Wednesday, April 9, 2014

D&M Exclusive : Disneyland Paris 1992 Grand Opening Report - Part One: April 10, 1992 By Michael Sandstrom

Disneyland Paris will celebrate its 22nd Anniversary next Saturday April 12, and i have for you thanks to D&M reader and DLP fan Michael Sandstrom an exceptional report on DLP Grand Opening, 22 years ago. I can't thank enough Michael to have sent me this fantastic collection of pictures as it is very rare to find photos of DLP opening days - strangely, it's even more difficult to find than Disneyland opening day pictures in 1955 - and to find these for any Disneyland Paris fan is almost like finding the "Holy Grail"!

You'll see more than 100 pictures and all were shot April 10, 11 and 12, 1992, as Michael was invited as journalist who had a special preview of the park two days before the Grand Opening. Thanks to Michael pictures you'll see everything from pictures of each land as guests discovered them on park opening to the grand party on April 11 with the famous guests who were invited, and of course the Grand Opening celebration on April 12. The whole report will be in five parts, starting today and it's Michael himself who will comment each picture and tell you his whole story. So, it's with great pleasure that i introduce Michael Sandstrom with, again, my deepest thanks to him for sharing these rare pictures with Disney and more readers.

Michael Sandstrom:

When i learned about it, back early 1990's I was instantly enchanted with the idea of a Disneyland park, near Paris, so I made sure I was there from a few years before. I wrote a series of articles for a magazine for Disney fans called Fantasy Line as EuroDisney was being built ( when they were counted as just a few, before the internet got big with fans sites ) with of-course a report from the opening event. 

The WDC was helpful, and i remember that the first time I contacted them the offices were still inside Disneyland, in the space which is now the Disney Dream Suite, above pirates entrance, before it become the Disney gallery. Fantasy Line was the first US publication to feature the new park coming to France. The internet did not really yet exist, but would within about a year.

Disney provided some available press releases at my request, and I published them through Fantasyline in 1990, where I also wrote about Walt Disney turning 90 years old in 1991, and a few other reviews - this is how I first got to know John Hench personally. EuroDisney was featured with a series of three development articles and then the grand opening report. It was the sole source for any of this information at the time.

This press release continued for five pages and featured a gatefold photo of the entire park model, including Space Mountain that you can see below. You'll note too that Autopia was not on the model although the attraction was part of Discoveryland at DLP opening day.

But little more information came for quite a while from any source. No one else was writing about it and I was trying to get this info for fans eager to spend more Disney dollars so I insistently asked again and the letter below finally got things formally arranged: three years into it.

With everything presumably set, after more months of waiting and planning, the time was finally close, and I got myself to Paris a few days early....where I encountered an unexpected challenge... 

After a few years of keeping up with the changing names and titles as the project grew, I made sure I was prepared to be there as a private person, and as a journalist. No matter how or what, I was going to be at the opening of this park! I was much too young to be at original Disneyland opening, and Paris is my favorite place, where they do everything with such elegance. I had to be there.

As a self-employed young man, it wasn't easy or inexpensive for me to arrange to be in Paris at that time. The one night at the Disneyland hotel on opening day was going to cost me an astronomical sum, double any rate I'd ever paid, and had to be paid for a year in advance, for an unseen room. But I determinedly made it work, ordering park tickets, budget travel and cheap room reservations and such. 

Then came April 10, 1992 the awaited day to collect my credentials. I walked to the RER and all was going great, although I was bouncing out of my skin in excitement. The train seemed to take forever since I had never been there before, until it stopped in Torcy....where it stayed stopped for nearly an hour before they took us off the train. Violent protest strikes had apparently cut power to the new train extension leading to the park. We eventually were collected by a bus to deliver us to the resort hotels. It was a bright beautiful day and I was in such a sweat at finally seeing this dream coming true. And there it finally was, a real place, not of my imagination. Still empty, but completely ready.

The hotels were opened that day, and the press were assembled at the New York Hotel. I had just one man to talk to first. It had been exactly one year earlier that I spent a full day in John Hench's office. A one hour interview became a six hour lunch full of nonstop conversation, then he ordered an ice-cream social delivered into Walt's conference room for the two of us to keep talking, telling me "off-color" jokes. Since then we had met again in Florida for WDW20, and on Walt's birthday in Dec. Hench and I visited for a while and then I went to get my press pass.....only to be told that someone else from my magazine had already claimed it! What? Yes, someone I had never heard of, nor had ever worked on the topic had come to France and taken the press pass assigned to me. I tried not to panic while feeling I'd come this far and close to be told no now. Of-course I had a folder full of notes from all my years of work to show a fellow and explain, along with copies of my magazine. The guy was not quite following...when the woman next to him said, "yes of-course look at all of this, and he was talking to John Hench quite a while". The guy said "who is John Hench?" And before I can roll my eyes, she grabs the clipboard and authorizes me. She walked me through the rest of the intake and wished me well. 

It was only then did I start to learn just how much more wonderful it was going to be on the inside of this press party, rather than merely waiting in the wings to get in on opening day. Suddenly instead of struggling for any information it was....'have a cocktail and free ticket.' The one I purchased months in advance was not needed, and so I still have it intact.

On April 10, 1992, the hotels were opened and i went from the New York Hotel to the Disneyland Paris Hotel walking through what was at that time "Festival Disney". 

The Renault airship which will be in the sky during the next three days was already there.

Here i was, at last, at the entrance of Disneyland Paris and its beautiful Fantasia Gardens.

I was there for the day and could see just this much of the resort, from the wings of the Disneyland Hotel, where I was not yet a guest. Only invitee so far. I stayed in the hotel west wing on opening night.

Just space, no "mountain" in the distance of this view. But it's my first look at EuroDisneyland!

It was Time to enjoy a glass of bubbles at the Fantasia Bar.

On the picture below, note vintage voiture and balloons for the ceremonies, as briefly seen on the TV special.

Rehearsals for all the hotels grand opening later that day. 

So by that April 10 evening, I was exhausted - but had survived the metro fiasco, triumphed over an unknown threat to my years of work, seen a dream standing in beet fields, and still made in back to Paris in time to see a spectacular sunset from atop the Eiffel Tower. It was a good day in a nice life. Tomorrow, April 11 1992 will be my first day in the park!

Don't miss tomorrow the part two article and in the meantime i remind you that, to celebrate Disneyland Paris 22nd Anniversary, i'm also doing a special offer price on the great Disneyland Paris "From Sketch to Reality" book - for both ENGLISH or FRENCH editions - and in addition to the special price valid until April 30 it also include a "surprise gift" that everyone who will order the book will receive, and believe me you will love it!  Thanks to this special offer you will save $50 on the normal price, so if you don't own the book yet i'm sure you don't want to miss it! Paypal and credit card payment are accepted, so make sure you to place your order now! 

You can use the Paypal button below for the english edition, and for orders of the french edition or for credit card payment please send me an email at:

Disneyland Paris From Sketch to Reality - Include shipping

Don't know yet the Disneyland Paris book? Have a look at the video below or on the book website HERE.

Pictures: copyright Michael Sandstrom, Disney


mr.Lime said...

Thanks for publishing this GREAT report!

Makes me miss the good old Euro Disney days even more ... a time when the financial skies were still clear blue, and when the WDC still hadn't lost any of its charm. Those good old renaissance days, when both Euro Disney Resort and Beauty and the Beast were stunning the world.

Dutchduck said...

This is AMAZING! I love the pics and his story. I remember how excited I was while I watched the live opening show on tv. Thank you!