Euro Disneyland opens smoothly despite bombing

April 13, 1992|By Vicki Vaughan | Vicki Vaughan,Orlando Sentinel

Marne-La-Vallee, France -- For years, the Walt Disney Co. has studied the best ways to entertain people at a theme park, and when Euro Disney opened yesterday, the company showed that it has learned its lessons well.

Traffic snarls predicted by the Paris police chief didn't materialize and unions didn't launch a threatened protest.

There were some minor hassles. Union workers on a commuter railroad line linking the resort to central Paris went on strike, as expected, but the lack of trains didn't add to traffic problems.

And in an apparent act of sabotage, a bombing Saturday night toppled a power pylon and caused brief outages at the park's six hotels. There was no claim of responsibility.

But inside Euro Disneyland, the theme-park portion of the 4,800-acre resort, the opening went smoothly.

Tourists' comments were mostly favorable, although some complained about the damp, chilly weather that moved in during the day. Computer problems that had plagued one of the six Euro Disney hotels apparently were fixed by yesterday.

Attendance was steady, but never seemed especially heavy, and was well under the quarter-million predicted by some French officials. The parking lot was never full.

Walt Disney Co. Chairman Michael Eisner, pressed by journalists to provide opening-day attendance figures, emphasized that Disney had never predicted what attendance would be on opening day.

"You are looking for bad news," Mr. Eisner told one reporter, "and I'm not going to give it to you. This compares more than favorably with the opening of Tokyo Disneyland, extremely favorably with our first day in Florida, and there's no resemblance at all to the opening of Disneyland," Mr. Eisner said.

Early April is a slow time for travel in Europe, but that wasn't a primary consideration for opening Euro Disney, said Dick Nunis, chairman of Walt Disney Attractions, because Disney has learned so much since launching Disney World.

"We knew the [Euro Disney] attractions were winners," Mr. Nunis said. "Our biggest doubts were about the entertainment," he added. "We've been told that the French are too sophisticated to enjoy our character shows in Fantasyland and Discoveryland. But the reaction has been exactly as it has been in Florida -- people like it."

At the Fantasyland character show, Jean-Luc Barrilleaux, 34, of Paris, said the show was a good one. "I think I am sophisticated, yes, but I can have fun," he said.

Longtime Disney World fans visiting Euro Disney would notice some big differences.

Here, Tomorrowland is called Discoveryland and Adventureland is built in a Moroccan theme. Mr. Nunis said Disney believes the North African theme would appeal more strongly to European visitors.

Some colors used on rides and attractions are brighter than those used in Florida, a deliberate move by Disney to counter the often gray winters of northern France.

Unlike Disney World, a variety of European languages are used DTC for Euro Disneyland's signs, rides and shows. French and English predominate, although sometimes guests heard snippets of Italian, German and Spanish.

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