• 4 July 2020

Eurodisney: Opening party

On a certain Saturday 11th April 1992, at 8:50 pm, on TF1, I was then almost 5 years old in front of the television, my eyes full of stars: “Good evening to all of you! Good evening, ladies and gentlemen. Welcome to Marne-La-Vallée. You’re not dreaming… “It is with these words that our inimitable Jean-Pierre Foucault, Disney ambassador at the time, together with David Hallyday, present in particular for the English-speaking part, marked the beginning of the great evening of introduction of the first (and only) European Park, in front of our marvellous Castle. This international show, broadcast live in 5 languages via world coverage by satellite television, was designed to hit hard with a magical evening to promote the park’s inauguration to viewers all over Europe! One presenter for: England, Spain, Germany, Italy, Switzerland, Portugal, Denmark, Norway, Belgium…A rather impressive technical installation… About 100 million potential viewers. And Melanie Griffiths and Don Johnson for the USA. 45,000 people from the press and celebrities are present at this ceremony.

An efficient duo!

For a few days now, the press had already had the opportunity to visit the park before its opening, as Jean-Pierre reminds us, with a perfect brushing made by Franck Provost, and he tells us that he had the luxury of having already tested all the attractions. At that moment our fetish presenter emphasises that Europeans who would not have had the chance to visit a foreign park, could not imagine the magic that awaited them with the park in Paris. Night time overviews punctuate the evening aboard the Zeppelin camera (ancestor of the drone, slightly larger!). On the Zeppelin, we notice the Renault brand, a former sponsor of the Park (which used to sponsor the Visionarium… which has since disappeared…).

The Zeppelin which flies over the park for the overviews!

At that time, David Hallyday, who has visited other parks, including Disney World; described “Our” park as one of the most modern and adapted to Europe. In 1992, the presenters boasted that the park was “the Best!!! “, ” the most modern ” with ” the longest rides “.

On screen, before the live feed, various celebrities who were already present the day before the opening to promote the merits of the arrival of our Park, appear one after the other, among others: Claude Lelouch “a return to childhood”, Michael J. Fox “my son loves pirates, that makes it even more fun”, Gina Lollobrigida “Life is good, you have to smile from time to time”! Eddie Barclay is in awe of a brand new park, “better than in California”.

Robert Fitzpatrick, then big boss of Euro Disney, explains the difficulties of a building project that took 5 years: “Was it really worth it?”, he asks himself, “eventually yes, it’s the beginning of something great! »

The duo Jean-Pierre and David talk with the foreign press and each country seems ready for the live broadcasting.

We fill time with some anecdotes about the preparation of the technical teams…. and Paf… technical problem!!!

In the meantime Jean-Pierre tells us that Disney, in terms of surface area, is about a fifth of the city of Paris and that nearly 300,000 trees have been planted within the resort.

Images are back!

We see the technical means implemented ahead of this great evening with the trucks of each foreign television channel. Jean-Pierre shows how the live feed will be organised. The technical means are huge for the time. We’re going live in 30 seconds!

“3, 2, 1″….and the broadcast is live. A small medley of sequences from classic Disney films to mark the opening, with the instrumental version of “When You Wish Upon A Star” and then “Part Of Your World” in the background.

A new retrospective on the arrival earlier today of the stars at the Disneyland Hotel who left their footprints and paraded down Main Street… Jean-Claude Van Damne, the whole Disney family, Eddie Murphy, Bob (Robert Fitzpatrick) and so many others …

Attention… Now it’s time for the Castle’s illumination!

Sabine Marcon, Disney’s first ambassador around the world, opens the show: “On behalf of the entire Eurodisney team, who come from all over Europe, welcome to our guests, and to you who watch us around the world.”

Sabine Marcon and Michael Eisner

Then comes Mr. Michael Eisner, if you please, President of the Walt Disney Company, who greets his colleagues…. A certain gentleman said: “What I wish most in the world is that Disneyland be a place where adults and children can enjoy the wonders of life together”. The choir then sings “Wish upon a star” in different languages, shivers guaranteed, and maybe even a little tear for the most sensitive ones!

Small detour to the Discoveryland and more precisely in front of Videopolis. International artist Cher performs her success ”The Shoop Shoop Song”.

Singer Cher dances with Mickey

Jean-Pierre is walking on Main Street and introduces a short report on Roy Disney which explains that the roots of the Disney family are anchored in Europe, and came precisely from the village of Isigny Sur Mer, more than 900 years ago, (D’Isigny= Disney).

The young Walt drew caricatures during his military service in the war as an ambulance driver… He soon drew our Mickey, who in 1935 would become an international symbol of goodwill. Walt had been told that the public would never pay to see cartoons. But Walt eventually went for the longest cartoon ever, Snow White and the Seven Dwarves, released in 1937.

Then came the Latino rhythms with the Gipsy Kings performing their hits on the stage of the Théâtre du Château! The atmosphere is at its best!

Ambiance with the Gipsy Kings

We are told that in 94 minutes the red ribbon will be cut and EURODISNEY will be officially open!

We are now off to Frontierland. Back then, we are told that there is no alcohol in the park (this has changed since!).

Cavalcade at the entrance of Frontierland for the opening and show at the Lucky Nugget Saloon

We are now at the “Haunted House” as Jean-Pierre Foucault said at the time… ” Don’t be afraid!  Or rather, be afraid!”

Then the Steam Boat is waiting for us and we’ll sail up the Mississippi. Louisiana isn’t far now!

Then comes the mine train, our Big Thunder Mountain (BTM)… a ride described at the time as sensational, and I personally think it is even more so since its renovation.

