Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Tokyo Disney Sea reopens - New Fantasmic show

I am be in London until monday evening. I'm part of the guests invited at Buckingham Palace reception for the Royal wedding and you'll understand that i wouldn't miss this for anything in the world! (just kidding). However the awaited TDS Fantasmic show just began with the reopening of the park, and here is the full show on two videos. Enjoy, and see you next tuesday!

Videos: copyright TDRFantasmiclove

A different look to Shanghaî Disneyland artwork

The Shanghaî Disneyland event was undeniably eagerly awaited by the Disney fan community and the SDL WDI artwork was what we had waited for for many months. I will have, today, a new look at this SDL artwork. Although Disney did its best to not provide renderings which would reveal SDL design in detail, there are still interesting elements to provide food for thought as we saw last week in my previous SDL article.

Something in particular in SDL artwork caught my attention. Although it's hard to see details, when we look at the rendering the only area which seems to have a futuristic "Tomorrowland" design is the area located on the left of the castle, i.e in a location where normally a Frontierland or an Adventureland is built, and exactly at the opposite where are all other Magic Kingdoms built their Tomorrow/Discovery/lands - except Tokyo Disney Sea which have its Port Discovery located on the west side.

But there is more: WDI Imagineers know from all studies done since 1955 that guests are generally inclined to visit Magic Kingdoms clockwise, i.e they usually begin by Adventureland or Frontierland, and then the other lands. Not all of the guests of course, but most of them. It's well known, and there might be another meaning at this clockwise visit, as by doing this guests begin by the past (Frontierland) and end with the future (Tomorrowland) which is quite logical.

But in Shanghaî, it seems that everything is inverted. Not only am I not surprised by the lack of Frontierland, but also what seems to be an Adventureland area stands where we usually find a Tomorrowland or, at DLP, Discoveryland. So knowing all this, why WDI Imagineers would have put a "Tomorrowland" exactly at the location where guests usually begin their visit, why would they invite SDL guests to begin by the future instead to have a look at a nostalgic past?

Well, maybe because there is no nostalgic past for chineses. At least for the period of time that we usually find in Frontierland. Generally Frontierland bring back DL guests in the 19th century at a time of pioneers, gold rush, and the birth of a nation. Like everyone, China had its 19th century but, you see, they probably don't keep good memories of it. For centuries China was the most advanced civilization, much more advanced than the rest of the world; especially in science, medecine and arts. China also brought to the world major inventions like printing, paper, compass, bank notes, gunpowder and even pasta!

And then, in the 19th century, China adopted a defensive posture towards European imperialism. As China opened up to foreign trade and missionary activity, opium produced by British India was forced onto China. Two Opium Wars with Britain weakened the Chinese Empire's control and European imperialism proved to be a disaster for China. The First Opium War was from 1839 to 1842 and the Second Opium War from 1856 to 1860. The subsequent passing of the humiliating Treaty of Tianjin in 1856 and the Beijing Conventions of 1860 opened up more of the country to foreign penetrations and more ports for their vessels. Hong Kong was ceded over to the British. Thus, the "unequal treaties system" was established and heavy indemnities had to be paid by China, and more territory and control were taken over by the foreigners.

I think you begin to understand why the Chinese don't really have a nostalgic image of the 19th century. For China, it was probably the worst time of humiliation in all of China's history. I've been told that at WDI, quite a while ago, for HKDL i think, they envisioned doing a chinese Main Street instead of an american one. I though it would have been a good idea and I probably thought this because of my romantic vision of chinese cities at the turn of the century, but China probably don't have the same romantic image of that era...

Now, in this early 21st century China is back and its residents are on their way to become the most powerful nation in the world which probably will happen in the next 20-30 years or the other half of this century at the latest. The time of a new greatness is coming for China and the Chinese are well decided to put China's flag on the moon - and probably they will succeed. In two words, we have a whole nation looking towards the future and not really back two hundred years ago. That could be a reason why SDL's Tomorrowland would be located where guests usually begin the park visit. Nothing right now is more important for China than the future, so let's begin with it!

