Standing Still: 10 Years of Disneyland Paris – Part 2

Disneyland Paris is still the number one theme park destination in Europe at the moment, but will they remain on top? Competitors are increasing their value and profits, while Disney is struggling. In Part 1 we discussed the resort’s evolution from 2006 to 2011. Now let’s continue right up to 2015, and find out more about the red years of the Disneyland Paris.

Missed out on Part 1? Just click here and read about the resort from 2006 to 2011!

When looking from 2006 to 2011 on the attendance graph, we saw that figures were growing steadily. In 2012, the resort reached a record of 16 million visitors, but from then on, numbers began to decline. What happened?

graph attendance DLP

Not only attendance was decreasing but also the monetary loss to Disney became larger and larger each year. The resort was struggling with loss after loss, and were still far from the profit line.

graph profit-loss DLP

Thus, from 2012 to 2015, things weren’t going well for DLP. The Walt Disney Company saw this and had to intervene. They appointed a new CEO as well as providing significant financial support. Of the last ten years we’re covering, here are the four remaining:2012

The Year of the 20th Celebration

Disneyland Paris was back to its former glory in 2012. It was the year of the 20th anniversary celebration, and what a year it was. A ‘new’ parade, a new meet & greet point with Mickey, and a spectacular new show: Disney Dreams! I say ‘new’ parade since most of the floats were the same of the former ‘Once Upon A Dream Parade.’ Only the first and last one were adapted, although new music was added and the characters received new costumes. Nevertheless, ‘Magic on Parade’ felt new and guests were immediate fans. Opening hours were also extended for the final show of the day: Disney Dreams! Similarly to Orlando, this is the projection show on the castle featuring fireworks, fire elements and fountains. Even to this day, it’s been playing daily at the park to finish the day with a bang.
But there was more besides the celebrations. The Walt Disney Company invested an additional €150 million to the €100 million already provided. This amount was needed for the future construction of the Ratatouille dark ride. Though this came at considerable cost eventually, it wasn’t not the only investment by the parent company, as plans to clear the debts of the resort in Paris arose. In September, Disney revealed their plan to invest €1.3 billion to pay back the loans of all banks. That way, the Walt Disney Company took over the entire debt which gave more freedom to the resort to pay back on their own pace . So all in all, 2012 was a very important year for various reasons. 16 million guests visited the park, which was a new record for Europe’s premier destination. But despite all this, costs drove to a loss of over €100 million…


Another Year of the 20th Celebration

Given the previous year had been such a hit regarding attendance, the celebration had to continue. Disney Dreams! was enhanced with Disney Light Ears, and two new scenes featuring ‘The Lion King’ and ‘Brave,’ which replaced some less popular ones. At the end of the year, a special Christmas version of the show was launched as well, featuring Frozen. Besides these changes, not a lot changed in the park itself. No new ride, but they officially announced the construction of the Ratatouille dark ride, for which funding had been secured the previous year. The future became even more clear later on, as a “What’s New, What’s Next” announced the refurbishment of several rides as well as the hotels. Up until 2013, the hotels had an occupancy rate of 80%; therefore this was clearly a concerted effort by Disney to maintain and increase this number.
It was clear that even though the 20th anniversary celebration was still ongoing, no new ride disappointed many potential guests. In addition, many fans complained that there was no show at the park. With ‘Tarzan the Encounter’ finishing the year before, the only live show at Disneyland Park was gone. Fantillusion, the night time parade was also cut, all to save on costs. But the result was clear: a lower attendance and only a slightly smaller loss. Attendance had dropped by 1 million visitors, and the only reason why the loss had been smaller than the year before (‘only’ €78 million) was that guests had started using their wallets more often again.


The Year of Ratatouille

For many fans, 2014 was year to look forward to after three years without a new ride. Since the addition of Tower of Terror in 2008, it was also the first big E-ticket ride in a long time. On top of that, the ride was exclusive to the resort, a slick move by Disney due to the film’s prominent Parisian theme. ‘Ratatouille: L’Aventure Totalement Toquée de Rémy’ officially opened on 10th July 2014. Usually when the Studios open in the morning, everyone rushes towards Crush’s Coaster to be one of the first in line, to avoid the long waiting hours during the day. Since the opening of Ratatouille however, they are split between the two! Fast Passes run out almost immediately, but luckily, the single rider line works very effectively.

Next to this long awaited dark ride, a new season was also introduced. ‘Swing into Spring’ brought back more entertainment in response to the critique from fans in the previous year. In addition, the first ever meet and greet with Spiderman at a Disney park was introduced in the summer (Disney had recently acquired Marvel, and had negotiated with Universal who already had an established Marvel IP within their parks for the meet and greet opportunity). All three novelties were an instant hit among fans and guests. Results financially, however, did not reflect this as the loss increased once more to €113 million and visitors dropped again to 14.2 million. The challenging European economy was part of the reason for these disappointing figures, and of course costs were higher due to the rehabilitation program. The helm of the company also changed in 2014. Phillipe Gas, who had been the General Manager,  received a new challenge as Shanghai Disneyland is set to open by his lead. Instead, the resort in Paris was taken over by Tom Wobler, who returned to his root, having been there at the park’s opening in 1992 also. With experience of management at the Disney Cruise Line and the Florida resort, fans hoped that he had what it takes to bring Disneyland Paris back into the game.


The Year of Frozen

So, had Ratatouille had the desired effect one year later? The results for 2015 came in, and the loss decreased to €78 million. Visitor attendance increased to 14.8 million again, which was at long last a positive for the resort. Ratatouille however, is only one of the reasons for the increase. The new-for-2015 event, Frozen Summer Fun, had a larger effect which led many Europeans to the resort in Paris. If Frozen wasn’t enough, Star Wars was introduced once again (to coincide with the 7th film’s release later in the year) with the Jedi Training Academy and a Star Wars event evening. Even though the Frozen and Star Wars additions were relatively small, they sure recovered the results, at least a little. The summer was hot at the park with some very busy days, but come winter, the disturbing attacks in Paris occurred. Both parks closed for four consecutive days due to security measures, and so it was a slow start for the Christmas season. However, guests quickly returned and there were some packed days . The biggest announcement in 2015, however, was the continuing of the refurbishments. Ten rides will be renewed in the following three years towards the 25th celebration of the resort. The major ones are the two coasters: Space Mountain and Big Thunder Mountain. For most of 2015, the thrilling coaster in Discoveryland remained closed and only reopened towards the end of the year with new effects, modern technology, and so it was announced by 2017, with new trains. It’s A Small World remained closed for half a year also, and reopened with new lighting and a slightly changed entrance – but no new puppets just yet, as they will be refurbished/replaced one by one. So most other rides are on schedule for 2016.
Of course Disney themselves emphasises the positive sides of their activities when looking back. Check out this newly released video by Disneyland Paris showcasing 2015.

Thank you very much for checking out the 2nd part of our Disneyland Paris analysis! Be sure to go on and read part 3, where we continue with 2016 and the future.

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