By Patrick G.
It has been a long time coming but the Fandaze event finally took place in the Walt Disney Studios in Disneyland Paris. It is no secret that the run up has had some issues in regards to marketing but let’s put that aside as we look at the event itself.
I must admit that my expectations before the event were not excessively high and this was confirmed when the merchandise which was promised to be on sale especially for the evening began creeping on to shelves the day before the event to all park guests. I cannot really say that I am a massive fan of buying merchandise but I was aiming to get the mug at least and hoped for a t-shirt too. This meant that I ended up going to Disneyland the day before Fandaze to pick up what I wanted (minus the t-shirt which would elude me unfortunately).
The pick-up in the dome went smooth enough and before I knew it I was all ready to discover what is Disneyland Paris’ biggest event for the fans in its history.
Cameramen (literally men with cameras for heads) welcomed guests into front lot with a booming soundtrack of Disney classics with a dance vibe. I really enjoy how Disneyland Paris makes the effort to do things a bit differently as soon as guests enter the park for a hard-ticket event as it really does set the tone for the evening.
The Disneyland Paris ambassadors as well as Présidente of Euro Disney Catherine Powell with Mickey and Minnie welcomed guests to the event on stage in Production Courtyard. This was a nice touch but as it was the only place open to guests it did end up feeling quite crowded . Once there was a rope drop freeing up access to the Toon Studios side of the park it all flowed a bit better but it by no means felt as empty as people had been anticipating. Rope drop also meant a massive rush of people heading to Chez Marianne near the Ratatouille attraction to pick up limited edition pins. This meant that Catherine Powell nearly got caught up in a stampede of people. There had also been reports of Castmembers even being knocked over. This mob mentality is not only dangerous but also ridiculous and guests really should be ashamed of themselves. Reports from guests who got to Chez Marianne seem to confirm the madness continued in the boutique. I could not help but think that the whole system needs to rethought from the ground up when it comes to pins. A raffle style selection for a chance to buy seems fairer and although it may not be as fair as first come first served but guests have let themselves down too much far too often for this to continue.
Many of the changes that fans have seen in Disneyland Paris over the past few years have been overseen by Catherine Powell. The conference held in Animagique Theatre gave Infinity Passholders the chance to hear Powell speak about her time and role in Disneyland Paris. I thought that this was a really nice idea as I have been longing for the chance to get to hear Powell talk in person. Powell did not disappoint and even announced the return of fan favorite “Festival of Pirates and Princesses”.
Fandaze really put the spotlight on characters and each character had a nicely themed photo location. Improvements have been made in how the queuing system works so that guests queue only for the character that they wanted. For example a queue for Anna and Kristoff was one side whilst a queue for Elsa and Olaf was on the other side. This meant two things. First of all guests were sure to see the character that they wanted to and secondly they were guaranteed to see the character. Unfortunately this was not the case for guests attending “Heroes and Villains Alley” and some were turned away despite having already queued for an hour. I understand that it is impossible to gauge how popular certain meet and greets will be but it would be nicer to see more synergy in this department with the other Disney parks that organize these types of events more often than Disneyland Paris does.
Some of the most popular characters were meeting at the same time which meant that it was impossible to meet everyone (as some had been intending on doing). Although this was to be expected I was slightly disappointed at the very long lines for the more popular characters. The “2 personal photos 1 photopass photo” rule was by and large not adhered to, although there were reports of some meet and greets being efficient. Face characters spent lots of time interacting with guests and non face characters encouraged group photos. I was glad that some interaction was given but I can see how this slowed things down considerably.
The promotional material promised some new food for the evening and as expected a trusty themed cupcake was on sale in “Restaurant en coulisses” in Studio 1. For the price of €5.99 guests could choose between chocolate and strawberry flavored cupcakes. The box promised something special but what was inside was no bigger than a fairy cake. Disneyland Paris is certainly more expensive than other establishments but I have always found that there is an aspect of value for money. Quick service meals usually include a dessert, buffet restaurants have a large choice of quality dishes, table service restaurants use fresh ingredients – even a soft drink costs 60 cents more than if purchased in a standard fast food restaurant. This cupcake however was the first time in my 4 years of visiting Disneyland Paris that I felt like I had been clearly cheated and the issue needs to be addressed.
The parades and the shows were another highly anticipated part of the evening. The “Dance Your Ducktales” parade saw the 25th anniversary tricycles given a quack-over which was quite impressive. The Ducktales crew set out a group of challenges to guests to keep up with the beat. The music and dance was energetic and I really enjoyed it. This builds on the idea of Pirates and Princesses with a choreography that guests can join in on – the only downside here being it was a one night only event so many people either did not know the choreography or were more interested in taking photos or videos. A special mention to Scott Erickson’s parade music created especially for the Fandaze event. Erickson absolutely knocked it out of the park and shows that he truly is hitmaker supreme. Disneyland Paris is lucky to have such a talented artist creating catchy, fun and enjoyable music for guests to enjoy. The “Dance Your Ducktales” parade just goes to show how badly the Walt Disney Studios park is missing a parade. I am not a massive fan of the extended duck family but I would definitely go out of my way to see this parade or something similar if it were a regular fixture of the Walt Disney Studios park.
Another highlight of the evening was “Max Live! Getting Goofy With It” This is without a doubt the most impressive stage show that has ever been seen in Disneyland Paris. Blazing pyrotechnics, water sprays which created rainbows, dazzling fireworks all accompanied by Max, Goofy, Nick, Judy, Stitch, Angel, Yzma, Kuzco, José and Panchito. It is difficult to do it justice but was absolutely sensational. This is the type of show that would be great to see at the end of a park day and it would not necessarily need to be dark to be effective. Although this is not on the cards the show allowed us to see what could be done.
Fandaze also meant the arrival of Ortenisa in a Disney Park for the first time ever. Although present in her own street show “Oh My Ortensia” as well as the karaoke challenge I found it difficult to come across her. There was simply so much going on that there was not enough time to see everyone and do everything.
The “Fandaze Farewell Street Party Parade” (try saying that 10 times fast) saw every character that had been in the park take to the parade route to say goodbye to everyone. While not as grandiose as “The Grand Celebration” of April 12th 2017 it was certainly a highlight to see so many characters taking to the parade route. It offered guests the chance to say goodbye to their favorite characters as well as get a photo and maybe a sneaky cuddle with some characters that might have been missed.
In general the Fandaze event was an enormous success and offered a unique atmosphere not just to Walt Disney Studios Park but to Disneyland Paris in general. My initial worries faded as soon as I entered the park and I would strongly recommend that anyone considering a visit for the next edition, rumoured to be in 2019, do so without hesitation. I feel lucky to have been able to go and for once it felt like all eyes were on Disneyland Paris instead of DLP fans longingly looking at other parks offering unique experiences to their guests. The price of the Fandaze event as a ticket only purchase was very reasonable for what was offered. There were issues in terms of crowd management, merchandise and food (or lack thereof) but I am hopeful that with Catherine Powell at the head of Western Division there will be more synergy and communication between the parks to overcome these problems in the future. Disneyland Paris has a clear desire to increase the number of hard-ticket events going forward so I would imagine that the feedback from guests about the Fandaze event should go some way in resolving these issues. I am hopeful that this will be the case and with the future of looking so bright it really is fun to be a fan at Disneyland Paris!