Monday, August 27, 2012

What a DLP Buyout by the WDC Could Mean for DLP Future

The news of a possible buyout of Disneyland Paris by the Walt Disney Company revealed last week by TIME had instantly a tremendous effect both on Disney theme park fans and at Paris stock exchange where the EDL stock went up 12% in one day. Why the WDC will do this buyout and what DLP fans can expect out of it, that's what we're going to talk about today, and all this with new great aerial pictures of DLP shot recently by Junior, DLP fan and plane pilot. Note that these pictures showing DLP from above are here only to illustrate this article and have no relation with the DLP future projects that i will talk about below, although some of the pics bring precious informations on the land available for future rides.

First, you must note that although this news of a DLP buyout hadn't been confirmed by the WDC ( no surprise ) it was revealed by TIME magazine which is a media almost as reliable as the New York Times can be. What i mean is that TIME don't usually disclose this kind of important infos without having check and double check before with their sources, and for this reason we can take this info for something more than a simple rumor, even unconfirmed officially. That said, they're certainly not happy by now at the WDC as the rise of the stock price is precisely what they probably wanted to avoid. It's understandable, after all, if you have the intention to buy large quantities of stocks you prefer to buy them at low price, and now chances are that the WDC will wait a bit before doing this buyout or they even might deny all the buyout operation in the hope that the stock price will go down.

We'll see... but what's interesting is also WHY they want to do this buyout. Well, you see, right now the WDC only have 40% of EDL shares. In addition to this the park is also paying royalties to the WDC. For many years the park didn't had enough money to pay the royalties and also had to borrow money to the WDC to face DLP financial difficulties. After 20 years of up and down and a financial situation always critical even if the results were recently positive, someone at the WDC probably finally realized that the way the DLP financial structure was set-up in the 1990's was not working anymore. And also that it didn't had any sense to get royalties from DLP on one hand if you have to give back to DLP more money on the other hand. It's probably at that point that someone came in and said "Hey, why don't we do a buyout so we will own the park just like we do in the U.S and we'll be able to resolve for once and for all DLP problem by doing what we did at DCA?". Okay, they probably didn't say it exactly like this but i'm ready to bet that the tremendous success of the new California Adventure helped the WDC executives to finally understood that "if you build it, they will come" - the famous quote coming from Kevin Costner 1989 movie "Field of Dreams".

That's right: if you build it, and if you build it RIGHT, they will come, and there is NO other way to resolve DLP - and specially WDS - problems than a massive "Marshall Plan" with new rides and lands as soon as possible. I think they've understood this at the WDC and i think they've decided that if they have to do it, to spent a lot of money, then "let's become the owner".

Now, let's have a look to what the WDC might decide to build at DLP and the WDS in the future IF they do this buyout, and why. All what is below is pure speculation - although based on reluable sources and infos - as they might have different plans that we don't know - and they certainly have some - but, "as there is always a logic in life" some of the choices below are probably right.

For Disneyland Paris Magic Kingdom:

Star Tours 2 - Star Wars Land: This one should be added quite quickly. Why? Because DLP is the last park who have not done the Star Tours 2 upgrade and because the back of DLP Discoveryland needs it now that Honey.. and Captain EO are gone. A Star Wars land, even a small one will surely be a winner at a reasonable cost. And there is no way that the WDC will leave Star Tours in its first version for ten more years.

Pirates of Caribbean with Jack Sparrow Audio-Animatronics: Jack Sparrow AAs also should arrive quickly. Why? If the WDC wants to add quickly some little things new at DLP Magic Kingdom without spending too much while they spend the biggest part of the money on the WDS this kind of little upgrades in DLP classic rides can be the best way to do it. Also, if they have to add the Jack Sparrow AAs they must do it soon, while the POTC movies are still in the collective subconscious, specially if there is no new POTC movies released in the future.

