Wednesday, December 7, 2016

The Disneyland Paris that never was: Main Street U.S.A



Editor's Note: Following the article of Eddie Sotto that you've read yesterday on Eddie's website, some of you asked me where it was possible to see renderings of the first concept developed by Eddie and his team for DLP Main Street U.S.A. So, i repost the great article posted some years ago on Disney and more in which, precisely, we are talking about this first concept of a Main Street in the 1920's Jazz era, with original WDI renderings.


This part two of the "Disneyland Paris that never was" articles series is all about Main Street U.S.A. It’s not very known, but at Disneyland Paris we were at two fingers to get a really different design for Main Street U.S.A. Instead to have a “turn of the century” theming, Eddie Sotto - show producer of the land - had designed a Main Street set up in the 20’s-30’s with of course a totally different look.

WDI Imagineers felt that a Main Street with the theme of Jazz Age America in the 1920's would be more appropriate than the Victorian Architecture that had come from Europe and would therefore be of less interest. Everyone in Europe was fascinated by stories of the Roaring '20s… jazz, Cinema and, of course, Gangsters. They headed a long way down that route and according to Eddie Sotto this version of Main Street would have include "lots of Art Deco, an America as represented by the Chicago and New York seen in the movies. "It seemed to us that this would have been more representative of America in European eyes, as opposed to the Main Street inspired by the small township of Marceline, Missouri. The way we looked at Gangsters, was more of the slapstick comedy "Keystone Kops" variety with fun instead of guns. Walt was able to make Piracy and cowboy outlaws fun, so we thought we could make a "Speakeasy" fun too, without the violence."

Eddie Sotto give us more details about this amazing Main Street concept that never was and all comments with each picture of this article are from Eddie himself, whom i thanks a lot for his very kind contribution:

"In this version inspired by the '20s, each shop reflected the personality of an immigrant to the United States. An elevated train ran along the facades on one side of the street. After reaching the station in front of Discoveryland, the land of visionaries, it came back to Central Plaza, in front of the Castle, passing in front of a Vernian diorama on the return trip.

The top rendering shows the elevated train just above the entrance from Market Street looking south, to the left would be the entrance to the theater that has a circle vision type screen or similar that would tell the history of Hollywood and early film. This circle-vision cinema was disguised as one of the grand classic cinemas of the time, but the concept went away very early in the process because the determination to build a studio as a second park would duplicate that experience. The elevated train as we see it , would also look into windows that depict a "City of the Future" as Victorians imagined it. This was to be a Discoveryland transition.The posters in the hallway of the Arcade are the last remnants of that idea.



This view above shows an overlay sketch of mine to show EL Train, which was more of a "Peoplemover" system with many cars. One of the purposes of the elevated train is to provide a way for people to watch the parade while being under shelter during the rain. The elevated train was to extend to the entrance of Discoveryland to allow guests to circulate without getting wet.
On Main Street, instead of Walt's - an American Restaurant, we put in a "Speakeasy', one of those clandestine bars that sprang up due to prohibition. The guest would enter a relatively innocent looking flower shop, but a minute later the walls would revolve to reveal a 'Cotton Club'-style jazz hotspot.



The sketch above was done by Herb Ryman. We wanted to do a diner that looked liked the famous Edward Hopper painting "Nighthawks". This is where Walt's restaurant is now. The "Speakeasy "is next door on Flower Street, see the orange awning. We kept the "signs on the roof idea"and forced perspective distant buildings for Main Street Motors.



Another sketch by Herb Ryman showing the Diner again and the beige awning is the Speakeasy. I loved this sketch.



The painting above by Herb Ryman shows a design proposal for the castle as well as the Main Street elevated tramway. I think he painted Legend Dick Nunis in the foreground with a kid on his shoulders. He used to bury Executives in his paintings.



The painting above was done by Disney legend Collin Campbell. I was wrestling with the design of the 1920's being overlaid onto the existing Main Street. It was no easy task and in many ways looked conflicted. The elevated train station which looks just like the one in the movie "Hello Dolly!" was set on Town Square at a 45° angle. This allowed one block of Main Street to also be positioned that way as well. The Emporium was to be in that block behind the El Train Station so exiting guests would be let out into the upper floor of the store and trickle down. The Gas Station was to be where the Firehouse is currently located. The reason we put a Service Station into the project was because the transition from horse-drawn streetcar to automobile had already been made and the automobile had won.

