for the last eighteen months. It was Disney's desire to create a place where unique merchandise, aimed at the trendy woman, could be found.

Offerings include organic lounge-wear, embroidered handbags, jeweled sunglasses and trendy accessories. Designers such as Kidada Jones, Tarina Tarantino, and Roxy will showcase their artistry - blending it with Disney-inspired creations.

I spoke with Dara Trujillo, Manager of Merchandise of Franchise & Synergy Development. She told me that 50% of the items in this shop are unique to this location and could not be found anywhere else at Disney World. Also, new items will be introduced every thirty days so the store will always feel fresh and new. Dara also told me that much of the artwork scattered around the shop was created especially for Tren-D. It was Mark Perrotta's desire to create a unique environment where hip shoppers could find fun and eclectic merchandise.

Tren-D replaces Summer Sands and is near Pin Traders and Once Upon A Toy. Below are some pictures I snapped today.

Tren-D Downtown Disney Official Opening

Tren-D Downtown Disney Official Opening

Tren-D Downtown Disney Official Opening

Tren-D Downtown Disney Official Opening

Tren-D Downtown Disney Official Opening

Tren-D Downtown Disney Official Opening

Tren-D Downtown Disney Official Opening

Tren-D Downtown Disney Official Opening

Tren-D Downtown Disney Official Opening

Tren-D Downtown Disney Official Opening

Tren-D Downtown Disney Official Opening

April 11, 2009

Fantasyland – Old and New

The information in this next blog has been presented before - some of it on this website, some of it on others. But since I've started blogging about Disney World trivia, I thought these tidbits were worth repeating.

Often, when Disney replaces an attraction with a new ride or show, the Imagineers like to pay tribute to the previous occupant of the space. To do this, they create some sort of remembrance to remind us of what used to delight us in years past. This blog is going to discuss three cases in Fantasyland in the Magic Kingdom.

The first example is probably one of the most famous and centers around "Mr. Toad's Wild Ride" being replaced with "The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh."


Toad-Pooh


Shortly after leaving the Blustery Day room, you enter a hallway of sorts. Once you clear the doors, you must immediately turn to your left and look at the wall behind you. Here you'll discover a picture of Toad handing over the property deed to Owl.


Toad-Pooh

Toad-Pooh


Now here's a little extra trivia regarding this picture. It is also included on the Hong Kong Disneyland version of this ride - which makes absolutely no sense, since Mr. Toad never existed there. Go figure.

One of the original attractions at the Magic Kingdom was "20,000 Leagues Under the Sea." Sadly, on September 5th 1994, this ride was closed. The lagoon sat unused for a number of years until 2004 when the area was razed to make room for "Pooh's Playful Spot," a children's play area.


Sub-Pooh


The centerpiece of "Pooh's Playful Spot" is a large tree.


Sub-Pooh


I would venture to say that the vast majority of adults who visit this area with their children never make it inside this tree. After all, it's meant for kids and the doorway is somewhat small. But for those of you who do, you can find the 20,000 Leagues legacy.

Once through the doorway, turn around and look at the beam above the door. Mixed in with the wood grain is an impression of the Nautilus.


Sub-Pooh


The last attraction I'm going to talk about is the "Mickey Mouse Review," another Magic Kingdom original. Several attractions have graced this building over the years, but it now houses "Mickey's Philharmagic."


MMR-Philharmagic


Two of the musical numbers performed in the "Mickey Mouse Review" were "Who's Afraid of the Big Bad Wolf" and "The Three Caballeros."


Old%20Attractions%2003.jpg

Old%20Attractions%2004.jpg


Today, while in line for "Mickey's Philharmagic," you can see a number of posters advertising various acts starring Disney characters. For example, one poster features Hades (from "Hercules") singing torch songs and another shows Willie the Whale (from "Make Mine Music") singing in clown make-up.

So then, it's no accident that two of the posters pay homage to the "Mickey Mouse Review."


Old%20Attractions%2002.jpg

Old%20Attractions%2001.jpg


April 12, 2009

Walt Disney Studios Park Paris - Part 4 – Production Courtyard – TOT & Backstage Tour

Walt Disney Studios Park Paris Production Courtyard


In an earlier blog I wrote that when the Walt Disney Studios Park opened, it lacked soul. Much of this was due to the fact that many of the buildings either looked like soundstages or office buildings. And most of the other structures and facades were uninspired. But I'm happy to report that the Imagineers are correcting this problem. The "changing" picture below was taken from roughly the same spot. See for yourself how much things have improved in a little over three years.


Walt Disney Studios Park Paris Production Courtyard


With the exception of the Tower of Terror, most of these structures are facades, like the Streets of America at Disney's Hollywood Studios in Florida. But none the less, they add a lot of welcome atmosphere.

This next picture is looking across the street at the other side of Hollywood Blvd.


Walt Disney Studios Park Paris Production Courtyard


The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror


Walt Disney Studios Park Paris Production Courtyard The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror


The Paris version of the Twilight Zone Tower of Terror (TOT) is an extremely close copy of its cousin at Disney's California Adventure. Both were designed in the "Pueblo Deco" style of architecture which is the blending of Art Deco and Native American art from the Southwest U.S.

Along with its other cousin in Tokyo, all three of these Tower of Terrors have three shafts and utilize two elevator cars in each. Unlike Florida, the loading for these elevators takes place on both the first and second floors of the boiler room.

I have not ridden on the Paris version of this ride, but I have experienced Tokyo's and California's so I have a reasonable idea of what the experience is all about.


Walt Disney Studios Park Paris Production Courtyard The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror

Walt Disney Studios Park Paris Production Courtyard The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror

Walt Disney Studios Park Paris Production Courtyard The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror


Paris' Tower of Terror is also the only tower to present Rod Serling's introduction in a language other than English. As the library fills, the bellboy can change from the original English recording to a French narration. Serling's voice in the French version was dubbed by a vocal artist whose voice resembled the original dubbing of the "La Quatrième Dimension" when the Twilight Zone TV show was shown in France. Both recordings feature subtitles in the opposite language.


Walt Disney Studios Park Paris Production Courtyard The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror


The Paris, California, and Tokyo versions of Tower of Terror do not have the "Fifth Dimension Room." Instead, the elevator makes a second stop on its journey to the top of the hotel. At this floor, the elevator doors open and you see a reflection of the car's inhabitants in a mirror hanging on the wall. A moment later, lightning strikes and electricity arcs around the mirror and everyone's face morphs into a ghostly green and eventually fades into nothingness. In the end, the mirror's reflection reveals only empty seats in your elevator.

The deviation from the Florida version of TOT was made for a number of reasons. First, it was less expensive to build. Second, it required less land which was important at Disney's California Adventure. Also, if one of the shafts breaks down, only one third of the attraction is affected, whereas in Florida, if one of the shafts malfunctions, half of the ride's capacity is lost. I've also heard that the "Fifth Dimension" room is prone to breakdowns and the Imagineers wanted to rid themselves of this problem. However, I can't substantiate this.

I really like the Fifth Dimension room. To me, the scariest part of the entire attraction is when you exit this room and your car moves into the inky black elevator shaft. I'm always certain that the technology is going to fail at that moment and my elevator car is going to plunge into the bowels of the building. Yikes! But I also like the mirror effect. It's imaginative and fun.

The rest of the attraction is relatively the same as its cousins. Your elevator car takes its uneasy passengers on multiple drops until finally arriving safely back where you began. And like all of the world-wide TOT's, the view from the top is fantastic. From here you can see the Disneyland Hotel, Sleeping Beauty Castle, Space Mountain, and Disney Village. Have your camera ready.

Disney's Hollywood Studios Florida - Tower of Terror

Disney's California Adventure California - Tower of Terror

Tokyo Disney Sea - Japan - Tower of Terror


Studio Tram Tour®: Behind the Magic

The Walt Disney Studios Park offers a backstage tram tour. The entrance is located at the end of Hollywood Blvd. The picture below was taken over three years ago and the entrance has changed since then. Unfortunately, I do not have a current photo.


Walt Disney Studios Park Paris Production Courtyard Studio Tram Tour®:  Behind the Magic


Parked in front of the attraction is Cruella de Vil's car. If you look closely under the rear of the vehicle, you can see oil stains in the shape of Mickey Mouse.


Walt Disney Studios Park Paris Production Courtyard Studio Tram Tour®:  Behind the Magic

Walt Disney Studios Park Paris Production Courtyard Studio Tram Tour®:  Behind the Magic


The trams are very similar to those used at Disney's Hollywood Studios in Florida.


