April 30, 2012

Just Getting Started


It's a whole new season, and I can't wait to dive right in! More to come...

April 27, 2012

The Family


... that is minus a few grandkids. I look at this and celebrate the goodness of the Lord Jesus to us!

April 26, 2012

World's Best Light Show!

Having the best thunder, lighting, and rain! No one beats God at a great light show. Beautiful!

New Shanghai Disneyland Artwork


Straight from my friend Alain at the excellent Disney and More blog, here is new artwork from Shanghai Disneyland. And it is gorgeous! You're looking at the main entrance to the park. After heading through the complex and into the gardens, you'll see the gorgeous castle ahead... and the entrances to lands you know a love. Adventureland on the right, will present the newest Johnny Depp Captain Jack Sparrow version of Pirates of the Caribbean. To your right, Tomorrowland and the Tron LightCycles.
I may just have to go to Shanghai!

(Art copyright The Walt Disney Company.)

Dawn of a New Day at DCA

It's coming quickly, the dawn of a new Disney California Adventure!

We're changing out most all the old, and the new stuff is looking pretty snazzy. That said, 1.0 did have its moments. Like the Sun Icon, affectionately known as the hubcap. It was in the wrong place and space, but there was a certain freshness about it. Truly it belonged at the Paradise Pier Hotel and not in the park. 


That comment signifies so much of what was wrong with the park. Sometimes nice elements ending up in the wrong locations and in the wrong scale. I don't see too many problems with what's being built now. Do you?

(Art copyright The Walt Disney Company.)

April 24, 2012

A Godly Mother

Happy Birthday, Mom! I'm sure there are many guys out there that have been blessed by their mothers, but your heart for the people around them and your heart for God make you stand apart. So, so, glad He saw fit to make us friends as well as mother and son. Thanks for everything! Love you!

April 23, 2012

If Adventure Has A Name

It must be Indiana Jones, the Indiana Jones Adventure, that is! Disneyland purists may have scoffed and scowled when it was first announced as coming to the park, but you certainly do not hear anyone complaining about this amazing attraction now. In fact, it is a centerpiece attraction at Tokyo Disney Sea, as necessary as Pirates of the Caribbean is to any Magic Kingdom styled park. (Sorry, Hong Kong Disneyland! Hello Shanghai Disneyland!)

Long desired at Disneyland Paris, known for its absence at Walt Disney World, and every bit as thrilling and cutting edge as the Amazing Adventures of Spiderman at Universal Orlando's Islands of Adventure, this new era masterpiece outshines anything Disney Imagineering has done since its debut. Anything.

Master Imagineer Herb Ryman created the stunning artwork seen above to set the sense of place and feel for the attraction. (Click to see it large.) I'd say it succeeds! And it makes me want to journey off to Disneyland as I write this...

(Art copyright The Walt Disney Company.)

April 22, 2012

Challenging Our Desire for Safety

Intriguing title, and this quote caught my eye:

"At some point, we stopped calling Christians disciples and started calling them believers. A disciple is one who follows and imitates Jesus...until his Word and his world reshapes hers, redefine her, change inside out how she sees and thinks and dreams and, finally lives. A believer, not so. She holds certain beliefs...but in her most honest moments she wonders why they have much such a scant difference... "

And now the kicker!- "You can't be a disciple without being a believer. But - here's the rub- you can be a believer and not a disciple... The kingdom (of God) is full of disciples, but our churches are filled with believers."

From "Your Church is Too Safe", Mark Buchanan

April 21, 2012

Walt Disney Company Endorses Obama

Did they really do this? Sure seems like it. With California Adventure's relaunch due to hit June 15 and the November election not far behind, it's more than possible Disney is putting their muscle behind the current President Barack Obama.

This concept art for the new "DJ's Dance and Drive" show displays dancers holding fans (?) that are clearly President Obama's campaign logo. Not a wise partisan move on behalf of the Company.

(Art copyright The Walt Disney Company.)

