It’s hard to believe that it’s been 20 years since the gates to Disneyland Paris Resort were thrown open and guests were drawn in by the spires of Sleeping Beauty’s Castle… known to Parisians as Le Château de la Belle au Bois Dormant. During those two decades, new attractions and shows were added, the resort expanded with the addition of the Walt Disney Studios Park in 2002, and well over 14 million guests have been welcomed by Mickey and friends.
Sure, you might’ve read about the resort’s opening back in ’92, but do know the real stories and true facts behind the planning, designing, and building of Disneyland Paris Resort? For instance, did you know that the same man who worked on the restoration of Notre Dame supervised the stained glass windows in the castle? Or that the Plaza Gardens Restaurant has its very own backstory?
So take a ride with us through 10 of the best and most magnifique facts about Disneyland Paris Resort! It’s the next best thing to going there…
The Stained-Glass Windows of Sleeping Beauty’s Castle
Paul Chapman, an English stained-glass specialist who’d worked on the restoration of Notre Dame, was a fascinating European artisan who contributed to the construction of the castle. When work began on the park, he was already in his 80s, but he didn’t hesitate to supervise the creation of the splendid stained-glass windows that tell the story of Sleeping Beauty’s Princess Aurora.
Coat of Arms in the Castle
Inside the castle, on the first floor—just before the terrace—one can find the coat of arms belonging to the artists who worked on the castle concept. The Latin inscriptions make reference to the roles that the Imagineers played in the project. The Disney family coat of arms, which features three lions, can be found on the left side of the castle, just above the entrance to Fantasyland.
The Murals of the Plaza Gardens Restaurant
The three murals decorating Plaza Gardens, painted by Dan Goozee, revive the atmosphere that existed 100 years ago and reinforce the idea that nothing in the park is here by chance. Everything is anchored by a storyline in which Plaza Gardens was originally in the middle of nowhere. Then the railroad arrived, a hotel was built, and the town developed between the restaurant and the hotel from 1870 and 1880.
The Main Street Transportation Company Building
The shape of the Main Street Transportation Company building opposite City Hall is similar to the shape of Sleeping Beauty Castle at Disneyland in Anaheim, CA.
The Artifacts in Discovery Arcade
In the U.S., filing the model of an invention that you wished to patent became obligatory in 1836. By 1880, the Patent Office had already received more than 175,000 models, and there was no space left to stock them—so in 1907, Congress insisted that they be sold, destroyed, or given away. Years later, American Cliff Petersen started to collect these artifacts and managed to bring together some 40,000 of them. Fifty-two of the collection’s best pieces are on display in the Discovery Arcade windows.
Building Big Thunder Mountain
“I had bought lots of mining tools from the period to scatter around Big Thunder Mountain and imply that the miners existed,” remembers Imagineer Pat Burke. “There was an Irish team in charge of installing all the props. The tools they had were modern and not at all what was needed to work on the machinery we had bought, which came from the [previous] century. So I lent them all the tools from the right time period, and you can now see them in the queuing area of Big Thunder Mountain, where they were used to install the decorative elements.”
The Futuristic Discoveryland
The concept for Discoveryland was so successful and effective that when the new Tomorrowlands were created in the U.S. parks, the basis for them was the very same design that had originally been developed for the Paris resort.
Building Alice’s Curious Labyrinth
“We only had two and a half years before the opening to grow the hedges of the Alice’s Curious Labyrinth maze,” remembers Imagineer David Minichiello. “To accomplish this feat, we found a tree nursery in the north of France. As soon as the hedges had finished growing there, we relocated the finished maze, piece by piece. Each of the hedges was numbered, like pieces of a puzzle.”
Hidden Details of the Twilight Zone Tower of Terror
Skilled European artisans who specialize in creating and restoring tapestries from French castles designed the tapestries that guests can admire in the Tower of Terror lobby.
Walt Disney and Louis Lumière
The “Place des Frères Lumière” at Walt Disney Studios Park is a fitting homage to the French cinema pioneers—which clearly has its place in a Disney park, since Walt Disney had the chance to meet Louis Lumière during his trip to Europe in 1935. At the time, Lumière was working on technology to show movies in 3D!
By D23′s Didier Ghez