On July 25, the D-Log website posted an article called "Future Developments at Disneyland Paris in danger?". The article made the effect of a thunder clap in DLP fans community and since then i've received dozens of messages asking me "Did you read this? Is it true?". Well, yes, of course, i've read the D-Log article and, because it is a quite complex case, i'm going to explain to you what i think is going on and where is the truth in all this.
But first, what exactly D-Log said? Here is an excerpt of the article and you can read the full article HERE:
"News has reached us that The Walt Disney Company has stopped investments for future projects after Ratatouille, taking effect immediately..." "...In essence the news that has reached us of The Walt Disney Company ordering to shut down all future investments means all rumours on future plans for attractions, shows and entertainment will be put on hold for now. Rumours such as Star Tours 2, a complete mini-land with Star Wars theme, a successor to Captain EO, the addition of Captain Jack Sparrow to Pirates of the Caribbean, the extension of Hollywood Boulevard at the Walt Disney Studios Park, introducing Marvel characters at the Walt Disney Studios Park, Soarin’ Over The World, The Little Mermaid dark-ride at Fantasyland, etc. Countless rumours which have been circling the Internet for a number of years, but which have a notion of truth for some".
As you can see if what D-Log is saying is true it's certainly no good news indeed. So, is it true or not? Well, basically, D-Log is at the same time right, and not. What IS true is that the WDC has decided to put on hold any new investment for new DLP rides after Ratatouille. And what is NOT true is that the WDC will not make any new investment in DLP anymore. In fact, a Star Wars land and a Marvel land for DLP are already scheduled by Disney Parks and Resorts, but, as you will see below, Disneyland Paris fans might have to wait a looong time.
So, what is happening exactly? Well, you might know that Disney Parks is doing regularly - each year or so - some "ten years plan" in which they plan all major new rides and shows for each Disney theme park in the world for the next ten years. They're doing it for obvious reasons - mainly financial reasons - as they need to plan the different budgets that the company will have to spend in the years to come.
And, in the latest "ten years plan" which was submit for approval to all Disney parks last May, the future projects listed for Disneyland Paris include of course the WDS Ratatouille ride - always scheduled for an opening mid 2014. And then, the next major attractions for DLP are scheduled for - are you sit? because you really need to be:
2022: Disneyland Paris Park: Star Wars Land + D Ticket attraction
2023: DLP Walt Disney Studios: Marvel Land and placemaking of the WDS
And from what i've been told, between 2014 and 2022 - and if we except new sequences in the Disney Dreams show - no other new ride is planned for DLP in this ten years plan, even for DLP 25th Anniversary in 2017. Waiting until 2022 looks for sure a long time to wait but before each DLP fan goes into "panic mode" you need to know something important. Disney Parks is doing regularly these "10 years plan" and sometime it happens that what is scheduled one year can be changed, for several reasons, 2 or 3 years later. That said, Disney Parks don't do these "ten years plans" just by throwing dices and, considering the old principle that there is a logic in life behind everything, this ten years plan and the chosen dates means necessarily something, specially on the plan of Disney economy reality, and this is what we're going to talk about now.
The first thing that i think is wrong to think is that the WDC "don't care anymore about Disneyland Paris". May i remind you that last year, on Sept 18, the WDC did a loan of 1,332 Billion Euros to DLP so the park could pay off its debt to the banks? And not to mention others 200M Euros thanks to which DLP can build the Ratatouille ride at the WDS. So, frankly, i don't think that there is any company in the world that give to another one - in which they are the biggest stockholder - 1.5 Billion Euros if they don't care about it. But even for the Walt Disney Company there is limits, specially when you count in billions, and the WDC might think that DLP is like a "Danaids barrel" in which whatever you pour is not enough and seems to never end. And it's true that DLP financial problems are here since a loooong time even - and here is the paradox - if DLP is always the most visited place not only in France but also in Europe!
The other thing that you must keep in mind is that the WDC have others theme parks to care about, starting by the ones in the U.S. Bob Iger did a real good job to resolve the problems of HKDL and DCA - and that was not that easy to do - but the WDC is also aware of the upcoming projects of Universal Studios which are no jokes. Disney know that the Harry Potter land coming at Universal Hollywood as well as the Wizarding World phase two opening next year at Universal Orlando - not to mention the rumored two new rides at IOA in 2015 - are serious threats and that the company will need to counter-attack with new lands and attractions at both DL and WDW resorts. Thanks God, the U.S parks are doing pretty well, and Disney definitely want to make sure that they will continue to do well in the years to come.