April 20, 2012

Animal Kingdom Debuts on Earth Day: A New Species of Theme Park


Editors Note: To celebrate Earth Day and the release of the film Chimpanzee, I wanted to re-introduce one of my most popular series. This detailed series, filled with concept art, photographs and more, covers the creation and evolution of Walt Disney World's Animal Kingdom theme park.

Though first published in 2008, this currently is Part One of a six part series! (And many more smaller articles followed as well.)

Disney's Animal Kingdom is a game changer for the Walt Disney Company in how it viewed and designed and managed its theme parks and in how it educated its guests.

Taking a look back at the park's history and the thought processes of the Company may give us a hint to its future, even beyond the proposed Avatar expansion. At the end of this posting of Part One, there are links to the other six articles in the series.

Additionally, on this blog, there are 60+ other articles about Animal Kingdom, making it one of the both talked about subjects found here. These posts include more rare concept art, trip reports, etc. But for now, let's begin with Part One...


Earlier this year, Disney’s fourth and largest Florida theme park celebrated ten years of delighting, thrilling, or frustrating Walt Disney World guests. Plans for the future have yet to be made public, but let’s look back at the past, discuss the present, and speculate on the future of this wonderfully imagineered playground.

Why is there such a deep appreciation and an equal disdain for Disney’s Animal Kingdom? It stands distinctly different from the Mouse’s other playgrounds in the Sunshine State. For its fans, the combination of a brilliant and daring design, consistent theme, and faithful execution brings new and unique adventures and environments. 


Its detractors would counter there are too few attractions to hold their interest for an entire day. Both sides agree the park is a beauty to view. However dazzling this combination zoo, botanical garden, and theme park is to behold, there are also the intangible factors that draw us to it when we can look past the limited number of adventures: there is a deep emotional connection that comes from our love for nature and animals. It meets our desire to run away from the concrete jungles of modern day life and reality- if only for the day! The park is a unique entity among Disney’s theme park roster, one that will probably never be duplicated.

Beginning with Mickey himself, animals of all types and depictions continue to be a great and profitable fit with Disney. According to company lore, Walt’s well-known love for animals and exotic locales, evidenced by the inclusion of Adventureland at Disneyland, California, and his True-Life Adventure films formed the emotional heart of Animal Kingdom long before ground was ever broken. In reality, when discussion began about the creation of this park in 1989, it may have truly been a strictly business decision that brought it to fruition.

The Magic Kingdom was a concept unique to Disney, successfully capitalizing and expanding upon the reputation of its older sibling in California. The next park, EPCOT Center, conceptually different in Walt’s mind but with its execution clearly inspired by world’s fairs and corporate America trade shows, transformed Walt Disney World from a single day destination to one that could consume a traveler’s entire week. Disney-MGM Studios debuted and was the least original of the three parks, taking ideas from Universal Studios in California and Disneyland, including a new Main Street of a different era for its entrance plaza.

Michael Eisner, brilliant or be damned, was the driving force behind the creation of a nature focused park. Bringing a competitive, and some would say greedy, nature to the business, he guided the company into direct battle with his once friendly neighbors, desiring to capture all the time and money any visitor may have in Central Florida. Disney-MGM Studios Theme Park had just successfully launched to square off with the soon-to-come Universal Studios. Pleasure Island was Disney’s answer to Orlando’s popular Church Street Station, Typhoon Lagoon their response to Wet N Wild, and myriads of resort properties were added to the entire Disney complex to grab a large share of the hospitality industry’s bread and butter. Earlier in the decade, Epcot’s Living Seas pavilion took a swipe at Sea World, and now Disney’s Animal Kingdom was looking to take a large bite out of Busch Gardens popularity in nearby Tampa.

The Studios park was jammed with guests from opening day on, and the atmosphere was rich but the attractions were few. Plans were quickly put into place for expansion, and discussions began on what to do next. Outside the new park, visitors filled the water parks and daytime entertainment and shopping areas. Flush with success and lots of money to invest, Disney executives believed a large audience remained untapped. With the astounding success of all the new offerings on the property, it was only a matter of time before the strategy gelled to add another park to lure and keep vacationers on Disney soil. Watching its competition for further clues, all it took was a glance at what was going on in Tampa to realize people’s love for animals and for the Disney characters would be a hit when combined. Polls taken at the other parks confirmed the company’s hunch. The “blue sky” imagineering quietly but quickly began.



