Legacy Content

Lights, Camera and 380 Degree Action
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by Lindsay Cave
March 12, 2002
Lindsay talks about the newest Disney theme park including 30 beautiful pictures.

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The Mouse, Front Lot
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Lights, Cameras and 380 Degree Action

Around the world in 380 days. After the first guest preview of the Walt Disney Studios Park in Paris, I have been to every Disney park in the world. I hadn’t set out on February 8th 2001, the opening day of Disney’s California Adventure, to visit every park, but in choosing to also attend the opening of Tokyo DisneySea as my first venture to Japan, the opportunity to visit all the parks in just over a year was too inviting to miss. I had in the previous year become somewhat tired of the parks as I felt they had become stagnant in their offerings of new experiences. I think 2001 will go down as one of the best years in terms of progression in the company’s history. With the second gate at Paris, the resort transformations are complete.

This was my first ever preview of a Disney park. I have attended three openings (the fourth being this week!) and I didn’t really know what to expect. The anticipation was high but the expectation wasn’t. In understanding and witnessing the saga of EuroDisney in the European press and media, it sometimes feels a bit surprising that the place has survived and has managed to increase its appeal across not only the wider European audience but the locals as well; anybody visiting the Disneyland park on a Sunday will attest to that. I had in 1992, as part of a graduate exhibition, produced an image representing the improbability of Euro Disney succeeding. We’ve both come a long way. Yet, this second gate was always going to be a cautious affair. Get the money in and build from there. A too sensible approach?

No, not at all. I do believe that because the European audience is fully aware of the events after the opening of the first park, and it’s gradual acceptance that maybe the imperialism didn’t fully take hold and with concessions made to European lifestyles, this second gate will be seen as something completely different to Disneyland, and indeed, it is.

My own concerns were focused on the theme. The Disney-MGM Studios is and always has been my least favourite of the non Magic Kingdom style parks. I had grown tired of the “this is how we do it? approach to telling a story. One too many behind-the-scenes animation and blockbuster specials. I was though, pleasantly surprised.

The photographs which accompany this are split between colour and black & white. Most of my photography is black and white, as I see it as a better representation of form, and this is why I chose to include these images here. The colour images really speak for themselves. This park’s use of colour is quite remarkable in its representation of mood and narrative flow. Although the images shown are not displayed in a literal narrative, they are true to the essence of the experience which I enjoyed.

The ‘lands’ of the park are defined by the buildings’ colour, with accents and lighting styles further emphasising these distinctions. The warm saffron of the front lot is carried through the three soundstages which grace the front of the park (Studio 1, CinéMagique and Animagique). This cohesion of colour provides the essential heart to the park. By styling the buildings in the same form and colour, there is equal emphasis to the two filmmaking styles which have dominated the Walt Disney Studios history, animation and live action. These flank an ?ideal? Hollywood, as also represented at Disney-MGM Studios, but this time with an acknowledgement that maybe the ideal really was just a fiction after all. All enhanced with neon; now that’s magic! In this Studio is a hint of what else can be found in the park: Herbie aloft in the garage section of the Legends of Hollywood store, Mickey as rock star graces the store’s street window and Jasmine’s balcony and Aladdin’s Carpet are hung amongst the scenery of the restaurant.

These buildings’ warmth is held throughout the Animation Courtyard, with further accents of purple and blue, and given a soft flowing style demonstrating the natural flow of drawing. It is here though that there is one final accent over those given to Studio 2’s CinéMagique; brickwork. This stepped red brickwork suggests that here is where there is the true solid foundation of the Studios. A very nice touch indeed.

The lighting of the Art of Disney Animation embellishes the building more than announcing the attraction held inside which is opposite to the style of the buildings in the Production Courtyard. The showy neons add a real theatrical - “evening out“ style to the Cinema, Television Studios and Restaurant of the Production Courtyard. The buildings on this left hand side use a cooler yellow base accented by purple, magenta, turquoise and green. This yellow doesn’t fade though, it abruptly ends at the gates to the BackLot, a wonderful definitive marker between lands. Suddenly its cold and grey. A backdrop for thrills, perfectly housed; where content far outweighs the buildings that hold these thrills. Late in the day, when I stood at the junction at the base of Armageddon, looking towards the BackLot Express with Moteurs... Action! and Rock ‘n‘ Roller Coaster to my side and the destruction of London safely behind me on the Studio Tram Tour, I realised how much I loved the aggressiveness of it. This is the hardest and meanest section of any Disney Park, with explosions in outer space, gun fire, car chases, fire breathing dragons, rock music, all encapsulated with metal. Yet, there directly facing me was the undisturbed store facade of a French umbrella store - Les Parapluies de Cherbourg. A whimsical touch in a world gone mad.