Disneyland Paris Expansion News
Disneyland Paris Just Made Its Move
Last week, The Walt Disney Company announced sweeping changes for their most infamous theme park. Disneyland Paris, a place a critic once derided as a “cultural Chernobyl,” has quietly become the most popular tourist destination in Europe. Over the years, the park has struggled to turn a profit despite its popularity.
Early in 2017, Disney announced their intent to become the exclusive owner of the park, something they had never done in the 25-year history of Disneyland Paris. To qualify as a primary owner in France, a company must purchase more than 95 perfect of the corporate shares available. By June of 2017, Disney had gained 97.08 percent of the park, thereby becoming its exclusive owner.
At the time, Disney promised a $1.6 billion investment to renovate their struggling park. While you may believe that it struggled due to quality issues, that’s not the case. Sure, Disneyland Paris has faced negative headlines since the beginning, but it didn’t become the best paid tourist spot on the continent by accident. By and large, guests are satisfied with their visits.
The Paris Problem
For this reason, park attendance was fairly static for several years. From 2009 through 2015, attendance fell in the range of 14.2 million to 16 million. Then, somehow tragic happened. Terrorists attacked the nearby city of Paris. In lieu of this tragedy, people were reticent to visit the area in 2016, causing Disneyland Paris traffic to decline to 13.4 million.
The Walt Disney Company understood the causality for the decline. They knew that they needed to take steps. Other owners prevented them from making the necessary moves. Disney became exclusive owner to prevent such obstruction. In other words, what just happened was years in the making. Disney believes in Disneyland Paris but until they owned enough shares, they couldn’t do what they wanted. Here’s what it means to you.
How Disney Can Help Paris Recover
Disney wants to become part of the solution for Paris. Disneyland Paris resides only 32 miles away from the Eiffel Tower. The park and the city are inexorably linked. Their goal is to restore confidence in visiting Paris again, which shouldn’t be hard. The City of Lights is the dream destination of many tourists. The presence of Disneyland Paris in the surrounding region only enhances the appeal.
The problem that Disney has always faced is that the French government, a part owner, couldn’t implement the Disney brand the way that Imagineers can. Nobody’s at fault here. The problem is real, though, and Disneyland Paris hasn’t received the upgrades it has needed to entice fence-sitters that it’s fine to visit Paris again.
What can Disney do for Paris? They can step up and invest lots of money in one of their existing parks. And that’s exactly what they’ve done. In fact, Disney’s going to spend more on their park upgrades that they originally announced back in February of 2017. Only a year later, that promised $1.6 billion number has jumped to $2 billion Euros, the equivalent of $2.45 billion. Yes, they’ve chosen to boost their initial projection by $845 million. That’s reason enough to believe that Disney is serious.
What’s Disney Doing?
Imagine the 2019 version of Disney’s Hollywood Studios, only with the name scratched out and replaced with Walt Disney Studios Park. Okay, I’m exaggerating a bit, only not as much as you’d think. Walt Disney Studios Park, the second gate at Disneyland Paris, already had a strong connection to Hollywood Studios. It subdivides into themed lands like the Front Lot and Production Courtyard. It also already has a Toy Story-based section that was at least part of the inspiration for the one coming to Walt Disney World in a few months.
Now, the connection will become stronger, as Walt Disney Studios Park will add its own Star Wars Land, giving the parks a pair of similarly themed lands. They’re also adding a Marvel section that should be similar to what Disney has planned for Disney California Adventure. And Disney’s building a third themed land that will be the first of its kind in the world. Yes, Frozen will get its first full-fledged park presence, as Arendelle will level up from being a part of the Norway Pavilion into an entire themed land. It’s a lot to process, and Disney was light with the specifics. So, we’ll combine facts with speculation to discuss what’s about to transpire.
In the official press release, Disney CEO Robert Iger described the renovations as a “multi-year expansion.” He promised “multiple new attractions and live entertainment experiences.” The longest quote offered about the subject is:
“The resort is already the leading tourist destination in Europe, and the transformative expansion we announced today will add even more of our beloved characters and unparalleled storytelling to create new lands, attractions and entertainment that further elevate the guest experience and drive new opportunities for tourism in this dynamic region.”
The Seeking Alpha article I linked above spells out the importance of Disney as a tourism leader in France. They’re behaving responsibly in their role, understanding that the country needs them to step up during a difficult period. Disney had previously hinted at their plans when they revealed that one of the resorts at Disneyland Paris would transition to Disney’s Hotel New York – The Art of Marvel by 2020. Then, they announced a Marvel-based attraction would become the next update at Walt Disney Studios Park.
What we now know is that the unnamed Marvel project is merely the first of many. Over the next few years, a realistic expectation is that Disneyland Paris will add at least half a dozen rides. The company has generally added at least two new attractions for each new/renovated themed land during the 21st century. The arrival of a Marvel, Star Wars, and Frozen themed land should mean two rides for each section.
The logical question is whether the Marvel attractions are entirely new or will mirror ones from other parks. Historically, Disneyland Paris has had a hodgepodge of attractions. Their versions of rides like Slinky Dog Zig Zag Spin and Haunted Mansion, which it calls Phantom Manor, are unique. However, they also have unique rides like Indiana Jones and the Temple of Peril, Ratatouille: The Adventure, and Crush’s Coaster.
A realistic expectation is for the changes to include a combination of both. Some rides like the upcoming Millennium Falcon one at the North American versions of Star Wars Land make so much sense to add at Disneyland Paris. At least one of the Frozen attractions should be new, presuming that Frozen Land gets multiple rides. Yes, they can duplicate Frozen Ever After, but the second one couldn’t be based off of any existing Disney ride. The opportunities are limitless for the second Frozen attraction. We don’t even know the details of Frozen 2 yet, but Disney does. It could be the basis of a new ride.
With Marvel, we already know that Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster Starring Aerosmith will depart. In its place, Disney will repurpose the roller coaster with an Iron Man theme. There’s conflicting information about whether The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror will convert to the same Guardians of the Galaxy theme as Disney California Adventure. It’s a move that makes sense, but Disney would need to add a third ride that’s wholly original. Otherwise, the Marvel Land would seem a bit derivative, something I’m dubious that Disney would do given the epic transformation of the accompanying hotel.
Whatever Disney chooses to do, Iger confirmed that Imagineers will complete the first phase of the expansion by 2021. We’re only three years away from Disneyland Paris having three entirely sections. Disney’s going to fundamentally alter the perception of what’s already the most popular tourist attraction in Europe. If you haven’t planned a dream trip to Paris, you should start thinking about it now. Speak with a MickeyTravels expert to get advice on how to do the trip right.
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