Joe Rohde, who was intimately involved in the now defunct Adventurer’s Club at Pleasure Island, got the go-ahead from Eisner early in the new decade to proceed. He would head up the small but talented team to design the new park. With only a few months, a relatively short amount of time, and a high level of secrecy, this crew began to dream, plan and envision a park that would capture an audience and their money.

The designers instinctively knew Disney’s Wild Animal Kingdom, (as it was first named), had to be different from the other Florida parks, yet it had to appeal to the masses as well. Could Disney pull off a zoological park that didn’t look or feel like one? It had to be one that could excite and not bore. These became the core challenges. The Imagineers and the money men were well aware that travelers would avoid the new park in droves if a run-of-the-mill zoo was the first impression the park left its early guests.




As with any Disney park, this one had to have its themed “lands”. Initial concepts blended traditional Magic Kingdom elements (Beastly Kingdom- home to imaginary animals and the expected Disney dark rides); an Epcot style pavilion (Conservation Station- highlighting advanced animal care techniques); and traditional zoo with safari essentials (Kilimanjaro Safaris and Gorilla Falls Exploration Trail- among others, providing real life animal encounters). Additionally, a few old school Disneyland elements reappeared with slightly different twists: an exploration into the era of prehistoric creatures from Anaheim’s Primeval World met the cutting edge technology of California’s Indiana Jones Adventure (Countdown to Extinction), repurposed Jungle Cruise boats became transportation (Discovery River Boats), and lastly another railroad line linked the more guest friendly areas with the research facility (the Wildlife Express). Of course, any and all great plans are subject to the accountants red pen!



(Thank you to Tales from the Laughing Place for the image above!)




The main themed areas were now in place, but the Imagineers had another challenge to solve as well. What should be the park’s identifying icon and how would they set the stage for an arriving visitor? The Magic Kingdom and Studios parks both used a long walkway leading from the park entrance toward its respective icon. Epcot utilized a welcome garden type area then allowed guests to walk under Spaceship Earth. After many different ideas were discussed, including entering the park through a recreation of Noah’s ark, Joe Rohde and team took a unique approach to solve the problem.

To quickly establish the idea this park was built for exploration, wonder, and maybe most importantly, was not your mother’s zoo, guests would pass the turnstiles and enter the enticing Oasis Gardens. This area establishes the feel of the park: there would be multiple paths to explore and animals and birds all around. With the vegetation lush and strewn with tropical flowers, streams, and small waterfalls, this place would be a place to relax as well as have fun. Nooks and crannies discovered along the way would contain animal exhibits quietly hidden for the folks who would choose to take the time to find them. Multiple paths into and out of the gardens encourage visitors to explore. All this to bring a sense of mystery. Once the chattering of birds and small creatures intermingled with the sounds of human laughter, anticipation would be built. What would it lead to?

To ensure the park had an extremely authentic and exotic atmosphere, the Animal Kingdom team wisely involved Paul Comstock, the modern day genius landscape architect behind so many of Disney's wonderful theme parks and resorts. Mentored by the legendary Bill Evans, his reputation is crowned by his breathtaking work on Disney's Animal Kingdom. This unique combination gives the park its bold flavor. (Below is one of Paul’s original landscape plans. To view more of his two decades of work at Disney, see his portfolio at his new employer, Valley Crest Design Group.)


The landscaping plan for the park is spectacular, but it is the man made masterpiece, the Tree of Life, the park’s chosen icon, that was intended to steal the show. This astounding structure is a piece of art unparalleled in Disney’s history. Designed to quickly brand the Animal Kingdom, there are more than three hundred animals are carved into its trunk and branches. Surrounding it are even more gardens, streams, and waterfalls. The Tree of Life was a bold and breathtaking choice. Situated on Safari Island, there were various concepts initially proposed for the area before the designers settled on the final one.