It’s now time for a show on ice, in front of the New York hotel, (we’ll see if the ice rink will still be there after the rehabilitation of the hotel into Marvel). Superb performance, despite minor technical problems with the image, of the brother-sister Olympic silver medallist duo at the time, the Duchesnays!

In full action!

Gloria Estefan (wearing a real princess dress for the occasion) and the band Miami Sound Machine play some wild tunes on the Castle’s theatre!

Gloria Estefan

A little look back at the construction site in the park. Jean-Pierre Foucault then explains that Eurodisney it’s 2,000 hectares, the largest European construction site after the Channel Tunnel, a real city in itself. Work began in 1988 with more than 10,000 people mobilised. It is expected to attract 11 million visitors in 1992. Let’s not forget that Eurodisney is also a hotel complex of 6 theme hotels and a campsite which are opening at the same time!

Earlier in the day, look back to the inauguration of the Disneyland Hotel done in great fanfare

Francois Feldman now interprets “Joy” at Vidéopolis.

François Feldman

Europe has inspired many characters to Walt Disney: Germany Snow White, Italy Pinocchio, England Peter Pan as well as Alice, and France Cinderella and Sleeping Beauty… Excellent transition to visit Fantasyland! The Prince kisses his princess and Fantasyland comes to life. Special mention for the sword of Merlin the Enchanter which could be removed from its anvil at the time… but I don’t hide that I always try my luck at 32 years old, you never know after all!!!

A kiss from Prince Charming and the whole of Fantasyland awakes

Now it’s time for the bands Temptations and The Four Tops live from the theatre of the Castle! A little rhythm and blues and a spectacular show! The BIG SHOW the American way!

Four Tops and Temptations sing their greatest hits

Jean-Pierre now welcomes us to the Buffalo Bill Wild West Show where the buffaloes made the plane trip to be part of this great western show! (a show that I found much more impressive in 1992 than now) and at that time, the Disney Village was called the Disney Festival!

46 minutes left until the official opening.

Make way for the great Spanish tenor, José Carreras, at the foot of the Castle. Once again, a great moment of emotion!

Tenor José Carreras

David Hallyday now takes us into the world of Adventureland. Pirates and adventurers of all kinds are waiting for you! Let’s board and discover this world of lush vegetation. We then sing in unison “Yo ho yo ho, a pirate’s life for me”.

The last Disney classic released at the time was Beauty and the Beast, so what could be more obvious than to invite the talented Angela Lansbury to sing the song “Beauty and the Beast”; another real moment of grace.

Little look back onto the work of Jules Verne, who moreover invites us to the opening of Discoveryland, the world of discoveries (which has since lost (slightly) this aspect to the benefit of some franchises …). In 1992, in fact, Discoveryland is truly marked by discoveries and this retro-futuristic spirit of the great visionaries! Small detour by Star Tours and by Captain EO; featuring the world star Michael Jackson in 3D.

A comedian playing Jules Verne together with C-3P0 in Star Tours

We’ll continue with the “overly ambitious” moment of the evening when we watch it in 2020. Indeed, on the screen a small report on the models and plans for the Eurodisney park for the next 25 years. An attraction “The Little Mermaid” was well planned for 1994 at Fantasyland. Splash Mountain was well confirmed for Frontierland, and Adventureland was to see a kind of Jungle Cruise… MGM Europe Studios were planned much earlier. We were also promised a multitude of other projects to come.

David Hallyday then sings the song “Hold on blue eyes” in front of the Vidéopolis, punctuated by technical problems on screen.

David Hallyday in front of Café Hyperion

Jean-Pierre comes back again on the building work of the Park and all the trades that participated in the creation of Eurodisney in harmony, diverse nationalities together!

Tina Turner then made her entrance on stage, in front of a delirious crowd, near Vidéopolis, performing “The Best”.

Tina Turner and the delirious crowd

Anne then came up with her song “1, 2, 3, Soleil”.
In 1992, Anne became Disney’s ambassador in France and hosted the Disney Parade show.

Back to our childhood with Anne

The electric parade, with its half a million light bulbs, was to begin with a tune that brings back so many memories! It’s missing! But on the screen, we will only see it from a distance unfortunately because…

…it’s finally time for the inauguration. Michael Eisner, says “The time has come for everyone to discover Eurodisney”. Roy Disney, Walt’s nephew, welcomes us ” People of the world, you are at home. Hoping it will be a place of joy and inspiration. »

Michael Eisner cuts the ribbon, marking the opening of the Park to the world! Mickey invites us to come and visit his world.

At the end of a magical evening for the opening of the Park, which ends with a fabulous fireworks display, what can we take away from it? A duo of French animators who form a perfect pair on screen combining musical shows and reports on the park. We can be proud of the fact that 28 years later, our park is very well maintained and as dashing as when it opened. However, we regret several elements present at the opening; namely the replacement of the cancan show at the Lucky Nuggets Saloon, the disappearance of the Visionarium which contributed to the loss of its retro-futuristic charm at Discoveryland, and these are just a few examples… Indeed, since 1992, I find that the imaginative wonders of the Imagineers have been erased over the years, to the benefit of certain franchises… We can also deplore the promised attractions that never happened. Finally, as we immerse ourselves in this evening, we can only hope that Disneyland Paris will be able to offer us such a wonderful show for its thirtieth anniversary. Let’s pray to the stars!

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Leslie and Disney... since the opening of the Park in 1992, a real love at first sight with the park, and the Disney universe... Big fan of VHSs, I can see myself in front of the credits with my eyes full of stars. A magic that has crossed the different periods of my life. Today, Disney is a real bubble of magic for me, and more than ever, we need to dream and some fairy dust. Since I joined the team in early 2020, I'll have at heart to share this great love story, surely the most beautiful of my life!

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