Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Disneyland Paris Park Plan

I had the great pleasure to visit Disneyland Paris for a day last spring, my first visit to a Disney Park outside of Orlando. I don’t know how familiar you all are with this resort, so I’ll share some general thoughts. First, since we only had a single day, we only visited Disneyland Park. I really wish I could have seen the state of the Studios Park just so I could understand how it didn’t work, but I didn’t want to use valuable time to park hop. I was expecting a well-designed park after seeing the incredible concept art and photos in the Disneyland Paris: Sketch to Reality book and it lived up to my high expectations.

This park is a prime example of the concept of making the park itself the best attraction. I’ve somewhat adopted this idea from SW Wilson at Ideal Buildout, who says the park should be an E Ticket. This park absolutely is the best execution of this idea that I’ve seen. It’s a beautiful park, filled with detail and out of the way spots that bring it to life. I’ve spent a lot of time in the Magic Kingdom and this park was like a bizarre but fantastic alternate version of what I know. Each land is a beautifully developed full world with more attention to detail than you can possibly comprehend at once. It’s hard to say how much I loved the design and style of this park without just saying the same things over and over so I’m going to move on.

As for the attractions in the park, I would say that overall it is a small step down from the Magic Kingdom as a total experience, but has vastly superior versions of many individual attractions. Paris’ Big Thunder Mountain, Pirates, and Space Mountain are all the best versions I have experienced. I had no complaints with any ride in the park. It just needs a few more of them, especially attractions that deepen the rich detail of the park.

I also want to quickly acknowledge a particular attraction. La Tanière du Dragon, a simple single room walkthrough, safely became a Top 10 Disney attraction for me. It’s simple, just an animatronic dragon figure that periodically comes to life. But it was one of the most immersive and magical experiences I’ve ever had in a theme park. I think we stopped in there 4 times in a single day just to watch for a while. It’s a true highlight of the park because it’s a little touch that adds life to a rich environment. Fantastic.

My long term expansion plan ended up being focused on the creation of 4 sublands to the existing lands, which was not intentional. I realized that this speaks to the thematic strength of the existing lands, that they really don’t need much fixing, just expansion. The exception is in Discoveryland, where my changes restore the original theme that has been diluted over the years.

Frontierland is an incredible land, among the best designed in Disney Parks because of its rich backstory. The main section of Thunder Mesa between Phantom Manor and the path connecting to Adventureland is beautiful and active, while the outskirts of the land towards the empty Chaparral Theater and Train Station were almost completely empty during my visit. There is just nothing there to draw guests back, especially with the theater currently empty.

This area is redeveloped as a Critter Country type area with an American National Park design. However, the Park is operated by a colorful collection of forest animals and owned by the Country Bears. They have opened up a park to all their animal friends from around the world as a vacation retreat, so this land can thematically include the large catalog of animal based Disney properties. The setting and style is decisively North American with architecture based on the Yellowstone Lodge style.

The main addition is a traditional dark ride led by the Country Bears and featuring a large cast of original animal characters in a musical tour of the Park. Across the path is a rethemed version of Junkyard Jamboree where guests are whipped around behind the Park’s fleet of jeeps. The Chaparral Theater is enclosed to host exclusively animal based shows. This park has had problems in the past with placing shows that do not fit in Frontierland in this theater, so that should be avoided. Possibilities include a live Country Bear Revue show with appearances by characters from Disney films such as Bambi and Pocohantas. Cowboy Cookout Barbecue is absorbed and rethemed as a Redwoods forest dining lodge.

In Adventureland, the western section is redeveloped. Indiana Jones and the Temple of Peril, a basic themed coaster, is removed in favor of a South American jungle with the Indiana Jones Adventure and a new indoor Jungle Cruise. The existing Adventureland represents Africa, the Middle East, and the Caribbean, so this area should have a distinctly different style. The EMV Indiana Jones attraction is the same ride system and track as the existing versions but with an original storyline in a Mayan temple. I considered a new attraction, but the EMV Indiana Jones ride is still a solid attraction that would be unique to the continent.

The bigger addition is the Jungle Cruise, which I consider the quintessential Adventureland experience. It was not included originally because of weather and snow concerns as far as I know, so that’s why this must be indoors. Near a cliffside temple, a series of temporary canvas and wood structures have been erected, home to a scientific exploration. Like Small World across the park, it loads outside and can follow a covered path into the show building. However it also has an alternate uncovered route when weather isn’t an issue. The guided boats take a quick trip through the jungle, passing through a cave, and then into the temple. The covered path stays below a series of rigged canvas tarps, leading into the temple. Inside the large show building is an artificial jungle with similar show scenes to the classic Jungle Cruise. However, the controlled environment allows for more sophisticated figures and special effects, creating exciting new scenes like a whirlpool that causes the boat to temporarily travel backwards. Because of the train tracks, the building is in two segments and boats travel under the train tracks.