As expenses grew making accountants nervous, plans continued to evolve to balance the centuries old tension of art and commerce. The victims of cost cutting meant a haven for meeting the Disney characters replaced the beautiful landscapes and attractions of Beastly Kingdom, old parade floats from Disneyland were turned into the Festival of the Lion King show, and the exciting Excavator coaster for Dinoland U.S.A. became extinct. In what was ultimately another concession to the business side of the Mouse House, a 3D film based on an upcoming Disney/Pixar movie “A Bug’s Life” would be placed inside the majestic Tree of Life. Although fewer attractions would premier on opening day than what was originally designed, the park promised and would deliver enticing adventures for those guests who chose to look beyond the traditional Disney park experience.



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Part Two

Part Three
Part Four
Part Five
Part Six
(All artwork copyright The Walt Disney Company. Photos by Mark Taft. All rights reserved.)

April 19, 2012

Opening Day at Disneyland

Just an incredible thread over at Miceage. This post has a dozen or so photos from the opening day at Disneyland. As expected, some show Walt Disney beaming at the crowds. Others show areas of the park from angles you wouldn't expect.

It's easy to think the Imagineers knew exactly what they were doing, and the end result is terrific, but these photos are a great reminder that Disneyland was unprecedented, and therefore, cutting edge from the beginning. Fascinating for all lovers of Walt's Original Kingdom. Just gotta see a cool retro- Tomorrowland and a brand new Fantasyland from the air...

Go here.

April 18, 2012

WTF Part Two

From an unknown source... I think this church has it right- but the unintended humor is eye catching and maybe even intentional! Too funny!

April 17, 2012

Our Day Will Come: Ruby, Karen, and Katharine McPhee

Not a huge fan of the television show Smash, but since it comes on right after The Voice, I do watch it for the musical content. Not a fan of theater drama and all the cattiness the show displays. Temperamental actors and all! Too over the top. That said...

I must hesitatingly admit, American Idol's Katharine McPhee and Pirates of the Caribbean's Jack Davenport make it interesting. But this musical number by Katharine was been surprisingly good. Her take on (take your pick) Ruby & The Romantics/Karen Carpenter's "Our Day Will Come" - just terrific. I will download it when it becomes available.

Having Karen's version in the car on a compilation for the last few months, and remembering Ruby's vocals, makes me appreciate the nuance's in Katharine's performance.

Nuance? Yes. Katharine has been known from the beginning of her television career as pushing the over the top sex symbol side of her at the expense of her lovely voice. Yet, last night's performance of the tune (in Marilyn Monroe get up) gave to it a breathy silkiness you'd expect if Olivia Newton-John covered it during her heyday. It's a nice contrast to Ruby's throaty version and Karen's smooth and creamy vocals. All three have great backing tracks as well.

Adding another tune to my collection...

April 15, 2012

Racing to the Finish

Two months and counting to the opening day of the brand new Disney California Adventure! Can you picture it? I sure can!

Thanks to the likes of Mint Crocodile and many others, I anxiously await every new photo update. But it won't be long until we are walking down Buena Vista Street, riding the Red Car Trolleys, and eating in its restaurants, shopping in its stores.

As beautiful as it will be, it's Cars Land I am most excited about. Was Cars or Cars 2 my Pixar favorite films? Far from it. But I will not be able to resist Radiator Springs Racers! Along with Soarin' Over California, this gem of an attraction will be a must-ride every time I visit the resort.

And soon, I will be! If you are reading this, a visit to the revamped, re-Imagineered park, is probably on your to do list as well!

(Art copyright The Walt Disney Company.)

April 14, 2012

Disney Dreams in Paris

As if to punctuate my lengthy post celebrating the 20th Anniversary of Disneyland Paris (see below), I happened upon a video of the nighttime show, Disney Dreams. Truly beautiful and different.

Yes, it utilizes some technology and water features similar to California Adventure's gorgeous World of Color show, but this new evening spectacular from the hand of Imagineering's Steve Davison has something all its own. There's a lush feel to the entire thing, and seeing the stunning fountains play against the castle- wow!

Look up Alain Littaye's Disney and More blog for a full length video. It's worth your time! Be forewarned, it will make you book that trip to Paris you've been wanting to take.

(Photograph copyright The Daily Mail.)