Walt Disney Studios Park Paris Production Courtyard Studio Tram Tour®:  Behind the Magic

Walt Disney Studios Park Paris Production Courtyard Studio Tram Tour®:  Behind the Magic


But unlike Florida, a cast member does not narrate this attraction. Instead, each car of the tram is equipped with a TV monitor. During your journey, a prerecorded video is played with descriptions of what you are seeing and also of movie making techniques. French is handled by Irène Jacob alternating with Jeremy Irons who provides the English dialog.


Walt Disney Studios Park Paris Production Courtyard Studio Tram Tour®:  Behind the Magic


In the first few years of operation, some cars offered Dutch & German and others Spanish & Italian. But this caused difficulties managing the queue, and eventually these languages were dropped in 2005.

The first segment of the trip takes you past the boneyard where you can see props once used in various movies.


Walt Disney Studios Park Paris Production Courtyard Studio Tram Tour®:  Behind the Magic

Walt Disney Studios Park Paris Production Courtyard Studio Tram Tour®:  Behind the Magic


You also pass by a large set from the short-lived 2002 Disney TV show, Dinotopia. Thirteen episodes were made and shown in Europe, but only five were ever broadcast in the U.S.


Walt Disney Studios Park Paris Production Courtyard Studio Tram Tour®:  Behind the Magic


The next stop on the tram tour is Catastrophe Canyon. This is an extremely close copy of the one at Disney's Hollywood Studios. And just like Florida, the folks on the left side of the tram have the better view and the better soaking.


Walt Disney Studios Park Paris Production Courtyard Studio Tram Tour®:  Behind the Magic

Walt Disney Studios Park Paris Production Courtyard Studio Tram Tour®:  Behind the Magic


From Catastrophe Canyon you turn around and aim back. Along the way the tram passes through the wardrobe building used for park costume design and production.


Walt Disney Studios Park Paris Production Courtyard Studio Tram Tour®:  Behind the Magic


As your journey continues you pass by the attraction entrance and the second leg of the tour begins. You soon pass a topiary garden and a car shed with over 20 different vehicles.


Walt Disney Studios Park Paris Production Courtyard Studio Tram Tour®:  Behind the Magic

Walt Disney Studios Park Paris Production Courtyard Studio Tram Tour®:  Behind the Magic


The second highlight of the tour is based on the 2002 Touchstone movie "Reign of Fire" starring Christian Bale and Matthew McConaughey. Here, you enter a beautiful recreation of London.


Walt Disney Studios Park Paris Production Courtyard Studio Tram Tour®:  Behind the Magic


But you soon learn that all is not well. The city has been destroyed by flying, fire-breathing dragons.


Walt Disney Studios Park Paris Production Courtyard Studio Tram Tour®:  Behind the Magic


The recreation of the devastated city is chilling. The set designers did a fantastic job. But I was somewhat disappointed. After the multiple effects experienced on Catastrophe Canyon, the London scene is a letdown. As you pass by a large, cylindrical brick wall, you can hear the rumblings and growl of the dragon hiding within. But all you get to see is his flame. No audioanimatronic creature appears. No rubble falls from the walls. No pipes burst. Just a large flame.


Walt Disney Studios Park Paris Production Courtyard Studio Tram Tour®:  Behind the Magic


On a side note, Reign of Fire was in production during the same time the Walt Disney Studios Park was being planned and built. I'm sure Disney was hoping that this would be a blockbuster movie that guests could identify with while on the tram tour. Unfortunately, this movie only grossed $82 million on a $95 million budget and received generally negative reviews.

From London your tram passes by the warm-up area for the "Motours" Action! Stunt Show Spectacular" and a few minutes later you're back at the attraction entrance/exit.

Well, that's it for Production Courtyard. Next stop, the Backlot.

Characters In Flight – Grand Opening

Characters In Flight - Grand Opening

A new attraction opened today (April 12, 2009) at the Downtown Disney Westside. "Characters In Flight" (operated by Aerophile) is a tethered helium filled balloon that takes guests 400 feet above Disney World for a breathtaking view of the property. Prices are $16 for adults and $10 for children ages 3-9.

Characters%20In%20Flight%20Opening%20Day%2001.jpg

Characters%20In%20Flight%20Opening%20Day%2000.jpg


The balloon holds from 1-30 guests. Wind speed determines the capacity - the higher the wind, the fewer the riders. Capacity is determined as follows:

0-3 MPH - 20-30 guests
3-12 MPH - 10-20 guests
12-22 MPH - 10 guests maximum
22+ MPH - 0 guests

Each ride is approximately ten minutes in length. It takes two minutes for both the ascent and descent and then five minutes at the top. Each voyage carries an FAA certified hot-air balloon pilot.

Your adventure begins in the queue. Here, a ground-crew member will answer all sorts of questions as you watch other passengers float into the sky.


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While waiting, I asked what would happen if the tether broke and the balloon was set free. After going into a lengthy explanation as to why this is virtually impossible, I pressed him for an answer. I was told that the balloon has a safety valve that kicks in at 1000 feet and releases helium until the balloon is in a "floating" state. Your pilot, who is already in communication with the authorities, would then start a controlled descent. But once again, the ground-crew member assured me that the cable was not going to break.


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When I rode this morning, the winds were brisk and the capacity was limited to a maximum of ten guests. My ride only had seven passengers. In reality, this worked to my advantage -- the fewer the people, the more room to move about the gondola and get pictures. Thirty people would be crowded.

If you run into windy weather while visiting, here is the refund policy:

"The ticket is valid only for the date of purchase and all refunds for unused tickets due to inclement weather must be refunded on date of purchase."

For those of you who have ridden in a hot-air balloon, you'll be in for a treat. Many people don't realize that in order to keep a hot-air balloon aloft requires a constant supply of heated air. Because of this, the pilot must constantly turn the burner on and off - which is VERY noisy. Since this is a helium filled balloon, the entire trip is extremely quiet.

I also asked what would happen in the case of a hurricane. I was told that these balloons, when secured properly to the ground, can withstand a Category One hurricane. But if it was determined that Disney World was in the direct path of one of these storms, no matter what category, it would be deflated.

The gondola is circular in shape. A solid "wall" surrounds you up to your waist. Above that is netting, large enough to easily fit your camera lens through.


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Just before takeoff, everyone is asked to hold on to a hand railing. As the balloon begins to rise and grab the gondola, it is somewhat jerky. After that, it's smooth sailing. Even on a windy day (like today), it's very peaceful and movement is hardly noticed.

Once we reached our maximum height, we were encouraged to move around, take pictures, and ask questions. My pilot, Todd, was somewhat of a comedian and kept us entertained with silly jokes. It added to the fun.

At landing time, we were once again asked to hold onto the hand rails as touchdown can be bumpy.

Upon landing, Todd highly recommended coming back for a nighttime ride as the experience is completely different. I asked if they planned to have special "fireworks" flights. The answer is no. There are too many variables to consider like capacity, weather, and the length of the queue at that time. If you want to see the fireworks while aloft, it will simply be the luck of the draw.


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Here are a few facts about the balloon:

Volume: 210,000 cubic feet
Diameter: 72 feet
Circumference: 240 feet
Height: 105 feet

This next picture is looking into the middle of the gondola and the tether and pulley.


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Below you can see the balloon's platform and our shadow on the water.


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Downtown Disney


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Orlando World Center Marriott


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Team Disney Building


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Saratoga Springs


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Contemporary Resort and Bay Lake Tower - Magic Kingdom in background


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Tower of Terror


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Swan & Dolphin Resorts


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Expedition: Everest and the Tree of Life


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Spaceship Earth


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Epcot's Future World


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When viewing these pictures, please keep in mind that I have an 18-200mm zoom lens. This enabled me to get some close-up pictures that a simple point-and-shoot camera could not. Also, I edited these pictures on the computer once I got home.

***********************************


Hi everyone. Since the posting of this blog, I have received a number of questions. I have tried to answer most of them in the comments section, but not everyone is seeing them, so I'm amending my blog.

Q. Can you make reservations?
A. Since weather conditions are a major factor in the rides capacity, it would be impossible to offer reserved times for this attraction. Because of this, "Characters In Flight" is operated on a "first come, first flies" basis. Just show up, buy your ticket, then wait in line.

Q. Are wheelchairs allowed onboard?
A. ECVs that guests rent (like the ones Disney rents) are too large to fit in the gondola, that is why they are requested to transfer to a wheel chair. Guests in their own private wheelchair (electric or manual) may or may not fit without a transfer. This will be addressed on a case by case basis.