Phantom Manor Upgrade: Why? Exactly for the same reasons listed above for the POTC upgrade. It will not cost a lot, and it can bring something new at one of DLP most beloved attraction. Though, in both cases these additions will be difficult to use for DLP marketing dept as it won't be new rides, and this might be the main reason why it might be cancelled - as a matter of fact it is the reason why these upgrades haven't been done yet ( apart the no-money-available reason ).

Little Mermaid: Will Fantasyland long awaited dark ride finally come to DLP? May be, may be not. The good point is that two versions of the ride will have previously been built and the R&D costs probably pay off. Another good point for Little Mermaid: it's a ride for everyone but also and specially for young girls, which don't happen that often. I will put a 50-50 chances on this one.

Indiana Jones Adventure: Thanks God, WDI Imagineers kept the land at DLP Adventureland to build it and DLP fans are awaiting the ride since 15 years. I've said it and i say it again, bringing IJA at DLP Adventureland would be the best choice that DLP can make, and probably the only attraction for DLP MK which will have the same tremendous success that Space Mountain had when it opened in 1995. Yes, but DLP most urgent problem to resolve is not DLP Magic Kingdom but the Walt Disney Studios and this is where most of the money - and new rides - will go. So, let's put a 50-50 on this one too.

For the Walt Disney Studios:

Ratatouille Kitchen Calamity: Whatever this buyout or not happen this is the only ride guaranteed at 100% for the WDS. As we know it will open in 2014 and as you can see on the aerial picture below the works have began and the ride building structure appeared recently. You'll note also how near from the back of Frontierland the Ratatouille ride will be. Of course, a Ratatouille restaurant is include in this new mini land.

Toy Story Mania: Almost officially announced recently by DLP CEO Philippe Gas in an interview when he said that a new interactive ride based on Toy Story is in the plans for the future. I'm not personally a big fan of TSM but as they will not build it for me but for the hundred of thousand of kids who love it wherever it is built, we might not escape to have Toy Story Mania at the WDS. As you can see also on the picture below they have the land available in front of Toy Story Playland. Chances are high on this one.

Avatar Attraction: Yes, all the insider news that i have are saying that an Avatar ride is envisioned for the WDS! This one is a big news that you didn't hear before and there is a lot of good reasons why it will be build. First, three Avatar sequels are coming in 2014, 2015 and 2016. Avatar was the most successful movie of all time and considering that James Cameron will of course direct the three new movies you don't need to be a genius to know that the sequels will be successful. An Avatar attraction will be the best thing that can happen for the marketing dept and, hopefully, for DLP fans. The other reason is something you don't know, as Bob Iger apparently asked the Imagineering to develop Avatar rides ( for other parks than Animal Kingdom ) "and sooner will be better than later". Why? Because Iger paid a lot of money the Avatar license and he wants a return on its investment as soon as possible. Sure, they could keep an Avatar land for DLP third theme park but this one will not open before 2023 and obviously the best would be to build an Avatar attraction at the WDS while the movie is still in the collective subconscious and not forgotten. Let's add that Avatar is before everything a movie, so an Avatar ride would fit well in a park ( supposedly ) dedicated to movies. For all these reasons, and except if the WDC is changing its plans and decide to keep it for the third park, i think we can bet a lot on this one.

Avengers ride - Marvel land: One year ago DLP CEO Philippe Gas announced clearly in another interview that Marvel super-heroes will come to DLPR the third park. Since this statement a rumor keep saying that a Marvel land is in the plans for the WDS, and indeed they could build a Marvel land in the back of the WDS where they have plenty of land available as you can see on the second picture above. Will they do it? Probably. The next Avengers movie won't be released before 2015 which leave plenty of time to WDI to develop a great E-Ticket ride and also a Marvel land could be extremely successful for the WDS. Again, we must not forget that the biggest problem to be resolved at DLP are the WDS. They must fix this park for once and for all and there is no other way to do it than to put as much money as they did for DCA. Still, they could keep the idea of a Marvel land for the third park but, again, it won't open before 2023 in eleven years from now, almost an eternity in terms of hype. So, if the WDC wants to surf on the Marvel hype the best is to do it now. "Now", here, means in the next five years so don't expect a Marvel ride at the WDS before 2016 if not a bit later. But you can place your bets on this one too. Not to mention that a strong Avatar E-Ticket AND a big Avengers E-Ticket or a Marvel land, in addition to the upcoming Ratatouille and TSM rides might be exactly what the WDS needs to be at last a real full day theme park, the one we are wishing since the start.

