Saturday, September 7, 2013

A Look at Disneyland Paris Future

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.

Edited: Don't miss the Part Two of this article right HERE.

Photo: copyright Walter Elias Teddy


Anonymous said...

It is time to start boycotting Disneyland Paris until 2022. I visited Universal Studios and Islands of adventure last year and their rides are way better and state of the art compared to Disney. I always preferred the magic and theming of the Disneyparks, but I don't feel the need for a return visit to Paris in the next 9 years if nothing substantially new is added. Ratatouille is certainly going to be nice but the rest of the studios park is such a dud and below any other park I visited that I won't go there only for the new rat ride.
I think Disney has lost it and is disappointing it's fans.

Disney-John said...

Thanks for the article... A Sad read... Don't think DLP can last 10 years without improvements, (not just new rides) Will have to wait and see...

Alain Littaye said...

Frankly, and even i can understand your reaction, i don't think that boycotting DLP will help in any way. I think that the best is just to continue to visit the parks and to help DLP to have the best possible results. And also, as i say in the article, in a year or two Disney Parks will do a new ten years plan, and things might change as they do generally depending of the different parameters of the economy situation both at DLP and at the WDC.

Timekeeper said...

"Sure, it'll be hard for DLP marketing department to "sell" a POTC update as a new attraction"

It's hard for DLP to Dell ANYTHING. Our advertising is horrible from almost 2002 and the WDS.

Bring me back "Quel âge il a grand-père ?", "Rien que d'y penser ça fait rever" et "SM la plus grande avanture de la galaxie" !

Iain said...

"Frankly, and even i can understand your reaction, i don't think that boycotting DLP will help in any way."

DLP needs your average customer (regardless of country) to be a returning visitor. Your average customer needs a good reason to spend their money to return to DLP - which regardless of the economy isn't a cheap holiday.

Even for the dedicated fan there is only so many times that DLP can make "minor" alterations to Dreams or other attractions and expect people to come back, unless DLP is on your doorstep (ie you live in the local area).

Your regular average visitor/family isn't going to look any DLP marketing and consider spending it's £1000/€1000+ (by the time you've booked a package, travel, spending money etc) if all it sees is a minor revamp of Dreams (Dreams is good, but once you've seen it, you've seen it), or minor additions to POTC ( I still little benefit to spending money adding Jack Sparrow to POTC - the "ride" remains the same ).

DLP needs the Space Mountain effect again. Ratatouille may provide this, but not ten years worth.

Lastly, DLP is already lagging behind other Disney parks with regards to attractions. No real investment for near to 10 years will only make the problem worse.

Permanecer sentados, por favor... said...

Yeah. So it's the economy, the other resorts, the... Etc. I honestly don't care anymore about it. Cheap excuses when smaller, humbler parks can invest at least every two years in order to give something new to the guests. I don't see how are they gonna sell again the repainted Mickey Train as something new until 2022.

Unknown said...

I so agree with Timekeeper, please improve the adds and stop selling only images of children and Disney characters... people are fed up with this too much "family/children-friendly" image of the Resort, which won't seduce youngters and adults for the next 10 years. They really should highlight the attractions THEMSELVES in the adds (like what they've done with Space Mountain) and remind people that this famous attraction is in the park, and that other fantastic one is there too...! People come to DLP for the attractions firstly, and for the magical experience also, so they nned to focus on what works !!

Anonymous said...

I would be fine seeing no new major projects at Disneyland Paris for that long as they reallocate the money that would have been spent during that time to other projects.

Before building new, DLP really needs to make sure major refurbishments happen to both parks and get things back to opening-day quality. They need to bring the park back to its former glory and to the quality found at WDW and DL. Focus on making what they have already perfect before worrying about new additions. Its a shame how bad maintenance has gotten.

Reopen the closed restaurants and attractions and keep them operational as much as possible.

Make sure the hotels stay current and are refreshed every 5 years.