In Fantasyland, there are two small additions as well as a subland. In the open expansion plot in the east courtyard building, a meet and greet center is added, like those recently added to other parks. It’s not the ideal solution, but logistically makes sense because this is a fairly small open space and there is increasing demand for these meet and greets. Also, on the east side of the land, a theater is added. Fantasyland needs a theater and I’ve heard rumors that one is coming soon. This seemed like a suitable space for it. Stylistically, it follows the language of Small World across the path. A large entrance plaza and tower on the north side welcomes guests into the theater that could hold Broadway caliber revue shows, like the Golden Mickey’s.

The big addition in the north expansion plot of the land is Arendelle. Meet Mickey Mouse is removed and the train station is redesigned as the entrance hall to the Kingdom of Arendelle. Across the tracks is the gate and main courtyard of the land with a small village area to the right on the path to Storybook Land. Inside the palace of Arendelle is a table service restaurant, a large sleigh ride trip to Elsa’s ice castle, and the opportunity to ice skate in the grand hall of the palace, just like Anna and Elsa do in the film. The village area is entirely retail space for the highly popular Frozen product line.

Discoveryland sees the most change to restore it to its original concept. First, Buzz Lightyear Laser Blast is removed because of a new Toy Story based shooting attraction in the studios park. It is replaced with The Time Machine, the same attraction proposed in my Magic Kingdom plan. The Videopolis Theater is also removed because it has been unoccupied for years. It is replaced by a suspended dark ride loosely based on Around the World in 80 Days, which is already the basis of the counter service in the building. The interior space is reshaped to create a dining room for the Café Hyperion with the balloon loading and track traveling above before entering the main show scene space of the building. Across the land, the current Les Mysteres du Nautilus walk through, which was fantastic but seemed unpopular, becomes the queue to a new attraction. This honestly was an attempt to bring more prominence to the wonderfully designed Nautilus interior sets. The attraction is a Circumotion Theater attraction by Falcon’s Treehouse. Guests load into one of the two Nemo designed observation submarines for an exciting trip to the bottom of the sea.

The last and most significant addition to the park is the Star Wars Spaceport. Because this is totally different thematically from the rest of Discoveryland, it has to be a distinct subland. It begins along the train tracks in front of Star Tours. With an exterior that fits into the rest of Discoveryland, the covered spaceport interior acts as the entryway to the area. The indoor concourse advertises different galactic locations guests can travel to, tying in to the existing Star Tours storyline. To the right of the spaceport, a path leads to Coruscant, the main area of the land. The Captain EO Theater is demolished for this expansion. The city includes the Millennium Falcon in dock, a shopping market, a large counter service cantina, and the Jedi Training Academy. Nearby is a X Wing Fighter, marking the entrance to an extreme spinner ride. The main attraction is a kuka based X Wing flight, including the iconic trench run. There is also a table service restaurant looking over the city of Coruscant. To the left of Star Tours is a large expansion plot for a future Star Wars world.

This week’s question:

What are your thoughts about the strategy of creating unique versions of classic rides vs reusing the same designs over and over?

As I mentioned, Disneyland Paris has fantastically unique versions of multiple classic Magic Kingdom attractions. Big Thunder Mountain is on an island, Pirates features a unique open layout and an uphill waterfall, Space Mountain is as extreme as Rockin Roller Coaster, and Phantom Manor is as original as a take on a classic as you can get. Unfortunately, Disneyland Paris is the nearly the only example of this. Disneyland and Disneyworld are generally the same, Tokyo wanted exact copies of the American versions, and Hong Kong used copies for economic reasons, though this has been reversed in the last few years. Shanghai however, seems to be going almost all original, which is great.

If the design goal was to give Disneyland Paris a unique identity, then I believe it succeeded and I wish that each resort around the world did the same thing. The attractions in their unique versions are successful and able to stand alone, but can be appreciated even deeper when you are able to compare versions across the world.

Additionally, an important reason that unique versions of attractions are successful is because they allow world building. Image a Disneyland Frontierland that was forced to use the same Haunted Mansion. It just wouldn’t be the same because it would destroy the detailed story and design aesthetic of the land. The ability of the park to use original takes on classics is one of the reasons the park is so strong. I’m absolutely sure the attractions in Tokyo Disneyland are fantastic and I would enjoy them, but I would know it’s basically the same attraction in a different place. This I believe is one of Disneyland Paris’ triumphs. It was a whole new bizarre fantastic experience.

