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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
The trams are very similar to those used at Disney's Hollywood Studios in Florida.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
But you soon learn that all is not well. The city has been destroyed by flying, fire-breathing dragons.
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.
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.
The previous post in this blog was Fantasyland – Old and New.
The next post in this blog is Characters In Flight – Grand Opening.