Q. Can guest seated in a wheelchair see?
A. Yes, guests in a wheel chair can see fine.

Q. Are there age and height restrictions.
A. At this time, I do not know, but I am trying to find out and will post it here when I learn more.

Q. What are the hours of operation?
A. The posted hours are Sunday thru Thursday 10:30am - 11pm, and Friday and Saturday, 10:30am - 12midnight.

April 14, 2009

New Amsterdam Theatre

Signs abound at Walt Disney World. Many are informational or instructional, while others entertain and amuse us. And there are a few that have a story buried within them. One in particular comes to mind and that's what this blog is all about.

We're all familiar with the backdrop at the end of New York Street at Disney's Hollywood Studios. Here, artists try to fool our mind and eye into believing that an actual city exists when in reality, it's nothing more than a two-dimensional painting.


New Amsterdam


When the Disney/MGM Studios opened on May 1, 1989, a sign on one of the backdrop buildings read, Hotel Pouilly.


New Amsterdam


That's me in October, 1989.

A few years ago, this sign was changed and it now reads, New Amsterdam.


New Amsterdam


And the reason for that change can be found below.

The New Amsterdam Theatre opened in New York City on 42nd Street in November 1903. It was designed in the Art Nouveau style and for many years was home to the Ziegfeld Follies.

The depression hit Broadway hard and many of the theatres fell into disrepair during this period -- and the New Amsterdam was no exception. In 1937 the building was converted into a movie house. In the decades that followed, the deterioration continued.

In 1993, Disney Theatrical Productions signed a 99-year lease for the property and started an estimated $34 million renovation of the theater. When completed, critics and audiences applauded their efforts. Disney had brought this once grand venue back to its glory days.


New Amsterdam


In the spring of 1997, the New Amsterdam officially reopened. On November 13th of that same year, "The Lion King" premièred and went on to win a Tony Award for best musical in 1998.


New Amsterdam


In June 2006, "The Lion King" was moved to the Minskoff Theatre to make room for another of Disney's movie-to-Broadway shows. On October 16, 2006, Mary Poppins began previews at the New Amsterdam Theatre and officially opened one month later on November 16th.


New Amsterdam


The New Amsterdam Theatre has the distinction of being one of the oldest surviving legitimate theatres in New York City, sharing this honor with the Lyceum Theatre which was also built in 1903.

So the next time you're on New York Street at Disney's Hollywood Studios, you can see a little bit of history on the cityscape backdrop.

Bay Lake Tower – Update April 14, 2009

I stopped by the Contemporary Resort today to buy a gift for someone. While there, I thought I'd check out the progress of Disney's Bay Lake Tower, a new Vacation Club scheduled to open August 4th of this year.

For the most part, the exterior of the building hasn't changed much since our last update.


Bay Lake Tower

Bay Lake Tower


I can report that most of the parking lot has been completed and much of it has reopened to hotel guests.


Bay Lake Tower


Also, glass panels are being added to the elevated walkway between the Contemporary and Bay Lake Towers.


Bay Lake Tower


In the distance, I could see a large expanse of smooth concrete. I was wondering if this might be a tennis court. But this is just speculation on my part.


Bay Lake Tower


Inside the Contemporary I found a few new items to report on.

First, there is now a temporary DVC sales office at the north end of the fourth floor of the Grand Canyon Concourse. I spoke to a representative and was told that guests can take care of all paperwork needed to purchase a Disney DVC at this location. However, she did note that they have no room mock-ups to view. For that you would have to visit their primary sales office located at Saratoga Springs.


Disney Vacation Club Desk

Disney Vacation Club Desk


Also new is Fantasia Market. This shop replaces Concourse Sundries & Spirits and will serve both the Contemporary Resort and Bay Lake Towers.


Fantasia Market at the Contemporary

Fantasia Market at the Contemporary


For the most part, this shop is much like it was before. It sells reading material, snacks and liquor, and a variety of sundries. The major difference is the addition of several refrigerators. Like other DVC's, a limited number of groceries are always within an easy walking distance of your room. Fantasia Market also will offer the convenience of in-room grocery delivery service to Bay Lake Tower Guests beginning in the summer.


Fantasia Market at the Contemporary

Fantasia Market at the Contemporary

Fantasia Market at the Contemporary

April 16, 2009

Walt Disney Studios Park Paris – Part 5 – Backlot – Rock ‘N’ Roller Coaster

Walt Disney Studios Park Paris Backlot Logo


Peppered throughout the Walt Disney Studios Park are street signs with the names of famous American and French film makers. In addition, an informational plaque mounted on the pole gives a brief description of the honoree's accomplishments in both English and French.


Walt Disney Studios Park Paris Backlot Sign


The Georges Méliès' plaque reads as follows: "Méliès, a popular Parisian stage magician, made over 500 films between 1895 and 1914. He is credited with discovering such quintessential special effects as stop motion, slow motion, dissolves, fade-outs, and superimposition."

On the other side of the park, another plaque for the Disney Brothers reads: "In what is arguably the longest and most successful partnership in the history of show business, Roy, the financial genius, and Walt, the creative visionary, together ran the Disney company for nearly half of a century. They changed the face of entertainment and virtually created the genre of the animated feature film."


Walt Disney Studios Park Paris Backlot Rock 'N' Roller Coaster


Rock 'N' Roller Coaster is one of the premier attractions at the Walt Disney Studios Park. As you can see by the picture below, the exterior is quite different from its cousin at Disney's Hollywood Studios in Florida.


Walt Disney Studios Park Paris Backlot Rock 'N' Roller Coaster


Parked nearby the entrance to the "Tour de Force Records" sound studio is Aerosmith's touring bus. The group arrived earlier and is working inside.


Walt Disney Studios Park Paris Backlot Rock 'N' Roller Coaster

Walt Disney Studios Park Paris Backlot Rock 'N' Roller Coaster


After winding your way through the queue, you eventually find yourself in Studio C where you can see Aerosmith discussing their latest idea.


Walt Disney Studios Park Paris Backlot Rock 'N' Roller Coaster


This is where you begin to realize that the storyline at the Parisian version of this attraction is quite different from that of Florida.

Aerosmith has decided that it's not enough to just listen to their music, but that people need to experience it as well. To that end, "SoundTracker" vehicles were developed to make their fans "part" of the concert rather than just passive listeners.

You board the SoundTrackers in a backstage area of a rock performance. A sound man can be seen nearby and it's obvious he's in charge of the goings on.


Walt Disney Studios Park Paris Backlot Rock 'N' Roller Coaster


After you're fastened into your seat, the SoundTracker is jettisoned into the middle of the concert, music blasting from all 120 onboard speakers. As you race around scaffolding, strobes flash, lasers shine, spots turn on and off, and you plunge through a blanket of dry-ice mist. One of five Aerosmith's songs is selected for each event. Depending on the number chosen, the lighting and effects will be different.


Walt Disney Studios Park Paris Backlot Rock 'N' Roller Coaster

Walt Disney Studios Park Paris Backlot Rock 'N' Roller Coaster

Walt Disney Studios Park Paris Backlot Rock 'N' Roller Coaster

The track layout for the Parisian version of Rock 'N' Roller Coaster is identical to Florida's as are the musical numbers. But the experience is quite different. I prefer the Florida version, but that's probably because I'm more familiar with it. If you ever visit the Walt Disney Studios, I would certainly recommend giving this attraction a try even if you have been on the Disney World version a dozen times or more.

The Backlot Express Restaurant

The Backlot Express Restaurant is the primary dining facility in this area.

Walt Disney Studios Park Paris Backlot Express Restaurant


Like its cousin at Disney's Hollywood Studios, this restaurant is fashioned to look like a prop warehouse. Hanging from the walls and stashed in cages is a collection of just about everything.

This is a counter service restaurant and features International and French "fast food." This includes salads, baguettes, and quiche.


Walt Disney Studios Park Paris Backlot Express Restaurant

Walt Disney Studios Park Paris Backlot Express Restaurant

I've never been a big fan of the Backlot Express at Disney's Hollywood Studios. The food is fine, but eating in a warehouse just doesn't work for me. When I dine, I want the ambiance to be a little bit more upscale than an oversized storage room. The Parisian version of this restaurant doesn't feel quite as dingy as Florida's, but neither of these restaurants will ever be high on my list of places to eat, simply because of the surroundings.

In my next blog I will discuss Armageddon Special Effects and Moteurs" Action! Stunt Show Spectacular.

