Part of my trip to Disneyland Paris was under the auspices of the Disneyana Fan Club (http://disneyanafanclub.org/home) who put together a multi-day group program, centering around the 20th Anniversary festivities. The last time I traveled with them was for Tokyo Disneyland's 25th Anniversary some years ago, which was also a terrific trip.
The first full day of events took place on April 11, the day before the anniversary. It started off with lunch at Inventions--a fabulous buffet in the Disneyland Hotel.
After lunch, we convened in the Founder's Club--an executive lounge in the hotel--to see presentations by Tracy Eck, Art Director of Lighting Design for WDI Paris, and Disney Legend Tony Baxter, who served as Executive Producer for the creation of Disneyland Paris.
Both presentations were wonderful--Eck gave several details about all the work the park had recently undergone to get ready for the celebrations, particularly the large fiberoptic Tinker Bell sign on the train station entrance, the recreation of the previously-eroded pirate ship, and the creation of a few newly themed meet-and-greet locations.
Baxter spoke of the many trials and tribulations that beset the Imagineers when they were creating the park, and some of the cultural adaptations they made to better suit the park to the surrounding populace. Realizing people residing in France were likely to be all too familiar with the real castles which serve as inspirations for the Disneyland and Magic Kingdom castles, they styled the castle to better reflect that of a fairy tale aesthetic.
He also recounted some of the hidden in-jokes and homages they put in. He remembered that when the Imagineers were remodeling the Fantasyland in Disneyland Anaheim, the doorway out of Village Haus Restaurant had a beam going down the middle that forced them to place the Exit sign off to the side (which he thought looked terrible.) To try to cover it, he painted an image of Figaro with a rope tied to the sign, trying to pull it to the center. In Paris, the equivalent restaurant, Au Chalet de la Marionnette, had no such problem, so as a nod to the original, Baxter had another Figaro placed giving a thumbs-up to the onlooker, as if to say "we got it right this time!"
He noted that it would be a difficult reference for anyone to get, because you'd have to have seen them at each park. Only I, your strange little Disney friend, have traveled across two continents to bring you this trivia.
Afterwards, we were surprised with a presentation of all the Disney Parks Ambassadors from around the world, gathered together for the first time in anyone's memory to celebrate the occasion.
And if that weren't enough, a couple of other guys who happened to be traveling through popped by:
...Frequent Disney Artists, Kevin Kidney and Jody Daily!
The next day, after the anniversary excitement of the morning, the group arranged lunch for us at the beautiful Walt's, on Main Street.
The decor inside is magnificent--each room is decorated in the style of one of the separate lands. We happened to eat in Adventureland.
Joining us for lunch was Chief Operating Officer of Disneyland Paris, Joe Schott, who graciously said he was happy to spend part of such a momentous day with people who had traveled so far to experience it.
He seemed very invested in finding ways to constantly improve the park experience for his guests and spoke briefly on the difficulties of putting together the various components of the new anniversary attractions in the short ~two years since he had been appointed his position.
For our final special event, on Friday the 13th, no less, they arranged for us to enter the park before opening to have breakfast in front of the Phantom Manor.
Unfortunately, the weather that day, as most of the other days, was freezing cold, so the decision was made to move it indoors. Fortunately, it was moved into the Lucky Nugget Saloon which proved to be a gorgeous venue on its own.
The food, alas, was identical to the somewhat limited fare the hotel served for its breakfast buffet each day, but a few familiar faces turned up to enliven the event.
After a photo in front of the Phantom Manor, that concluded the exclusive part of the trip. There were a number of other meets to watch various parades and shows as a group, but these were the activities they arranged that were special to the club.
While the Disneyana trips aren't cheap, they do provide some experiences that would be difficult or impossible for you to arrange on your own, and they also offer the chance for people new to travel or the area to enjoy the support system of a group. I have enjoyed both trips I've taken with them, and would encourage anyone interested in their events to check out their webpage.
Next: The Big Day Arrives.