Although China doesn't have good memories of the 19th century it doesn't mean that the collective subconscious doesn't have myths and legends. China civilization is more than 5000 years old, and there is no doubt that old myths are part of China's subconscious and that Shanghaî Disneyland will probably pay tribute to some of them. As for the SDL fireworks that we can see on the rendering, when Shanghaî Disneyland will open in 2016, Disney better not be cheap on the evening fireworks. Because the Chinese know what the word "fireworks" mean. As a matter of fact they also invented fireworks. And not last century, but 900 years ago.

Artwork: copyright Disney

Many thanks to Nate Walz for the text editing!

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

" Squaring the Circle " or : What you need to know to understand DLP management

Since DLP Big Thunder Mountain accident last monday most of the comments whether on D&M or on other websites complain - or even accused - about DLP "supposed" bad maintenance of the park. The whole story is much more complicated than that and i'd like to take a minute or two to explain you why you shouldn't blame DLP management - specially before we know precisely the reason of the accident.

Let's begin by the beginning, i.e back almost 20 years ago, when the financial problems of the park began. When Disneyland Paris - at that time still called EuroDisney - opened, everyone celebrated the opening of a gorgeous Magic Kingdom. From the first year the park was a huge success and became instantly, not only the most visited place in France but also in Europe with more than 11M guests visiting the park. The park was so popular that DLP decided to build as quick as possible new rides.

However, in the next years problems on the financial situation of EuroDisney began and the good question is: why? Why a place which was the most visited place in Europe had this financial problem. The answer is in one word: Hotels. From day one DLP had seven hotels built on site, including the Davy Crockett Ranch. Right now the hotels are doing fine but at the beginning it was different. So, seven hotels from day one, not one or two, SEVEN! Many voices shouted "Fools!" to the management, knowing that there was so many hotels in Paris that building seven on-site hotels was going to be a financial failure.

So, why the WDC decided to build seven hotels on the site when they could have simply built only two, and more afterwards if necessary? Two words: Michael Eisner. You, see, Eisner, who was as we know WDC CEO at that time has always been a "wannabe architect". For those of you who don't understand what a "wannabe" is, it means that a person has always wished to be something that, sometime she succeed to be, or, most of the time, she never succeed to be. In the case of Eisner, he became the CEO of a big company, but never an architect.

So what did Michael when it was time to design hotels for the DLP project? He hired some of the best architects - and probably some of his favorites - and asked them to design great buildings for DLP hotels resort. The hotels section of the project was one on which he had the final cut and having them designed by the best architects was his way to live his "wannabe" dream to be an architect. And it would have not be a problem if Eisner had decided to build only two hotels, but instead seven hotels were built which means a huge maintenance cost, not to mention the salary cost of all the people working at the seven hotels.

Right now the hotels are doing really well, but back in 1992 it was not the case at all. And what had to happen happened: the hotels costs were a burden in DLP accounts and Michael Eisner's dream was finally responsible of the beginning of DLP financial problems. Eisner never admits his responsability but he was not the kind of guy to admit his faults, anyway.

So, first problem, too many hotels from day one. Again, the hotels are doing very well now, the mistake was only to have seven hotels operating from opening day. Then the park decided what was indeed the best thing to do to resolve the problem, i.e to build DLP second gate, the Walt Disney Studios. Good idea, if you have two parks, you necessarily will have more guests spending nights in the hotels. But it's a good idea if the park is just as good as the first one was. And when the WDS opened - and although WDI Imagineers did their absolute best with the money at their disposal - everyone complained, one about the lack of theming, another that it was a half day park, or that there was not enough attractions for young kids, etc...

Mind you, there was many other designs for the WDS but finally the WDC chosen the one we know, probably thinking that "the guests won't see the difference" which is probably the most stupid phrase that any executive can say as the guests always see the difference. And, talking about executives, guess who was WDC CEO at that time and had the final cut on the budget allowed for the WDS? That's right: Michael Eisner. Second mistake, and this one was going to cost a lot to the park. Since then, for all DLP's executives, ruling DLRP is like squaring the circle.