April 12, 2012

20 Years of Disneyland Paris Magic!



Twenty years ago, EuroDisney opened their beautifully detailed doors to the public. Some were excited for the Walt Disney Company to finally open a European park, some were not, but most had to agree the end result was a work of art!

With all the much deserved excitement surrounding California Adventure 2.o and the development (and speculation) of Shanghai Disneyland, I started thinking about what else was going on in the world of Disney. Besides ignoring Animal Kingdom and letting my beloved Epcot fade into representing the past, it became obvious that Disneyland Paris was soon to hit twenty years. I just had to write something to commemorate the occasion for the “World’s Most Beautiful Magic Kingdom”.

Let’s start with the basics as to why this park has earned its title:

The most beautiful Disney castle is found here in Paris!
The Chateau is everything a Disney palace should be. The princesses in other kingdoms should be green with envy- and theme park fans in other places as well. It's one thing to see my photos, but go see it for yourself. The sloping hillsides set the stage for the dungeon below, while above us the castle walls contain elaborate upper rooms, stunning tapestries, and gorgeous stained glass. It is 100% first class no expense spared.

The piece de resistance in Paris’ deluxe princess home is found deep inside the basement of the dwelling, Dragon's Lair. Inside this extremely dark and neglected space, a monster resides. The appropriately scary little dungeon houses the fully and terrorizingly realized Audio-Animatronic dragon. She snarls and growls, and she threatens passers by with smoke and blazing fire! In a bit of very creative planning, this dark lower chamber has a secret passageway from one of the Fantasyland shops safely above the horrifying scene. This entire elaborate, and some would say, unnecessary effort is a reminder of what Disney Imagineering can do if they put their hearts to it! And if the budgeteers allow. Kudos to Tony Baxter and company for the end result.


Into the castle courtyard, we find an assortment of classic dark rides. Starting with the beloved Peter Pan's Flight, a reimagining of the rides has paid off handsomely. Coming to grips with its enduring popularity, the Imagineers decided to equip Peter with new double capacity vehicles. Smart move as Peter Pan’s Flight draws the same large crowds here in France as it does back at the Stateside parks. In a nod to the land behind it and making for an incredibly charming smooth thematic transition, the subtle and quiet gallery opening gives way to a first look at Adventureland and its obviously large noticeable landmark Adventure Isle.

(Speaking of which, the transitions between lands in this park are so quietly handled yet very clearly accomplished. Once you cross into a new land, it is so secluded from every other one, it is easy to forget you are in a multi-themed park. The strategic placement of focal points and carefully selected foliage make it next to impossible to see beyond the realm you are in. This is a major strength in the design of the park and its success in storytelling. The result highlights the rich detail and masterful work of the Imagineers.)

Back to Fantasyland and its dark rides. Pinocchio's Daring Journey changes little, aside from the Italian narration. In fact, every dark ride is told in the original language of its writer. It’s a brilliant choice that draws out even more enchantment as well as being a concession to the diversity of European visitors.

With Snow White soon disappearing in Florida’s Magic Kingdom, it is a treat to find her represented here. With the extra land and the design starting from scratch, the Evil Queen’s castle seems to fit more easily here than in California.

Years back, another removed attraction left a hole in the Walt Disney World line-up. Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride doesn’t exist here in Paris, but the old toad can be found here.

In place of a rollicking road trip, guests will find a British restaurant inside Toad Hall! Although initially disappointing, the detail is rich, and the food is quite good. If you look around, you'll find a charming touch above the tables of the restaurant: a portrait of Mr. Toad himself sits on a wall next to diners. Look carefully- here Mr. Toad is envisioned by great European artists: Van Gogh, Rembrandt, and da Vinci. The painting magically transforms every minute or so. Another great element that was absolutely unnecessary but adds to setting this park above the ones that came before it.

The carousel and Dumbo are as to be expected. There are terrific water features, gardens, and flowers everywhere. The Mad Tea Party twirls under a gorgeous glass canopy, while a new version of the beloved Storybookland Canal Boats launches guests on a tour of miniature models of fairytale favorites- including The Wizard of Oz. In a nice touch, Casey Jr. travels here and actually feels and functions as a small roller coaster for beginners. No Go Coaster or Sky School madness here.

