One of the stranger moments of my D23 Expo experience was having one of my questions shot down by Bruce Vaughn, the Chief Creative Executive of Imagineering. At a press conference following the panel discussion of the creation of Pixar-based attractions for the theme parks, I asked about some of the attractions they hadn’t mentioned – those being planned for the Walt Disney Studios park in Paris. To the apparent surprise of many of the fellow Disney obsessives in the crowd, Vaughn’s response was that no new projects had been announced for Paris.
To those in that audience who were less-informed, I might have come off as simply wrong or trying to be sneaky. Truth being told, I was trying to be sneaky – just not in the way you might think.
We’ve known about the upcoming Toy Story Playland for quite some time now. The expansion has been rumored for a few years, and more recently the expansion’s plans and construction permits have been posted online. We even discussed it at length here in April. Obviously, the old adage is that until ground is broken plans can change. The thing is, in this case ground has been broken! The always-informative DLP.info has posted construction pictures of the site, as well as the construction wall art that heralds the arrival of the Toy Story characters. You can understand why I didn’t bother to check to see if a press release had been issued before asking my question!
I wasn’t really asking about the Playland, though. In my oh-so-clever craftiness I thought that by asking a vague question about the Pixar projects underway in Paris instead of asking specifically about the Toy Story rides, I might get a comment about the rumored Ratatouille attraction that is also said to be underway. I couldn’t care less about Toy Story Playland and its three carny rides, but I’m darn sure interested in the rumored trackless Ratatouille dark ride. It’s pretty funny that I didn’t want to look like a jerk asking about a Ratatouille ride that I wasn’t sure had been officially confirmed, so I thought I’d cover myself by asking about the Toy Story Playland which I thought was fair game. Busted.
Obviously, I have no gripe with Vaughn over his answer. After all, if they haven’t announced anything, they haven’t announced anything. The look on the faces of the Imagineers when I asked the question was worth the price of admission anyway. Sorry guys, I knew not what I did! But my question is this: why hasn’t the Playland been announced? This seems to be a Disney trend lately; you might recall the constant denials of a new resort project as the Bay Lake Tower was built in plain sight of thousands of daily guests.
At least with Bay Lake Tower I can understand the reasoning; Disney still had plenty of DVC units to sell at Saratoga Springs and Animal Kingdom Lodge, and didn’t want to spoil that market by dumping all the Bay Lake rooms into the mix. But why the secrecy about the project in Paris that is obviously underway? I can think of two possibilities. The first is that there’s some contractual weirdness with Euro Disney S.C.A. that requires those announcements to be made in specific places and times. The second is that they’re trying to keep the Parisian version of Toy Story Playland under wraps for as long as possible, because an exact clone of the area is one of the three highly-touted expansions for Hong Kong Disneyland. Disney already had the area planned and ready to go for Paris; the Hong Kong version is a copy, and Disney might not want that to be obvious as they deal with testy Chinese officials. Surely the Hong Kong officials know, though; Toy Story Land was a last-minute addition to the HKDL expansions, joining the lineup when Chinese officials nixed the proposed Glacier Bay area.
As for Paris, the toys are on the way. Unless this is the most committed disinformation campaign ever!