Those of you who have followed DLP financial news might say "wait a minute, i thought that the park had 400 M euros of cash flow at the bank?" That's right that's more or less the amount they have but what you don't know is that they can't use the money just like they want. Each time the park needs money for a new project whether it is, for instance, the new World of Disney Store, or a new attraction, or a big rehab program as they currently do, they need the bank agreement for the needed amount. Considering the park's debt i can understand that the banks wants to make sure that the money will be well spent, but, still, it doesn't make the job easier for DLP management.

So, as you probably understand now, the job of the park is, finally, to find the best way to manage a budget. They need money to build new attractions to have the guests coming back and increase parks, hotels and merchandise revenues AND they need money to transform the WDS in a full-day park AND in the same time they need money for the park maintenance AND they need money to reduce the park's debt to the banks. And it is more complex that we can think as, as we know, if they don't build new rides guests won't come back AND so the resort revenues will not get better AND so they will not have money to reduce the debt with the banks AND so the banks will not accept to give them money to build new rides, etc... As i've said it's almost like squaring the circle, and i can assure you that DLP management is doing absolutely their best, and it's not easy, considering they've inherited of these two major mistakes explained above, mistakes that they are not responsible of.

So, please keep in mind all the complexity of the situation when you'll write your comments, that will be fair for all the people doing their best at DLP.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Serious accident at DLP Big Thunder Mountain - Five guests injured, one seriously hurt - [ Updated 4/26 ]

A serious accident happened today at Disneyland Paris Big Thunder Mountain. Five guests were injured, including one seriously, when one of the fiber glass rocks which moves during the lift C fell down, hitting the guests in the train.

According to DLP the faux rock in fact didn't fell directly on the guests. Instead, the rock fell on the track, was hit by BTM locomotive and flying pieces of the rock then hit the five guests aboard the train.

Last news are saying that a piece of fiber glass and wood fell at about 2:50 pm on one of the train wagon. A 38 years old man was seriously hit on his head and was evacuated by helicopter at the Beaujon hospital in the town of Clichy-sur-Seine. The man supposedly has a cranial traumatism which can be really serious.

UPDATED 4/25: A source close to the inquiry said that it was too soon to say if the man will recover but on the other hand a DLP spokeswoman just announced that the man is apparently "out of danger". She also said that Disneyland Paris was taking care of his relatives.

Four others people were slightly hurt and been looked after on location, in the park. Apparenly they were released back in the park after, which would mean they are not too badly hurt. Of course Big Thunder Mountain was closed immediately and will very probably remain closed tomorrow if not the next days while police and park can conduct an inquiry and determine that the ride is safe.

UPDATED 4/26: Considering that BTM was supposed to close for a big refurbishment on May 9 until May 27 chances are that the attraction will not re-open before May 9. Also, please don't attack DLP in your comments about the park's maintenance. I can assure you that DLP is trying to do the best maintenance that they can on the parks, and one of my last update let you know about DLP big refurbishment program which already began. Right now we don't know exactly the reason of the accident and may be the inquiry will determine that it came from a maintenance problem, or may be not. Until then we must give to DLP management the benefit of the doubt as no one knows exactly the reason of the accident. To understand better how the management of DLP is complex, please read my latest article HERE.

UPDATED 4/26: According to a DLP Cast member working at the Silver Spur Steakhouse restaurant "the emergency team reacted extremely quickly. In less than five minutes Frontierland backstage was full of emergency doctors, firemen, police men, etc... and we can say that the emergency teams did a great job" Always according to him who saw everything in Frontierland backstage "the crania traumatism of the guest seriously injured was not a small one". He also heard - before the accident happened - "a guest eating at the restaurant asking if it was normal that a BTM rock in the last lift was not moving as it usually does" which means that some guests apparently noticed that something was going wrong before the accident happened.

