Tuesday, 24 April 2012

Disney Dreams! Becomes A Reality

The start of April saw the debut of Disney Dreams! at Disneyland Resort Paris; the latest in a long line of night time spectaculars in the Disney parks. While there is nothing conceptually new with this production, it is the first time that many techniques used in other night time shows have been brought together to make a totally new experience; and the results are outstanding.

But to appreciate what is new, we must first look at what came before.

Fantasy in the Sky, the first fireworks show started exploding over Sleeping Beauty’s castle at Disneyland in 1958. Three years after the park’s opening, Walt decided they needed something special in the evenings to keep people in the parks longer and a nightly fireworks show was the chosen solution. Since this time, an iteration of the fireworks show has been a staple of almost all Disney parks around the world on a nightly basis.

Over the years the firework shows have become more and more spectacular and started including lighting, show elements, story and synchronicity to the accompanying music. While they are all enjoyable in their own ways, for me, the best two current firework spectaculars I’ve seen in person are IllumiNations: Reflections of Earth at Epcot and Magical at Disneyland.

In 1971 and 1972, Disney debuted their second form of night time entertainment in the Electrical Water Pageant and Main Street Electrical Parade respectively. Disney had long done Parades, but these were the first productions created for an evening performance using thousands of small lights to illuminate floats, performers and create simple animations. Both of these original productions are still being presented (although amendments have been made over the years); and newer generations using similar technology have included SpectroMagic and Fantillusion.

The concept of night time spectacular was once again changed in 1992 as Disneyland debuted Fantasmic; a mixture of water, performers, craft, animation, props and fireworks. Being a static show, unlike parades, this was able to involve a higher level of story than any previous night time show but probably the biggest technical breakthrough of the show was the invention of giant screens of sprayed water which allowed animation to be projected onto them and could be turned on and off instantaneously. There are now three version of Fantasmic showing, the original at Disneyland, a slightly less enjoyable version at Disney’s Hollywood Studio and a total reimagining of the show which doesn’t use the water screens at Tokyo Disney Sea.

In mid 2010 Disney premiered World of Color; a new night time spectacular which took the same water screen technology as used in Fantasmic and married it with 1,000 fountains, LED lighting, lasers and fire. Unlike Fantasmic which requires a full cast; this was a return to beautiful visuals set to a classic soundtrack and the results proved hugely successful. While Fantasmic always used fountain technology, World of Color took Disney’s knowledge of how to use it to another level in order to create a show to rival that of the Las Vegas Bellagio Hotel.

In early 2011 another night time show premiered in both Walt Disney World and Disneyland. The Magic, Memories and You is simply put a projection show; however, calling it that does absolutely no justice to what it actually is. Using Cinderella’s castle in WDW and the Small World fa├žade in Disneyland; the three dimensionally wrapped projected images use the shapes and contours of their canvas to create stunning visuals which defy the mind. While many do not like the photo memory theme of the show, there are few who deny the power of the amazing technology and what it can do.

And so now in April 2012 we have Disney Dreams!; a combination of all the special effect techniques that Disney have learnt in Fireworks, Fountains, Water Screens and 3D Projections over the years all brought together in one night time spectacular. What also makes this show special and unique is that Disney Dreams! is the first night time spectacular (apart from a basic fireworks show) that was specifically designed for Disneyland Paris and it’s audience. In the past Disneyland Paris has inherited shortened/watered down versions of the Main Street Electrical Parade from the Magic Kingdom and Fantillusion from Tokyo Disney; and thus while still very good, there was always something missing. Disney Dreams! being specifically designed for Disneyland Paris showcases a lot more European, particularly French and English derived, characters and stories thus making it feel perfectly at home in its setting and with it’s audience.

So as for the show itself, lasting 20 minutes, its half in French and half in English, with narration supplied at the start and finish by Peter Pan and Wendy. A mishap with Peter Pan’s shadow leads to the magic being released from the second star to the right, spilling out over the castle and surrounding area. Shadow is then taken on a magical journey through some classic Disney favourites where he interacts with various characters before it all starts to go a bit wrong with the villains (as these things tend to do) and so Peter Pan and Tinkerbell needs to put the magic back into the star in order to set things straight.

photo from D23 article

As I said before, the sequences in the show, for the most part, are very European affiliated. They are:
Character Set Location of Story Author  
Peter Pan Intro & Music England Scotland
Beauty & The Beast France France
Ratatouille France Czech Republic/American
Aladdin Middle East Middle East
Hunchback of Notre Dame France France
Mary Poppins England Australia
Jungle Book Africa England
Princess & The Frog New Orleans (French Quarter) American
Little Mermaid
Peter Pan England Scotland

Anyone for a quick rendition of Sesame Street's One Of These Things (is Not Like The Others)??