Add a new stage show or something inexpensive to the parks to keep interest. Also, Star Tours 2 or a new 3D movie shouldn't be too expensive and would be a quick fix.

Try to get some new tenants into Disney Village.

Overall, just perfect what DLP already has. I'd rather them save the money they would have spent over the time and used it for something big, like a whole WDS makeover.

Brian Kolm said...

Bummer. I hope that some new things get added to the schedule.

I wonder if DLP could get some of the same updates DL's Fantasyland might be getting in the next year or two?

mr.Lime said...

So the WDC just looks away from the problems they have created themselves by opening the awful WDS in 2002.
Don't forget that DLP made a profit between 1995 and 2001. But in stead of opening a much cheaper and very highly acclaimed Indy Adventure in 2002, they chose to open something that didn't even look like a themepark, the dull WDS. And so the big financial trouble began for DLP ... already 11 years of losing money, and 10 more years to come apparently.

Same story with DCA and HKDL ... but at least these two parks are (more or less) saved by huge investments from the WDC.

At least one good point in this 10 year plan: no TSMania. With a little bit of luck this overrated attraction is completely outdated in 2022-2023.

I do wonder how they will be able to keep Star Tours open for all these upcoming years ... it has been falling apart for at least five years now ... good luck with that one DLP!

So thank you WDC for:
- NOT giving DLP Indy Adventure or Splash Mountain in 2002, incl. a lot of extra profit.
- giving DLP the dull, uninspired, hardly themed WDS with very few attractions, and billions of losses.
- NOT solving the problem you created yourself in 2002, and NOT making the necessary investments (like you did at DCA) to give DLP it's original attractive magic back, and maybe some profit again.

So thank you WDC for ruining DLP and not taking your resposability to solve the problem you created.

Anonymous said...

Other magic kingdoms in the world don't really have much more attractions compared to Disneyland Paris. It's still one of the best parks in the world and still a magic experience for first time visitors or fans who go every year. Sometimes it is best to wait 10 years to have something great than having new floats in a parade every two years or new audio-animatronics. And what if the refinancing would have been made to allow Disneyland Paris to have money (instead of giving it to the banks) to invest during this 10 years standby in investments from WDC? After all the WDC is not close to bankrupcy and could have agreed to wait for ten years to have the money back from DLP? I'm not sure but i think that the millions of yearly economy could easily bring some new attractions.

James said...

I'm not sure that simply investment will definitively solve DLP's underlying problems:
-The resort does in some way have a pre-determined limit. As Iain said, for anyone in the UK it is not a 'spur of the moment' holiday decision to go to DLP. Most families cannot/would not for cost and availability just go to DLP for the weekend (or even just a Saturday as is possible in California) It requires a bit of advanced planning and is probably more restricted to school holidays, (particularly for kids which bumps up costs). This is the same for Spain and Germany , who aren't exactly within easy driving distance.

- This brings into question the AP, (which I know is a positive for fans), but unfortunately seems really quite/ridiculously cheap. I'm just putting it out there, but couldn't they put an extra 100euros on top easily. You have to consider the kind of person who buys an AP. And I'm not saying I'm completely correct here, but repeat FRENCH visitors (maybe teens particularly), who CAN go there for a weekend/day and have an AP aren't really going there to spend money - they're going there to ride rides, which isn't exactly revenue boosting. Similarly, fans, (indeed some savy families, but also more youngsters) in UK/Spain etc. who have the AP probably aim to do likewise - visit the resort to have fun and ride rides/ (as many as possible), but not spend an awful lot of money. When you think that a 4/5 day ticket costs more than AP, (which also gives you discounts!!! - LOTS of dicsounts such as simple revenue bossting things like luggage hold at the gates) the reason and logic, behind the AP pricing isn't so clear.

