Disneyland Paris has announced a 2 billion euro (~$2.5 billion) multi-year expansion featuring Star Wars, Marvel, and Frozen lands in Walt Disney Studios Park. The news came at a joint press conference by Disney CEO Bob Iger and French President Emmanuel Macron at the Palais de l’Elysée in France. (Updated April 30, 2020.)
First, an update to these plans that were announced over 2 years ago. While progress was plowing forward on the Avengers Campus and other aspects of the Walt Disney Studios Park expansion, that has come to a screeching halt with the closure of Disneyland Paris.
Per a report in Le Parisien, management is in a holding pattern, awaiting government directives on health measures that will enable a reopening. The piece indicates that construction on the WDSP expansion has stopped, but is not cancelled. Once it resumes, modified work schedules will be necessary and it could take a few years for the ‘machine’ to fully restart. In other words, expect delays that push the opening timeframes beyond what was previously announced…
With that said, here’s a look at what the new development will entail. The expansion will by highlighted a transformation of the Walt Disney Studios Park, adding three new areas based on Marvel, Frozen, and Star Wars. These areas will feature multiple new attractions and live entertainment experiences.
The multi-year development of Walt Disney Studios Park will roll out in phases beginning in 2021, significantly expanding the park’s footprint. In addition to the three new areas, the creative vision includes a new lake, which will be the focal point for entertainment and will also connect each of the new park areas.
While Disney states that the expansion is “one of the most ambitious development projects at Disneyland Paris since its opening in 1992” it is actually the biggest. This is a significantly larger investment than the original construction of Walt Disney Studios Park.
The expansion follows in the footsteps of Disney California Adventure 2.0 as “reimagining” projects that cost more than their respective park’s initial construction. The press release also talks up Disney’s growth in Europe and underscores the Company’s commitment to the long-term success of the resort, but none of that is really germane here, so we’ll cut to the chase.
This is huge news. This is exactly what the much-maligned park–so bad that after our first visit, we posed the question, Is Walt Disney Studios Park a ‘Disney’ Park?—has needed since it opened. By far the worst Disney theme park (if you want to even call it that) even after the Ratatouille mini-land opened, Walt Disney Studios Park is finally receiving an expansion that isn’t a half-measure. Star Wars, Marvel, and Frozen will change this park for the better.
What the press release fails to say–but what’s apparent from the concept art–is that the Studio Tram Tour (and all of Hollywood Boulevard as we know it, except for Tower of Terror) will be departing, as will the entire Backlot, which includes Armageddon – Les Effets Speciaux, Restaurant des Stars, Lights Moteurs Action, and Blockbuster Café. To all of these things, we say: GOOD RIDDANCE.
What’s also not mentioned in the press release, but visible in the concept art, is an expansion to Toy Story Land with Alien Swirling Saucers (or so it appears). There also appear to be other changes in the front of the park, but it’s tough to tell whether those are intentional or artistic liberty with the concept art.
I can’t think of a single negative thing to say about this announcement. Usually, I have some degree of reservations about costly expansion projects. In this case, I think this is exactly what Walt Disney Studios Park needs. It injects three intellectual properties into the park that are popular in Europe, and will be a compelling draw for Disneyland Paris as it attempts to solidify itself as a vacation destination (to fill all those hotel rooms!).
If the concept art is any indication, the expansion leaves untouched the parts of the Walt Disney Studios Park that work well, features some desperately-needed placemaking, and adds three cool new themed lands. It also adds water, which is great because one of my chief complaints about WDSP in the past was that it felt like a bunch of rides plopped onto a Wal-Mart parking lot. It’s currently an ugly mess of concrete.
It will be interesting to see the scope of each area, which the press release stops short of calling “lands.” While $2.5 billion is a ton of money, we wonder whether that’s enough for the place-making, lake plus nighttime entertainment infrastructure, Marvel additions, Frozen additions, Toy Story Land additions(?), and fully-fledged Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge.
We wonder whether this will be a thematically scaled-back version of the Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge lands being added to the U.S. parks. If that’s the case, we think that’s a totally acceptable compromise, especially if the land manages to still house two attractions.
Everything costs money and budgets are finite, so trimming some of Galaxy’s Edge budget might make sense. The needs of Walt Disney Studios Park differ dramatically from Disneyland and Disney’s Hollywood Studios, and some of that money could possibly be spent better elsewhere in this project. We’ll see.
I do hope that a future phase of the project does away with the soundstage at the entrance to the park, but remodeling the interior might be a suitable alternative. Exiting that soundstage might offer an interesting reveal of the new lake and Star Wars, Marvel, and Frozen lands, so I’m not even sure the soundstage should go.
All in all, I’m really pleased with this announcement. Very happy that Walt Disney Studios Park is receiving the attention it has needed since opening. This should reinvent the park, and help Disneyland Paris finally come into its own as a resort destination.
It’s also really big from another perspective: it leaves Parc Disneyland alone for the most part. In the past, we’ve discussed how the castle park has benefited from the resort’s financial woes, which has left its ambitious original design relatively untouched and free from the half-baked efforts at synergy that have plagued other castle parks around the globe.
The good news now as the fortunes of Disneyland Paris begin to improve is that the park in much more urgent need of improvement is the Walt Disney Studios Park, which grants Parc Disneyland a further reprieve from attempts at injecting thematically ill-fitting intellectual property and other concepts. (Intellectual property that is much better suited for WDSP, anyway.)
To be sure, Parc Disneyland is in need of expansion and a couple of new attractions to bolster its lineup and provide fresh things to do. However, the park is beautifully–and thoughtfully–designed, and is a veritable feast for fans of Imagineering’s famed attention to detail and brilliant thematic design. Any additions should be carefully integrated into that exceptional original design, and none of these projects slated for Walt Disney Studios Park would’ve fit the bill in that regard.
In the meantime, Parc Disneyland will have to make do with refurbishments and upgrades of existing attractions (such as the current enhancements to Phantom Manor), new seasonal entertainment, and celebrations. All of these can be implemented on a relatively quick turn-around time, and have proven to be quite viable strategies. We’ve very much enjoyed Disneyland Paris’ entertainment offerings over the years, and actually regret missing the Christmas entertainment last year, which looked exceptional.
As you can probably guess, we’re absolutely elated by this news. We’ve loved Disneyland Paris since our first visit, and feel that the resort is unfairly criticized by international Disney fans who experience culture shock or are otherwise biased against Disney’s French offerings. This expansion should instantly give birth to a new generation of Disney fans in Europe, and force some stateside fans to give Disneyland Paris a second (fairer) take.
What are your thoughts on this huge WDSP expansion? Are you looking forward to visiting Disneyland Paris and Walt Disney Studios Park once this is finished, or would you rather stick to other Disney Parks? Anything with which you disagree in this post? Any questions? Hearing your feedback about your experiences is both interesting to us and helpful to other readers, so please share your thoughts or questions below in the comments!