Walt Disney Studios Park’s opening was a difficult one. After a development stage of delays and budget cuts, an eventual skeleton park was agreed upon that leaned heavily on future expansion and the minimalist “theme” of a working studio. The roster front wasn’t much better reading, consisting of just 9 attractions. The park may have doubled this lackluster list in its 15 years of life but back in 2002, fans had the struggle of choosing between Armageddon and Flying Carpets. Needless to say, most chose to go back to Disneyland Park.
There was an exception to the shortcomings of WDS however. A diamond in the rough, CinéMagique. Standing parallel to Animagique, Disney Studio 2 as it was formally (i.e. never) was the headline attraction of Production Courtyard. Though overlooked in recent years, the literal adventure through cinema was an instant favourite with fans and guests alike. Chances are, you too groaned at the rings of a mobile phone the first time you heard them, before that sharp reminder why Disney are the entertainment kings. The expression “journey into movie magic” was turned into a literal journey into movies and magic.
From the classy reds and golds of the cinema room’s decor to the excellent soundtrack and showcase of movie greats, CinéMagique was proof – in the park’s most difficult of times – that greatness is possible. This was a true celebration of the history of film, done in a creative and unique way that only Disney can bring you. That level of immersion, entertainment and quality you expect from Disneyland Park was all here from the very start. No matter how many critics WDS got (and there were many), this was our ammunition to defend the second gate.
In a way, CinéMagique is a prime example of what Walt Disney Studios Park could have been. Had the park transfixed its theme of “working Studio” to “celebration of film” quicker, Ciné would have be the star diva in the blockbuster that could have been WDS’ future. An entire gate’s dedication rolled into a 30 minute show, to this day I am shocked we never saw international parks look at it for inspiration, especially in Hollywood Studios and California Adventure. The mid 2000s was after all a time both parks were in need for a fresh E-Ticket.
Of course, the existence of time is a factor that catches up on everyone; even attractions. Now halfway through its teenage years, Ciné began to show its age with a lack of higher definition and the blocky mobile phone. Problems where solutions could have, maybe should have been found, which would have seen the Studios gain more than just a refurbishment invoice. If for example, CinéMagique received a “reboot” every 10 years, keeping its core story but updating the directing, props, and cast of all original scenes filmed, the show would have kept the timeless concept while not feeling dated by the references of reality. Why, if Space Mountain can have a new lick of paint and marketed as a new attraction every decade, I see no reason why CinéMagique couldn’t have a grand “premiere” to celebrate an updated return. Perhaps this could all have taken place in the now abandoned Theater District concept; a placemaking idea that would only have rewarded the continuous refreshing of a show.
Unfortunately, we have reached our “au revoir”, and there’s no magician to help us this time around. George has danced his way to Emerald City for the last time, the projector has been switched off and the doors closed. CinéMagique is no more. Though the rumour of Marvel coming in to that footprint of WDS sounds promising (superhero presence in the park is long overdue), the cost of what we’re losing is a painful one. Ciné was the first true great attraction Walt Disney Studios Park ever saw. Shrouded with poor attractions and poor theming, day 1 of Paris’ second gate still had something it could be proud of. A show that was unlike any other in the world, and one everyone who experienced couldn’t wait to tell the world about.
Like the classics it so beautifully celebrated, CinéMagique will remain in our hearts and our minds for years to come. I now look across Place des Stars and to its hotelier neighbour; hoping its days are not too numbered by the allure of Marvel…