Honestly I do not know how Aladdin ties in with the rest of the show from a European affiliation stand point, I can only think it is either to give Adventureland some show time or is for Disneyland Paris' majority shareholder; but seeing as it is one of my favourite sequences in the show, I won't complain too much.

photo from D23 article

What I love about the 3D projection techniques that were created for The Magic, Memories and You in Disneyland and Disney World and now heavily used here in Dreams! is the ways in which they can be used to different effect. In it's most basic form, is can be used to project images onto the castle perfectly wrapping around the shapes so there aren't any gaps in the picture; this is shown in the Be Our Guest sequence and also the Quasimodo sequence where he wraps around the castle turrets. In it's next form it uses the shapes of the castle in order to make the castle appear to be something else, such as Rupunzel’s tower, stone slabs held by monkeys or huge firework rockets. But in my opinion, the technologies greatest use is when it defies the eyes by projecting the castle onto the castle. What do I mean? Well, there are several times in the show where it looks like the castle has been lit up, but it hasn't; what you are actually seeing is a perfect 3D image of the castle in it's normal form being projected onto the 3D castle shape. And because it is just an image, it can then be manipulated with colour or animated with spinning parts or lifted like a curtain which is eye popping when your brain thinks it has been looking at the castle lit up to begin with; these techniques are shown heavily in the Friend Like Me sequence and throughout the show. Having seen The Magic, Memories and You on both coasts I already loved the technology, but I am so glad to see it being used to such dramatic effect in Dreams!

photo from D23 article

I think it fair to say that for the most part of the show, the 3D projections are the main focus of the show (with the water screens for extended viewing) and the fountains and firework elements, while fantastic throughout, are there to enhance the beauty of the show and provide pops and scene climaxes where needed. However the finale to the show couldn't be more the opposite. While many characters make an appearance on the castle through projection, the fountains and fireworks dance to the music in a way that evokes emotion as only Disney can do. We've seen an amazing fountain show in World of Color, and there have been many amazing fireworks shows in the past; the two combined around the setting of the projected upon castle gives a top to bottom field of vision party for the senses (well, sight and sound anyway) that for now only this show provides to this level.

photo from D23 article

Of course, I said "for now", because the 3D projection technology is already in place at WDW for The Magic, Memories and You and fireworks launching pads have long been established at the Magic Kingdom. I can only think it is a matter of time until fountains are installed and a similar show is presented in Florida because, lets face it, why wouldn't they? Disney Dreams! blows the socks off Wishes which has been on the chopping block for some time now, and there is no ideal spot to place the World of Color show at WDW; this just makes too much sense not to do it. But I do not think that is the end of the world for Disneyland Paris because this show is specific to Europe in its focus so I would hope that even if the same mix of technologies does get used elsewhere, the show would be completely different thus keeping Dreams! unique to Paris.

What is also promising is that as World of Color and The Magic, Memories and You have already proved that sequences in these types of show can be dropped and added relatively easily so while I do not see this show getting old any time soon, it can be changed up a little here and there to add new elements or include a Halloween or Xmas element at seasonal times of the year. In fact, much of the early advertising material that has been released for the show features Simba (young and old) which would suggest that there was at one time a Lion King scene in the show; we may see that put back in sometime.

What I do think this show has done is made Disney fans around the world look up and take notice of Disneyland Paris; even maybe as far as spurring a few to visit. Very rarely do you hear much buzz from the non European fans about Disneyland Paris, the last time I remember hearing any jealousy over a Paris only attraction being the Crush Coaster, but this show has made fans all around the world take notice. So what we have here is a game changer, one that has really upped the value of a day at Disneyland Paris. Night time spectaculars at Disney Parks are things people remember and talk about; they are a distinct memory. You always hear about Fantasmic, IllumiNations, Main Street Electrical Parade or more recently World of Color; I really think that this year, Disney Dreams! will be added to that list of iconic Disney shows.

There are already some great videos online of the show, I highly recommend these:

DLRP Magic - Opening Night
DLRP Magic - World Premiere
Inside the Magic - Debut Evening
YouTube - World Premiere

You can also find a whole bunch more photos here:

Photo Magiques

I thoroughly look forward to seeing it in person in June. So what do you think of this new show??

Speak Soon :)


  1. I so want to squeeze a trip in this year but looking unlikely so will have to live through the photos and reviews of folks like you and Tara :-( as well as popping on to your tube every now and again :-)

  2. We are literally squeezing in trips, going on the friday night and getting back late sunday night


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