I was never entirely satisfied with this rendering. The angle, composition, colors, even the scale just felt wrong. Herb Ryman had taken a few stabs with very loose sketches and I felt that they were very much on target. But it was taking a long time to get finished renderings that really depicted the project, so we went with Colin on this particular view. And it took this view and putting the elements together to really show us what kind of work still had to be done. We should have given Colin a better direction to work from. It really made me nervous because there was so many façades that had become ingrained in our consciousness from Walt Disney World, that the addition of these new elements even if they were perfect would seem like a clash. At this point it just wasn't working the way I had hoped. We would have to massage the transitions between Art Deco buildings and 19th Century buildings. We would have to go back into the Victorian designs and simplify them somewhat to make the gap less glaring. We never got that chance as the land was judged and declined while I was on vacation. Note to self... Never go on vacation! In hind sight, do I think the 1920s theme was the right thing for Paris? Yes. A year after he had declined the design, Michael Eisner said to me that we should have done the 1920's idea anyway because it would have been understood better in Europe. By then it was too late. I think in his mind, the 1920's Main St. was more expensive, so he was still happy with what we did and said so often. I don't necessarily agree with the story about him seeing the movie "The Untouchables", and that alone setting him off. I do believe because of the Circlevision Theater, the El Train, and all the Speakeasy Restaurant, it was only partly a creative issue and it was also a big financial issue. With that bigger number in mind it gave him the security to say no. Just an opinion.



The two images above and below were painted by Nina Rae Vaughn. Behind The Town Square East block of buildings there was to be a private restaurant for the sponsors of the park. This idea was first pioneered with club 33 at Disneyland. We would have a secret entrance underneath the railroad station that would lead you to a hidden terminal and in that terminal we would have an American-style streamlined locomotive train complete with dining cars that is inspired by the famous "20th Century Limited". There was a restaurant in Southern California that was this idea and it was absolutely gorgeous but did not survive. We thought this could be the most unique private restaurant in Europe. Europe has the Orient Express as its legendary train. In America the equivalent would be the 20th century limited. I believe we also wanted to investigate projections outside the windows that would take you across the US as it looked in another time.



On the artwork below, this is the east side of Main Street where we had created a circular driveway and we actually wanted the Main Street limousine to pull up in front of the theater and that is where you would board it. Today the limousine is the only thing left of that idea. Herbert Ryman did a very nice painting from this point of view that was stolen from Imagineering and I don't believe they ever got a photograph of it. but I thought it looked really great. It's unfortunate that this sketch is all that remains.



The confusing thing about this next piece of artwork, is that we weren't sure where the façades are going to be yet so this sketch in fact represents the east side of the street not the West. The idea was to have this theater whether it'll be a live stage or a show about film.



The next artwork shows another view of the "circle vision" theater entrance. In this view, we ran the El tracks directly above the guests in the Discovery Arcade. As I recall, this was a very early concept sketch. I think the greenery was shown outside the glass until we decided to make it solid walls.



The artwork below shows the same arcade but with the current design. This drawing was done midway through design to help visualize the details that we were beginning to assemble. The gas lights and brackets all have the liberty motif so I believe this is pretty close to the reality.



Herb Ryman and I discussed Walt's fascination with dollhouses and miniatures in general. We talked about an idea called "Automata-mericana". We thought it would be fun to build animated miniature scenes that are based on the American traditions and set them in Main Street. We wanted to tell the story with images rather than words. For example, The Main St. Cinema would be an animated scene with tiny figures of kids playing in the aisles, couples "making out" in the back, and the Projectionist embracing his mop imitating Valentino's famous screen kiss. Eddie Johnson, (who in my opinion is an unsung Imagineering legend) worked with me on this and came up with lots of fun ideas for these animated scenes. He was one of our art directors and did a great job. On a business trip to Covent Garden, London, we saw an animated "Cabaret" of these small exhibits. They were highly creative, very funny and showcase the ingenious use of cams and handmade characters. The idea for the "Shrunken Ned" Automatic Prescription machine at Disneyland also was inspired by that British exhibit. I believe the location for this exhibit - rendering below - was to be between the Transportation Company and the Hat shop.



Another 1920's Main Street sketch, very early for a music shop. Looks like the work of Barbara Wightman. In the early development you have to do very loose concept sketches so they can throw a budget number at the project. So these designs are just for a feel of the level of quality and basic theme.