April 17, 2009

Owen Pope and Main Street USA


While looking for interesting bits of trivia in the Magic Kingdom to share with you, I recently came across a Main Street window that brought back an old memory of mine. This window isn't located high above your head on a second story pane, but rather on the side of the Car Barn. The Car Barn is located between the Fire Station and the Emporium and houses the trolley cars and horses being used that day in the park.


Car Barn Main Street

Car Barn Main Street Window


The name on the window that jogged my memory was Owen Pope.


Owen Pope Main Street Window

Owen Pope Main Street Window


Because I used to work at Disneyland, I knew the story of Owen Pope. But I thought he was strictly a California icon and I wondered why he'd have a place of honor here in Florida, so I did a little research.

In 1951, Walt hired Harper Goff to begin drawing up plans for the little park he was visualizing being built on the Studio grounds in Burbank. Walt also hired horse trainer Owen Pope and his wife Dolly. He wanted the couple to begin training horses for the western section of his new park. Being close to the livestock was necessary for the amount of training that was to ensue so the Pope's moved into a trailer on the Studio lot. Besides teaching horses and mules how to behave, they also helped build wagons and coaches for the new park.

As plans for Walt's dream changed and grew, the location of his park moved from the Studio to Anaheim. Eventually the Popes needed to move to Anaheim as well to be near the horses.

Before construction began on Disneyland, something had to be done with the houses that belonged to the former owners of the land. Walt told the Popes they could choose any one of them to live in. Their selection was soon moved to a ten acre area behind what would eventually become Fantasyland. This area was known as the Pony Farm and at one time, the Pope's cared for as many as 220 animals. The Popes are also the only people to actually ever live at Disneyland. Walt may have had an apartment above the Fire Station, but he never lived there. This honor belongs to the Popes alone.

The Popes continued working and living at Disneyland until 1971. It was at this time that they moved to Florida to help open the Magic Kingdom. They created the Tri Circle D Ranch at Fort Wilderness where it still stands today. They retired in 1975 and it's due to their efforts here in Florida that they earned a window at the Magic Kingdom - and it is appropriately located on the Car Barn.


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But why did this window bring back memories for me? I started working at Disneyland the same year Owen and Dolly left for Florida. I never met them and I worked at Disneyland for several years before I even learned of their existence. What is to follow is a personal story that I'm not sure will be of any interest to you, but for me it's a walk down memory lane.

After I had worked at Disneyland for four years, I interviewed for, and was selected to be, a University Leader. This is a high honor as only those Cast Members who exemplify the true Disney spirit are chosen. A University Leader serves for six months and is responsible for instructing new-hires in the Disney ways. We taught them the proper lingo - things like "costume" not "uniform" and "cast member" not "employee." We taught them about grooming. We taught them about Disney history.

Today, this class is one-day in length and is called Traditions. But in my day, it was a two-day session and it was called Orientation. The first day was spent in a classroom and the second day was out in the park. It's the second day that I'm writing about now.

The morning would begin at the Flag Pole in Town Square. I would read the inscription plaque to twenty to thirty new-hires and try to instill the reverence it deserves. Then we would tour the park as I pointed out such things as the "draw concept" and "forced perspective." But most importantly, I pointed out each and every restroom. Believe me, this is one of the most commonly asked questions of any cast member.

Around noon we arrived at Bear Country and I arranged lunch for my group. Then we headed backstage and my new cast members began to learn how the magic is created. I took them to the carpentry shop and the props division. I showed them the molds and rubber that were used to create the elephants in the Jungle Cruise. As the tour continued, we moved further and further backstage. Eventually we were all the way at the back of Disneyland, behind Fantasyland and entered a classroom in the general vicinity of Owen Pope's home.

Before I go any further, I need to give you a little Disney history. Walt was very proud of his audioanimatronic figures and often touted their abilities on his weekly television show. In one segment he demonstrates how a prototype of a Tiki Room bird can be controlled with a joystick. Eventually, this prototype (pictured on the right) found its way to Disneyland and was used during Orientation sessions.


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After I got my class seated and settled down, I would present Jose. Then I would demonstrate how he could turn his head, breathe, ruffle his feathers, and talk. After my demonstration, I would select someone from the class to give it a try. It always made me feel special that I was allowed to handle this valuable piece of Disney history and touch something that Walt himself had used to promote Disneyland.

After the audioanimatronic demonstration I would turn out the lights and turn on a projector (that's right, a projector, not a VCR). For the next 15 minutes the class would watch some awe-inspiring Disney motivational movie. It was during this time that I could escape for a few moments and relax.

Okay, here comes the good part"

Outside of Owen and Dolly's house were two old oak trees. Stretched between them was a hammock. For a few minutes each Sunday afternoon, I would recline beneath a canopy of leaves and contemplate how cool it was to be in The Happiest Place on Earth, in a way very few others have ever experienced it. Millions have visited Disneyland, but only a handful of people ever laid in this hammock and enjoyed the park as I have.

The Pope's home still exists today. It currently houses offices for the Pony Farm and can be seen on several of the backstage tours offered at Disneyland. I have no idea if the hammock still exists. Obviously if it does, it's been replaced several times over the years.

So that, my friends, is why I chose to tell you about the Owen Pope window on Main Street.

April 18, 2009

Walt Disney Studios Park Paris – Part 6 – Backlot – Armageddon - Les Effets Speciaux & Moteurs… Action! Stunt Show Spectacular

Walt Disney Studios Park Paris Backlot Logo


Walt Disney Studios Park Paris Armageddon


Armageddon - Les Effets Speciaux (Special Effects)

As you might have guessed from the title, this attraction is about movie special effects in general and specifically about the 1998 Touchstone movie Armageddon.

On display outside the attraction is the drilling machine Armadillo. This was the actual prop used in the movie to bore into the impending asteroid.


Walt Disney Studios Park Paris Armageddon

Walt Disney Studios Park Paris Armageddon


The adventure begins inside Studio 7-A.


Walt Disney Studios Park Paris Armageddon

Walt Disney Studios Park Paris Armageddon


Your first stop is the preshow. Via film clips, you are introduced to the works of legendary French film maker Georges Méliès, the creator of many early special effects.

Following this tribute, a second video is shown, showcasing well-known special effects from some of our favorite movies of the last century. A close observer will notice that an inordinate amount of this footage is from Disney films. As the movie climaxes, Michael Clarke Duncan, one of the stars of the movie Armageddon, appears on screen. He presents a very high-level explanation of some of the special effects used in the movie Armageddon and sets the mood for the adventure to come.

The entire preshow is presented in French with English subtitles.


Walt Disney Studios Park Paris Armageddon


When the preshow concludes, you exit this room and proceed to the main attraction, a Russian space station. As you enter the craft, you are struck by an array of computers, lights, hoses, and instrumentation. Everyone gathers around the circular room and then the doors are closed and sealed. After a few safety announcements, the director yells "Action" and the set comes alive.


Walt Disney Studios Park Paris Armageddon


As the lights dim, you can hear com-chat in both Russian and English. Viewing screens open and it soon becomes apparent that a number of small meteors are on a collision course with your ship. As the particles begin to pummel your vessel, mayhem ensues. The floor starts to shake and sparks begin to fly. Then one of the walls of your craft is punctured and vast amounts of steam are sucked out into space. A pipe breaks and everyone is sprayed with liquid. All the while the ceiling keeps dropping, inch by inch. To add excitement, these events are accented by loud noises. Then everything goes dark. For a moment you think you might survive. Then all of a sudden a massive explosion erupts from the middle of the ship.


Walt Disney Studios Park Paris Armageddon


When everything calms down, the lights come up and the doors open. As you exit the building, you pass by a number of movie props.

If Disney still used ticket books, I'd give this attraction a "C" coupon (maybe a "D" if I was feeling very generous). It's exciting, but I wouldn't call this a first-class event. The preshow lasts about twelve minutes and the space station segment is about five. This attraction is NOT suitable for small children who are easily frightened.

Moteurs" Action! Stunt Show Spectacular


Walt Disney Studios Park Paris Moteurs


"Moteurs" Action! Stunt Show Spectacular" is basically the same attraction as the "Lights, Motors, Action! Extreme Stunt Show" at Disney's Hollywood Studios in Florida. And as you might already know, it opened in Paris first.

The basic premise is the same for both shows. You are witness to a filming of an action packed stunt sequence involving good guys and bad guys and cars and motorcycles. Since the shows are so similar, I'm only going to discuss the variations.

The first difference is in the queue. While walking passed the garages, the interior is far more visible through the various windows. The cars and mechanics are in plain sight and you can see them working on the vehicles.