So my thoughts on unique attractions: I wish it was done more. Copying the same attraction around the world may be easy and may make sense, but unique designs make the best park.


  1. Hey TRF,

    Awesome job on the site & plans! Wish I could have experienced DLP in 1995 (which I consider its peak year - still very fresh, fully-functioning, as originally intended (e.g. TS Photography) and with Discoveryland/Space Mountain coherently-themed to Verne (excluding Star Tours). If you haven't checked out all 7 issues of this brilliant DLP fanzine, I suggest you do, starting with #2: http://issuu.com/disneygraphy/docs/magazine_-_issue__2

    Baxter and the 2nd Gen Masters set out to take Disneyland and perfect it in France. I think they succeeded. It's one of the pinnacles of planning & design. I really like all your changes/additions (we're on a very similar wavelength). Also drew a plan with an Around the World in place of Videopolis (which was doomed to have character shows and probably shouldn't have been located there).

    I like your Fantasyland changes... the current, quick-built M&G (formerly the post-show at IASW) doesn't work in its present locale, IMO. Better to keep that area IASW, not 'Storybook' style.

    Maze gone for a reason or no time to deal with the linework?

    Showbuildings can be disguised, but their heights are something to remain conscious of. For example, the HK Golden Mickeys was an inexpensive last minute addition. Once IASW opened there, its big "curtain tower" is hard to hide from that side. Similarly, having a country bears darkride pretty close to the river's edge might require rockworking its sides.

    Getting both Indy and an Indoor Jungle Cruise in that space is pretty ingenious.

    Good thing you visited in the spring. I was there on a cold, dreary November day and sorely missed the weather of Orlando or Anaheim.

    Regarding differentiation & uniqueness, I of course agree (wish each park had its own unique castle, if you ever care to draw some elevations).

    One final note on the site... I wrote a lengthy post last week regarding the importance of walkthroughs supporting the marquee rides, but it disappeared when I went to sign in! I'm typically too lazy to sign in to google to comment on any site I visit, so is there a way you can add a "name" or anon option so I can join the architectural discussion more often.



    1. Wow I will have to look through all those magazines, looks like they have some great pictures. Such a photogenic park. I agree, Baxter and Sotto and the rest of the leads on the park really succeeded. I could be happy with a day there of just walking around and enjoying the environment.

      Correct, the maze is still there. Apparently I just put it off and forgot to draw it. Too many lines. I'll add it eventually.

      While it was quite nice during the day in March, it got unbearably cold once the sun went down and I was not prepared. It was a cold cold wait for Disney Dreams.

      I actually have done a few elevations, specifically for a few WDW attractions that I will post soon. I definitely want to do more to figure out some of these facade and showbuilding issues that my plans present. It just takes so much more time for me than a plan, but its on my list.

      Sure, I can change the settings for the comments. Blogger does weird things. Like I didn't get email notifications for any of these comments strangely.

  2. Absolutely love this post! I've never had the chance to go to Disneyland Paris yet, however I've seen Youtube footage of Phantom Manor and Paris's Pirates ride and I was amazed how how great they looked. I really want to go on them!

    The suggestions by the way, from what I can tell, based on my limited knowledge of Disneyland Paris though, are great!

    By the way, regarding your question at the end, have you considered posting ideas on how you would rework some of the classic rides that show up in the other parks? I'd be interested to see some ideas for a redone Tokyo Haunted Mansion.

    1. Regarding any potential future expansion plans you might have, I heard of a rumor on the WDWMagic Forums that Carousel of Progress might be moving to Epcot's WOL pavilion by 2020.

      Perhaps you might consider doing this in your expansion plan, making a progress pavilion in the WOL area instead of the Weather Pavilion you had in the last version. Perhaps you might even think of adding a new Horizons ride as well?

      The post was: http://forums.wdwmagic.com/threads/carousel-of-progress-to-wol-building.896306/

    2. I've been thinking alot about your last suggestion, about fixing copies of rides. It's definitely interesting and something I've never considered. It would be a challenge to somewhat respect the original design while adding some uniqueness, but thats the kind of challenge I like. I'll add it to the already long list of things to think about.

      I really dont believe that rumor about COP moving to EPCOT. Maybe it would be nice, but I cant see it happening. A progress pavilion is interesting though. In a plan for a new resort that I started a few years ago and never finished, I had a new version of Horizons anchoring a Future themed area. Maybe I'll get back to that eventually.

    3. Perhaps a suggestion if you decide to redo some of the Haunted Mansion copies, but something I've noticed over the years is that a big thing that separates each of the version of the rides is the Brides. The brides: Emily de Claire for Disneyland/Magic Kingdom before it was changed to Constance, although I believe she still exists as she did in Tokyo Disneyland, Constance Hatchaway is the new bride for DL/MK. Finally there's Melanie Ravenswood, the bride for Phantom Manor.

