(Next) April in Paris
Just outside the City of Lights, Imagineers are busily creating four new attractions and one new land that are sure to make the Disneyland Resort Paris shine a little more brightly.
"There was a desire to enhance the parks, and it was time to repurpose some of the existing facilities," says Cory Sewelson, WDI senior show producer, director. "And then there's the ongoing need to increase the overall number of attractions and make these parks bigger, richer places."
Bigger and richer indeed. By the end of this current round of development, the Disneyland Resort Paris will be able to count The Twilight Zone® Tower of Terror; Buzz Lightyear Laser Blast; Crush's Coaster; Cars: Radiator Springs Spin Out; and a new land tentatively called Toon Studios among its already diverse ensemble.
The first of these projects to open will be Buzz, with a target date of April 2006. Unlike the other projects—which will find homes in Walt Disney Studios Park—Buzz will join the roster at Disneyland Park in Discoveryland. This new attraction translates the astro-blasting interactivity of the Anaheim version into French for a whole new audience of Space Rangers. And the mission is right on course.
"Buzz is in great shape so far," says Cory. "The sets are already made, the installation of ride track and show scenes are already underway. Show lighting and effects installation is on track to begin by the end of the year—so we're in really great shape."
On the other side of the Esplanade things are shaping up nicely as well, though at strange, cartoony angles. Toon Studios, which will extend out from the Animation Courtyard in Walt Disney Studios Park, incorporates a lot of the wacky props and crazy architecture that come with a gaggle of cartoon characters, but interprets this theme in ways that are sure to set it apart from the neighborhood of Toon Towns.
"It's not quite like a Toon Town," says Cory. "With this endeavor, we're trying to bring about the world of Toons, but interpreting how that world would play out on our studios—on a real-world, working backlot."
"Toon Town is where the Toons live; it's the place they call home," says WDI senior concept designer Jim Shull. "But Toon Studios is where they go to work. This is a place where people and Toons come together to make animated cartoons. So that leads to a very strange mix of architecture and some unusual, fun props."
It also leads to some unusual and fun attractions. When Toon Studios opens in April 2007, it will include ample areas for interaction with characters; enhanced placemaking surrounding Les Tapis Volants: Flying Carpets Over Agrabah; an area themed as Radiator Springs, the town from the yet-to-be-released Disney-Pixar film Cars, and two new rides.
Cars: Radiator Springs Spin Out will put some good Disney spin on a classic theme park attraction—literally. Guests will board one of three types of cars—Lightning McQueen (the film's hero), Sally (Lightning's girlfriend), or Doc Hudson (the old-timer)—and find themselves spinning out of control on a rotating turntable.
"We're going to recreate a moment from the movie in which Doc Hudson, the old champion racecar, teaches Lightning McQueen how to drive in the desert," says Jim.
Once the dust (and stomachs) have settled, guests can move on to Crush's Coaster, which combines classic dark ride elements like black light and intimate show scenes with a spinning, twisting roller coaster. Guests will board onto the backs of the tubular turtle himself and then be transported into the undersea world of Finding Nemo. Everything is slow and easy at first, but once the vehicle reaches the East Australian Current (EAC), things turn gnarly.
"It'll be like Space Mountain underwater—bubbles, ripples, underwater effects everywhere," says Cory. "We're basically filling the room with our underwater equivalent of stars. We'll come up close to kelp and rockwork and undersea characters—and of course we'll be spinning the whole time. And then we burst through this wall of bubbles at the end."
"This ride is all about surprises," says Jim. "It's things you don't expect to see. You don't expect Nemo and Squirt to come up and talk to you and you don't expect to follow them into their world. And you don't expect a ride vehicle that looks like Crush and starts off slow and mellow to all of a sudden go fast and spin and do these roller coaster maneuvers. And we'll never tell you that you're going to spin until you are actually on the ride."
Outside of the Toon Studios and set off from Hollywood Boulevard, a different sort of stomach-turning experience is on the high-rise. With its Pueblo-Deco motif, exhilarating 13-story drop, and compelling storyline, The Twilight Zone® Tower of Terror will bring E-ticket star power to the heart of Walt Disney Studios Park.
"The addition of Tower of Terror will completely change the dynamic of the park," says WDI principal concept architect, director, Coulter Winn.
While much of Tower's show remains the same as can be found in California and Florida, issues with language treatment make this version of the modern classic easier done than said. Both library theaters will play the pre-show film in either French or English, with corresponding subtitles in the other language. But when it comes to Rod Serling, something is bound to get lost in translation. According to Cory, the French are accustomed to hearing the host of the Twilight Zone speak in French (thanks to the wonders of dubbing). To work with this expectation, Imagineers had to locate a voice actor who could sound like the "real" thing.
In addition to the language challenges that come with international markets, Imagineers also have to deal with different construction practices and building materials. Paris' Hollywood Tower Hotel will be a concrete building, unlike its steel-framed American cousins. As a result, there won't be as much exterior plaster, which has the potential to affect the overall look of the facade.
"Because of these material alterations, we'll need to really make sure we have the same period look as we do at DCA," says Coulter. "And we need to check all of our colorboards at the site because the color of the sky in Paris is much different from the sky in Anaheim. What looks good in California might not look good in France."
Even though Tower's November 2007 opening date is more than two years away, the project is falling—flowing, that is—nicely.
"We've just finished the drawing package and have sent that out," says Cory. "But we've also finished digging the entire 40-foot basement and there's construction going on at the site. And we're already starting to locate props and show pieces, as well."