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The Big Line Up

The Big Line Up

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After all these months of waiting, theorising and rumour mongering, the facts are finally out in the open. On Tuesday, Jaunary 11th, at a specially prepared "rendez-vous des Cast Members," official details of the resort's forthcoming attractions were finally made public. It's a promising line up, and contains more than a few surprises.

First of all, the Buzz Lightyear ride has been re-named "Buzz Lightyear's Laser Blast" and appears to be closer in style to the Japanese version of the ride than its Floridian counterpart. Work has already begun inside the former Visionarium building, and the new attraction will open its doors next year.

The biggest surprise of the day came at the unveiling of the Toon Studios, which confounded nearly all the predictions in my last article. The Parisian branch of Imagineering did a wonderful job of keeping the project under wraps until the last possible moment.

They revealed that, instead of being housed in a purpose-built studio, the new land will be outdoors. Furthermore, rather than re-creating Roger Rabbit's Toontown, it will instead represent a working studio backlot, populated and run by toons. So instead of Mickey and Minnie's houses, we have their trailers set up as a meet 'n' greet area. Painted flats and life size props depicting famous scenes from various Disney animated classics will litter the new area, allowing for various photo opportunities.

And the attractions? Well the Goofy connection -- which seemed like such a sure thing only a few weeks ago -- is entirely absent. Instead, the Studios are going one better, with an entirely new dark ride based on Crush, the surfer dude turtle from "Finding Nemo." Guests will clamber aboard their own sea turtle, which they can spin freely through 360°, before setting off on an undersea quest to recover Nemo. Along the way they will pass through glowing coral reefs, the ruined submarine and a deep-sea chasm, where the angler fish lies in wait. Intriguingly, the new attraction takes the old "Car Toon Spin" ride system and revamps it, adding roller coaster elements such as drops and banking turns.

Toon Studios will also boast a spinning flier based on another Pixar hit. Concept artwork and scale models based on several possible themes have been drawn up by the Imagineers, and they are still undecided as to which they will choose. The most prominent - and the firm favorite with the Cast Members I spoke with - is the "Flik's Fliers" ride from Disney's California Adventure. This would sit on the space currently occupied by the lawn between the "Art of Disney Animation" building, and the backstage costuming complex, and would be reached via a gateway in the shape of a giant magnifying glass. The oversized vegetation that would decorate the surrounding area reportedly looks magnificent.

Alternative projects for the site include an "Incredible" re-theme of the same ride, with Symptom's giant robot acting as the central ride mechanism, and the guests suspended from its many arms. There is also a dodge-ems ride on the drawing board, based on "Cars", the upcoming Pixar movie.

In addition to this, we can expect to see the park's first full service restaurant. There are no firm details at present, but word backstage already has that it will be the "Animator's Palette" restaurant from the Disney Magic cruise ship. If this proves to be true, it would be a real coup for the park.

Speaking of coups, I promised you details of that "monster hit" that André Lacroix (the French Matt Ouimet) spoke about. It may not have come as a surprise, but it was welcome news nevertheless - the "Tower of Terror" will open its doors to European guests in 2008. Situated in the dead center of the park, it is deliberately intended that the"Tower" will become a new, powerful emblem for the Studios. Indeed, it will dwarf the Studio 1 entrance building (which is itself a fair size) and will be visible as guests approach from the car park, some hundreds of yards distant.

The "Tower" itself will be a clone of the Californian version, at least from the outside. The "Twilight Zon"e connection is likely to be dropped and there are reports that the ride's interior will undergo an extensive transformation. I have seen blue prints for the ride dating from as late as last October (thanks again to my backstage source, Junior), and they reveal the building's interior to be exactly the same as in DCA. However, rumours persist that the lobby and boiler room sections will be altered to resemble an enormous movie set.

Personally, I take these reports with a pinch of salt. But I -- by no means -- rule out the possibility of a re-theme. After all, how else would you explain the presence of an old American hotel in the heart of a modern French studio? Lacroix has done a good job of surprising us since he came to the resort in 2003 and I can't imagine him stopping any time soon. For example, he's already dropping hints about new attractions to be added to the parks as far ahead as 2012. "Splash Mountain" for the Disneyland park, anyone? Or how about a new Sunset Boulevard for the Studios?

But those rumours are for another time. For now, let's content ourselves with the fact that this oft-neglected resort is finally receiving some care and attention. To summarise, here are the new additions in the order in which they will be appearing:

2005 (Opening April 9th) - "Space Mountain: Mission 2" (Disneyland Park)
2006 - "Buzz Lightyear's Laser Blast" (Disneyland Park)
2007 - "Toon Studios" (Walt Disney Studios Park)
2008 - "Tower Of Terror" (Walt Disney Studios Park)

If all goes according to plan, this year could mark the beginning of the renaissance of the Disneyland Paris Resort. I will be there for the opening of "Space Mountain: Mission 2," and will give you a full report on my impressions as soon as I return. Maybe I'll see a few of you there.

In the meantime, have fun and thanks for reading.

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