Disneyland Paris and France: a historical link

The strong bonds that exist between France and Disney go very far back, to the origins of Walt Disney himself! The cultural wealth and the heritage of France have been a source of inspiration for a great number of movies by the Disney and Pixar Studios, of which many came to life in the Disney parks. The love story lives on today at Disneyland Paris with Ratatouille : l’Aventure Totalement Toquée de Rémy ! A look back to more than a century of shared history.

European origins

Walt Disney was born in Chicago on 5 December 1901. But the origins of the Disney family can be found in France and more precisely in Normandy, in the small town of Isigny-sur-Mer. The name Disney actually comes from an anglicisation of the name D’Isigny, the one of two Normand soldiers Hughes d’Isigny and his son Robert who followed William the Conqueror in his drive against England. The two men stayed in the country after the victory in 1066. While a branch of the Disney family emigrated to Ireland in the XVIIth century, Walt’s great-grandfather and others sailed to the United States in 1834. Walt Disney had a deep admiration for Europe and for France and this would inspire a great number of trips and various feature animated films. If they look closely, guests at Disneyland Paris can recognize the tribute paid when they see the d’Isigny butter in the table service restaurants, as well as the sculpted coat of arms of the Disney family on a wall of Sleeping Beauty’s Castle!

Walt Disney saw France for the first time in 1918. He was one year short of the minimum age required to enlist, but he forged his passport and volunteered as an ambulance porter with the Red Cross in order to participate in the effort of World War I. He disembarked at the Havre, was first assigned near Saint-Cyr-l’École, and then transferred to Paris as an ambulance driver. He was finally sent to a Red Cross camp at Neufchâteau, the railroad hub located in the Vosges. He stayed there for nearly a year before returning home. Walt returned to the USA from his trip to Europe in 1935 with a library full of books for him to prepare with his artists the first feature animated cartoon, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. Walt would return to France in 1949, when he took a transatlantic cruise with his wife and two daughters.

Walt Légion d'honneur

France at the heart of many Disney works

Walt Disney was strongly influenced by Europe throughout his career, and by various French stories in particular. During his European tour he was greatly impressed by numerous artists such as Heinrich Kley, Eugène Grasset, Grandville, Philippe Rousseau, Richard Doyle, William Blake or even Beatrix Potter. In the 50s, the stories by Perrault inspired his feature animated movies Sleeping Beauty and Cinderella which in turn inspired attractions and experiences in the Disney theme parks around the world. Following Walt’s demise France continued to be a source of inspiration for the Disney studios: The Aristocats, The Hunchback of Notre-Dame and more recently Ratatouille, have each featured the city of Paris at a different era.

But the links between The Walt Disney Company and France are not only made by movies. As of 1930, Mickey Mouse’s adventures were published in a French daily newspaper. On 8 January 1936, Walt Disney received the French Légion d’Honneur in his Studios. In 1951, the first French subsidiary of the group set up in Paris, on the Champs Elysées. Television programs on the Disney universe were first presented in French homes in the 80s on channels TF1 and FR3. Disney always loved France, and it has always loved him: in 1984, when the issue came up again of setting up a Disney destination in Europe, it was only natural that the French site of Marne-la-Vallée, near Paris, was looked into.

France and Europe, permanent sources of inspiration for Disneyland Paris

When the arrival of Disneyland Paris was officially announced in 1987, it was totally excluded that the park would be an exact copy of the American parks of the Disney group. “Euro Disneyland”, as it was then called, had to take into consideration the European influences and cultures, and wanted to pay a tribute to the stories that are its founding inspiration.

Sleeping Beauty’s Castle for example is inspired by various French historical sites, such as Mont St Michel, the Hospices of Beaunes or the castle of Chambord. Fantasyland enjoys a real French district in the Castle courtyard with the Auberge de Cendrillon serving French cuisine. In Discoveryland Jules Verne’s influence can be seen in Space Mountain: Mission 2 or Les Mystères du Nautilus, and for 12 years the park celebrated Europe, its great writers and visionaries in the Visionarium. The music, colours and traditions of France are also represented regularly at Disneyland Paris, whether it is in the music played or the movies shown at Walt Disney Studios Park, or the fireworks on 14 July which are shot every year.

This year, Place de Rémy has come to reinforce this unique link between Disneyland Paris and France. The new universe inspired by the Disney-Pixar movie Ratatouille is a slightly fantasist but nevertheless credible and very documented version of a typical Parisian “quartier”. The attraction, the boutique and the restaurant it holds are countless tributes to France, whether to its architecture, gastronomy, music or simply the story told to guests.

Disneyland Paris wishes to continue writing this joint story with its adopted land, which also benefits from the positive impact of the unique public private partnership signed in 1987. Indeed, the creation of what has become Europe’s number one tourist destination has led to more than 55 000 jobs over the territory!

1 thought on “Disneyland Paris and France: a historical link”

  1. Hi, there! I’m from Brazil, and I’ll be at DisneylandParis on my 40th birthday with my family (a husband and 3 daughters). May I have my “magical birthday ever”? This include a character? How I order it? We’re ordering a 1day/2parks ticket, and we have a doubt about the time of Paris Express. It leaves Disnenyland at 8pm, is that time AFTER the fireworks and night parade? We’re very excited with this family travel,and we’ll be waiting ansiously for your reply

  2. Wonderful article, please more like this!

    I’ve never seen that castle elevation artwork before, could you post it in a higher resolution? Would love to thoroughly investigate the details of it.

