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Oo la la! A look at Disney in France
Parky in Paris Reader Mail - Ian Parkinson

All is Not Well: A Photo Tour of the new Disney Studios Park - Reader feedback

After my recent story about the Walt Disney Studios Shareholders Preview, I received quite a bit of mail, and my mailbox contained a variety of differing views about my report and the new park.

I replied to all the mails and I thought the MousePlanet readers would be interested to see the comments and a summary of my replies.

Parky's Mailbox for 4/15/02:
First a comment or two from John Huntley from England:

I was very interested to read your review of the new Paris Park on MousePlanet. This is the first properly independent review of the park I have come across and it's refreshing to read honest opinions from someone who, while obviously a great fan of Disney parks, is prepared to be objective.

My family and I are visiting Disneyland Paris in August this year (we are bringing our caravan to Davy Crockett's ranch) and it will be interesting to compare the parks to WDW Florida where we have been for the past 2 years. The last time we visited DLP was in 1999 when we stayed at the Hotel Cheyenne and were overall pretty impressed with both the hotel and the park.

Disney Studios Park

From what I have read so far about the Paris Studios park in brochures it has always looked like a lesser version of the MGM Studios park in WDW which we enjoy a lot so at least I can "manage the expectation" thanks to your review. Let's hope that the Disney people are receptive to constructive criticism (do they actually read MousePlanet reports?) and accelerate progress towards what we all want this French version to be.

I was interested to learn of the "pocket park" concept Disney are trying in Hong Kong. I have often thought that there must be a way of bringing the "Disney experience" to a wider audience through more compact and accessible ventures but the execution has to be excellent - it will be interesting to see if they can pull it off.

Best wishes and thanks for your hard work on the reviews.

Thanks for the support, and for spotting the independent review. So many newspapers and web sites are simply using the Disney press pack for their reports, which really does not give an honest view of the park.

I believe that Disney does read the MousePlanet pages and itís nice to know that sometimes they do react positively to what they see.

Robert who worked on the new park had this to say:

I just saw the photos of the Disneyland Paris (DLP) second gate, which I worked on for almost two years.

It was nice to see my work on the "Stunt show", "Cinemagique", "Animagique", etc, come to life. I was a designer on a lot of those buildings as well as others in the park. All I can say is that Disney never had a good budget to do a first class park for the second gate and I'm surprised it looks as good as it does. In time it will be built out and it was purely economics that drove the project.

The park is also not solely owned by Disney so their control over what was built was not complete. We had brilliant dreams for what could have been but alas no money to realize them; it's a cruel world.

Thanks for the great photo essay as I left the project before the team was relocated to Paris to build it and it was fun to see what we worked hard on come to life.

Thanks for your email; Iím sorry if I upset you with my comments about the park and therefore your work. I know the problem was money rather than designerís ability and that you could have done a wonderful job had the budgets been available. Thanks for what you did do, the Stunt Show is a real ĎEí ticket attraction and there is the start of a good park there.

Gary had the following strong words to say:

I think Al's comments at the end of your report were right on target. What a pitiful park! What a sad day!

I sincerely hope they lose a large enough sum of money so that Eisner and Pressler get fired.

They richly deserve it. They seem to have lost the recipe for what makes theme parks successful.

I don't think time or money is going to help. Walt Disney is spinning in his grave!

While I agree that the park has problems, maybe your suggestions are a bit excessive. Hopefully the powers that be will eventually see that saving money now, has a big impact on the parks further down the line. I can only hope we see increased investment and imagination in the future.

Doug had these nice words to say about my report:

I just had to drop you a quick note to let you know what a great job you did on the presentation of the new Studio Park in Paris. It was fantastic.

I'm so sorry to see that there's not a whole lot to the new park. I received an e-mail from the Marketing department earlier this week to see an on-line preview the new park. From that it looked like the park was pretty sparse, your photo tour and review certainly confirmed that.

Disney Studios Park

I visited Disneyland Paris last summer and fell in love with it. I was a little disappointed that my timing was off by a few months to be able to experience the new park as well. I am no longer disappointed.

Doug thanks for the kind words. I really went to the new park with an open mind, and wanted it to be great. Maybe my expectations were too high, but then I have been spoiled by the great Disneyland Park just next door.

Joris had this correction to make to my story:

I just read in you photo tour of the Walt Disney Studios (WDS) that the Television Studio Tour was closed. I was there also on the 23rd and it was open. On [another site] there are some reviews about it.

Looks like this was my mistake, please accept my apologies. I did try to see the attraction before lunch, but the cast member outside said it was closed. Later in the day I did see a long line forming outside but wrongly assumed it was for a special event rather than the line for the attraction. Next time I visit the park I will see the attraction and give you my report.

There was also a photo error in my report that a number of people pointed out. The interiors of the shops shown in the Studios One section of the report were actually from the Walt Disney Studios Store. Thanks to all those people who spotted the error and took the time to let me know.

And now a comment from DisneyTom who differed with my views:

Maybe you think that your opinion is the one everyone shares, but there are enough people who DO like the new Walt Disney Studios.