Walt Disney Studios Park Paris Moteurs


This attraction is sponsored by Opel Automobiles. (Opel cars are used as the stunt vehicles here and in Florida.) When you enter the stadium, a number of current models are on display in the main arena.


Walt Disney Studios Park Paris Moteurs


While you're waiting for the show to begin, a stunt motorcyclist entertains the crowd.


Walt Disney Studios Park Paris Moteurs


The arena is almost identical to its Florida cousin. It's kind of spooky how similar they are.

The show is presented in both French and English. Two "directors" alternate with explanations of the events unfolding before you.


Walt Disney Studios Park Paris Moteurs


About 15 "extras" are selected from the audience and used in a portion of the show. I can't say they do much, but they are directed to run from one spot of the arena to another.


Walt Disney Studios Park Paris Moteurs


The segment of a car riding on two wheels is not part of the chase scene in Paris. Instead, it's simply a stunt performed for the audience.

First, one car drives out on stage, rides up the incline ramp, then travels across the arena on two wheels. After returning to all four, the vehicle circles around to the starting point and is joined by a second car. This time both cars position themselves in this precarious manner and travel across the arena. Once again, they return to normal, circle back, and are joined by a third car to perform the stunt once more in triplicate.

I actually like this better than the Florida version. It allows you to concentrate on the stunt and not be distracted by other events.

Walt Disney Studios Park Paris Moteurs


Another thing I like about the Paris show is that they don't try to hide the air cushion that the car lands on after flying off of the top of a truck. It's in plain view and it's interesting to see it deflate as the vehicle hits it.


Walt Disney Studios Park Paris Moteurs


Okay everyone. I'm just the messenger here. Remember, don't kill the messenger.

Instead of selecting a child to drive the remote control car, a woman is chosen - and many jokes about women drivers are bandied about.


Walt Disney Studios Park Paris Moteurs


Other than what I've mentioned here, the two shows are pretty much the same. The identical footage is used on the overhead screen. Herbie makes an appearance. A stunt man jumps off of a building and a motorcyclist crashes through a window. And of course, cars go flying through the air.


Walt Disney Studios Park Paris Moteurs


That finishes the Backlot. In my next blog I'll be discussing Toon Studio.

April 21, 2009

Walt Disney Studios Park Paris - Toon Studio – Part 7 - Art of Disney Animation & Animagique

Walt Disney Studios Park Toon Studio Logo


When the Walt Disney Studios Park opened in 2002, Toon Studio was known as Animation Courtyard. The area was uninspired and building exteriors lacked magic. In January 2005, Disney announced that Animation Courtyard would receive a makeover and expand. In June 2007 the renovations were complete and the name was changed to Toon Studio. The area is now much more fanciful and it's a pleasant environment in which to spend time.


Walt Disney Studios Park Toon Studio


One of the original attractions in Toon Studio is the Art of Disney Animation, which I'll discuss in more detail in a moment.


Walt Disney Studios Park Toon Studio Animation Building


The building has been painted blue since I visited in 2005 to fit in better with its new surroundings. Also, the façade of a Hollywood Boulevard structure is now adjacent to its left side. The "Animation" building now seems to be part of a greater whole rather than just a stand alone structure. My friend TDLFAN provided me with the picture below.


Walt Disney Studios Park Toon Studio Animation Building


Surrounding the Sorcerer's Hat are 12 bronze statues of Disney characters.


Walt Disney Studios Park Toon Studio Animation Building

Walt Disney Studios Park Toon Studio Animation Building

Walt Disney Studios Park Toon Studio Animation Building


The "Art of Disney Animation" tour begins in a pleasant room full of unique exhibits and Disney art. Here you can explore the history of animation from the Magic Lantern to one of Disney's multi-plane cameras.


Walt Disney Studios Park Toon Studio Art of Disney Animation


In the center of the room is a zoetrope. A zoetrope is a device that creates an illusion of movement from a quick succession of still pictures. Here we see Dumbo take flight.


Walt Disney Studios Park Toon Studio Art of Disney Animation


An abundance of Disney art is also on display.


Walt Disney Studios Park Toon Studio Art of Disney Animation

Walt Disney Studios Park Toon Studio Art of Disney Animation

Walt Disney Studios Park Toon Studio Art of Disney Animation


Before the actual tour begins, you're invited to watch a short video of Walt Disney paying tribute to the European pioneers of animation. Then you move into a theater reminiscent of a Hollywood studio screening room. Here you watch an array of clips from Disney's wonderful library of animation. You'll cry and you'll laugh. You'll cheer and you'll boo. All of your emotions will be brought into play. This film is similar to the one shown on the old animation tour at the Disney/MGM Studios in Florida.

The next stop is "Drawn To Animation." In this theater, Mushu, the little dragon from Mulan, and your human host explain how characters are developed and chosen to be in a Disney animated film. This is the same show as seen on "The Magic of Disney Animation" tour at Disney's Hollywood Studios.


Walt Disney Studios Park Toon Studio Art of Disney Animation


The final leg of this attraction is also similar to the Disney World animation tour. You enter a large room filled with various "stations" where you can play and explore. You can give Ursula your voice at the "Speak for Yourself" kiosk. "Colourful Characters" lets you paint with an electronic brush. And "Sound Tracks" lets you add your own sound effects to a Disney scene.

But the best part (just like at Florida) is the "Animation Academy." Here an animator will walk you through the process of drawing Mickey Mouse or some other Disney character.


Walt Disney Studios Park Toon Studio Art of Disney Animation


Animagique


Walt Disney Studios Park Toon Studio Animagique


Animagique is presented multiple times a day in a 1,100 seat theater. The building is a copy of the CinéMagique Theater found in Production Courtyard; however the Animagique Theater has been painted blue since my last visit. The show is 25 minutes in length and a schedule is posted on a marquee out front.


Walt Disney Studios Park Toon Studio Animagique


The queue is rather unremarkable.


Walt Disney Studios Park Toon Studio Animagique


In an odd way, the story of Animagique is the same as Mickey's Philharmagic, except it uses real characters and puppets rather than animation. The show starts with Mickey and Donald onstage, each at their own easels. Some sort of contest is taking place to see who is the better artist. I'm sure I don't have to tell you who wins. At the end of the competition, Mickey leaves the stage.


Walt Disney Studios Park Toon Studio Animagique


A frustrated Donald walks around in a huff and eventually finds Mickey's magic key to the vault located behind him. He unlocks the door to reveal hundreds of reels of film from Disney's animated classics. A moment later, some of the characters come to life. First we have the pink elephants from Dumbo. They dance out onto the stage and surround Donald as the haunting "Pink Elephants on Parade" is played. Black lights are used and their florescent colors come alive.


Walt Disney Studios Park Toon Studio Animagique


This routine is followed with the characters from Jungle book, Little Mermaid, and finally The Lion King. Each segment is about four to five minutes in length. Portions of the production will also remind you of the "Voyage of the Little Mermaid" show at Disney's Hollywood Studios. Black lights and puppets are used imaginatively and it's intriguing to watch. In the end, Mickey joins the fun for a big finale.


Walt Disney Studios Park Toon Studio Animagique


This show does have a catchy theme song which I like. But I'll warn you, it will be stuck in your head all day like "it's a small world."

I have to be honest; this show doesn't really work for me. Obviously I was supposed to like it, but I didn't. I thought it was juvenile. I enjoyed the "black light" segments, but I don't feel they're executed as well as the "Voyage of the Little Mermaid" show. But I also wanted to be fair and not pan this production without some other input. So I asked four of my friends who have seen Animagique for their opinions. Here are their responses:

Flo: I've seen Animagique three times - 2002, 2005, and 2007. I loved it the first time I saw it, as did my traveling companions (all hard core Disney freaks). But sadly, the next two times I found it to be a watered-down version of its former self. For example, there is a part that has puppet performers that walk in the aisles with puppets that are like kites on sticks (similar to the ones in Finding Nemo). In 2002, the theatre seemed like it was filled with them. They were in every aisle, surrounding you. The next times, there were only two. It made a big difference. There were other things that were reduced too. In 2002, we liked it so much that we made time to go back and see it again. The next two times, one viewing was enough. I still liked it, but didn't love it. Unfortunately, it appears to have followed Disney's usual pattern - open a great attraction but then let the bean counters drag down the show quality by cutting the performers back to the bare minimum.

TDLFAN: I honestly do not care much for "Animagique". I disliked the music the first time I saw it. In fact, the one aspect of the show I liked was the use of black lighting, which made the characters and props on stage glow to some degree. But the show was a bit slow, amateurish and mediocre for my taste. Maybe because I am so used to the big budget standards used at the Tokyo Disney Resort for these types of show/stage attraction. I could only recommend this show for families who bring small kids into the parks or for those who are "character lovers" to the core. Besides that, "Animagique" is not worth it.