The Alice in Wonderland themed labyrinth is great fun for everyone! The small winding paths make for a great little family excursion while there are beautiful gardens to see. Around every corner and in the castle found toward the end of the maze, many characters from the film show up, some in unexpected places. Reminds me of some of the lesser known attractions that provide diversity and charm at Disneyland.

It's A Small World is close by. With a different clock face, new colors and a covered canal, it too has a different feel. The art direction inside is different from those attraction versions before it, and the Imagineers traded Mary Blair’s style for something just as effective. The Parisian “World” is the very first to include a United States themed area in the attraction. About time, I’d say. The recent addition of such an area to California’s original is a poor substitute for what is found here.

On to Adventureland. Here the colorful domes of Arabian tales create a smooth transition from the fantasy villages of Europe. It's a delicate balance combining fantasy with adventure, but Aladdin discreetly lives here as do other characters from books and film. The seamless look makes it all less jarring than going from Fantasyland to Frontierland at Disneyland.

Adventureland is a blend of many icons: African huts, dense jungles, exotic Middle Eastern landscapes with its onion shaped domes- and Neverland! It sounds as if it wouldn’t fit together, especially with the Swiss Family Treehouse sharing space next to Skull Rock, but the execution is masterfully done.


Yet the centerpiece of the entire place is not Adventure Isle, a Tom Sawyer Island meets the jungle play land with its caverns and tunnels, bridges, and waterfalls. Instead, it is the classic Pirates of the Caribbean. The very best version of it to date.


Sorry, Anaheim. I know it is a Disneyland original and the last attraction Walt himself worked on, but Anaheim's version is not quite as good as the latest one.

Captain Jack Sparrow himself would like to set sail from this Caribbean isle port. Doing so just seems perfect. The weathered white stoned fortress that houses the attraction has the extended and powerful queue of Florida's version. The cruise itself contains many twists over the original. First time ever we have some long overdue sword fighting. Add in an entirely new first scene and a reorder of old favorites, a few new pirates, and an explosive finale. The end result is the ultimate Magic Kingdom adventure reimagined for a new generation. Pre-Johnny Depp, of course! No need for video screens or motion simulators, just good old fashioned staging, engaging characters, and spectacular sets. You know, the thing Disney used to do so well.


Oh, Frontierland! What can I say? It's my favorite land in the entire park. With Big Thunder Mountain Railroad and its peaks found on the island in the middle of the Rivers of the West, the panoramic views pull you into this piece of uniquely American history. The creepy Phantom Manor found deliberately outside of the town high on a bluff only adds to the drama.

When guests first approach Fort Comstock from the hub, they only get a small taste of what is found beyond the walls of the fort. There are a few Indian teepees along the small stream, and the buttes of Big Thunder rise just beyond immediate view.

As with the castle, Fort Comstock is also an attraction. You can walk the upper levels, enjoying terrific views across the frontier. The sights and sounds of the Old West capture your attention, catapulting you into the story.

Every guest heads for Big Thunder Mountain Railroad. It’s a family favorite on every continent. The trains round the track and surprise riders by heading directly under the river to begin the journey. The design choice of putting Big Thunder front and center gives the land much kinetic energy, creating a very different feel from the somewhat sleepy versions found in the American parks.

 The town of Thunder Mesa, fills out the land surrounding Fort Comstock. Its named as a tribute to the great Imagineer Marc Davis and his never built Western River Expedition.

There are still the expected steamboats and the Disneyland Railroad trains. The Shooting Gallery lets its place be known as guests fire away at target practice. Yet there is something very different and uniquely special about this Frontierland.

While Big Thunder Mountain Railroad is the thrilling visual center of the town of Thunder Mesa, the story of what lies behind Phantom Manor reveals a dark and sinister undertone to the activity. Getting ready to argue as to which Mansion is best!


Whatever side of the debate you land on, it is certain that the haunting symphonic score will make you a fan of the differences. The attraction is darker, the graveyard scarier, and the whole experience just plain different. There’s enough of a story here to fuel the entire land- and it does- but the Imagineers have left room for each guest to create their own tales to tell once they return home.

