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Disneyland Paris

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This article is about the resort. For the theme park, see Disneyland Park (Paris).
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Disneyland Paris is a vacation and recreation resort in Marne-la-Vallée, a in the eastern suburbs of Paris, France. The complex is located 32 kilometers (20 miles) from the center of Paris and lies for the most part on the territory of the commune of Chessy.

Disneyland Resort Paris features two theme parks, an entertainment district and seven Disney-owned hotels. Operating since April 12, 1992, it was the second Disney resort to open outside the United States (following Tokyo Disney Resort), and the first to be owned and operated by Disney. With 14.5 million visitors in the fiscal year of 2007, it is one of Europe's leading tourist destinations.

Disneyland Resort Paris is owned and operated by French company Euro Disney S.C.A., a public company of which 39.78% of its stock is held by The Walt Disney Company, 10% by the Saudi Prince Alwaleed and 50.22% by other shareholders. The park is run by chairman and CEO Karl Holz.

The complex was a subject of controversy during the periods of negotiation and construction, when a number of prominent French figures voiced their opposition and protests were held by French labour unions and others. A further setback followed the opening of the resort as park attendance, hotel occupancy and revenues fell below projections. In an effort to improve its public image, the complex was renamed from Euro Disney Resort to Disneyland Paris in 1995. From 2002 to 2009, the resort was named Disneyland Resort Paris, before reverting back to Disneyland Paris. In July 1995, the company saw its first quarterly profit. A second theme park, Walt Disney Studios Park, opened its doors on March 16, 2002.


Following the success of Disneyland in Anaheim, California and Walt Disney World in Lake Buena Vista, Florida, plans to build a similar theme park in Europe emerged in 1972. Under 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 1200 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 of these nations saw the potential economic advantages of a Disney theme park and competed by offering financing deals to Disney.

Both Spanish sites were located near the Mediterranean Sea and offered a subtropical climate similar to Disney's parks in California and Florida. Disney had also shown interest in a site near Toulon in southern France, not far from Marseille. The pleasing landscape of that region, as well as its climate, made the location a top competitor for what would be called Euro Disneyland. However, thick layers of bedrock were discovered beneath the site, which would render construction too difficult. Finally, a site in the rural town of Marne-la-Vallée was chosen because of its proximity to Paris and its central location in Western Europe. This location was estimated to be no more than a four-hour drive for 68 million people and no more than a two-hour flight for a further 300 million.

Building the Euro Disney Resort

Michael Eisner, Disney's CEO at the time, signed the first letter of agreement with the French government for the 20 sq km site in December 1985, and the first financial contracts were drawn up during the following spring. Construction began in August 1988, and in December 1990, an information centre named "Espace Euro Disney" was opened to show the public what was being constructed. Plans for a theme park next to Euro Disneyland based on the entertainment industry, Disney-MGM Studios Europe, quickly went into development, scheduled to open in 1996 with a construction budget of US$2.3 billion.


Unlike Disney's U.S. theme parks, Euro Disney aimed for permanent employees (an estimated requirement of 12,000 for the theme park itself), as opposed to seasonal and temporary part-time employees. Casting centers were set up in Paris, London, Amsterdam, and Frankfurt in an effort to reflect the multinational aspect of Euro Disney’s visitors. However, it was understood by the French government and Disney that a concentrated effort would be made to tap into the local French labour market. Disney sought workers with sufficient communication skills, spoke two European languages (French and one other), and were socially outgoing. Following precedent, Euro Disney set up its own Disney University to train workers. 24,000 people had applied by November 1991.

Hotels, recreation and restaurants

In order to control a maximum of the hotel business, it was decided that 5,000 Disney-owned hotel rooms would be built within the complex. In March 1988, Disney and a council of architects (Frank Gehry, Michael Graves, Robert A.M. Stern, Stanley Tigerman and Robert Venturi) decided on an exclusively American theme in which each hotel would depict a region of the United States. At the time of the opening in April 1992, seven hotels collectively housing 5,200 rooms had been built. By the year 2017, Euro Disney, under the terms specified in its contract with the French government, will be required to finish constructing a total of 18,200 hotel rooms at varying distances from the resort.

An entertainment, shopping and dining complex based on Walt Disney World's Downtown Disney was designed by Frank Gehry. With its towers of oxidised silver and bronze-coloured stainless steel under a canopy of lights, it opened as Festival Disney.

For a projected daily attendance of 55,000, Euro Disney planned to serve an estimated 14,000 people per hour inside the Euro Disneyland park. In order to accomplish this, 29 restaurants were built inside the park (with a further 11 restaurants built at the Euro Disney resort hotels and 5 at Festival Disney). Menus and prices were varied with an American flavour predominant and Disney's precedent of not serving alcoholic beverages was continued in the park. 2,100 patio seats (30% of park seating) were installed to satisfy Europeans’ expected preference of eating outdoors in good weather. In test kitchens at Walt Disney World, recipes were adapted for European tastes. Walter Meyer, executive chef for menu development at Euro Disney and executive chef of food projects development at Walt Disney World noted, “A few things we did need to change, but most of the time people kept telling us, ‘Do your own thing. Do what’s American’.”