- This brings into question profitability and spenditure. Sorry to put it crudely, but 'How much is a guest worth in the park?' Are they spending, on average, the same amount on food and merchandise it costs DLP to run the the total 'rides/shows per person cost' that they visit on their stay. I'm guessing no. It's uncanny the number of guests you see bringing their own food into the park and who probably don't have the cash to spend £20 on a furry hat or ride-photo. I think it is still a bit of a problem that a lot of the shops seem to stock the same stuff and quick-service likewise (although they restaurants probably make back what they cost). Still the effort should surely still be on lowering costs and getting more sales?

- And this brings into question the general topic of'waste' in DLP in general.... and at lots of levels that aren't so evident.
The last couple of times I've picked up a DLP brochure from the travel agent, I've noticed that some of the characters don't look like SOME OF THE CHARACTERS!! slight imperfections/subtleties that has led me to wonder, where are these brochures designed and how are they designed?
Have a look at Rapunzel, page 4 :
I was under the impression that they were produced at the marketing offices in marne-la-vallee that Disney has. If so, they surely don't artwork all the 3D characters, when they should (if the correct infrastructure is in place) merely receive images/ stills from the actual Disney/Pixar Animation Studios. I don't know if I'm completely mistaken with this - if they are all artworked, that's one prime example of WASTED MONEY.
- ANOTHER is casting. DLP casting seem to re-visit the major EU cities VERY frequently every year to audition for parade/costume characters.(I think they''ll have visited the UK 4/5 times this year) I don't know whether this is because they simply can't attract long-term staff (or they don't wan't to?)If so, that is probably because of a whole load of other problems!!!! BUT all I know, is that surely isn't cheap to ship casting dept. around so much and likewise, deal with all the associated post-paperwork - staff visas/accomodation/contracts/insurance/ transport/ orientation/ etc. etc. etc.

James said...

... (not enought words!:)

....I could go on and on but in short, when added together all these small things surely make a big impact on the bottom line?!

.....Finally, don't the parks hit max capacity quite a lot at holidays, so you can't really argue it's not getting enough visitors. The problem is off-peak when visitors are much less and you approach a much more difficult problem to solve:
The cost of staffing/running rides and keeping most restaurants open when it is not financially wise/ credible for the number of visitors inside the park. And YET, at the same time, this is EXACTLY what DLP needs to do to make a good impression on guests and get the repeat visits it NEEDS. Difficult, eh?

- So how to solve this/these problems, I am not entirely sure of.
But DLP CAN CUT WASTE and reconsider all it's pricing/marketing strategies.

I always wondered why they did not make a dinner show at Videopolis. Lion King always had queues and queues eager to get in. Legned of the Lion King WAS A GREAT SHOW and one of my highlights over the past 20 years. Something like this £30 or so would bring in huge revenue and I think with a bit of adaptation/lengthening people would pay for it. I know it's ideal/ (going against a principal of free attractions inside the park) but the ticket to get in costs money - People don't mind spending money if it's good value. £25 for a framed ride-photo is NOT good value!!

- I also think it would benefit hugely to introduce themed weekends like StarWars in USA. If done right, this WOULD attract repeat visitors from EU countries a lot more. Then once they're in, ensure there are lots of good-value things for them to spend money on, beside just going to ride rides.

To make any sense of anything,we need figures to try and understand why the parks aren't making enough. It's not just a case of saying more rides equals more visitors/visits. If anything more rides more likely equals more DEBT!!!

There are also the underlying physical problems of WDS. No way near enough space to accommodate the number of visitors DLP Magic Kingdom accommodates. I would happily walk around Frontierland/ Adventureland without riding even any rides as they are appealing lands and what's more create more 'in-between ride time' for guests when getting round the park.
WDS is completely the opposite and to rectify this WILL cost money, but more importantly must be done correctly when the time comes...

Would be interesting to know whether any of you agree with any of these points? (sorry to ramble...!:)

Gentle Motorcycle Rider said...

I find it said to see the park going down like this but what disturbs me the most that there is such a big difference between the US parks and DLP.

Okay in the states almost everyone speaks English while in Paris it is a lot of different languages and customs.

