Monday, July 30, 2018

The Six Genius Ideas of Disneyland Paris Imagineers

As announced previously Disney and more will be "closed" all August for a break. I won't be in vacation all month but mostly working on others projects that i can't find time to do. If there was a major announcement i will do an article about it though it is unlikely as August is not really the month with big theme park news. And we'll see in September if i continue or not Disney and more but just in case i won't today's article will end  D&M like it all began with a tribute to Disneyland Paris!

Disneyland Paris "Magic Kingdom" is for sure the most beautiful that WDI Imagineers have created - if you've never visited the park ask anyone who did - and it's a masterpiece of well thought design and master plan, a true achievement and a reference of what a theme park should be. Everything was brilliantly designed by WDI Imagineers, but there is six ideas that DLP imagineers had when they designed the park, and in my opinion it's truly six genius ideas which makes Disneyland Paris unique.

The first genius idea happen when you even have not enter the park, and it's the majestic Victorian Disneyland Paris hotel with Fantasia Gardens at the park entrance - picture on top. With it's light pink color cleverly chosen by Imagineer John Hench you know instantly that you've just entered in another reality. Magical.

The next genius idea is from WDI Imagineer Eddie Sotto and it is Main Street U.S.A Arcades. Arcades were a tradition in 19th Century Paris but the reason why Liberty and Discovery Arcades are great at DLP is because, thanks to them, your mind has a totally different feeling when you're walking up or down Main Street. At Disneyland or WDW Magic Kingdom you'r stuck in this central street and you can't escape it, it creates a feeling almost claustrophobic. At Disneyland Paris you can escape the central street, and even if you don't need to your mind know that it is possible and this change everything. If you don't want to watch the parade you can turn left or right, and walk to Central Plaza or Main Street Station, or simply walk through the wonderfully themed arcades without having to find your way through the hundred of people watching the parade. And of course the covered arcades are precious when it is raining.

Disneyland Paris Fantasyland is the best designed Fantasyland ever, no doubt about that, but Sleeping Beauty Castle is the the best, the most fairy tale castle of any Disney theme park. Not to mention the inside of it and even under it with La Caverne du Dragon and its awesome Audio-Animatronic dragon. Designed with an exquisite good taste by WDI Imagineer Tom Morris the castle is neither too small or too big, just the right size and, believe me,  you will remember DLP Castle forever.

Imagineer Jeff Burke along with all Frontierland Imagineers did an awesome job on Frontierland but the genius ideas has been to put Big Thunder Mountain as an island in the middle of DLP Rivers of the Far-West. Not only it's an incredible "weenie" as Marty Sklar would have said but here is a Big Thunder Mountain that won't disappear anytime soon, the fact that it is in the middle of the lake will protect Tony Baxter iconic ride forever.

I'm among the one for whom Adventureland is one of his favorite land and Chris Tietz Adventureland in Paris is the biggest and nicest of them all. The genius idea here is of course Adventure Isle with its caves, Captain Hook pirate ship and the Swiss Robinson Tree nearby  - another weenie - and DLP Pirates of Caribbean is also the best version of the classic version of the ride, and have a more logic storyline as here the pirates skeletons scenes are placed at the end of the ride and not at the start.

Imagineer Tim Delaney was the show producer of Discoveryland and here Tim genius idea was to create a "Tomorrowland" that time won't catch anytime soon. With what we call now a "steampunk" design Space Mountain with its huge cannon and the 20000 Leagues Nautilus are visually stunning day and also by night with the surreal lighting done by Michael Valentino.

There is of course plenty others "genius ideas" in the park, but these are truly my favorites. If you're among the ones who still have never visited the park the best season to do it is now, until late October and you'll come back for sure with great memories that will last all your life!

If you miss Disney and more magic while i'm not here, the gorgeous Disneyland Paris book - from which all pictures of this article are coming from - has all August a special offer on the very last copies of the English edition - sorry, no more printed copies of the French edition but i send the PDF of the full French text for those who don't understand english - and you can order your copy for 60€ + 22€ shipping worldwide ( except Belgium and Italy: 29€ ).  Payment by Paypal or credit card is possible, just send me an email to place your order at: and i'll tell you how to do.

And if your native language is French the new eBook of the French edition is now available and pictures will look gorgeous on your phone, tablet or computer! In addition the eBook edition include 62 videos links to the best available videos of each attractions of the park, including hotels and park making-of.

The eBook is available NOW on the Apple iBooks store HERE or Google Books Android Store HERE or on Amazon Kindle HERE. If you've never seen the book before, don't miss the video below showing the 320 pages of this beautiful book which has 750 pictures including 250 concept-arts from Walt Disney Imagineering!

Pictures: copyright Disney

D&M Exclusive : Disney's Animal Kingdom Beastly Kingdom Mythical Unicorn Found !

