Before I begin this week's article, I want to take the opportunity to thank the friend of mine who has been keeping me supplied with the latest news from behind the scenes at DLRP. Let's call him "Junior". The majority of the information contained in these reports has come directly from him, and he has always been incredibly resourceful and trusting. So, this week's offering is dedicated to "Junior", as I know that this particular piece of news is especially close to his heart.
Now for those of you who don't already know, the French Adventureland is split into several distinct sections, each of which represents a far-flung corner of the globe. For example, the main entrance to the land is situated in the Arabian quarter, with its (now closed) covered market. Turning left, there is a small African area, comprising a few shops and a restaurant. Walking through this, we arrive in the Indian section, which culminates in Indiana Jones and the Temple of Peril... Backwards! But were we to turn right at the entrance, we would quickly find ourselves in the largest and most popular section of Adventureland; the section known amongst the Cast Members as "Le Côte des Pirates." (Pirate Coast.)
This section takes up half of Adventureland, stretching as it does from the vast façade of Pirates of the Caribbean, around the waters of Cannonball Cove, where Captain Hook's galley is moored, and across half of Adventure Isle - the European take on Tom Sawyer Island. Here, guests can explore the network of caves beneath Skull Rock, complete with treasure hordes, grinning skeletons and underground streams.
But there is skulduggery afoot. Following the announcement that EuroDisney SCA is to receive $250 million from the Walt Disney Company and other shareholders, the Imagineers have begun drawing up plans to reinforce the Pirates theme. Details are sketchy, but I have recently discovered that Adventure Isle and the shore of Cannonball Cove are to receive new detailing based on the Pirates movie, "The Curse Of The Black Pearl." Yes, Captain Jack Sparrow is about to drop anchor in the waters of Adventureland. Not only that, he may be setting up a permanent residence.
According to an intriguing rumour (which was relayed to me by a very good source), the whole of Adventure Isle could be given over to Cap'n Jack. Whereas previously guests were left to explore the island in whichever fashion suited them best, they may soon find themselves following a set trail, left by Sparrow. The story goes that, after being caught in a tempest at sea, the quirky pirate found himself stranded on Adventure Isle. Luckily, a casket of booty was washed ashore with him, and he hid it for safe keeping before making his escape. He also left a series of clues as to the treasure's whereabouts, so that he could find it again when he returned. Now guests, armed with these clues and a note from Jack, must retrace his steps and uncover the resting place of his loot.
It is also possible that this partial re-theme will extend to La Cabanne des Robinson (Swiss Family Robinson Tree House.) Anyone familiar with the resort will already know that this once fascinating attraction has been in an abysmal state of repair for years now; the elaborate water-powered winch system that brought the tree house to life is largely missing, and the state of the furnishings and walkways leaves a lot to be desired. An extensive refurbishment has been in the pipeline for a few years, but a lack of funds has seen it postponed time and time again. Now it seems that the tree house is to receive a complete transformation, as it becomes Jack Sparrow's very own treetop hideaway. Possibly forming part of the new treasure trail, guests will be able to tour Jack's fully functioning island residence, which he allegedly built to help him keep watch for ships on the horizon. The various rooms will be re-fitted with pirate paraphernalia, including maps, muskets and Jack's trademark hat.
There is more news from the other side of Adventureland, where work to adapt the Temple of Peril ride has just finished. Sadly, there were no significant changes made. Instead, the ride has lost its "...Backwards!" tag line and is once again a traditional forward-facing coaster. The trains started running backwards a few years ago in an attempt to attract more guests, but it appears the gimmick failed as wait times have been consistently less than fifteen minutes ever since.
There are slightly more ambitious plans in store, however. It is hoped that come 2006, should there be enough money remaining, the temple around which the ride is built will undergo a major facelift. The idea is to introduce several special effects elements from the new "Raging Spirits" coaster, currently under construction in Tokyo. From the concept artwork released to date, it has to be said that the Japanese ride bears more than a passing resemblance to the Temple of Peril. Should the plans go ahead, riders can expect to find plumes of fire erupting from the ground in the final low-level sections of the ride, as well as clouds of steam and curtains of water obscuring sudden turns. There is no word yet on whether or not there would be any change to the ride layout, but Cast Members are already lobbying for the introduction of a longer track as well as the construction of a "show building", allowing sections of the ride to take place indoors.
In the meantime, more detailing is to be added to the broad jungle path that leads to the temple. The small African hut that currently serves as a cash point and office for the land's management team is to become a food kiosk. It will be redecorated in an Indian style and will also receive "exterior ambiance" props, including a brightly painted tuk-tuk (a type of small motor-tricycle) parked outside. Wooden totem poles decorated with Indian carvings may also be erected.
So while Adventureland's immediate future may lack the dramatic announcements of new rides and shows, we are at least assured of a steady evolution of its core themes. The introduction of a high profile character like Jack Sparrow would only serve to renew the public's interest in this section of the park, especially with the second and third instalments of the Pirates of the Caribbean films already in pre-production. Considering the inexpensive nature of the modifications being made, Disneyland Resort Paris could well be making a good investment for the future.