In 2007, Disneyland Resort Paris reached its 15th birthday. In true Disney style, they didn't let the occasion pass without a celebration. This celebration, cunningly named "Disneyland Paris' 15th anniversary celebrations", would ultimately last for two years (assuming they don't decide to extend it again in April 2009) and would see several new attractions and attraction updates appear in both of the resort's theme parks. Two of these new attractions are located in the Walt Disney Studios Park's Animation Courtyard.
Those of you who visited Walt Disney World's Magic Kingdom during the Happiest Celebration on Earth in 2005-2006 won't have failed to miss the golden characters flying around Cinderella Castle. In September 2006 these characters were removed. Early in 2007, three of these golden characters reappeared (Peter Pan, Wendy and Tinkerbell). Not on Cinderella Castle, but on Yensid's Sorcerer Hat at the entrance to The Art of Disney Animation at Walt Disney Studios Park in Paris. Concept Art that made its way around the Internet showed several of the other golden characters dancing around the Art of Disney Animation building, however these are yet to make an appearance at the time of writing. This addition, however, was only the start of things to come.
In the area between the Art of Disney Animation attraction and Flying Carpets over Agrabah, the land was extended and given a fresh look. The first attraction of the two was Cars Race Rally. The attraction is a spinning attraction aimed at the younger visitors, where up to four guests board a car and spin round on two sets of two turntables (in two figure-eight configurations). In the attraction area are full-size Lightning McQueen and Mater vehicles, similar in size to the meet and greet versions at Disney's Hollywood Studios, although static, not moving.
As a mini-side-note, this placement of Lightning McQueen and Mater seems odd. One would think people would like to take photos with these cars, however that's actually not possible. To stand facing the cars, you have to be on the turntable of the attraction, which obviously can't happen. I did note on my last visit during a soft opening of this attraction that some people would try to take photos on their way out of the attraction after a ride, only to be moved on by Cast Members. Perhaps Disney will notice this and move them to a more photo friendly location. Who knows?
Following on from the Cars Race Rally, the Cars theme remains. Several of the Radiator Springs shops and buildings are replicated including Tow Mater Towing and Salvage, and Luigi's Casa Della Tires. Outside the latter are full-size replicas of Luigi and Guido, along with the leaning tower of tires. Tow Mater's store is used as an extended queueing area for the Cars Race Rally, and has various items relating to the film inside, such as the Piston Cup. The Casa Della Tires on the other hand isn't open to the guests to go in, but is set up similar to what you see in the film, and you can see in through the transparent garage door.
At the end of the new area is a new meet and greet area, themed similar to what you would see looking into Toontown at the Magic Kingdom or Disneyland. A hollywood-esque backdrop with ToonTown written in the hills is where you can now meet Mickey and Minnie (prior to the new area being built, you could meet Mickey and Minnie at a trailer between the Animation and Aladdin attraction), as well as meeting some other characters (Mr Incredible was doing meet and greet during my visit).
Finally, the major attraction in this area is Crush's Coaster. Crush's Coaster is, as the name suggests, roller coaster themed to Finding Nemo. The attraction is described as part dark ride, part roller coaster, and utilises some similar dark-ride scenes to those found at Epcot's The Seas with Nemo and Friends, before heading off into the roller coaster itself. When opened, the attraction soon became the most popular in the park, often having wait times over an hour.
The new area was opened to guests before the new attractions were open, as construction of another attraction in the park meant that access to the Studio Tram Tour had to be cut off. As a result of this, in mid 2007 soft openings took place on Cars Race Rally, and the area and a path leading behind the Art of Disney Animation was open to guests to access the Tram Tour. Shortly after, Crush's Coaster and Cars Race Rally were officially opened, and the Animation Courtyard was renamed to Toon Studios.
Toon Studios wasn't the only construction going on in the park at the time, however. Something else was rising above the park. By the time Toon Studios opened, the advertising campaign for a thrilling new attraction was well underway, and vertical building work was rapidly approaching completion. A banner outside this new attraction warned guests to "Get ready for the BIG DROP". Next time, in the final article in this series, I'll take a look at the latest two attractions to come to Walt Disney Studios park: The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror, and Stitch Live!.