Soarin' Over the World: We talked about it recently in a D&M article and the room to build Soarin' at the WDS is still available, between Cinémagique and Stitch Live. Will they build it? I'll put a 50-50 on this one. Not that i don't want it, i love Soarin' and i think they should build it, but they might use the room for something an Avatar ride, for instance. Note that all this area and up to the Rock and Roller coaster should also have a big placemaking, and here too, sooner will be better than later.

Walt Disney Studios Hotel: Another project that DLP have in its plans - and since quite a while - is to build a big hotel which will face the back of the WDS. And i'm not talking here about the other hotel project which would be located in front of the Newport Bay hote, on the other side of the big avenue. This WDS Hotel project is a different one and you probably never heard about it before. The project was a bit forgotten but if Disney invest a lot of money in this buyout they might be tempted to build new hotels like this one to bring more cash in in another way than only rising the price of the parks entrance tickets - because you can be sure that the parks entrance prices will rise quickly if the WDC becomes the owner and invest a lot of money to fix DLP problems. Hey, that's the price we have to pay to get great new rides, right?

Finally, I don't mention here others projects like the Villages Nature which are already on the way for a 2016 opening and Disney Village shops changes that will happen anyway! Let's wish to DLP a great big beautiful tomorrow!

Aerial pictures: copyright Junior of DCP Forum, whom i thanks a lot!


Marco Antonio Garcia said...

That would be awesome!

Your plans would finally turn the DLPR into a first class Disney Resort, like Disneyland and Tokyo Disneyland.

Indiana Jones, Little Mermaid and Star Wars land would drastically improve Disneyland Park.

Your proposed additions to WDS would fill it with many awesome new attractions, and would transform WDS into one of the Disney Parks with the highest number of top E-Ticket attractions, but it would still be a Park without a cohesive theme; I mean, it would just be an assembly of many attractions, some of them really awesome, but it wouldn't make sense, like Islands of Adventure. It wouldn't be a beautiful, harmonic and perfectly themed park like Tokyo Disney Sea. Anyway I think that it would be what the WDC wants, a very successful park.

And I would certainly choose Marvel over Avatar attractions to begin with. I think that Marvel is a much better "franchise", with a loyal, long time fan base, hundreds of solid and long time successful characters and it belongs to Disney. Avatar may be just a trend.

Luke said...

Disneyland Paris is probably the Disney park that I know the least about. It seems WDS is really in need of an expansion or more.

Good luck !

dédé said...

Not news on a "Studio Tram Tour 2"? Realty or destruction of the present attraction?

I don't know if the price for entry must be rised for the WDS, it's the same of Disneyland Park and it's already too much.

Xavier said...

Exciting article! Thanks!

As for the various upgrades, as interesting as they sound, I wouldn't bet a lot on it. With Indy backward, SM:mission2 and in some way Captain Eo, DLP learned it wasn't very succesfull with the general audience. And may not be that cheap: expect several millions US $ for just a Jack Sparrow! So probably not the most cost effective move.

Could you tell us more about that PH Upgrade ? I wish upon a star for years to get the Nightmare before Christmas make over...