But there is also another parameter: in 2015 Shanghaî Disneyland will open and it's a $4.4 Billion project. Even if Disney won't have to pay this amount in its entirety SDL will cost to the WDC probably at least $2 Billion, which is quite a lot of money indeed. It is well known that for Bob Iger Shanghaî Disneyland is a very important project as it will be its legacy when he will leave as CEO in June 2016, so the budget for SDL is definitely a "priority". And there is also the three others "big" projects, i.e the Avatar, Star Wars, and Marvel lands. These also will be part of Bob Iger legacy as they will exist thanks to the three major acquisitions that the WDC did since Iger became CEO, i.e Lucasfilm, Marvel, and the theme parks rights for Avatar. The fourth major acquisition was of course Pixar. All these acquisitions had the huge cost that we know - $4.24 B for Marvel and $4.05 B for Lucasfilm - and there is no doubt that, for understandable reasons of return on investment, the WDC consider the Avatar, Star Wars, and Marvel lands also as a priority. But it's a priority which has also a cost, and you probably can count between $1,5B and $2B for all three lands, if not more, specially considering that some will be built on both coasts at DL and WDW. And i don't mention other costs of upcoming projects like the new Star Tours movie(s) in 2015, the new Soarin' movie(s) in 2016, the Monsters Inc mini land at DCA, Disneyland 60th Anniversary and its Fantasyland dark rides updates, Disney Springs at WDW Downtown Disney, etc, etc...
So, what is happening is that Parks and Resorts probably has fixed its financial priorities and, for all the reasons listed above, it is Shanghaî Disneyland and the U.S Disney theme parks, not DLP. Which explain why in the Disney Parks plan the new Star Wars and Marvel lands for DLP are scheduled not before the next decade. But again, it's not that the WDC don't care about DLP, it's probably just a question of money. Disney has already spent $8B to own Marvel and Lucasfilm, and then gave 1.5 B€ to DLP and now the company must spent for SDL and the U.S parks probably at least four or five more billion dollars between now and 2020. And the problem is that Disney CAN'T avoid to build SDL and these lands at DL and WDW. Add to this that the WDC probably consider - and i'm afraid they're right - that it will take some years for the economy in Europe to get better - and that any big investment won't change anything to this - and you'll understand why new investments in DLP from the WDC have been put on hold for many years.
That said, even Disney U.S fans will have to wait before getting something big at DL and WDW. Sure, they won't have to wait as long as DLP fans and there will be some cool things coming in the meantime but the Avatar, Star Wars and Marvel lands are scheduled to open one after the other between 2017 and 2020, which is not exactly tomorrow. As for DLP the WDS Ratatouille ride will open mid 2014 and the ride will be so good that DLP probably can hold with it without new others attractions during the next two and a half years, until the end of 2016, which also will be the year of the opening of Villages Nature - if there is no changes - which will include a water park. In 2017 it will be DLP 25th anniversary, with so far no new attractions scheduled but probably new shows, parades and new sequences for the acclaimed Disney Dreams! show. And as usual DLP will extend the 25th anniversary celebrations until Sept 2018.
So, even with no new rides after the opening of Ratatouille DLP should do fine at least until fall 2018. But it's after 2018 - if there is no changes in the "ten years plan" - that things might become difficult for Disneyland Paris. The best that we can hope is not a miracle - although a donation from an Arab prince would be welcome! - but some exceptional results for the WDC that could set up a new deal for DLP. And guess what, may be all is not lost as 2015 should be a "bingo" year for Disney. That year, Star Wars Episode 7, Avengers 2, Pirates of Caribbean 5 and Pixar's Finding Dory and Inside Out will be released in theaters and each of them are so awaited that they will probably make millions if not billions at the box office, not counting the merchandise sales. So, who knows, if it happens that the WDC has suddenly more money than expected they might give a bit of it to DLP?
That said, DLP is not waiting and DLP CEO and all Disneyland Paris staff are doing their very best to improve the parks results. From what i've been told they also try to save each year as much money as possible for future projects. What could be smart, while waiting for the Star Wars and Marvel lands, would be - even if they can't find 150M€ for a E-Ticket ride - to build in the meantime small things which, even if it won't bring a lot of additional guests in the parks will at least bring something new before the next decade. Let's take the example of the Jack Sparrow Audio-Animatronics in POTC. The cost for the four new Audio-Animatronics, plus new decors and special effects is supposed to be around 10M€. The new POTC movie coming in 2015 could be the right time to finally introduce the Jack Sparrow AAs, whether it would be in 2015 or 2016. Sure, it'll be hard for DLP marketing department to "sell" a POTC update as a new attraction, but it would make something new for the 25th Anniversary, and - if i can say - at low cost. The rumored Phantom Manor and Big Thunder Mountain updates could also be done for limited budgets. Mice Age also revealed recently that a Star Wars 4D movie should come in 2015 at Disneyland Tomorrowland in Captain Eo theater. With a bit of luck - and money - this Star Wars 4D might come to DLP Discoveryland years before the opening of a Star Wars land.
So, i really wish that DLP will be able to save enough money in the upcoming years to introduce in the parks small but nice things which will help Disneyland Paris fans to wait until the opening of the big "promised" lands.
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