The prospect of a Disney park in France was a subject of debate and controversy. Critics, who included prominent French intellectuals, denounced what they considered to be the cultural imperialism, or ‘neoprovincialism’ of Euro Disney and felt it would encourage in France an unhealthy American type of consumerism. For others, Euro Disney became a symbol of America within France. On June 28, 1992 a group of French farmers blockaded Euro Disney in protest of farm policies the United States supported at the time. A journalist in the French newspaper Le Figaro wrote, “I wish with all my heart that the rebels would set fire to [Euro] Disneyland." Ariane Mnouchkine, a Parisian stage director, named the concept a “cultural Chernobyl”; a phrase which would be echoed in the media and grow synonymous with Euro Disney's initial years.

In response, French philosopher Michel Serres noted, “It is not America that is invading us. It is we who adore it, who adopt its fashions and above all, its words.” Euro Disney S.C.A.'s then-chairman Robert Fitzpatrick responded, "We didn’t come in and say O.K., we’re going to put a beret and a baguette on Mickey Mouse. We are who we are."

Topics of controversy further included Disney's American managers requiring English to be spoken at all meetings and Disney's appearance code for members of staff, which listed regulations and limitations for the use of make up, facial hair, tattoos, jewelery and more. French labor unions mounted protests against the appearance code, which they saw as “an attack on individual liberty.” Others criticised Disney as being insensitive to French culture, individualism, and privacy, because restrictions on individual or collective liberties were illegal under French law, unless it could be demonstrated that the restrictions are requisite to the job and do not exceed what is necessary. Disney countered by saying that a ruling that barred them from imposing such an employment standard could threaten the image and long-term success of the park. “For us, the appearance code has a great effect from a product identification standpoint,” said Thor Degelmann, Euro Disney’s personnel director and a native Californian. “Without it we couldn’t be presenting the Disney product that people would be expecting.”

Opening day

On April 12 1992, the complex officially opened as “Euro Disney Resort”, its first theme park as “Euro Disneyland”. Visitors were warned of chaos on the roads and a government survey indicated that half a million people carried by 90,000 cars might attempt to enter the complex. French radio warned traffic to avoid the area. By midday, the parking lot was approximately half full, suggesting an attendance level below 25,000. Speculative explanations ranged from people heeding the advice to stay away to the one-day strike that cut the direct RER connection to Euro Disney from the centre of Paris.

Financial, attendance and employment problems

In May 1992, entertainment magazine The Hollywood Reporter reported that about 25% of Euro Disney's workforce — approximately 3,000 men and women — had resigned their jobs because of unacceptable working conditions. It also reported that the park's attendance was far behind expectations. Euro Disney S.C.A. responded in an interview with The Wall Street Journal, in which Robert Fitzpatrick claimed only 1,000 people had left their jobs.

In response to the financial situation, Fitzpatrick ordered that the Disney-MGM Studios project would be put on hiatus until a further decision could be made. Prices at the hotels were reduced.

Despite these efforts, in May 1992 daily park attendance was around 25,000 (some reports give a figure of 30,000) instead of the predicted 60,000. The Euro Disney Company stock price spiralled downwards and on July 23, 1992, Euro Disney announced an expected net loss in its first year of operation of approximately 300 million French francs. During Euro Disney's first winter, hotel occupancy was such that it was decided to close the Newport Bay Club hotel during the season. Initial hopes were that each visitor would spend around US$33 per day, but near the end of 1992, analysts reckoned spending to be around 12% lower.

Efforts to improve attendance included serving alcoholic beverages with meals inside the Euro Disneyland park, in response to a presumed European demand, which began June 12, 1993.

In January 1994, Sanford Litvack, an attorney from New York City and former Assistant Attorney General during the Jimmy Carter presidency, was assigned to be Disney's lead negotiator regarding Euro Disney's future. On February 28, Litvack made an offer (without the consent of Eisner or Frank Wells) to split the debts between Euro Disney's creditors and Disney. After the banks showed interest, Litvack informed Eisner and Wells.

On March 14, the day before the annual shareholders meeting, the banks capitulated to Disney's demands. The creditor banks bought US$500 million worth of Euro Disney shares, forgave 18 months of interest and deferred interest payments for three years. Disney invested US$750 million into Euro Disney and granted a five-year suspension of royalty payments. In June that same year, Saudi Arabian Prince Al-Waleed Bin Talal Bin Abdulaziz Al Saud cut a deal whereby the Walt Disney Company bought 51% of a new US$1.1 billion share issue, the rest being offered to existing shareholders at below-market rates, with the Prince buying any that were not taken up by existing shareholders (up to a 24.5% holding). In August 1994, all of the park's hotels were fully booked during the peak holiday season.