Anita Answer: I thought it was unintentionally hilarious. It was so bad, I laughed out loud at some of the dialogue, such as when Baloo says in a monotone, "Hey buddy, gimme some." Slang always suffers in translation, I guess. I literally fell out of my seat and into the aisle I was laughing so hard. Verdict: Like Kraft Macaroni and Cheese, "It's the Cheesiest!"

Donald: I was so unimpressed with the show I can hardly remember seeing it.

So the vote is 1 in favor, 4 against. But don't take our word for it. You should ALWAYS judge these things for yourself. So if you ever find you're at the Walt Disney Studios Park, I think you should give this attraction a try. You just might love it.

I have heard a rumor. Let me say this again. I have heard a RUMOR, that this show will be retired and replaced with Mickey's PhilharMagic. I think this would be a great improvement and I hope it's true.

In my next blog I'll be discussing Cars Race Rally, Crush's Coaster, and Flying Carpets Over Agrabah.

Fort Wilderness – Swimming Pool Rehab and More

The Ft. Wilderness swimming pool has been down for rehab for several months and just reopened last week. This prompted me to take a drive to the campground and check things out. I wanted to snap a few pictures for the Ft. Wilderness Fact Sheet on the Allears.net website.

I am not a camper. My idea of a vacation is a luxury hotel room with maid and room service. So you might find it odd that I would rank Ft. Wilderness as a "must experience" part of Disney World. But there are many very good reasons for my feelings which I will try to describe below.

This area is a surprise to most first-time visitors. They have no idea that such a peaceful spot exists on property. The designers of the campground did their very best to disturb as few trees as possible when creating Ft. Wilderness. Groves of pine and cypress surround the campsites and roadways. Combine this with numerous canals and grassy knolls and you have the perfect spot to pitch a tent or park your RV.

The campground does not allow personal vehicles to traverse the area other than arriving and departing. All transportation within this area is either by Disney bus, electric golf-carts, or foot. This keeps everything very quite.

I arrived at the Ft. Wilderness main entrance located off of Vista Blvd., parked my car, and caught a bus to the Meadows, which is located smack-dab in the middle of the campground. This is where you'll find about half of the activities offered here - including the swimming pool.


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To my eye, it didn't look like much had changed in this area other than to refresh everything in order to keep it up to Disney standards. However, one nice upgrade has been added - a slide.


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At first glance, I didn't think it was as elaborate as some of the slides Disney has been adding to other resort pools. But upon further thought, I realized that it fits in perfectly with the rustic surroundings. And here's a nice bit of trivia for you. The large barrel that the slide snakes around is from River Country. The Imagineers wanted to save a little of Disney's original water park and incorporated it into this new structure.

After writing this blog, one of my readers, Jim, was kind enough to let me know that a hot tub was added in addition to the slide.

Also on hand is the Meadow Snack Bar where sandwiches, salads, and pizzas are offered.


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Still under construction is a children's play area adjacent to the pool. When completed, this spot will have water-spouts, nozzles, and moving objects to delight the little ones.


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Please note, this pool is ONLY available to guests of Ft. Wilderness.

After I completed my mission of taking pool pictures, I decided to stroll around the campground and enjoy the tranquil atmosphere. Then it struck me. I should blog some of the many activities that are available to anyone vacationing in the area. With this in mind, I headed for the Bike Barn which is just a short distance from the pool.


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As you might guess, this is the place to rent bicycles. These are definitely low-tech models, perfect for flat terrain. Bike paths crisscross the campground and this is the wonderful way to enjoy a cool summer morning or lazy afternoon. Prices are $9 per hour or $18 for the day.


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The two gentlemen below are riding their bikes to their favorite fishing spot. Bass, catfish, and panfish are all waiting to grab hold of your hook. Note, all fishing at Walt Disney World is strictly "catch & release." Cane poles can be rented for $4 for 30-minutes and $9.50 per day. Casting rods rent for $6 for 30-minutes and $12.50 per day. Worms are $5 per package and nightcrawers are $6.


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Canoes and kayaks are also for rent at the Bike Barn for $6.50 per half-hour and $11 for 60-minutes.


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Paddling along these canals is a most peaceful way to wile away an hour. One of the Ft. Wilderness canals makes a circle in and about the campsites and unspoiled woods. It takes about 30-45 minutes to complete the journey and along the way you'll see a varied assortment of wildlife. You might also recognize one of the bridges that the old Ft. Wilderness Railroad once traversed.


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A short distance from the Bike Barn you'll find Wilderness Back Trail Adventure. This is an off-road Segway tour that takes you all the way to the Wilderness Lodge and back. The event lasts two hours including training. The price is $85 but a 15% discount is available to DVC members, Annual Passholders, AAA members, and Disney Visa Card holders.


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Also located in the Meadows is the Chip 'N Dale Campfire Sing-A-Long. Each evening (weather permitting) you can join these crazy characters in song and a marshmallow roast.


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Located nearby is a chuck wagon that sells snacks, soft drinks, and adult libations. When the festivities settle down, it's time to enjoy a Disney movie under the stars. Please note, there is no charge for the Chip 'N Dale Campfire Sing-A-Long (except for marshmallows), but it is intended for Walt Disney World guests ONLY.


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In the mood for a trail ride? Well that's available here too. Call 407-WDW-PLAY for advance reservations and 407-824-2832 for same day reservations. Tickets can be picked up at the Ft. Wilderness Kennel Club located near the entrance of the campground. Then proceed next door to the Trail Blaze Corral where you'll saddle up for a leisurely ride through the forest and meadows.


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Don't worry about mounting and dismounting. Disney has built a platform that allows guests easy access to their steed.


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Note, this is a guided trail ride. No galloping or cantering. You follow a Disney cast member for an unhurried 45-minute walk through the wilderness.


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The price is $46. Children must be 9 years old and 48" in height. There is also a weight limit of 250 pounds. In addition, no cameras are allowed (or any other carry-on) as guest need to concentrate on their riding and not be distracted by photo ops.

At the north end of Ft. Wilderness is the Settlement. This is where you'll find the Hoop-Dee-Doo Musical Review, Crockets Tavern, and the Trails End Buffet. Also in this area is the Tri-Circle-D Ranch. This is the location where all of the horses seen on Main Street are housed each evening. A large barn is open to all and you can see for yourself how well these magnificent creatures are cared for.


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Each horse has its own stall, complete with name tag and some interesting "horse" facts.


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Also found in this area is the Tri-Circle-D Farm. Here you can discover Cinderella's ponies, used to pull her glass coach for special events and weddings.


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Pony rides are also available in this area. Children must weigh less than 80 pounds, be under 48" and led by an adult around the small course. The cost is $5 paid in cash or applied to a Disney room charge.


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Mickey's Backyard BBQ, located in the Pavilion, offers a nightly hoe-down. Ribs, chicken, corn-on-the-cob, and baked beans are served in a down-home style.


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Throw in some Disney characters, a live country band, and line dancing, complete with lessons, and you have a hoop-hollerin' good time. Dates for this show change by season and advanced reservations are required. Call 407-WDW-DINE. Children: $26.99 Adults: $44.99

Ft. Wilderness offers more than what I've described here. Of course, there's the ever popular Hoop-Dee-Doo Musical Review. And don't forget boat rentals at the beach , Trail Blazin' Bingo in the woods, and archery events on the green. And I'll be trying an evening carriage ride in the near future (watch for my blog).

But I wanted to save my favorite Ft. Wilderness activity for last -- rocking peacefully on the porch of Crockett's Tavern. Nothing can beat the pleasure of sitting here with a good friend or loved one and talk about everything or absolutely nothing.


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So next time you're vacationing at WDW, set aside some time to visit Ft. Wilderness Campground. Even if you don't take part in any of the activities I've described, you'll be happy you spent some time exploring this wonderful spot.

April 22, 2009

Animal Kingdom Lodge - Kidani Village Preview

On May 1st, phase one of Kidani Village opens to the public. I am fortunate enough to have reservations and will be on hand for the festivities (watch for my blog). But today (April 22) I was allowed to preview the new facility.

When I arrived early this morning, DVC Cast Member Kristin greeted me and took me on a tour of this impressive property. One of the first things I learned was the resort has a slightly revamped designation. The term Animal Kingdom Lodge refers to the entire resort. The original structure is now called Jambo House and the new section Kidani Village. Kidani (ki-DAH-nee) means "necklace" in Swahili. Throughout the resort you will see evidence of this in the form of beads intertwined in the design elements.

