As a part of Disneyland Paris 25th anniversary celebrations, Disney organized a very special event for a handful of lucky DLP long-time lovers: a guided tour of the park with the man who supervised its design: Walt Disney Imagineering legend Tony Baxter.
He’s the person you should thank for making Disneyland Paris’ castle so elaborate and romantic, with square trees and a fire breathing dragon underneath. The one who decided to put Big Thunder Mountain on an island because why not?! The man who made the most spectacular Disney castle park ever made, with dozens of highly detailed walkthrough attractions. The list goes on and on.
I strongly suggest you watch this unique moment greatly captured by the folks from ED92 at the bottom of this page. But if you’re extremely lazy, here is is a list of five new things I learned from Tony Baxter during this unforgettable guided tour of Disneyland Paris.
1. Main Street Arcades have multiple benefits
Imagineers were told Paris would need to cover Main Street USA because of the ever changing weather, like they did in Tokyo. The downside is you can’t run motor vehicles or a full parade under a canopy. Making arcades parallels to Main Street came as a solution. Not only they are one of the most cherished locations of the park, but they were also much cheaper to build than covering Main Street entirely. The benefit of that is Imagineers could spend the rest of the initially budgeted amount to make the boutiques more beautiful and detailed than any other castle park.
2. Walt’s restaurant decoration is more than just theming
Inside the fancy Walt’s restaurant, each room is themed upon each of the parks lands. But the art you can see framed on the walls of each room is the actual artworks that were created and used by the Imagineers during the development of Disneyland Paris. These pieces guided and inspired them to make the park as stunning as it is, so it’s a little more than just theming.
3. No, Discoveryland is not about Steampunk
Tony Baxter has an interesting way of explaining the very concept of Discoveryland. At all times in history, storytellers imagined what the future would look like, using fantasy or realistic visions. Whether it was through art, technology, books or movies, Steven Spielberg or Georges Lucas are the Jules Vernes or H.G. Wells of our era. Their visions of the future inspired young children from different eras the exact same way. It means that if Steampunk style is an important part of Discoveryland, it’s not about that and different visions of the future will always live together in this unique land.
4. Movie franchises are an opportunity, not a threat
Some fans are disappointed when something they love in the park needs to be replaced. With the ongoing trend of using intellectual properties (IP) as source material for anything new in theme parks, when something gets changed, the replacement is usually based on Frozen. Eh sorry, I mean Frozen and Star Wars and Marvel stuff. But one of the tasks of Imagineers is to keep the park up to date to stay relevant. The stories and characters we see in Disneyland through rides, boutiques and restaurants can not be stuck in the past of Pinocchio, Snow White and Beauty and the Beast. New characters and stories are needed to keep younger audiences emotionally connected too when they visit the park.
On this topic however, I encourage you to listen to The Season Pass Podcast episodes with Tony Baxter as a guest. He discusses more openly about balancing IP-based and non-IP-based content in theme parks.
5. Tony Baxter’s favorite things in Disneyland Paris are…
When he’s asked what are the locations he cherish the most in the park, Tony Baxter quickly answers the following. Big Thunder Mountain because he got to do it four times on three different continents. That’s quite an achievement for a single human being, right? Sleeping Beauty Castle because it was very challenging and it has the dragon he loved so much in the animated movie when he was a child. Then there’s the whole “Discovery Mountain” and Nautilus complex because they compliment each other so well: one is a fast, thrilling, scary ride, and the other is a walkthrough where you can spend hours discovering new details every time. The Disneyland Hotel completes this list. It was the first hotel located inside a Disney theme park and it’s now became a signature product you can find elsewhere in Disney California Adventure and Tokyo DisneySea.
Alright, make sure to watch the complete guided tour on the video above. Just like Walt Disney, Tony Baxter truly masters the art of storytelling. Not only when he’s busy designing the most amazing attractions ever built like Splash Mountain, Star tours or Indiana Jones Adventure but also when he shares his own memories.
Earlier this week, Disneyland Paris Executive Producer Tony Baxter hosted another event where he discussed the creation of Disneyland Paris. It’s right here. And there was also a third event this week where Tony Baxter guided a small group of Disneyland Paris Cast Members through Frontierland, you can watch it right there.
I’d like to thank Tony Baxter for taking the time to share his passion with us, and the people at Disneyland Paris fan communication who had the fantastic idea of organizing this very special moment and inviting me among other bloggers.