I really don't understand how you can be so negative about our new park (I really don't understand how you can call yourself a Disney fan). Maybe you should read the reports on other Disney Fan sites. Don't be shocked, but there are people who think that the park is fine.

I'm so excited about it. Maybe it doesn't look like you expected, but that doesn't make it bad. I think they did a great job copying a real studio terrain (you know, the theme of the park) and I love the looks of the park.

It really did not make me happy to write a bad review about the new park. What is important here is that people get a balanced view rather than everyone just heaping praise on what is a second rate park.

I am a Disney Fan, but that does not mean I think that everything they do is wonderful. Disney do make mistakes and WDS is one of them. If you and other people like the new park then I have no problem with that at all. I have no reason to dislike the park; I really wanted it to be good.

I am not a negative person about things Disney, in fact if you read my MousePlanet stories most of them give the resort a glowing review and I have written about many attractions and hotels.

What we do at MousePlanet is tell it like it is, we don't put a Disney gloss on everything. Doing that does not help people who are planning trips; they want to know the truth not marketing information.

I have only received a small number emails like yours which disagree with my view of the park (and it is only my view), but I have had many that agree with me, two of them from people who have worked on the design of the park over the last two years.

I hope the park gets better, as I am a regular visitor, I just felt it was my duty to point out what is good and what is bad.

Mark had the following to say:

Thank you for the accurate reports.

Imagineers have been saying privately for months about how bad this new park is. How wonderful for you through MousePlanet to expose the cheapness of this newest Disney theme park.

We hear that the park in China will NOT be getting any quality design as well.

When a company starts charging yearly fees for Magic Kingdom Club cards and "Lifetime" Alumni Club memberships, we can expect only the worse.

Looking forward to more MousePlanet revelations in the days ahead.

Thanks for the praise; itís nice to hear Iím not the only informed person who thinks things could be better.

Dan a Disneyland California Cast Member had this to say:

Thanks for the photo tour I really enjoyed it. As a cast member at Disneyland, I like to see what the other parks are like. I have a quick question that hopefully you can address in your next update. I was wondering if this park is divided into "lands" and if it has the hub and spokes design of the other parks.

WDS does not really follow the hub and spoke design of other parks. At the moment there are three main areas in the park that are basically along one main 'street'. I believe that when the park gets its second phase of construction a more 'hub' like design will be visible. At the moment it looks like the Tower of Terror will be at the centre of the park.

Kennect was a little blunt with this comment -

I take it from your first WDS report instalment that you think this new park is a complete disaster. Should I waste my time trying to follow your daily reports or should I just forget it? Just curious.

I am just trying to write my opinion of the new park, if you keep reading you will see that I do like many things in the park. Itís not perfect but I like to point out the good and the bad.

Peter was another who seemed to have an opinion different to mine:

I read the first part of your review on the new Walt Disney Studios Park.

I was also at the shareholders preview last Saturday and saw the park. I can see that your review is going to be very negative and while I think you should give the park a chance you are of course entitled to your own opinion.

The thing I don't understand is the following. You said that you have followed the construction of the WDS for 2 years now. If you have followed the construction of the park for so long you should have known that the park was going to be a studio park. It's strange that you expected the park to live up to the high quality theming of the Disneyland Paris Park next door.

Of course Euro Disney SCA won't spent the amount of money they put into Disneyland Paris again into the second park after the problems they had. In fact Euro Disney SCA had to restructure their incredible amount of debt in order to build the second park. You can't expect a second park similar to the quality of DLP, since the WDS only cost one fifth of the DLP Park. All the money they will earn with the WDS they will put back into the park for future attractions.

I hope you don't trash the park totally in your review and that you give it a chance. Most people I talked to during the preview really liked the park. Sure it might look a little sterile, but the attractions are great! Especially Armageddon, the Rock n' Roller coaster (which in my opinion is a lot better then in Orlando) and the Moteurs Action show are all great attractions. Also the Backlot Tour is as good as in Orlando. When I count it there are more good attractions in the WDS then in the Disney MGM Studios Park when it opened!

I sent Peter many long and detailed replies, here are some of the highlights Ė

MousePlanet is not a "Disney fan site", it is a travel site that provides independent information about Disney related travel. We try to give a balanced view rather than just 'rave' about anything that has the Disney name.

Disney has set a standard in Paris with the original Disneyland Park. It is unfortunate that the second park does not live up to the same standard of quality or design. It will be very obvious to visitors of both parks that one is infinitely better than the other, not just in content but also in presentation.

As to R'n'R being better that MGM I have to disagree totally. The ride track and launch is identical, the lighting and effects in the ride are better than the flat signs in MGM, but the theme around the Ride and building / shop / etc are very poor. The story line has also been totally removed.