ST2 looks like to be the more predictable move from the Disney mangement IMHO. And as a classic Disney fan I have more hope for a real big E ticket (nothing since SM in 1995!!!)for DLP. And a new edition (like in TDS) of the terrific Indiana Jones (please no carbon copy) would be great.
And it would a E-ticket not found in WDW! So we could regain some UK visitors for this resort instead.
Likewise I expect the WDW management to try to block a european copy of the Mermaid ride that would take away some attractiveness from their already underwhelming (rides wise) New FantasyLand...

As for the little chunk of forest you show as WDS expansion property. It's *suposed* to be off-limit & protected. Of course Disney could send its "environmentality" to hell & flex its political power to do whatever they want. But as a green guy I hope it will stay as a small lung in an increasingly built resort.

The WDS hotel looks interesting. But it may be tight budget wise as they have their hands in the beginning of a huge and long needed overhall off all the rooms of the DIsney hotels. Not to mention the water facility under construction. And the Val d'Europe authority is changing its plan for the future development of this aera. (instead of offices, services & business facility they want to build private housing now!)...

your thoughts ?

Marco Antonio Garcia said...

I really hope that they don't bring HM Holiday to PM, it would only desecrate this epic attraction.

They could add new effects to PM, new technology is always welcome in the classic attractions, but I don't think that the new mirror effect used in the end of WDW HM would work well in Paris, because PM is darker than the HM, and this effect is too cartoony, like something from lonesome ghosts, that works well in the cartoony Marc Davis cemetery, but it wouldn't work in the darker western ghost town.

Nevertheless, they could add the floating Leota and other enhanced HM effects.

Alain Littaye said...

Hello Xavier,

No, a Jack Sparrow AA doesn't cost "several millions" (i'm talking here for ONE AA). The duelist pirates in POTC had cost 2M i think and these two were highly sophisticated. So, eventually one Sparrow AA might cost 1$M, but definitely not several $M. That said, there is three of them, plus the one of Barbossa and the Davy Jones projection effect on mist, so if you add all these it surely will makes several millions, but probably between 5 and 10 $M, not more, hopefully less.
About the PM upgrade i can't say what it will include (if they do it) but it will definitely include some of the effects they put in the U.S like for instance the floating ball of Mrs Leota and the changes at the end of the ride with the ghosts reflection in the mirror before you unload and more effects, but adapted to Phantom Manor storyline which is different than in the U.S as we know.
About the room available for the WDS expansion i was not talking about the forest on the left but about the land under TSL, where you can see a parking lot. They have plenty of room available in the back of the WDS, they will not need to touch to the protected forest, don't worry.

Sergio said...

What a great article about Disneyland Paris future!

In my opinion, one of the things that Disneyland Paris needs more, are water based attractions like Splash Mountain, even before of adding a Indiana Jones Adventure ride. All european parks have water attractions and Disney needs to show them which company is the theming leader of the industry.

Different friends from Spain and France who visited Walt Disney World's Magic Kingdom told me that Splash Mountain and Phillarmagic are the best rides in the entire MK park... (Years before, I visit WDW and I have the same opinion).
May be the Imagineers would re-design Splash Mountain or made a directly copy because "it works" very well with european audience that visit Florida.

What is your opinion about this posibility of adding water based attractions to Paris?

Thanks, and congratulations for your book about the design of Disneyland Paris, one of the top books I bought for help me in research and write my 4 years doctoral dissertation about "artistic uses in theming and landscaping in theme parks world wide"!!!

danielz6 said...

Alain , TSM is an excellent attraction! And here's why. Not only is it really fun competing with your friends and family and interacting with the toy story characters, which none of the current toy story land rides actually do, but its a ride that I've observed that all ages enjoy. Old folks, adults ,teens and kids all love this ride so in that sense its a perfect attraction. Before the DCA relaunch it consistently had the longest wait times in the park.

danielz6 said...

alain, TSM is a great attraction. It is without a doubt the best toy story attraction ever made by Disney. Before carsland came to DCA it was always the ride with the longest wait time. But what I think is great about this ride is if you look at the cue you'll see elderly people, adults, teens and of course kids. Its one of the most widely appealing rides that I've seen in Disneyland. That's what makes it a great attraction imo and that's what Disney has always excelled at more than any other theme park.