Disney and more will close for an August break in two days and i have two more great articles for you. The first one today is thanks to Graydon, faithful Disney and more reader who sent me this amazing story and pictures about Disney's Animal Kingdom Beastly Kingdom that never was and the mythical Unicorn! Here is the story as told by Graydon whom i thanks a lot for that amazing story and the great pictures!

"Hello Alain, I have been meaning to write you back for some time but, life gets in the way as I am sure you understand. I know you are getting ready to go on hiatus from your Disney and More Blog in August. First, let me say, I will miss your updates as I enjoy hearing all the news from the other Disney parks and I love your insight, especially in regard to Disneyland Paris. So you will be missed.

Anyway, I had written asking if you had any pictures from the Discovery River Boats and the items along the ride that were part of the opening of Disney's Animal Kingdom. I was trying to find pictures because we had purchased one of the items from the ride; the Unicorn that was in the Beastly Kingdom section.

This is a very brief story of what is arguably one of the rarest Disney artifacts from a Disney theme park. It needs a bit of introduction to get a sense of what its origins were to understand its uniqueness:

Original WDI rendering for Beastly Kingdom Unicorn scene.

Prior to the opening of Disney's Animal Kingdom there were several attractions and even a whole land hinted at in the original artwork for the park. Featured prominently in one of the most commonly used prints that showed many of the things guest would experience at the new park, was a large Dragon breathing fire as a boat of explorers passed by. The dragon was to be located in the area that was to become Beastly Kingdom and the boat was from the soon to be Discovery River Boats. Touted as a thrilling journey along the Discovery River, the Discovery River Boats was where guests would experience a peek at the many wonders Animal Kingdom had to offer.

                                 Original WDI rendering for Beastly Kingdom Unicorn scene.

Unfortunately, due to extreme budget cuts, Beastly Kingdom was put on hold along with many other items for the park. In place of the land the Imagineers designed Camp Minnie Mickey as a place holder that could be removed easily to make way once construction was green lighted. They were allowed to keep several items in the scope of the park on the Discovery River Boat attraction that would hint at the forthcoming land, but even those were done at a much lower cost and never reached their full promised potential.

The original plans for the Beastly Kingdom section was to give guests a glimpse of the fantastic and magical mythical creatures they would see in the land. Passing into a lush forest the first creature they would encounter was a beautiful unicorn on a hill that sat in a recessed cove. It would have lighting and fog effects that would give the illusion of the animal rearing up as the boats passed by. As the boat moved on it would be attacked by a Kraken lurking in the water below and the boat would shake and pitch. Surviving the attack, the boat would pass under a troll bridge with ruins and glyphs carved into the stone and small hut of rocks built into the side. Coming out the other side they would come upon the desolation of the dragons lair. The lush woods would give way to outcroppings of twisted charred rock formations. Ahead would be a dark cave mouth and burned and bent suits of armor, swords and shields would be scattered along the rivers edge and as the boat approached the dark cave opening a huge animatronic dragon would come out of the cave and roar then breathe fire at the boat The boat would dodge the flames and safely navigate out of the Beastly Kingdom area. It was promised as a thrilling adventure where guests would come face to, well, face with creatures of myth and legend.

What was actually installed was quite different and honestly lackluster. The Unicorn was on the hill and beautiful as it was, it was a static figure and had no lighting effects and fog that was intermittent. The Kraken was gone and though a few boats had the system installed to cause a vibrating effect, it was not used of talked about. The Troll bridge was completed, though most guests never noticed the details. On the other side was an added element, a stacking of rocks arranged to resemble a dragon laying on the river bank with water from a stream flowing out of its mouth. The desolation of the Dragon had craggy rock outcroppings, but the size was scaled down. The burnt suits of armor, dented shields, broken swords and remains of knight were there, but the Dragon was a no show. Instead all guests heard was a rumble then a roar from the rather small cave opening and then several bursts of flame. Then the boats would go on their way. Certainly not the thrilling adventure that was proposed.

In any case, after several attempts to make the attraction more exciting for guests that I wont go into here, it was finally closed permanently just a year after Disney's Animal Kingdom opened. The Discovery River was allowed to become overgrown and many elements were removed or just left sitting. The suits of armor and weapons were taken out during the soft opening and disposed of. The rock outcroppings and water fall dragon still sit on the rivers edge though they are overgrown. The fire effect was removed and the troll bridge has been rethemed to fit the new land that went in the place of Beastly Kingdom - Pandora the World of Avatar.

