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Further thoughts on Walt Disney Studios theme park

Further thoughts on Walt Disney Studios theme park

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Okay. While I appreciated a number of the comments that Eric J. Craven made in yesterday's story about CineMagique, I need to clear up a few misconceptions that JHM readers may have about m take on Walt Disney Studios. A theme park where (I feel, anyway) that most of the park's problems lie on the outside. NOT in the attractions themselves.

Alright. I will admit that -- as part of Tuesday's "What's Next for EuroDisney SCA?" article -- I said that:

"... This small movie-themed theme park is arguably is the least attractive as well as the worst received park in Disney history."

But -- that said -- that doesn't mean that I don't have some real affection for Walt Disney Studios. After all, I was lucky enough to be there on the night the theme park opened. So WDS is kind of special to me. Which is why -- in spite of all its shortcoming and flaws -- I still find myself visiting this movie-themed theme park quite often.

"Why go back to a flawed theme park?," you ask. Well, to be honest, I don't believe that DLRP's second gate is really a fatally flawed theme park. I have told various friends and associates (and I will continue to tell them) that I think that Walt Disney Studios has the potential to become a truly great theme park. The key to that happening is ... both EuroDisney SCA and the Walt Disney Company have to really get behind this troubled park. Make a serious investment.

And -- when I say "investment" -- I mean in both a monetarily and creative way. To date, Walt Disney Studios doesn't have an E Ticket. Mind you, the theme park already has -- in its "Moteurs Action Stunt Show Spectacular" and "CineMagique" -- two solid D-tickets. But no real E Ticket to call its own. To help get the public truly excited about going to WDS.

(Now, you'll notice that I'm not including "Rock 'n' Roller Coaster" as part of my discussion of this theme park's attraction. That's because -- while RNRC is an E Ticket -- it's a clone of a Disney-MGM E Ticket. Which means that this thrill ride really doesn't help give Walt Disney Studios its own identity.

Likewise, I'm not taking the "Art de l'animation Selon Disney" exhibit into consideration because this too is a clone of sorts. A redo of Disney's California Adventure's "Disney Animation" exhibit ... minus the grandeur of that lovely lobby area in this Hollywood Pictures Backlot attraction. Where classic pieces of Disney animation art tower over you like stained glass windows in a cathedral. WDS could obviously have used a bit more of the magic that this DCA attraction has ... in spades.)

Getting back to "Moteurs Action Stunt Show Spectacular" ... this really is a killer attraction. So much so that -- when Jay Rasulo was made president of Disney's theme park division -- one of his very first acts was to okay the cloning of the WDS stunt show. So that guests at Disney-MGM in Florida could experience some of the thrills that DLRP visitors have been enjoying since Walt Disney Studios first opened back in March 2002.

Speaking of thrills ... they really come in big and small sizes here at WDS. Take -- for example -- Animagic. The Walt Disney Studios stage show that really makes clever use of the old European traditional of mixing puppetry and theatre. Plus this is one show where people actually GO IN humming the score (which features many classic Disney songs).

Speaking of music ... even before entering Walt Disney Studios, the music that you hear on the theme park's loop as you approach the gates really does a great job of setting the mood. Those of you who have been to Disney-MGM have heard the American version of this music. But -- at WDS -- the selection of songs appears (at least to me) to be much eclectic. With the mix sliding smoothly from the "A Bug's Life" theme to "Maria" from "West Side Story" to Ennio Morricone's great theme song from "Once Upon a Time in the West" to "Amelie" 's theme to "Bella Notte" from "Lady and the Tramp." This music just puts you in the mood for a visit to a movie-themed theme park.

And the architecture for WDS's Front Lot is pretty snazzy as well. Did any of you European Disneyana buffs ever notice that the "Studio 1" building's conish is actually a copy of Walt Disney's original Hyperion studio? Don't believe me? Then just check any photo of the original Hyperion avenue studio building design. You'll then be forced to tip your hat to Paul Osterhaut and the rest of the Imaginers who worked on Walt Disney Studios theme park, for taking the time to actually try and recreate the place where "Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs" and many of the more memorable shorts that Disney ever turned out were made.

The rest of WDS's front lot is actually pretty clever as well. Sure, it's starting to get obvious that WDI is working with a fairly limited budget here. But the inside of Studio One! How can you NOT enjoy this replica of a "working" Hollywood street set. This really sets the stage for a fun day at a Disney theme park ...

It's just too bad that the theme park that you find just beyond this building seems so meager. With the two dimensional facades for "Armageddon," "Rock n Roller Coaster" and even that (admittedly temporary) WDS tram tour station giving guests the unfortunate impression that alt Disney Studios theme park is ... well ... flat.

This (perhaps) explains the unfortunate joke that's been going around about WDS. People come to the "Partners" statue and see that the Walt figure seems to be pointed back toward the park's entrance. "You seem," say the DLRP wags, "Even Walt Disney is saying 'Run! Get out while you still can!'"

You see what I'm saying here? There's a lot of great little touches to be found at Walt Disney Studios theme park. Lot of witty design as well as some fairly interesting attractions. But no big "Wows!" And -- let's face it, folks -- people go to Disney theme parks expecting to see at least a few big "Wows!"

I mean, I really love all the witty touches in the park. That "raining" umbrella that you find in front of a recreation of the shop fa├žade that Gene Kelly danced in front of in "Singing in the Rain." That's a really magical thing to stumble upon. People love to have their picture taken there ... But witty touches like that do not a truly successful theme park make.

But the way I see it is ... the basics are there. The bare bones ... on which a truly great theme can be built. IF EuroDisney SCA and the Walt Disney Company actually rise to the challenge.

Would a European version of "Twilight Zone Tower of Terror" help this situation. I know that a lot of Disneyana fans seem to think so. But -- based on some conversations that I've had with some Imagineers -- I'm not so sure myself. These WDI guys seem to think that -- by placing a highly detailed TOT right in the middle of WDS (which is a very lightly themed theme park) -- an attraction like that might throw the whole place out of balance. So the end result might be -- instead of making the place better -- a "Twilight Zone Tower of Terror" might actually make Walt Disney Studios seem worse than it already is.

That's why I think that the management team at the Disneyland Paris resort needs to move very carefully now. Carefully consider its next move at Walt Disney Studios theme park. WDS does really have the potential for greatness. But only if they work with what already works at the theme park. Not just start throwing E Tickets into Walt Disney Studios, with the hope that something like that will finally make the public embrace WDS.

To be honest, you know I think Walt Disney Studios needs? A little self confidence. To realize that the park actually has some potential. And then (hopefully) to have EuroDisney SCA and the Walt Disney Company actually act of WDS's potential.

Anyway, I hope that this defense will now make it that much easierv for many of you to enjoy Walt Disney Studios theme park.

That's it for this time. TTFN!
Andrea "Mickeyfantasmic" Monti

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