Alain Littaye said...

Sergio, I love Splash Mountain and i would be pleased that they add it at DLP - they were supposed to do it in the back of Frontierland at the end of the 1990's - but i'm afraid it's not going to happen. The park would like it but apparently Imagineering think that considering the weather in Paris it might not be a very good choice.
I know they have one in Tokyo where the winter can be as cold as in Paris, but may be the winters are less long. And it's not a question of the final splash as they can reduce the splash on winter time, but mainly because they're afraid that people wouldn't like to do a water ride during the winter months as they would be afraid to get wet. It's not totally wrong but there is something else: now, each winter, the water is literally freezing in many places at DLP, and there is even small icebergs on the Rivers of the Far-West...
I'm sure the park would like to have Splash Mountain and WDI will be pleased to build it but i have the feeling that there is a series of issues - whether it's weather or technical issues - which stop Splash Mountain to be built at DLP. But may be i'm wrong, may be it's just that WDI prefer to "sell" to DLP their new rides...or may be it's a mix of all this.
For Philarmagic it's another problem. DLP Imagineering want to add it to the WDS since a long time and it could easily find its place in the Toon Studio area. It could replace perfectly Animagique in the Studio 2 .....if the theater would have been built with real walls. Instead, to save money when they've built the WDS it's an inflatabale structure which are the "walls". Guests don't see it so it's not really a problem but in the case of Philarmagic it is a big one as at the beginning of the show there is an element that goes up and is supposed to "disappear" in the ceiling.....And they need a normal ceiling to do it, not one which is curved like in the Studio 2...
It's a good example of how when you do mistakes at the start - even if they did it in 2002 to save money - you still can pay for them many years later...

Will said...

"if you build it, they will come"

In the latest article on the matter in the new issue of time (September 3), this exact approach is eliminated as the future of the resort. This is what caused Euro Disney's trouble in the first place. TWDC will consider wisely in what they invest.

The article is called "The Not So Magic Kingdom" and is worth reading.

d_fallen_1 said...

Everyone knows as well that the dismissal of implanting Indiana Jones is due to high cost and high maintenance. But that ride alone is more than enough to stimulate growth in attendance. That's what DLP needs: exuberant E-ticket attractions. With Disney in full control, I agree whole-heartedly that a DCA transformation is imminent though not as costly. We may (probably not soon) Get Indiana Jones.

Anonymous said...

Honestly, what they need to do, is come in and give WDS the DCA treatment. A year-by-year overhaul. The Park needs to be brought back to it's Showbusiness Theme. As much as I love Toon Studio & TSPL, they're crowd pullers and totally take away from the show business theme that the park is. It needs to incorporate the look of Hollywood Studios as much as it can. It needs a huge expansion into the area behind the Studio Tram Tour to become a large enough park for Guests to spend an entire day in. I really hope WDC does buyout Euro Disney as soon as possible and get these improvements done as soon as it can. WDS is a good park, but that's the problem. It's a GOOD park, it's not a Disney Park by a longshot. Let's hope WDC can bring it up to standard, while keeping it's Showbusiness Theme at the same time.

Xavier said...

Thanks for your comments Alain!
The AA of Jack in the US POTC aren't that sophisticated indeed. But it's not really the actual cost, but the price WDI will charge DLP. Still the 5/10M€ price tag is quite high for the return it could bring to park.
I just learned the budget for the "new" parade is 2m€. That's a bit steep for a few Segways & an awful paint job... ;-)

As for future rides, I chose Indy over any TSM or Soarin anytime. Thoses are fun but can't beat a mindbogling dark ride ^^
But a new Splash Mtn would be terrific. (even If I doubt that TWDC would build a ride with so many audioanimatronis nowdays)

And if I keep dreaming, that would be Villain Mountain! :-)