I’m going to quote my own trip report here, as I said it so well before:

“Sitting on the wooden walkways next to the shops far across from Phantom Manor, it was easy for me to suspend belief and dream of truly being back in time. There's a large chunk of land devoted to this theme, and the area is visually secluded from all others, with the layers of detail in sight and sound so rich and varied, the end result is the perfect representation of the old west mythologies. We spent several hours here taking in attractions, exploring the shops, and eating at the excellent and fairly priced Cowboy Cookout Barbecue.

After two visits to the park, I still could not uncover why this version is my favorite of all Frontierlands and perhaps my favorite land in all of Disneyland Paris. As I started to write this post, I was able to come to this conclusion: In California, Frontierland is a shadow of its former self in contrast to what was designed by the Imagineering team under Walt Disney; in Florida, the land is an excuse for the placement of cuddly characters. Only in France, thousands of miles removed from the actual geography represented, does this uniquely American story get the respect it deserves. Bottom line and bluntly stated, this Frontierland feels like the real thing and not an area found in a theme park.”

There’s not much else to say about it! Except go to Paris and see it! It is the standout themed land in an entire park of those perfectly executed.

Walking into Discoveryland, there is so much to see, and the whimsical world of Jules Verne comes to life in a very different way than Mysterious Island at Tokyo Disney Sea. There’s a touch of Tony Baxter’s Discovery Bay here as well, much to the delight of die-hard Imagineering fans.

Just as each land points to one singular icon, this French Tomorrowland is no exception. Space Mountain beckons powerfully with its delicate yet strong steampunk look and thrilling, looping, adventure inside. Although the original version was better, it still is quite the adrenaline pumper!

Originally planned as Discovery Mountain, the attraction is as different from its cousins inside as its exteriors are from one another. The open air, banner covered loading station sends streamlined rockets (and their pilots!) plunging into a smoke-spewing cannon only to blast out up the side of the mountain before heading into total darkness. There’s another lush and majestic musical score to serenade you as you go through the nighttime sky. The building is beautiful by day but spectacular at night. As bewitching as the Eiffel Tower itself!

Off to the side lies a fully developed, beautifully sculpted Nautilus submarine. It is another of those smaller attractions that has to be experienced. Lavish detail that does great justice to the book. How often does anyone get to sail with Captain Nemo after all?

Lastly, as we exit the park through one of its covered arcades, let’s look at Main Street, U.S.A., the many entry point. It is equally impressive as all the other areas, elegant but also very understated in appropriate contrast to the castle at the end of the street.

Another quote here from my trip report: “If the Paris version of the land of the future has taken on a more fantasy bent, I would venture to say the same holds true for its Main Street. There is an idealistic, very artistic, beauty of each building, each billboard, each attraction. The lovely work of Eddie Sotto and team elevates the land to something befitting landscapes from a dream.”

Walt's: An American Restaurant is the perfect way to end the day. A gorgeous restaurant stuffed with concept art for the park and lovely details. Linger in each shop and discover the unique differences. Lots of detail to be found here. My favorite was the beautiful Main Street Motors, a love letter of sorts to the American automobile.

Although Main Street is relatively short on attractions, there is a depth and richness to the place. From beginning to end, it sets a perfect stage for everything else to come.

In an interview from 1995, Head Imagineer Tony Baxter recalls a conversation with Marty Sklar about his plans for the park: "I would really like to have a chance to try for a perfect version of Disneyland." And he and his team did create it!

Speaking of team, they must be mentioned and given credit for their fine work: Eddie Sotto, Main Street U.S.A; Tim Delaney, Discoveryland; Tom Morris, Fantasyland; Chris Tietz, Adventureland; and lastly Pat Burke, Frontierland. Congratulations to each of them for creating the most beautiful of all Disney kingdoms.

The results clearly speak for themselves. Let me bluntly say this: Disneyland Paris is the ultimate Magic Kingdom styled park. Happy 20th!
(Photos copyright Mark Taft.)