1995 and beyond

On May 31, 1995, a new attraction opened at the theme park. Space Mountain - De la Terre à la Lune had been planned since the inception of Euro Disneyland, but was reserved for a revival of public interest. With a redesign of the attraction (which had premiered at Walt Disney World's Magic Kingdom in 1975) including a 'cannon' launch system and an on-ride soundtrack, the US$100 million attraction was dedicated in a ceremony attended by celebrities such as Elton John, Claudia Schiffer and Buzz Aldrin.

On July 25, 1995, Euro Disney S.C.A. reported its first ever quarterly profit of US$35.3 million. On November 15, the results for the fiscal year ending September 30 were released; in one year the theme park's attendance had jumped from 8.8 million to 10.7 million — an increase of 21%. Hotel occupancy had also climbed from 60 to 68.5%. After debt payments, Disneyland Resort Paris ended the year with a net profit of US$22.8 million.

On March 16, 2002, the Walt Disney Studios Park opened its doors to the public. At 27 hectares, it is a continuation on an earlier, never realized concept; the Disney-MGM Studios Europe. That year, Euro Disney S.C.A. and the Walt Disney Company announced another annual profit for Disneyland Resort Paris. However, it has incurred a net loss in the three years following, and the park is approximately US$2 billion in debt as of 2007. In 2005, the Walt Disney Company agreed to write-off all debt to the Walt Disney Company made by Euro Disney S.C.A. On April 12, 2007, the resort celebrated its 15th anniversary. The Once Upon a Dream Parade premiered during the celebrations.

The April 2007 issue of trade magazine Park World reported the following attendance estimates for 2006 compiled by Economic Research Associates in partnership with TEA (formerly the Themed Entertainment Association):

  • Disneyland Park, 10.6 million visits (No. 5 worldwide);
  • Walt Disney Studios, 2.2 million visits.

On November 14, 2015, the resort's theme parks were closed out of respect and as part of France's national days of mourning following the terrorist attacks in Paris, marking the first unscheduled Disney park closure since the 2011 Tōhoku earthquake and tsunami in Japan shuttered Tokyo Disney Resort for over a month.

Name changes

Disneyland Resort Paris and its properties have been subject to a number of name changes, initially an effort to overcome the negative publicity that followed the inception of Euro Disney.

1992 1993 1994 1995 1996 1997 1998 1999 2000 2001 2002 2003 2004 2005 2006 2007 2008 2009 2010 2011 2012 2013 2014 2015
Entire complex Euro Disney Resort1 Euro Disneyland Paris2 Disneyland Paris3 Disneyland Resort Paris4 Disneyland Paris
First park Euro Disneyland1 Disneyland Park/Parc Disneyland
Entertainment district Festival Disney Disney Village

1until May 1994
2June 1994 until September
3October 1994 until February 2002
4March 2002 until April 2009

Disneyland Resort Paris today

Theme parks

Disneyland Park

Main article: Disneyland Park (Paris)

The Disneyland Park has been in operation 365 days per year since the complex opened. A modified version of the park model that began as Disneyland in California, the park covers 566,560 m² (140 acres) and consists of five areas known as 'lands' which each represent a theme or time period. Park maps list 48 attractions as of 2007.

Walt Disney Studios Park

Main article: Walt Disney Studios Park

The Walt Disney Studios Park, opened on March 16, 2002, is Disney's second theme park based on showbusiness and film following Walt Disney World's Disney's Hollywood Studios park.

Entertainment & golf courses

The Disney Village entertainment district contains a variety of restaurants, bars, shops and other venues and stays open after the parks close. Golf Disneyland features 9-hole and 18-hole courses.


The complex features seven Disneyland Resort Paris hotels. The Disneyland Hotel is located over the entrance of the Disneyland Park and is marketed as the most prestigious hotel on property. A body of water known as Lake Disney is surrounded by Disney's Hotel New York, Disney's Newport Bay Club and Disney's Sequoia Lodge. Disney's Hotel Cheyenne and Disney's Hotel Santa Fe are located near Lake Disney, Disney's Davy Crockett Ranch is located in a woodland area outside the resort perimeter. It is however useful to gauge opinions on the accommodation on offer, and this can be seen through this Paris hotel review system.

Disneyland Resort Paris includes six Associated Hotels which are not managed by Euro Disney S.C.A. but provide free shuttle buses to the parks: Marriott's Village d'lle-de-France, Radisson SAS Hotel, a Holiday Inn Hotel, Vienna International Dream Castle Hotel, MyTravel's Explorers Hotel and a Kyriad Hotel. As you move outside of Disneyland, the hotels become cheaper, with a variety to suit all tastes throughout the city, which can be located through this Paris hotel comparison site.


A railway station with connection to the suburban RER network and the TGV high-speed rail network is located between the theme parks and Disney Village. Thalys no longer operates from Marne la Vallee train station, but there are daily services from London on the Eurostar. On June 10, 2007, a new TGV line, LGV Est, began service between Paris and Strasbourg.

Free shuttle buses provide transport to all Disney hotels (except Disney's Davy Crockett Ranch) and Associated Hotels. The well-connected metro system is also a highly popular choice, with numerous stations spread throughout the capital, with attractions, parks, shops and cheaper Paris hotels in the vicinity.


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