For those of you who don't know what is the "lift C" it is the last lift, the one in which you have false rocks moving and the gold mine appearing as it is shown on the WDI rendering below. Of course, as we know, the rocks don't really fall, they're just moving. Except that today one of the rocks really fell down, unfortunately this occured when the train with 25 guests aboard was inside the tunnel.

I will have more news about this dramatic accident tomorrow, and my french readers will find below a short news in french from Le Parisien web site. I've also posted today my regular DLP update and you will find it below or HERE. And below a video (in french) from a french news TV channel with a DLP rep explaining what happened.

"Un élément de décor du Train de la mine de Disneyland Paris s’est décroché lundi après-midi, vers 15 heures, au passage des wagons. «Cela s’est produit vers la fin du parcours de l'attraction, avant le tunnel final», indique une responsable de la communication de la société Eurodisney, confirmant l’information.
L’attraction à sensations, appelée aussi Big Thunder Mountain, est située dans la partie Adventure land du parc principal, à Marne-la-Vallée (Seine-et-Marne).

«Le rocher est tombé sur un wagonnet du petit train qui transportait au total 25 touristes. Il s’agit d’un rocher artificiel fabriqué en résine. Cinq adultes ont été blessés dont un grièvement. Victime d’un traumatisme crânien, cet homme, un Français de 40 ans, a été admis aux urgences de l’hôpital Beaujon, à Clichy-sur-Seine (Hauts-de-Seine). La direction du parc a annoncé que sa famille était prise en charge et hébergée par Eurodisney le temps qu’il restera hospitalisé.

L’attraction est fermée jusqu’à nouvel ordre. Le commissariat de police de Chessy est chargé de l’enquête".

Pictures: copyright Disney

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Disneyland Paris Update : Getting ready for DLP 20th Anniversary - Part Two

Here is a new Disneyland Paris update and we'll begin by some pictures of the works on the big World of Disney Store which will open next year for the 20th Anniversary. Located at the entrance of the Disney Village it will hide the Gaumont theatre facade, which is good news. Just like others World of Disney stores guests will find inside all the Disney merchandise they can dream of.

Last month in another DLP update i've told you all about a meeting organized by DLP for the webmasters to keep us informed about what will be done this year to make sure everything will be as beautiful as possible for DLP's 20th Anniversary.

Since then DLP released a short video filmed during this meeting and, surprise, we can see in it some interesting Imagineering documents that we saw during the presentation but couldn't take pictures of. I did some screen captures of the video for you and let's begin by documents related to the renovation of the Molly Brown.

A picture of the always charming Peggie Fariss, now in charge of DLP Imagineering, interviewed by Mathias Dugoujon from DLP web communication, during the inaugural cruise of the new Molly Brown on the Rivers of the Far-West.

As you know Sleeping Beauty Castle is currently being repaint and during the presentation Thomas Bardenat - here on the picture - shows us the color palette of the new colors chosen for the castle. On the picture below you can see behind him some of these colors...

...and below two DLP Imagineers painting the castle model with the new colors.

One very interesting document is linked with the transformations inside Main Street U.S.A Disney & Co shop. As i told you the beautiful band organ currently inside the shop will be send to Florida and placed inside the Story Book Circus area in the new Fantasyland...

...And WDW Imagineering in exchange will provide to DLP some visuals which will be used inside the Disney & Co decor. On the video as they had to fill the whole 16:9 frame the picture is distorted and the visuals don't look like the one we saw. So i photoshopped it and now they look more like the real visuals which are more rectangular than square. They're not perfectly sharp but that's the best i could do!

By the way, these visuals should also interest WDW fans as i'm pretty sure they will be used, too, inside the Story Book Circus area opening in 2012.

I suppose you're dying to see the video, so here it is!

A special bonus with another video as DLP also released a promotional video for the new Disney Magical Moments Festival, including comments of French VIP who were there during the special event.

See you soon for a new update!

Pictures: copyright Disney or Disney and more