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Little known facts about Disney's foreign kingdoms

Little known facts about Disney's foreign kingdoms

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Yo ho, yo ho, gang!

It's MickeyFantasmic AKA Andrea Monti again. With even more stories about "Disney's foreign kingdoms".

Herbie's legacy

Let's start today's column by taking a look at the very place that all Disneyland Paris guest take a look at at the beginning of their day at the Magic Kingdom: The Disneyland Hotel. Sure, this hotel is reportedly inspired by Walt Disney World's crown jewel, the Grand Floridian Resort Hotel. But -- inside the Disneyland Hotel -- lies a great homage to Tokyo as well as a tribute to the man who drew the very first map of Disneyland: The original Imagineer, Herbie Ryman.

If you were to wander up into the Disneyland Hotel and make your way to the appropriate corridor, you'd find this great display of Herbie's concept paintings for both Tokyo Disneyland & Disneyland - Paris. Here, you'll find Ryman's renderings of what he thought Tokyo Disneyland's hub area should look like. With the park's lush green gardens and Cinderella Castle looming in the background. You'll also find Herbie's paintings of what he'd hoped the Imagineers could do with DLP's entrance garden area.

Next time you're at the Disneyland - Paris resort, be sure to seek out this particular corridor at the Disneyland Hotel. It's definitely worth a visit.

Sorcerer Mickey takes a trip

Surely, by now, you've heard that Paris' Walt Disney Studios theme park is somewhat controversial. With many Disneyana fans griping about that park's shortcomings. But one part of that theme park that you WON'T find people complaining about is WDS' front lot area.

Here, the Imagineers deliberately tried to create buildings that were reminiscent in the architecture that you'd find were you to visit Disney's Hyperion Studio complex back in the 1930s. With WDI going out of its way to get the details just right. Even laboring to make that the colors of the theme park's water tower exactly matched the Southern California original.

One of the true high points of the WDS' front lot area is the "Fantasia" themed fountain by the theme park's entrance gates. Where Mickey -- in his "Sorcerer's Apprentice" garb -- stands high on top of a rock and "directs" a bunch broomsticks carrying buckets.

This "Fantasia" fountain has been a huge hit with WDS guests. With many folks making a point of getting their picture taken with Mickey & the brooms before venturing into Walt Disney Studios and seeing what sorts of rides, shows & attractions this movie-themed theme park has to offer.

This fountain was such an obvious hit that -- when EuroDisney SCA execs were looking for a special gift to send the Oriental Land Company (To honor OLC at the occasion of Tokyo Disneyland's 20th anniversary) -- they decided to send a copy of the Sorcerer Mickey statue to Tokyo. Which is why a duplicate of this statue now stands in Fantasyland at Tokyo Disneyland.

It's just too bad that only Mickey made the journey to Japan. The broomsticks? They wound up getting the brush-off.

All the (Disney's) World is a stage

For decades, the Imagineers had be struggling with what they should do with the castles at the various Disney theme parks. You see, the entertainment departments at each of these theme parks always liked staging shows in front of these castles. The only problem was ... These castles really didn't have enough space to stage shows in.

As they were prepping the Disneyland - Paris' Magic Kingdom, master Imagineer Tony Baxter came up with an elegant solution to this problem. He just shifted the stage to the right side of the castle. A stage that made use of that entire side of the castle. Which actually featured a giant storybook that would open & close at appropriate moments in the show.

How magical was this effect? So magical that actress Melanie Griffith -- when she was hosting the CBS TV special honoring the grand opening of what was then known as Euro Disneyland -- actually went off-script when she first saw that giant storybook opened. Gasping with delight, Ms. Griffith said "It's just like a dream" as fireworks burst in the skies overhead.

The price of being Splashed has gone up

People keep wondering why Disneyland - Paris is the only Magic Kingdom in the world not to have its own version of "Splash Mountain." Well, according to some of the DLPR insiders that I've spoken with, one of the main reasons that this popular attraction hasn't yet popped up in that theme park's Frontierland is its price tag.

Consider the cost of the original "Splash Mountain." Which -- in spite of doing clever things like recycling AA figures from the Anaheim theme park's "America Sings" attraction -- still went ridiculously over budget. Costing a then-astounding $80 million. Nearly 5 times what it cost Walt to build all of Disneyland back in 1955.

Now consider how much it cost the Oriental Land Company to build their own version of "Splash Mountain" in the mid-1990s. So that this attraction would come up to Tokyo's stringent earthquake & fire safety codes, its final construction costs came in at twice what it cost to build the Anaheim original. That's right. $160 million, folks.

Given that the cost building the Disneyland - Paris version of "Splash Mountain" is expected to fall somewhere between those two extremes, is it any wonder that EuroDisney SCA hasn't been all that eager to add Chickapen Hill to Frontierland's mountainous line-up? Which is why they keep looking for more affordable alternatives. Like maybe even adding an attraction to that theme park that was inspired by a long abandoned Marc Davis concept. A certain river expedition that I hesitate to mention ... In fear that it may get Jim Hill foaming at the mouth again about how Screamscape.com supposedly got this story wrong.

Oops. I bet that last item really ticked my boss off. So maybe it's time for me to go now.

TTFN! Ta Ta For Now!

Andrea "Mickeyfantasmic" Monti

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