Disney Studios Park

The whole park just does not feel like a Studio, it feels like a lot of industrial buildings spread far too thinly. It is all too easy to say, "itís supposed to be like this, itís a Studio", but that is just a feeble excuse for cheapness. Disney / MGM and Universal are actually working Studios (unlike WDS), but they do not do things on the cheap. This is a theme park that guests pay to enter to be entertained; it should therefore deliver the best experience possible.

To wrap up we have a few ideas from Massimo Ė

My name is Massimo and I am Italian. I would like to say a few things about the new Walt Disney Studios in Paris.

First, let me say that I read your article about the studios and share with you the same sadness and concern about the total lack of imagination and magic in the new Disney parks (TDS not included of course).

I don't like the new park, and I'm not looking forward to going there. I worked for a year in Epcot and thoroughly visited the whole of Disneyworld; my favourite park was the Disney-MGM studios. That is to say that I know the original and the European version looks totally empty and magic-less.

But I must say something that you probably should consider. The European audience is a lot different from the American one, and even though I find WDS empty, I think that most people will not see the difference from the stunning beauty of Disneyland Paris. During the first year of DLP I remember a lot of people asking me if in the new park everybody was talking about there was a BIG rollercoaster, and when I said no they always looked at me like they were thinking: are you really going to spend a lot of money just to walk in a fake environment with no interesting and thrilling attractions?

Another example: the mall-look of the studios. Here roadside malls are not as usual as in the US so, believe me, I watch the studios and don't think of a mall but of all the images I saw of the WB studios and such. I think that is in tune to the European, more than a Hollywood Boulevard (which BTW I find fantastic).

I am part of the Parksmania club, the first Italian club for theme park lovers, and the surveys we conducted always said the same thing: theming is not important, attractions are, at least for the Italian audience, but I think it's almost the same for the rest of Europe.

That's all I wanted to share with you. Thank you for having read all this really terrible English... I can speak better than that fortunately!

Thank you again for your attention and let's all go to Tokyo Disney Sea :-)

Great idea Massimo, Iím planning my Tokyo trip now, look out for the reportÖÖ. coming soon.


Having thought about the park more and taking on board the comments from MP readers I came up with a few more thoughts:

I know the Front Lot is very similar to ďrealĒ studios, but this is not a ďrealĒ studio itís a theme park. It has none of the impact, detail or flair that Universal or Disney-MGM have. Itís easy to say it looks real, but the reason I think it looks like it does is that itís cheaper to do it this way rather than being creative and imaginative.

I think that Studio One is nice but itís really only a store and a fast food outlet. It is no replacement for Main Street or the great street at Disney-MGM. Itís just not big enough and gets very crowded during entertainment shows and at opening and closing times. It is also the only really themed area of the park, as outside the building there are no street sets, nothing to make it feel like a real studio.

The other thing that bothered me about this area is the quality. Things are not up to the standards you find in other Disney parks, even though it is supposed to be a studio that is no excuse for bad workmanship. Look at the Hollywood area in Disneyís California Adventure; Walt Disney Studios is not up to that standard by a long way.

Disney Studios Park

Aladdin really upsets me, itís in the wrong park, it is badly placed and you get a great view of the rear of the backdrop from your $300 Disneyland Hotel rooms. It looks very cheap and is badly finished in many areas. The queue is horrid, narrow and would not be out of place in a fun fair (shown above). I know itís a studio so things are not "fantasy" but things can be finished better than bare zinc coated steel, cheap lights, and fibreglass panels. The same can also be said of the queue area for the Tram Tour, which has little cover for the bad Paris weather and nothing to look at while you stand in line.

Animagique is a nice film but is not the sort of thing you do every visit, if at all more than twice. It has no emotion, excitement, surprise or repeat value.

I was disappointed with Armageddon; it really does not live up to the pre-opening hype. There are so many better effect shows in other parks. It does not take attractions forward one bit. The screens are to small so you canít see anything, itís very short and does not excite or provide any tension. Think about Alien Encounter, Backdraft or Twister, itís not as good as any of these. Plus they have only built one ďeffectĒ room, meaning long queues.

As to the park not being pretty, I think that is just an excuse for Disney to not spend money. Both Universal Florida and MGM are very pretty parks, and they are actually used as studios as well. There really is no excuse to make this place as ugly as it is, other than lack of money.

I donít like the vast open blank spaces, no theme, no streets, no visual surprises, no water, no kids play area, no full service restaurant, no "musical" shows like Hunchback of Notre Dame or Beauty and the Beast, no parade, no fireworks, no nightime entertainment, no.............. It goes on and on. The list of missing things is longer than the actual attractions list.

Iím not saying that MousePlanet readers should not visit or like the park, everyone has their own views, I was just very disappointed as were the people in California were when DCA opened.

Disney Studios Park

I wonít be going to the Walt Disney Studios on a regular basis, if I do it will only be to ride RíníR and see the Stunt Show the rest I can miss. Iím just happy that Disneyland is as great as ever, itís a pleasant place to sit and watch the world go by, I canít imagine this will ever be the case at Walt Disney Studios.

Thank you everyone for writing in!

Ian Parkinson may be reached at:

Disney Studios Park


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