    Kind regards
    Disneyland Paris Treasures

  3. Greate post. Keep writing such kind of information on your blog. Im really impressed by your blog.

  4. Appreciating the time and energy you put into your site and in depth information you present. It’s great to come across a blog every once in a while that isn’t the same out of date rehashed information. Wonderful read! I’ve bookmarked your site and I’m including your RSS feeds to my Google account.|

  5. What’s the point of attracting adults and “reconnecting them with childhooh emotions and memories” if once they’re there you’ll treat them like they’re not welcome?
    Maybe the problem is not our perception is wrong. Maybe the problem is you really don’t want us to go.

  6. There’s a Santa Fe style hotel? Oh my! Will have to go back and stay there! Only hotel I had time to see on my first visit was the Disneyland Hotel on my way into the park to see Captain Eo after it re-opened in June 2010. I was on a one-day visit via the Eurostar from London (on holiday there from Australia) so very limited time – too limited. But I loved it.

  7. I’ve been 4 times to Disneyland Paris in the last 3 years and each time the service has been absolutely dredful and not even apologetic – would love to see how this changes.

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  12. Also my question:-) Is there a way to buy something although i’m not working at Disneyland Paris?

  13. So, so sad to see this icon show close! I first saw it in California in 1987 and was blown away by what was then incredible 3D technology, as well as Michael’s performance. When I visited Disneyland Paris for the first (and thus far, only) time on 24 June 2010 I was on a EuroStar day trip to the park from London which I was visiting for Michael Jackson 1st anniversary events with his UK fans. When I heard that Disneyland Paris and other Disney Parks were re-opening the film as a tribute to Michael, I HAD to make the journey across the channel to see it again. Needless to say, I made the most of the opportunity for repeat screenings on that day. And though I’ve since seen it repeatedly in Anaheim and Tokyo (shortly before it closed there last year) I’ll never, ever forget seeing it on the big screen for the first time since the 80s at Disneyland Paris. I’m not sure I want to go back now. 🙁

  14. It’s a shame this classic has to go, really!
    I’m glad I got the chance to experience it once again with the tribute performance.

    It was not quite the same since many of the original effects and the look and feel of the cinema were missing, still the old 3D glasses/technique and and analogue! print/and projector was used, which was and is kind of lazy from Disney. Also, the print was very worn out the last time I’ve seen it and should have been replaced long ago.

    But, still better than no Captain EO.

    Since Captain EO will never return to the Disney parks, please release a worthy blu-ray of this classic masterpiece (in 3D and 2D). I’m sure plenty of Disney-, Michael Jackson-, Anjelica Huston, Franics Ford Coppola- and George Lucas-Fans would buy it in an instant!

    I sure would!

  15. Why oh why is this closing?

    Have seen it several times at Disneyland Paris in the last couple of years and and each showing was packed out! Judging by everyone’s reaction on the way out, the audience clearly loved both the film and its effects.

    Bad decision, Disney 🙁

  16. The reason it has closed is that jardly anyone watches. Figures have dwindled and have been for years. It has been declining in the mast few years. Everyone moans and groans but it costs Disney to keep it running and if the audiences ain’t coming, who can afford to keep it.

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  18. Would it be possible to meet with some one in hr on the 2nd idecember2015 to discuss student placement with you. Students would be 18 plus studying travel and tourism funded via Erasmus
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  19. We used these just after Christmas. Such a vast improvement since our last visit in summer 2014. Well done! I still had to wait from about 9am to get a good spot in the queue, but then we only waited about 10 minutes in the actual pavilion, as opposed to 70 minutes last time!

  20. We had a wonderfull new years evening at euro disney 2015 – 2016!!!!
    It was fantastic!!
    Thank you!

  21. Will the foliage be refurbished? Many leaves and small branches are missing and spoil the attraction so hopefully these will be refurbished.

  22. Hello We are a family of 4 with my husband and 2 children.I am 32 weeks pregnant.With the easy access card will I have access to attractions with my family.

  23. would changing the perception around DP to attract adults or a particular age groups not be at the expense of other age groups eg kids, teenagers.

  24. What a shame that they cast aside the park’s heritage, people’s memories and their love of DLP by destroying the named stones and replacing them with bland slabs.
    There were a few broken and loose ones, but surely they could have been kept and relayed to a better standard than they had previously.
    It has really dampened our DLP experience. What next? Removal of the castle?

  25. it’sasmallworld is more beautifulthan before.

    I will ride to it’s a smallworld during go to disneyland paris.

  26. i come to disney land for 20 years every year 2or3 times
    i am a real disney fan i collect it also but my complain is this year
    when y order to stay in the hotel why did they not mention
    that there is so many attraction close in the park you mention about the hotel but let also know about what happen in the park
    i hope you understand why i writhe this
    i hope that you will reply
    thanks yolande

  27. I want cast menbers . business chaienge back stage new shw works
    my challenge .
    U.S.A I want art work project menbers.

  28. Hello, I am staying at the Hotel on 9/23/16. That day is my daughter’s birthday. Do you have the opportunity to purchase a cake?

  29. Can anyone help with getting in touch with photopass for Disneyland Paris. Tried sending email through contact us but email keeps coming back undeliverable. All photos are not coming up and need them to find my photos.

  30. Not Impressed! Big Thunder mountain is one of my favorite Disney Rides! Shut! Simlarly, the Star Wars events are apparently unavailable.No mention of these attractions being shut when my booking was made in June. My grandson, for whom we arranged this trip, has extatically reached the height limit, and a star wars addict/devotee will now be denied these pleasures. Will there be a refund/discount offered?

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