Below, just a super rough of a gas station concept based on some research imagery to make it less industrial and more victorian like Main Street. In the 1920's version we also wanted to sprinkle the facades with giant advertising billboards and have cars motoring up and down, to give some idea of the dynamic atmosphere in the United States at that time. These were the only two ideas that were saved for the final version.



This next artwork is an early City Hall concept, before we were made to do 10' wide continuous foul weather walkways in front of the buildings which drove the design in a new direction.



This next concept of a giant clock would have been in the Forecourt, in front of the park's ticketing.



We will end the part one of this "Main Street that never was" article with this last artwork from Eddie, and we'll be back tomorrow with other sketches not linked to the 1920's version. Again, all my thanks to Eddie Sotto for his great comments on this amazing concept, which unfortunately was never built.


Artwork: copyright Disney Enterprises Inc

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

All What's Coming at WDW in 2017 - Plus: Animal Kingdom Rivers of Lights Delayed, and more


WDW Animal Kingdom Rivers of Lights night show is officially delayed 'till 2017. And more announcement of all what's coming next year at WDW has been done, here it is!




Pandora – The World of Avatar – A transformational experience unlike any other, Pandora – The World of Avatar, opens in summer 2017. In collaboration with filmmaker James Cameron and Lightstorm Entertainment, Disney is bringing to life the fantasy world of Pandora, inspired by Cameron’s epic film AVATAR, in a breathtaking new land at Disney’s Animal Kingdom. Avatar Flight of Passage will send guests flying above the jungles of Pandora on a Mountain Banshee. Bioluminescent rainforests dramatically wrap around Na’vi River Journey, a family-friendly boat ride.



Hungry adventurers can recharge at Satu’li Canteen, the main dining location, or Pongu Pongu, a drink kiosk with a design as eclectic as its expat owner. Shoppers can stock up on Na’vi cultural items, toys, science kits and more at Windtraders. “From the place making to the two extraordinary attractions that will be in the land…these promise to set new high-watermarks for the experiential magic we give our guests,” said Bob Chapek, Chairman, Disney Parks and Resorts.

More Additions to Disney Springs in 2017 – With the multi-year makeover of this hip, happening district for dining, shopping and entertainment in the homestretch, still more exciting openings are on tap for 2017. Great new food and beverage venues lead the way.

Paddlefish – Sleek and modern after a bow-to-stern transformation from the former Fulton’s Crab House, Paddlefish will serve fresh seafood, steaks and chops. Unique menu choices for seafood lovers include a build-your-own boil. A new rooftop lounge will serve up a late-night menu and shipshape views of the water and Disney Springs. Open for lunch, dinner and Sunday brunch.

Planet Hollywood Observatory – Longtime Downtown Disney-goers will remember the iconic domed restaurant that drew celebrities and fans of the Hollywood scene. The reborn space will be themed to stars of a different kind: a turn-of-the-20th-Century observatory serving up amazing burgers and sandwiches created by celebrity chef Guy Fieri, and craft cocktails whose names are inspired by the planets and space travel. Movie memorabilia, video screens, contemporary music and themed merchandise complete the scene.

The Polite Pig – A sister restaurant to the Ravenous Pig, a favorite with Orlando locals, The Polite Pig will bring the same focus on genuine Florida cuisine to a broader global audience at Disney Springs. Lunch and dinner menus will feature a variety of wood-fired smoked and grilled items as well as an innovative beverage program that serves all drinks on tap, including beer, wine and cocktails.

Wine Bar George – Orlando master sommelier George Miliotes uncorks his first Disney wine bar in a space reminiscent of a winemaker’s estate warmed by oak wood and cozy lighting. Small plates dominate the food menu but it will be the wines with a starring role: more than 100 selections both by the bottle and the glass in a range of varietals and vintages.

Home to four distinct neighborhoods, Disney Springs treats guests to a world of beautiful open-air promenades, flowing springs, arcing foot bridges and waterfront charm. Venues have doubled – to approximately 150.

New Family Raft Ride at Disney’s Typhoon Lagoon Water Park – Aboard this family-style raft adventure, guests will be immersed in the story of Captain Mary Oceaneer. Legend holds that this treasure hunter roamed the seven seas in search of undersea artifacts – until a rogue storm marooned her at Typhoon Lagoon. Guests gently ascend in treasure rafts, only to plunge into a whitewater adventure where they will encounter some of Mary’s deep sea booty. When it opens in spring 2017, it will be one of the longest attractions (2 minutes) at Disney’s Water Parks.