We started our tour with the Porte Cochere. This is where guests staying at Kidani Village are first greeted by the hotel staff and can drop off their luggage.


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Three major themes are used in the design of Kidani Village, fabric, art, and proverbs. The first proverb you encounter can be found under the Porte Cochere.


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In case you're having trouble reading it, it says: Proverbs are like butterflies. Some are caught. Some fly away.

This first proverb sets the tone for others to be discovered around the resort. And each saying is accompanied by a small butterfly.


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Kidani Village was designed by architect Peter Dominick, the same gentleman who designed the original resort. This becomes evident when you enter the lobby. The style is very reminiscent of Jambo House, yet different. The towering ceiling and grand windows are similar, but the artwork and smaller room size imparts a cozy feel.

The "fabric" theme is very evident in the lobby. The major patterns used throughout Kidani Village are from the fabrics of the kente cloths of Ghana and the kuba cloths of the Congo.


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Kidani Village also has its own check-in desk.


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Off of the lobby is Johari Treasures (joe-HA-ree), the resort's gift shop. Johari means "jewel" in Swahili. Besides the standard Disney souvenirs, this shop also stocks African themed merchandise. In addition, a nice supply of groceries is available if you choose to prepare your own meals.


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Beyond the beautiful wall of windows in the lobby is the Sunset Savanna.


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This is the spot where you can get up close and personal with the animals. There is also a knowledgeable cast member on hand to answer any questions you might have about the creatures roaming nearby.

A fire pit surrounded by rocking chairs can also be found here for tranquil evenings with friends and family.


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This is a view looking back at the resort. Notice the thatched roof overhangs on several sections of the building. These designate the Grand Villas. I'll offer more information about these in a later blog.


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You can also find another proverb in the Sunset Savanna area.


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That's it for part one of Kidani Village. In part two I'll be discussing Sanaa (the new restaurant), the pool, and some of the other public rooms.

April 23, 2009

Animal Kingdom Lodge - Kidani Village Part 2

I'd like to start this blog with some logistical details.

Guests and Members must check-in to their respective section of the resort - either Jambo House or Kidani Village. But other than that, all resort facilities are shared.

Kidani Village will have its own bus stop with service to all four theme parks, both water parks, and Downtown Disney.

Guests wishing to travel from Jambo House to Kidani Village can board any Downtown Disney bus.

Guests wishing to travel from Kidani Village to Jambo House can board any Theme Park bus.

Much of the parking is underneath the building. You will appreciate this when you go to get your car during the hot summer.

Phase 1 of Kidani Village is opening on May 1. Phase 2, including the Pembe Savanna, is scheduled to open this fall.


Kidani Village was designed with three themes, Fabric, Proverbs, and Art. And when it comes to Art, it is abundant everywhere. But it's far more than just paintings hanging from the wall. The building was designed with all types of artistic creations in mind. Everywhere you see alcoves and recessed shelves that were designed specifically for sculptures and statuary.


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Other pieces are strategically positioned in the middle of a room.


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The ceilings are equally impressive.


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Even the elevator doors are magnificent!


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And let's not forget about the public restrooms. This is the men's, by the way.


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Here's one of the hallways leading to other public rooms. This, in and of itself, is a work of art.


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Sanaa (sa-NAH) is a 150 seat restaurant that will be open for both lunch and dinner. Sanaa means "artwork" in Swahili and will offer culinary traditions of East Africa.

Below is a picture of the check-in podium. Notice the hidden Mickey? Also, if you look closely at the counter you can see a colorful band running horizontally. This band is made up of small, ceramic beads. As I mentioned in my first blog, Kidani means "necklace" in Swahili and these beads are keeping with this theme.


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Sanaa also has its own Proverb.


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Right off the entrance of the restaurant is a 24-seat lounge. This is the perfect place to enjoy a cocktail while waiting for your table. The lounge is dimly lit, so in order to give you a better view, I have lightened the first two pictures.


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The restaurant portion of Sanaa is broken into sections by the use of half-walls, trees, and giant beads. Hanging from the ceiling are light fixtures that resemble gourds dangling from a tree's limbs.


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Other architectural features also help give this restaurant an intimate feel.


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There are a handful of tables that look directly out onto the Sunset Savanna. Don't despair. The chain-link fence will be gone by May 1st. Note, "window" tables can be requested, but not guaranteed.


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This next picture shows off another of the resort's themes, Fabric.


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Here's a picture of a booth with a not-so-hidden Mickey on the wall. Once again, notice the rich Fabric used on the cushions.


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I was quite impressed with the décor of Sanaa. I will be eating there on May 1st so watch for my review. In the meantime, check out their Pre-Opening menus: Sanaa Lunch and Sanaa Dinner. There is also a Press Release from Disney about Sanaa.

Another of the public rooms is Community Hall.


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Community Hall is the place where you can play games to your heart's content. Computer games, including Wii, board games, pool, foosball, and more are waiting for you. This is also the place where you can check out basketballs, tennis rackets, and other outdoor sporting equipment.


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Kidani Village also has its own electronic game room, the Safari So Good Arcade.


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A very nice laundry room is also available for those of you in Studio units or if you have more loads than your room facility can handle.


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The last public room I'm going to talk about today is The Library. Now don't think of books when you venture this way, think of activities. Posted outside this room is a list of programs that will be offered to entertain and educate. Besides a description of the activity, times and locations are also listed here.


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In a sense, this bulletin is like a cruise ship activity sheet. I realize you can't read it, so let me give you a few examples of what's offered.

Make your own beaded jewelry
Cookie decorating
Face painting
Culinary Tour
Animal Viewing with Night Vision
Pin Trading
So you think you know Disney Trivia
Bingo
Story Time
Ceramics

Obviously, not all of these activities take place in The Library, but some do. Here's a few pictures of this innovative room.


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That's it for this blog. Next I'll be talking about the swimming pool and the guest rooms.


April 24, 2009

Walt Disney Studios Park Paris - Part 8 - Toon Studio – Flying Carpets Over Agrabah, Cars Race Rally, and Crush's Coaster

Walt Disney Studios Park Toon Studio Logo


Les Tapis Volants - Flying Carpets Over Agrabah


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For those of you familiar with the Magic Kingdom at Walt Disney World, "Flying Carpets Over Agrabah" is the exact same attraction as "The Magic Carpets of Aladdin" in Adventureland. Sixteen flying carpets circle and soar around an ornate structure and the Genie's lamp. However in Paris, the attraction is part of an elaborate movie set rather than an event outside the marketplace of Agrabah.

A large backdrop encircles almost half of the ride. Painted on its surface are various scenes from the movie, Aladdin.


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To the side of the attraction we can find Director Genie, megaphone in hand, watching over his actors. Before the carpets take flight, he yells "Action!" and the "movie" begins.


Walt Disney Studios Park Toon Studio Flying Carpets Over Agrabah


One nice feature that "Flying Carpets Over Agrabah" has over its Florida counterpart is a viewing stand on the second floor. This allows parents to get close-up photos of their little pilots as they fly by.


Walt Disney Studios Park Toon Studio Flying Carpets Over Agrabah


Each carpet holds four guests, two in the front seat and two in the back. The front seat has a control that regulates the carpet's height and the back seat controls its pitch. The adventure last approximately two minutes.

This ride is intended for children, but its fun for everyone.

The next two attractions are new since my last visit. The pictures were provided by my friend TDLFAN.

Cars Race Rally


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Welcome to Radiator Springs!


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Walk down Route 66 and you'll see some of your favorite stores from the Disney/Pixar movie "Cars." You can stroll by Flo's V8 Café, Luigi's, Ramone's, Doc Hudson's, and Tow Mater's. These buildings house the queue for "Cars Race Rally." While in line you can enjoy a number of props such as street signs, an old gas pump, a map of Radiator Springs, and a lot of other gas station paraphernalia.


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Walt Disney Studios Park Toon Studio Cars Race Rally


The ride itself is reminiscent of the Tea Cups. You board four-passenger cars that spin and turn. But instead of being on a large turntable, here your cars ride on a figure-eight and they nearly collide with one another as they cross over from one circle to the other. Country music plays and driving advice is dispensed by Lightning McQueen and Tow Mater as you race in the desert landscape.


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Although I have not seen this attraction in person, I have seen videos of Cars Race Rally and it is visually appealing to watch.


Crush's Coaster


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The exterior of Crush's Coaster is reminiscent of a Wyland sculpture and painting. First we see a statue of Crush enjoying himself in the sun and in the background, Soundstage 5 is painted with a large mural depicting creatures of the sea.


