|by Keith Mahne|
Tomorrow Disneyland Paris will celebrate its 22nd Anniversary. Following the success of Walt Disney World, plans to build a similar theme park in Europe emerged in 1972. Upon the leadership of E. Cardon Walker, Tokyo Disneyland opened in 1983 in Japan with instant success, forming a catalyst for international expansion. In late 1984 the heads of Disney's theme park division, Dick Nunis and Jim Cora, presented a list of approximately 1,200 possible European locations for the park. By March 1985, the number of possible locations for the park had been reduced to four; two in France and two in Spain. Both nations saw the potential economic advantages of a Disney theme park and offered competing financing deals to Disney. Continue after the page break as we join Disneyland Paris in celebrating 22 magical years...
Michael Eisner, Disney's CEO at the time, signed the first letter of agreement with the French government for the 4,940-acre site on 18 December 1985, and the first financial contracts were drawn up during the following spring. The final contract was signed by the leaders of the Walt Disney Company and the French government and territorial collectivities on 24 March 1987. Construction began in August 1988, and in December 1990, an information center named "Espace Euro Disney" was opened to show the public what was being constructed.
In order for the fourth park to be based on the original, modifications were made to the park's concepts and designs. Among the changes was the change of Tomorrowland to Discoveryland, giving the area a retro futuristic theme rather than futuristic. Other altered elements include the Haunted Mansion, which was redesigned as Phantom Manor, and Space Mountain. The park's location brought forth its own challenges. Le Château de la Belle au Bois Dormant is said by its designers to have been necessarily reevaluated for a continent on which authentic castles stand. Modifications to the park were made to protect against changes in weather in the Parisian climate. Covered walkways were added, though these are described as "Arcades" and not covered walkways, and Michael Eisner ordered the installation of 35 fireplaces in hotels and restaurants.
The park, as well as its surrounding complex, initially failed to meet financial expectations resulting in an image change in which the word "Euro" was phased out of several names, including Euro Disneyland. The park was known as Euro Disneyland until May 1994, Euro Disneyland Paris until September 1994 and Disneyland Paris in February 2002. As Michael Eisner noted, "As Americans, the word ‘Euro’ is believed to mean glamorous or exciting. For Europeans it turned out to be a term they associated with business, currency, and commerce. Renaming the park ‘Disneyland Paris’ was a way of identifying it with one of the most romantic and exciting cities in the world."
Here is a video featuring time-lapse aerial views of the park under construction:
Next up is a early EuroDisney promo from 1991 (it was adlibbed in English which is quite comical):
Check back tomorrow for part 2 as we focus on Disneyland Paris Opening Day Ceremonies.