Worlds Apart 1 - The Studios that Never Were

Friday, May 16, 2008

Disney-MGM Studios EuropeIn 1992 the world was welcomed to a new place of magic. This place was located just outside Paris, and was known to the world as EuroDisney. This short series of articles is going to tell the story of a park that's over 7200 kilometres away from the original Disney-MGM Studios park at Walt Disney World. The story starts on the day of the resort's Grand Opening on April 12th, 1992.

As the world watched the Grand Opening TV Special that accompanied the opening of the new resort, viewers got their first glimpse of what was to come in phase two of its development. Concept art was shown for a darkride based on The Little Mermaid, a show based on Beauty and the Beast, and perhaps most interestingly a second theme park. The art showed the familiar Disney-MGM Studios logo with the "Europe" tagline and the Earful tower which would have been the park's icon and "weenie", as Walt would have put it. Just for you lucky people, below you will find a clip from that very Grand Opening TV Special featuring Pat Sharp (who at the time was a kids TV presenter in the UK, known mostly for presenting Fun House, but that's another story) telling you all about the plans for Euro Disney's next few years. Keep an eye out at the end of the video and you might note that they actually show Walt Disney World's Cinderella Castle instead of Le Château de la Belle au Bois Dormant.

It's interesting to note how many of those announced plans never made it to see the light of day. The Little Mermaid attraction eventually saw a bit of life as an extra on the DVD release of film, rendered as a 3D ride-through and with a commentary by WDI people. Discovery Mountain eventually came about as Space Mountain: De La Terre, a la Lune (which later became Space Mountain: Mission II during the Happiest Celebration on Earth in 2005), and the resort's TGV/EuroStar line did arrive, with a station literally right between the park gates and Disney Village (which at the time of opening was called Festival Disney).

The proposed Plaza area

Concept art for the parkConcept models for the park showed that the plaza between the new park and the adjacent EuroDisney park (later renamed to Euro Disneyland, Disneyland Paris and now Disneyland Park) would be remodelled to include a lake feature with Mickey's Sorcerer Hat in the centre. Upon entering the park, guests would be treated to the all too familiar view of the earful tower, and an indoor version of Hollywood Boulevard, contained within backlot style buildings similar to those at the Florida park. Hollywood Boulevard would lead you back outside in front of the park's main attraction: a recreation of Grauman's Chinese Theatre which would be known as the Grand Movie Palace, containing a version of The Great Movie Ride that we all know and love.

Other attractions intended for the Studios included a Gangster Shootout themed attraction, a Disney Animation attraction similar to that in Florida, a version of the Indiana Jones Epic Stunt Spectacular and the Studio Tram Tour around the studio backlot. Also putting in an appearance would be the New York Street sets, the Backlot Express, Brown Derby restaurant and planned for the future was the Sci-Fi Dine in restaurant and an attraction based on Honey I Shrunk the Kids. As with the Disney-MGM Studios in Florida, the European park would have been a real, working movie studio where guests could observe and see how real movies were made and find out what goes on behind the scenes.

Concept art for the parkA year before EuroDisney opened to the world, it was announced that the resort would open on schedule and on budget. At the same time it was also announced that the company was seeking permission from the French government to open the Disney-MGM Studios Europe theme park two years ahead of it's scheduled opening date. But alas, it wasn't to be. Shortly after the grand opening of EuroDisney in 1992, it became clear that the resort wasn't doing as well as Disney had hoped and several future projects were scaled back or cancelled completely. The plans for the second park park was initially postponed to 1996, but when the resort continued to struggle, the inevitable happened. The Disney-MGM Studios Europe was cancelled in mid 1992.

Walt Disney Studios ParkBut as with many fairytales, there's a happy ending to the story. 10 years later a second park finally opened at the Paris resort in the shape of the Walt Disney Studios Park. Based around the same theme and ideas as the Disney-MGM Studios Europe, it was a very much scaled back version of what was originally planned back in the early 1990s. Despite this, it was the start of what would eventually begin to turn the Parisian resort around. In next week's article, I'll be taking a look at the Walt Disney Studios Park that now sits adjacent to Disneyland Park in Paris, and take a look at how the dream evolved from the original Disney-MGM Studios Europe to what guests can see today.