      The point I'm making is the the brides tend to define the stories of their version of the Haunted Mansion, as their one of the very few things that gets changed in each version of the ride, so in any new creation, you might want to consider that.

      An extra suggestion I have would to be to put Emily as the bride in Disneyland once more, in order to separate her from Constance, and maybe give Tokyo a new bride of your creation.

    4. Really interesting about the brides. That could definitely be a way into the design challenge of reimagining such a classic. In reworking the Tokyo version specifically, it also could find some inspiration from the Japanese view of ghosts as folklore, hence its placement in Fantasyland.

  3. I've been to Disneyland Paris three times and intend on going many more times. It is the only resort I've been too, but I think it is the most beautifully designed. The studio park has been given some nice features, but really does need a new theme, updatings, and expansion. I do like the new features and layout, particularly an indoor Jungle Cruise. However, I am a little saddened you scrapped Alice's Curious Labyrinth.

    1. First, the Labyrinth is not removed, I just never drew it because it's pretty complicated. I would never remove it, I thought it was great, especially the overlook of Fantasyland from the castle. So sorry for the scare, its there! I'll add it in soon I guess.

      I wish I could go to Paris many more times. I had an amazing day, hopefully I'll be back one day and for longer.

      I also have nearly finished a Studios Park expansion plan that I will post later this spring. I built it out quite a bit, but still to a realistic scale. I'm pretty happy with how it is turning out.

      Thanks for the comments!

    2. By the way, what software do you use to make your maps?

    3. Sketchup and then Photoshop for cleanup and adding the text and logos.

  4. I've been to the Paris resort twice in '99 and '05 with my family both around Halloween time. Although I dont recall too much about my first visit (I must have been 6), my memories of it are among my very fondest. You didn't really miss much by skipping the studios park, though the ratatouille area and nemo do look good.
    The placing for Critter country is perfect and I climatically Paris would be the best Disney park for a Frozen miniland. I've never cared much for Jungle Cruise and the space it normally takes, but you've incorporated it well and the fact its indoors means it can be much more immersive. The layout of the Star wars spaceport is superb, especially considering the amount of space you've had to allocate to ride buildings. I love the way the area is slightly secluded from the rest of Discoveryland preventing theming clashes but once you enter the miniland, it looks like guests will be intimately immersed within the star wars franchise.
    I understand the reasons behind replicating rides in other parks. They provide guaranteed success while providing themes, spaces and attractions that guests are familiar with. Personally as an fan of imagineering, I don't think attractions should be closely replicated unless the experience will be of a higher quality than its predecessors (or that its unique enough so that differences can be easily identified). A good example which isn't in Paris would be Disneysea's Tower of Terror. I'm also obsessed with the concept of each Disneyland/MK style park having its own unique identity (like Paris ans Shanghai), being more like cousins than twin sisters and having a number of completely unique attractions.

    1. Good thought about the weather and Frozen. It would be lovely to see the Arendelle square covered in snow.

      Visually and thematically separating the Star Wars area from Discoveryland was my first priority with that expansion. Discoveryland has a rigidly and beautifully designed style that Star Wars just cant work in. Star Tours and EO in their current form just look awkward and out of place. So respecting the original concept was the first key. Once your in the spaceport, I wanted a nearly complete separation of worlds, like Diagon. It's not perfect and the size of the expansion plot caused some issues, but I think it could work.

      Good example with Tower of Terror. It's a good compromise example, using the exact same ride system and show building, but completely re imagining the story and design to create a new experience. I definitely think that is the most realistic solution that still allows for original experiences.

  5. Very interesting plan.
    I like that you placed Frozen and Star Wars in a separate section of fantasyland and discoveryland, meaning they are connected with the theme but at the same time you want to keep the main area original.
    Indiana Jones is a longtime rumore, hopefully they'll build someday.
    I don't like two things of the plan. The first is the Jungle cruise attraction mainly because you can't put a castmember speaking on the boat because of the incredibly large number of languages spoken in the European Magic Kingdom. So I'm afraid the ride would become a bit pointless and not at a Diseny level.
    The second choice I don't think would work is the Critter country area, and specifically The country bear because 99% of people living in Europe don't have idea of what the country bear are. I think it would be like building a dark ride based on Duffy the disney bear at Disneyworld's Magic Kingdom based on the succes it has at TokyoDisneySea.

    I don't know who is gonna read this comment in 2017 but I really want to say sorry for the mistakes I probrably made in english, that's because I'm writing from Italy and it doesn't show mistakes.