I won't mind to spend money in DLP but the problem is the stuff that is for sale doesn't appeal to me. I won't paying some money for some great books about Disney, Disneyland, Pixar etc. or some nice clothing with only a small Disney or Mickey Mouse logo on it. Almost all the shops sell the same thing and why can't I buy the latest Disney movies in the park? Why don't they have some kind of limited Blu-Ray edition exclusive for the parks?

Then there is the light-ears I would love to buy one but for me the price is just to high.

Then there is the fast food which is just terrible. And I don't expect much from fast food but when you pay 14-15 euro's for a menu it would be nice to at least have it being warm (without have to complain to a CM about it.) Due to the bad fast food I'm one of the persons who brings along lunch from the hotel (so not buying in the park) and in the evening going to Plaza Gardens or an other restaurant (Where I must admit the food has been excellent every time).

I would rather have seen the Indy ride, little mermaid etc. in the DLP then WDS but since it is there I hope the fix it and with just very simple things. I believe I read it here that they could just redesign the Toon Town part of WDS in a Pixar corner like in the States then it would be a (small) land and then please sell there some cool pixar stuff but simple like mugs, t-shirts pens etc. with only the pixar logo on it (and make it exclusive for that part of the land).

I could go on for hours but I think this is possible without investing a lot of money but just spending it more wisely.

Xavier said...

@ James : I just love how you named this concept "in-between ride time" ! Right on target. As a former AP when I visited during busy times I wouldn't do lots of rides. It was a day mostly spend in wandering the small alleys & back corners, looking at theming & scenery. With a nice meal in a well themed restaurant it was a perfect day in an over crowed park.

This perfect plan B just can't be done at WDS. (except at TSPL and hopefuly in the futur at Ratatouille)...

@ Alain :
"And not to mention others 200M Euros thanks to which DLP can build the Ratatouille ride at the WDS." It's just a face game (jeu de boneto ) or an account writing trick. As something like 75% of the money return directly in the pocket of WDI...

Marco Antonio Garcia said...

I almost completely agree with you James!

I don't mind spending money at DLP, but they sell VERY few stuff that appeal to me. What I like to buy from Disney is cool, high end collectibles like they sell at the Disney Gallery at DL, or cool apparel like they sell at some places at the DL Resort and especially for a very low price at Mickeys of Glendale, not standard Disney apparel with big characters and the Resort name, stuffed Disney characters, pens, candies...

I also love to eat at good, nicely themed restaurants at the parks and DLP has two very good ones; Walt's and Blue Lagoon and for me they always offer really good dinning experiences, so I have no complaints about dinning at DLP (maybe the fast food places need some improvements, but I never exepect too much from them).

Anyway I don't think that DLP can hold until 2022/2023 without major new additions (that's a REALLY LONG TIME!). If they do that, the reputation of DLP will be completely destroyed before 2022 in my opinion.

I myself am planing on visiting DLP in August next year to ride Ratatouille and see the Disney Dreams show that I still haven't seen, but after that I'm just going back to DLP when they inaugurate a new E-Ticket attraction.

Anonymous said...

Well I spent more than 12,000 dollars visiting DLP because I live in the Republic of Panama and the plane tickets were 5000 alone (family of 4). I thought that the experience was wonderful, and I had no problems whatsoever, but I feel that WDC should invest more in the park, basically it needs more rides and an additional theme park. More rides is the only thing that could motivate me to go back, however I understand the catch 22.

I would also like to state that I found the french to be very nice and nothing like what people say they are.

One thing that must be done, organize the characters, all the pushing and shoving to get a picture with a character is ridiculous a simple line can fix that.

The Magic Everywhere said...

2022: Disneyland Paris Park: Star Wars Land + D Ticket attraction
2023: DLP Walt Disney Studios: Marvel Land and placemaking of the WDS

Those dates from 5 years ago are looking pretty accurate after yesterday's announcement