Disneyland Paris is filled with subtle hints and references to Walt Disney—a simple walk through both parks enables guests to discover his life story.
Our tour begins at the entrance gate to Fantasyland featuring the Disney family coat of arms on the left side of Sleeping Beauty Castle – right before La Chaumière des Nains. It indicates that the Disney name originated in medieval times as a derivative of Isigny-sur-Mer, the small town where Hugues Suhard used to live. Suhard – most notably victorious at the Battle of Hastings—is Walt’s most remote known family ancestor.
On Main Street U.S.A, Flora’s Unique Boutique (New Century Notions) pays homage to Walt’s mother, Flora Call Disney.
At the entrance, 1888 is written on a mosaic, a reference to the year of her wedding to Elias Disney, whose name can be found on the metal plates on the ground.
The Early Years
The year written on these plates hints at Walt’s birthyear –1901—and can also be found on the windows of the stores Disney Clothiers and Lily’s Boutique. In Studio 1, Hollywood Jewel Box is located at number 1205, a clear reference to Walt’s birthday. Main Street U.S.A explores Walt Disney’s early years – this particular area was inspired by his own childhood memories in the small town of Marceline, Missouri, where his family lived between 1906 and 1911. During this time, Walt discovered his passion for trains (inspiring Disneyland Railroad) and fairytales, which his mother used to read him every night. As such, Main Street U.S.A is a gateway to the world of fantasy, with a Central Plaza giving access to the four different lands making up Disneyland Park.
The Power of Animation
In 1920, Walt, then a cartoonist in Kansas City, learns about the history of animation –notably through Belgian physicist Joseph Plateau’s phenakistiscope. This device can be admired in the attraction Animation Celebration.
His years as a pioneer of animation are illustrated on Main Street U.S.A. If you pay close attention to the window above Boardwalk Candy Palace, you can read: “Two Brothers Inc. – Dreamers & Doers. If we can Dream it, we can Do it!”
This dream became a reality when Walt and Roy Disney signed their very first contract on October 16th, 1923, for the Alice Comedies, a series of animated cartoons which gave rise to The Walt Disney Company. If this series allowed Walt to master the art of animation, the Partners statue which sits at the exit of Studio 1 seems to suggest otherwise. Indeed, it mentions that it was all started by a mouse, with the release of the first synchronized sound cartoon – Steamboat Willie (1928). Many other cartoons would follow and some of them are played at Meet Mickey Mouse. At Walt Disney Studios Store, the enormous picture of the Disney brothers celebrating their first Academy Award for Flowers and Trees (1932) reminds us that this era was just the start of a long and successful series of artistic and technological innovations like the multiplane camera – on display at Animation Celebration. In the same way, the massive Sorcerer Mickey hat harboring The Disney Animation Gallery as well as the fountain on Place des Frères Lumière conjure up Fantasia (1940), which made a lasting impact on the film industry by successfully combining animated segments with pieces of classical music, elevating animation to an art form in its own right.
This time period was also marked by more personal events. As such, Lilly’s Boutique (Items for a Home Sweet Home) is a touching tribute to the one who shared Walt’s life for more than 41 years—Lillian Bounds Disney—whom he married on July 13th, 1925. On Hollywood Boulevard, Los Feliz Hotel recalls the historic district of Los Angeles where the couple built their home in 1932.
“The Happiest Place on Earth”
Another major milestone in Walt’s life was the creation of Disneyland Resort in California. On Main Street, U.S.A., Walt’s – An American Restaurant is located at 1401 Flower Street – the address of the headquarters of Walt Disney Imagineering – Disney’s division responsible for the creation of Disney theme parks since 1952— located in Glendale, next to Los Angeles.
Disneyland Resort first opened on July 17th, 1955. To show homage to this opening date, the year “1855,” in keeping with the Victorian time period depicted in Emporium, can be seen on one of the store’s two frescoes. Its opening day appears on the sign at the entrance of La Cabane des Robinson, stating that the family shipwrecked on the island….on July 17th!
But that’s not all! Back then, Walt imagined a newspaper – Disneyland News—which was handed out to the very first guests of Disneyland Resort. At Walt Disney Studios Park, a newspaper vending machine on Hollywood Boulevard features the first edition of this historic release! On Town Square, the inaugural speech of Disneyland Paris – directly inspired by the words of Walt Disney upon Disneyland Resort’s inaugural day—was immortalized on a plaque located at the main entrance.
One last subtle reference – can you make out the outline of Main Street Transportation Co.? It is no coincidence. Quite the contrary – it is the same as that of Sleeping Beauty Castle in California!