From its debut in 2012, Disney Dreams! has been herald as a triumph of Disneyland Paris entertainment. The flagship representation of the resort’s 20th anniversary, the brand new show to close the park captured the hearts of guests, fans and critics alike. It’s rare to see such a show – especially in DLP – get such renowned appraisal and fan following, but Dreams! isn’t like any show we had ever seen before. It was the usher for a new era of Disney entertainment; the nighttime spectacular changed forever.
A truly brand new technology to the Disney world, this was the first time projection mapping was used to this scale with such sophistication. While smaller projects like Phantom Manor and the opening of Tower of Terror had toyed with the concept of projecting images onto a physical building – making architecture its canvas – Disney Dreams! strived to bring it to a full show. This sort of technology, and the ingenious ways in which it was used, would have been the stuff of sheer dreams by the Imagineers of two decades ago. Who would have thought way back in ’92 that someday we could see a character swing from turret to turret, or have the genie transform the castle into an array of fireworks right before our eyes? This new technological magic was only enhanced with thanks to the excellent syncing with pyrotechnics, fireworks and water effects, giving Dreams! that incredible “wow” factor to guests no matter how many times of watching.
All of this amazing skill and techniques however would be rendered useless if it lacked substance. A show is only as good as its content. Fortunately Dreams! didn’t fall short in that category – it excelled. From the energetic, hyper-induced party of “Friend Like Me” to the ultimate romantic tear-jerking “See The Light”, every emotion and audience member was catered for. Whether you love the classics, were a kid of the Disney Renaissance or have just been exposed by the new content, there’s something you’d love. That poetic blend of French and English that is so inexcusably Disneyland Paris shone through as bright as ever here providing us with, rather aptly, beautiful renditions of “Be Our Guest” and “Out There” in their narrative’s language tongue.
In the years that followed, Disney Dreams! saw itself come under the ever blowing wind of change with two brand new scenes just a year later. Dubbed “Dreams! 2.0” by fans, out went the iconic “Step In Time” and “Wanna Be Like You”, and in was Merida and her friends of Brave with – uncontroversially – The Lion King crew taking up the remaining minutes. While the debate rages on whether Touch the Sky and the Pixar movie’s presence was worthy at the expense of Poppins, no one can dispute the beauty and popularity of “I Just Can’t Wait To Be King”. Indeed, every sitting (or I guess, standing?) of Dreams! I have witnessed the crowd erupt into cheers and applauding when that first note of Circle of Life rings through Central Plaza.
This very same year saw perhaps the biggest alteration to Dreams! in its short life; a full seasonal change. The holiday season of 2013 saw the birth of Disney Dreams! of Christmas. Technically a new show under the Dreams! name, it used the tried and tested technology and techniques of before but bringing brand new scenes all tied to the season’s celebrations. Though feedback was mixed to say the least, there’s no denying the new show was stolen by the introduction of the worldwide phenomenon “Let It Go”. A scene so grand and beloved by guests it eventually made its way into regular Disney Dreams!; albeit only for the summer season.
As the years passed and fans’ adoration for this nighttime spectacle grew, so too did the creativity of Walt Disney Imagineering who were now ready to take this concept to the next level. In line with Disneyland’s 60th anniversary – the granddaddy of Disney parks – the true next step from Disney Dreams! was born with Disneyland Forever. Following the same core hymn-sheet as its Parisian cousin, Forever took it up a notch by including not only Sleeping Beauty’s castle but the buildings of Main Street. For the first time, guests could truly, genuinely have an all new and unique experience to a night time show depending on where they stood to watch. The next generation of the Disney show had progressed again just 3 years later.
For 5 years Disney Dreams! has been the centerpiece of entertainment at Disneyland Paris. The envy of the theme park world from its birth, I have never once heard of someone who hasn’t gone away from the show spellbound and itching to see it all again. It truly was the perfect way to end a Disney day. After all the fun, adventure and magic from Disneyland Park, Disney Dreams! invoked all those emotions again, bringing you on a goosebumping journey through Disney classics and iconic arrangements.
But now, we must wake up. The dreams we have dreamed are coming to an end, as bright Illuminations come to take them away. Now they are just memories for us to share. There has been a lot of talk about if Disney Illuminations – the next nighttime spectacular and replacement of Disney Dreams! – is the right call for DLP. Is changing our a nighttime show just half a decade on necessary? Especially one that is rumoured to be very similar to Shanghai’s current Dreams!-esque show. Time will tell whether that will be the case, and for me April will be my judgement day as I hope to remain spoiler free until my next trip. Illuminations has very big shoes to fill, but I will remain hopeful and excited for my first outing with this brand new experience and hope it will capture that same magic we all felt with its predecessor.
One thing that is certain however, no night time show has embarked such a universal love onto the Disneyland Paris community like Disney Dreams!. The legacy of this show I am sure will live on for a very, very long time. Like de la terre a la lune, Le Visionarium and The Wonderful World of Disney Parade, Dreams! will go down as a titan of DLP history.