There has been rumours that Disneyland Paris may get a Star Wars land but all seems to have gone quite on that front. So, it’s interesting to read a Forbes article that may shed some light on what may be coming to the resort.
“Euro Disney, the theme park complex on the outskirts of Paris is planning to celebrate its 25th anniversary in 2017 by making major investments including the installation of a new attraction themed to the Star Wars movie series.
It would be the first significant expansion of the Star Wars brand at The Walt Disney Company’s European outpost since the American media giant bought its parent company Lucasfilm for $4 billion in 2012. The plans coincide with the filming of the seventh instalment of the Star Wars series which is currently underway at London’s Pinewood Studios and is due for release next year.
Euro Disney is Europe’s most-visited tourist attraction with its two theme parks attracting 14.9 million visitors last year. Its flagship Disneyland Paris was the first of the two parks to open and features a Star Wars-themed simulator ride called Star Tours which is now more than 20 years old.
“We are looking at updating Star Tours at the moment,” says Björn Heerwagen, show design and production manager for Euro Disney’s design division which is known as Imagineering “We are looking at rehabilitations of the first gate. It’s been there for 20 years. We want to do some special stuff for the 25th anniversary as well.”
It follows Disney chief executive Bob Iger saying last month that “when we grow ‘Star Wars” presence, which we will do significantly, you will see better bets being made that will pay off for us than were made in the past.”
The design decisions are down to the Imagineers as they are the wizards who create Disney’s theme park attractions. Imagineering was a term coined by Walt Disney and formed from imagination and engineering. Although Mr Heerwagen is an Imagineer, his work is far from abstract. In fact, he is responsible for making Disney’s magic become reality.
“We go through the creative process and we get the attraction up to what we call schematics. I then take over from that point and complete it. I have to make it such that we can actually build the thing. I have to take some crazy ideas and think about how to make them realistic.”
Mr Heerwagen is in charge of 40 divisions which range from animated props, themed paint and special effects to the relatively more mundane fields of graphics, media and video projection.
“I bring all of the stuff in and start the installation process. I make it look pretty, make sure that it stays within the theme and tells the story that we want to tell.” Mr Heerwagen says that the next step is to synchronise everything which sounds easier than it actually is.
As Forbes has reported, the newest ride at Disneyland Paris features cutting-edge trackless simulator cars which move through huge indoor sets themed to the Oscar-winning Disney movie Ratatouille. The cars move in time to the events on giant 3D screens to give the impression that the riders are the size of rats which are being chased through a restaurant. The synchronisation process involves such exotic steps as making sure that fake rats’ eyes flicker from behind crates whilst a smell of bread is pumped in when the ride car enters the pantry scene.
“Then we run the attraction for 72 hours non-stop for reliability before going into soft opening and the grand opening.” Mr Heerwagen adds that he is already planning rides which will open decades in the future and there is good reason for this.
“Ratatouille is a fantastic example. At one point, three months after ground-breaking for Ratatouille we had a very serious question posed to us about moving it somewhere else in the same park. We studied it, we were going to do that and it would have fit. We would have just flipped it. Eventually while we were looking at it they re-looked at some different stuff, re-jigged it and said ‘leave it where it is it’s actually fine.’ We have to look up to 20 years forward because if you take something like Ratatouille, it took five years to make from start to finish.” It goes to show that although the rides may seem like magic it takes more than the wave of a wand to pull them off.”