But what about the Unicorn. Conflicting reports state that the unicorn was removed several years ago and was left laying backstage out of the way. Another states it was removed prior to park opening, though I rode the attraction as part of Animal Kingdoms opening crew both before opening and after that and remember seeing it. I also had a good friend that worked the attraction who stated it was in place the day the attraction closed. In any case it ended up sitting backstage and needed to be cleared to make way for construction of Pandora. It was sent to Walt Disney Worlds property control, which is a cast member surplus warehouse were they sell overstock merchandise and damaged items to cast members. Through there they also run a cast auction on the Disney Cast Hub. Sometimes they list old unused items from the parks. Usually furniture from the resorts and items like that. They had listed a unicorn statue on it. All the description read was that "this unicorn is sure to put a smile on your face. Measures 5' (feet) tall 12" (inches) wide, made of plaster". Though the dimensions seemed wrong but knowing the only place a unicorn had been at Disney World was Animal Kingdom, we placed a bid and ended up winning it.

The day we went to pick it up I asked a friend with a truck to come with us to get it home. My husband arrived at property control ahead of us to pay for it and we pulled the truck into the fenced area where it was stored. When I walked over to it, I realized how wrong their measurements had been. It actually stands 12 feet tall and is 5 and a half feet from hoof to tail. They had used hash marks ( ' " ) rather then spelling out inches and feet. Luckily it is not plaster but rather heavy fiberglass. It was painted look like marble but had been aged after installation. It has 3 mounting brackets that are attached to the tail and two back hooves. To get it in the truck we had to swivel it around and we backed the truck up to it, lifted the head, and rested it in the truck bed, then slide it into the truck on a blanket. Its entire backside was sticking out the back of the truck and its hooves stuck up in the air it was so large. We drove home with the unicorn hanging out. We passed through Walt Disney World and past its old home at Animal Kingdom all the while guests in other cars snapped pictures. When we got it home we backed the truck up and slide it out into the garage and that is were it sat for 8 months while I planned out how to mount it out in the backyard. We also had to repair damage from when it was removed from the rivers edge. Apparently they had used chains and a crane to lift it out and had damaged the painted finish.

The day finally came and we called a group of friends to come help lift it and carry it out to the backyard. It took 6 of us to actually lift it and move it out. Because it had mounting brackets with predrilled holes, I had to make sure that the bolts it was going onto were placed correctly into the cement foundations I had to pour in preparation for mounting it. We brought it out and laid it down. This was the moment of truth and all I kept thinking was that I hope I had done it right. We lifted it and sat it on the bolts and all but 2 slipped right into the holes. With a little tap from a hammer on the 2 bolts that didn't line up, the unicorn settled right into place. We bolted him down, and there it sits in the backyard.

Since putting him in place he has been cleaned I have mounded a small hill underneath him to hide the mounting brackets and planted it with flowers. He has lights that illuminate him at night that change color and each holiday he gets dressed up to celebrate. He can be seen from the back of our house, even with a fence around the property his head rises up. He even has his own camera surveillance. He is a beautifully crafted piece, grand in its details and appears very regal the way he rears up.

The first question our friends asked was, what is it's name. Fittingly we had decided he is a boy and his name is "Beastly the Unicorn" in honor of his long lost home. He also has his own Facebook profile listed as B.T. Uni HERE , a Facebook group Beastly The Unicorn HERE , and an Instagram page HERE.

As far as Disney artifacts go, Beastly is a one of a kind piece representing a Disney theme park land that will never be built but almost was. He is a truly unique piece of Disney history, and we love having him. Feel free to join him on Facebook and Instagram.

Pictures: copyright Disney, Graydon whom i thanks again a lot!

Sunday, July 29, 2018

A Tomorrowland Dream Comes True

Here is a post that i've titled "A Tomorrowland Dream Comes True" as it really is the case. It's about Virgin Galactic spaceship which will take its first passengers in Space in a near future - so far some happy few who have enough money to pay for the expensive trip in space but the future of space flight for non-Astronauts, that is to say for people like you and me but just with more money than us, will become a reality, as you'll see with these videos showing the latest tests and that the spaceship is now able to go in the mesosphere, the layer of the Earth's atmosphere that is directly above the stratosphere! .

The first video below will show you the Virgin Galactic ground crew preparing the VSS Unity and VMS Eve for a flight - right up until they pull chocks for taxi and take-off.

This next video shows Virgin Galactic new SpaceShipTwo VSS Unity took to the skies for the first time, but not yet in outer space. The interesting part starts at 0.40 min

Things become serious with the next video showing the first rocket-powered, supersonic flight with Virgin Galactic Chief Pilot, Dave Mackay

With the next video, posted three days ago and which marks the third powered flight and a key step forward in Virgin Galactic’s test program, the dream come true and this time we're in outer space!

In a near future Virgin Galactic flight will become - if i can say - more affordable and may be we won't flight in space this life but in the next one or it will be for the one of your children, but there is no doubt that a long awaited Tomorrowland dream is becoming reality very soon!

Videos: copyright Virgin Galactic - Watch more Virgin Galactic videos HERE.