Rivers of Light – Coming in 2017, this powerful theatrical production takes Disney’s Animal Kingdom guests on a magnificent emotional journey – a visual mix of water, fire, nature and light choreographed to an original musical score. Continuing the park’s transformation from a day-into-nighttime experience, the amazing after-dark show on the banks of Discovery River celebrates the majesty of nature and the connection between animals and humans in the world. With innovative and never-before-seen technology, Rivers of Light will be unlike any other production ever staged at Walt Disney World Resort.

Epcot International Festival of the Arts – Epcot welcomes an all-new festival playing winter weekends and treating guests to a triple scoop of artful fun. For six colorful weekends (Fridays through Mondays) Jan. 13-Feb. 20, visual, culinary and performing arts will take center stage. Each weekend will feature taste bud-tempting and eye-dazzling creations from the Disney culinary team. Meantime, exciting new art from various media will tempt art lovers. Because the artwork will change out, it’s a new art festival every weekend. In addition, the lagoon-side stage at American Gardens Theatre will pulse with favorite showtunes performed by Broadway talent. In a collaboration with Disney Theatrical, songs from some of Disney on Broadway’s award-winning shows including The Lion King, Newsies and Aladdin will be performed.

Unique All-New Experiences for Dining, Star Wars Fans – A new adventure in Disney dining and the ultimate Star Wars tour are being offered to guests in 2017.

Disney’s famed monorail is your connection in a movable feast called Highway in the Sky Dine-Around. The new experience gives guests priority boarding on the monorail for a distinctly Disney dining experience with stops for cocktails, appetizers, dinner and dessert. From a welcome cocktail at Disney’s Contemporary Resort, guests call at Disney’s Polynesian Village Resort (apps), Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort & Spa (entree) and back to the Contemporary for dessert, cordials and coffee. Offered Tuesdays, Fridays and Saturdays.

For the ultimate Star Wars fan comes the ultimate tour. An all-new Star Wars Guided Tour is a seven-hour immersion in all current Star Wars experiences at Disney’s Hollywood Studios. Character greetings, themed dining, ride experiences, insider’s tours, dessert party and VIP viewing of Star Wars: a Galactic Spectacular are among highlights. Offered Mondays and Saturdays, it’s part of several new Star Wars additions announced in December 2016 for the park, including a new onstage sequence in the daytime experience “Star Wars: A Galaxy Far, Far Away.” Star Wars-themed lands are planned for Walt Disney World Resort and Disneyland Resort.

New Cabins and Deluxe Villas coming to Disney’s Wilderness Lodge – In 2017, a proposed new Disney Vacation Club Resort, Copper Creek Villas & Cabins at Disney’s Wilderness Lodge Resort, is scheduled to open, featuring new Resort accommodations that include plans for Deluxe Villas and unique waterfront cabins. Other enhancements coming to Disney’s Wilderness Lodge include a brand-new bar & grill, in addition to a quick-service restaurant. A sweeping re-imagination of the former Hidden Springs Pool, part of Boulder Ridge Villas at Disney’s Wilderness Lodge, is also scheduled to open in summer 2017. Named Boulder Ridge Cove, this area will feature an expanded sun deck and zero-depth-entry pool.

New Cheerleading, Dance Venue for ESPN Wide World of Sports – A first-of-its-kind venue specifically designed for the high-energy world of cheerleading and dance team competition opens its doors in 2017 at ESPN Wide World of Sports. The complex is collaborating with Varsity Spirit, the nation’s top cheerleading organization, in bringing the new multi-use venue to life. The venue will include a flexible design that allows for as many as four competition areas. With the ability to seat more than 8,000 guests, the sports and entertainment venue also can accommodate six regulation basketball courts, six regulation volleyball courts or be configured for concerts.

Disneyland Paris War Story: Details to die for


I've got something great for you tonight, and even if you know everything about Disneyland Paris making, you surely will learn amazing facts in this article posted by the great Imagineer Eddie Sotto himself. 


Eddie Sotto was the show-producer of DLP Main Street U.S.A and he describes how he and his team had to rush to get everything ready for DLP Grand Opening on April 1992 after they loose one year due to the first concept of a Main Street in the 1920's and the Jazz era that was finally not approved. For the story, Michael Eisner told Eddie later that they did a mistake and should have given the green light for the first concept! Definitely don't miss that article HERE!