Walt Disney Studios Park Toon Studio Crush's Coaster

Walt Disney Studios Park Toon Studio Crush's Coaster


The boarding for Crush's Coaster takes place at Angel's Cove, a Sydney fishing pier. The area is rustic and you can almost believe the ocean is nearby. The selfish Seagulls are perched nearby squawking "Mine, mine, mine."


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Walt Disney Studios Park Toon Studio Crush's Coaster


Crush's Coaster is sort of a cross between "Primeval Whirl" at Disney's Animal Kingdom, "The Seas with Nemo and Friends" at Epcot, and "Space Mountain" at the Magic Kingdom. Four guests ride in a turtle shell, two facing forward and two backwards. The seats are tight so larger folks might want to request a seat to themselves.

As soon as your shell leaves the pier, you enter a dark tunnel and you travel up a small incline. As you descend the hill, you emerge outside for a short moment before reentering the building.


Walt Disney Studios Park Toon Studio Crush's Coaster


Your vehicle slows slightly and a number of sights come into view. You're surrounded by a coral reef and you see Nemo and Squirt playing in the water. You might also encounter an angry Angler Fish who is hungry for a bite. Another turn and you see a number of jellyfish bobbing up and down. A short while later you enter a sunken submarine and ascend a second, larger hill. While traveling upwards you see Bruce and some of his shark friends hungrily peeking out at you.

At the top of the hill you enter the EAC (East Australian Current). With the exception of bubbles being projected everywhere, it's very dark. At this point, the coaster portion of your voyage begins, as does the spinning of your turtle shell. With each dip and bank and rise and fall you turtle shell spins accordingly as you travel through the EAC.

The ride is approximately two and a half minutes in length. It reaches a speed of 37MPH and the spinning can be intense for some. If you're okay on "Primeval Whirl" and the "Tea Cups," you should be okay on Crush's Coaster, otherwise, you might want to think twice before riding.

Toon Studio offers a great photo op. Here you can stand in front of a façade of ToonTown. Occasionally a character or two might show up.


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Well, that's it for my description of the Walt Disney Studios Park. I'll be writing one more blog to sum everything up.

Animal Kingdom Lodge - Kidani Village Part 3

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I think "Survival of the Fittest" is a fantastic name for the Kidani Village health club!

Survival of the Fittest offers state-of-the-art exercise equipment in a very pleasant atmosphere. It is also located next to the pool so a cool-down swim is just a short walk away.


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A number of the machines have pleasant views of the pool area or natural surroundings.


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The Samawati Springs pool (Sah-mah-WAH-tee) measures 4,700 square feet and offers a zero-depth entry. Samawati is the Swahili word for the color "azure."


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Also part of the pool is a 128-foot slide and two whirlpool spas.


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Plenty of lounge chairs are available for sunbathing. But don't forget your sunscreen!


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Adjacent to the Samawati Springs is Uwanja Camp (oo-WAHN-jah). This is a children's play area, but after you see the pictures, I'm sure that you'll agree there will be as many adults here as little ones. Uwanja means "play area" in Swahili.

Let's start at the entrance where two African masks spray mist on you as you pass by.


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Once through the entrance gate, prepare to get wet. Water comes at you from all directions.


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These next two pictures show how a water-canon battle could erupt between the attackers and the defending fort.


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There is also a "Jungle Gym" type apparatus for the kids to climb on, slide down, and burn off energy.


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Also located near the pool is the Maji Pool Bar (MAH-jee). Maji means "water" in Swahili. Besides soft drinks and adult concoctions, a limited selection of food is also served.


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At Kidani Village, DVC Members and Guests can choose between four different room categories: studio (sleeps up to 4), one-bedroom villa (sleeps up to 5), two-bedroom villa (sleeps up to 9), and three-bedroom, two-story Grand Villa (sleeps up to 12). All rooms feature a balcony, most with spectacular views of the resort's savannas.

Studio units feature one queen-sized bed, one double-size sleeper sofa, and a kitchenette.


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Once again, the Fabric theme of the resort is evident in the bedspread. Also, check for hidden Mickey's on the spread and carpet.


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One-bedroom units and larger feature a living area, a full-size kitchen, washer & dryer, multiple bathrooms, and a whirlpool tub.

Here are two pictures of the kitchen.


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Below are pictures of the living area. Notice the wood-carving on the TV cabinet.


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Next we see photos of the two basic bedroom styles. One features a king-size bed while the other has two queens.


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Here are pictures of the bathroom that is connected to the bedroom with the king-size bed.


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Below are pictures of the bathroom that is associated with the bedroom with the two queen-size beds.


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One-bedroom rooms at the Kidani Village feature a second bathroom. This is a nice feature in the morning when multiple family members are trying to get ready.


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Jambo House offers the same type of accommodations with slightly different floor plans than Kidani Village. In addition, The Grand Villas in Jambo House are one-story and feature a pool table. The Grand Villas at Kidani Village are two-story and have entrances on both the fourth and fifth floors.


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Well folks, that's all I have for now. I will be staying at Kidani Village on May 1st and 2nd so I can explore this resort in more depth. Watch for updates.

I'd also like to extend my thanks to Kristin for spending over an hour with me and showing me this fantastic resort.

April 27, 2009

“Green” comes to Disney Merchandising

Disney has introduced a new "green" product line. Starting this week, environmentally friendly merchandise will start appearing on shelves across property.

Last year, Disney developed guidelines for what "green" meant. They wanted to make sure if a product said "green" it actually meant something. Their efforts gave birth to some surprisingly innovative merchandise.

Here is a list of the new "green" products:

Stationery, notebooks, and pencils made out of recycled materials including rubber tires, denim, and currency.

T-shirts made from organic cotton. Organic cotton is grown without the use of pesticides, chemicals, or synthetic fertilizers.

Purses made from misprinted Disney candy bar wrappers.

Mickey and Minnie plush toys made from organic cotton and earth-friendly inks.

Jewelry made from bamboo and coconuts.

Disney Worldwide Conservation Fund pins that come on a paper-card embedded with wildflower seeds. The card can be planted in the soil to grow flowers.

Displays like these (below) can be found in shops designating where green products are for sale. And before you ask me, the purses sell from the mid-twenties to the mid-fifties, depending on size.


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April 29, 2009

Disneyland Paris Resort – Last Blog

I have written 36 blogs about the Disneyland Paris Resort, and I've barely just scratched the surface.

Although the Walt Disney World resort is larger, take a look at how many pages the Allears.net website includes to try to describe everything. A Paris website would also have to be enormous to cover all of the information there is about the resort. My goal was simply to give you an overview and try to point out some of the highlights.

As I've mentioned earlier, Disneyland Paris is my favorite of the five Magic Kingdom-type parks. And it's my second favorite Disney park after Tokyo DisneySea. If you're into theme parks, you definitely should see this one.

I know I was somewhat harsh in my description of the Walt Disney Studios Park. But I haven't been there in three and a half years and the Imagineers are making some decent progress to bring it up to snuff. It is worth seeing.

Also, the overall resort is very nice. I've spoken to many Disney World fans that tell me they enjoy hotel-hopping. They find pleasure discovering what each inn has to offer, even if they never stay there. Well, there are six themed hotels to explore at Disneyland Paris. Not to mention Disney Village and all of its shops and restaurants.

As I mentioned in my first blog, I would try to separate the Disney portion of my trip from the rest of my European travels. Plan on spending two or three nights at Disney and immerse yourself in the magic. I feel that you should plan on spending two full days at the Disneyland Paris Park. You can see everything in less time, but I can guarantee you that you'll want to experience a number of the attractions twice - maybe more.

I think most guests could see all of the Walt Disney Studios Park in one full day. This would leave you some time to see CinéMagique twice.

I would avoid visiting in the winter. It gets cold! Very cold! It snows.

Well that's it. I'm going to post a few more pictures just to whet your appetite.

Bon voyage.


Disneyland Paris Resort

Disneyland Paris Resort

Disneyland Paris Resort

Disneyland Paris Resort

Disneyland Paris Resort

Disneyland Paris Resort

Disneyland Paris Resort

Disneyland Paris Resort

Disneyland Paris Resort

Disneyland Paris Resort

Disneyland Paris Resort

Disneyland Paris Resort

Disneyland Paris Resort

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About April 2009

This page contains all entries posted to The “World” According to Jack in April 2009. They are listed from oldest to newest.

March 2009 is the previous archive.

May 2009 is the next archive.

Many more can be found on the main index page or by looking through the archives.