If you go back 10 or so years you’d see a number of themes celebrated year by year in Disneyland Paris. There was the New Generation Festival in 2010/2011, celebrating new characters and films such as the Pixar crew and Ratatouille. The year previous to that was Mickey’s Magical Party, possibly tied in to the 80th birthday of Mickey Mouse (which was actually the year before), and so on. More recently we’ve seen seasonal celebrations, here the traditional Christmas and Halloween were joined by Swing Into Spring and Frozen Summer Fun. While these were arguably better than the year long celebrations, I’m not sure it really hit the sweet spot that Disneyland Paris has been looking since it opened.
Swing Into Spring, whilst being great for those who experienced it, was a very weak idea when attempting to market it to casual or first time guests, as the title alone resonates with very few potential visitors to Disneyland Paris, if any at all. Now look at the last 12 months or so and we have Star Wars Season of the Force in the early winter months, Pirates and Princesses Festival which runs in Spring until the end of this month, and the brand new Marvel Summer of Super Heroes which debuts this June. That’s three different seasons in the first half of the year, and ALL using recognisable branding, both visually and in their names. It’s also three different celebrations hitting a very broad range of fans, and in the case of Marvel, at a level Disneyland Paris has never seen before.
While there may be resistance from some fans (let’s face it, there’s resistance to everything the Walt Disney Company do these days, the character change of the Redhead of Pirates of the Caribbean being a prime example of that), embracing and utilising their hugely popular acquisitions such as Marvel and Star Wars is undeniably best for business. It targets new fans whilst having almost zero impact on areas of the resort that tradition fans may prefer. Casual fans are going to want to visit more often due to the varied entertainment on offer, and people who have never been to Disneyland Paris will now want to visit, drawn in by experiences and characters they couldn’t previously enjoy there. This on its own is huge for Disneyland Paris, but that’s just the first of two ways Disneyland Paris are doing the right thing in 2018.
The other is appealing to the hardcore fans, something that has long been hard to do, in the face of much criticism and at times, abject cynicism. The new season model and its contents aren’t exclusively the domain of casual and new fans, as the multiple return trip annual passport holders have been enjoying these too, if social media is anything to go by. Disneyland Paris has gone one step further though, and is appealing to the next level fandom and eagerness to get more exclusive and varied experiences. It started with the Tower of Terror event in March, there is a Marvel event scheduled for July, a recently announced Jazz Loves Disney event in September and of course, the much talked about Disney FanDaze extravaganza that happens in the first weekend of June.
Aside from appeasing the super fans and the yearning of these type of events, Disneyland Paris is making money from them, which is the main aim for everything they do, or at least it should be. These are ticketed events, so there’s money being made there already. But throw in merchandise, food and drinks, and a reasonable percentage that will stay onsite, and Disneyland Paris is making regular chunks of money that they wouldn’t have done 12 months ago, and the fans are lapping it up. The Tower of Terror event went well by all accounts, exclusive merchandise sales aside, and FanDaze will be a big test, but it seems that this approach is working.
Keeping casual fans coming back and attracting new ones has is never easy, or at least it hasn’t been for the at times restrained Disneyland Paris, but they seem to have a handle on that with this new direction, at least on paper it looks like it should work. That’s a feat in itself, so when you consider that the hardcore fans now seem to be on the verge of satisfaction too, and we could be approaching an unprecedented time of guest harmony and potential earnings. Of course the apple cart could well and truly be upset and Twitter be on the verge of meltdown if Donald wears the wrong coloured shirt next week, but for now I believe Disneyland Paris should be applauded for the steps they have taken and the way the resort is now marketed. The timing of all this does obviously sit alongside Catherine Powells time at the helm and the Walt Disney Company buyout, so it’s not a coincidence. But with the imminent start of the Walt Disney Studios mega expansion too, the future of Disneyland Paris has most certainly never been brighter.