Pictures: copyright Eddie Sotto

Universal The Mummy Reboot With Tom Cruise First Trailer


The first trailer for Universal's reboot of The Mummy movie starring Tom Cruise, Russel Crowe and Sofia Boutella ( of Kingsman: The Secret Service and Star Trek Beyond ) has been released! I always loved The Mummy movies from the first classic one with Boris Karloff to the more recent series and i hope this one will be good as well!

Tom Cruise headlines a spectacular, all-new cinematic version of the legend that has fascinated cultures all over the world since the dawn of civilization: The Mummy.

Thought safely entombed in a tomb deep beneath the unforgiving desert, an ancient princess whose destiny was unjustly taken from her is awakened in our current day, bringing with her malevolence grown over millennia and terrors that defy human comprehension.

From the sweeping sands of the Middle East through hidden labyrinths under modern-day London, The Mummy brings a surprising intensity and balance of wonder and thrills in an imaginative new take that ushers in a new world of gods and monsters.




Universal aso released this behind the scenes featurette for the new Mummy movie featuring not only interviews with the cast and crew talking about the production of the film and the story, but also showing some behind the scenes footage. We also learn that they actually shot the airplane crashing sequence you can see in the trailer above in Zero G by using the Vomit Comet plane!




Pictures and video: copyright Universal

Monday, December 5, 2016

It's Walt Disney 115th Anniversary!


It's Walt Disney birthday today! Walt would be 115 years old if he was still alive, and i've posted on Facebook a selection of great pictures of him at different times of his life that you can see and download HERE!

Picture: copyright Disney

Sunday, December 4, 2016

Disney's Moana Review


I saw Moana in theater today, and i liked it quite a lot. I liked specially Moana, probably one of my favorite Disney heroine since Tiana in Princess and the Frog. The animation is really good, and the colors all along are truly beautiful, so visually it's a delight from the start to the end. The storyline is good too, and there is a lot of superb scenes in Moana, so lot of good reasons to run to watch it at a theater near you.

BUT, as there is a "but", there is also some points which makes Moana missing perfection and here is what they are: first, too many songs, or to be more precise, not enough memorable songs, the best ones being the more Polynesian ones. Two, and although it's often the case in Disney animated films, it's specially obvious here: the characters too often behave the american way. What i am saying is that you'll never see someone from Polynesia move the way like they do, in a few scenes for the Moana character and more for the Maui character. Not all the time, but enough to be noticed and annoyed to see it. Thanks God, there is no hysterical scenes like we can see in animated films from Disney competitors. Still, Moana don't totally succeed to capture the Polynesian spirit as perfectly as it should have done, and i'm curious to know what Polynesians will think of the movie.



In fact, if we have a closer look, the storyline could have been one of a Hayao Miyazaki animated film, and i suspect that Disney animators tried to have been inspired by the old Japanese master. Except that Miyazaki knows "to take his time without losing it", something that an animated film happening in South Pacific islands should have as the pace in these islands is not the same than in the U.S. And Moana don't have this. In two words, it lacks poetry, and it's a pity because it wouldn't have been that difficult to have it. All what was needed was to trust enough the audience that they won't be bored if each sequence was not "awesome", one of the curse of today's animated films. Moana should have had a "Miyazaki" treatment in each scene but it is a Disney movie, not a Miyazaki movie, so i suppose there are things that we can't await from it. That said, to be fair, there IS some scenes in Moana who catch this, and that's why i liked it. But it's really irritating to see Moana missing greatness by a few inches. Anyway, go and watch it, i'm sure you won't be as difficult as i am and that you will enjoy it a lot.




Pictures and video: copyright Disney

Saturday, December 3, 2016

Breaking News: Big Thunder Mountain soft re-opening will start Friday 9th December - Star Tours: The Adventures Continue to open on March 18th, 2017!



It's confirmed officially: After its long renovation and upgrade Big Thunder Mountain will have its soft-opening for public tests starting Friday 9th December in just five days from now - BTM official re-openinng is on December 17th.

And Star Tours: The Adventures Continue will open on March 18th, 2017 at DLP Discoveryland! Discovery land train station will also reopen at the same time, but the Space Mountain transformation in Star Wars Hyperspace Mountain won't be ready for the 25th Anniversary date, but at a later date next Spring.

Picture: copyright Yann Arthus-Bertrand