I love a good marketing campaign. Maybe it’s from my inner desire to work in the sector, or I’m just easily susceptible to the power of advertising, but nothing fascinates me or grabs my attention like a clever and unique promotion. It’s a perfect way to spread the message of your new product, service or whatever to a brand new, wider audience and get the public talking. Some of business’s most successful stories usually have a strong and memorable advertising push behind them.
Before Disneyland Paris first opened its doors in 1992 – under the former name of Euro Disneyland – it too was coming off from a major marketing push. Though before my time, many will recall the television adverts that aired across Europe, the iconic Mickey shaped hot air balloon and, more obscurely, the Euro Disney board game. For The Walt Disney Company’s attempt to branch the Disneyland experience into Europe, all the stops were pulled out to ensure people knew and people were hyped.
One piece of early 90’s marketing you may have never heard of before may well be one of the most interesting. A scaled replica of Sleeping Beauty’s castle presented in the sunkissed Spanish city of Seville!
Yes, it may seem bizarre to see such a realistic and authentic version of Fantasyland’s beloved castle outside of Disneyland Park but this was a reality in the summer of 1992 thanks to the Universal Expo Sevilla ’92, a World’s Fair with the theme of “The Age of Discovery”. Such a theme proved to be a perfect marriage with Disney who had just opened their brand new theme park mere months and just a country away in France.
Although officially kicking off in April of that year, the Euro Disney pavilion as it actually was didn’t appear at the Expo until May; opening it’s doors to a light preview center on the 25th. If rumours are to be believed, this was because of Disney’s doubts over whether or not the Expo would be a success and thus decided to whole fire until it was an assured win (*ahem*).
Inside this faux chateau you would find – to the best of my knowledge – a scaled back version of the preview center many will have recognised from Disneyland Paris history books and websites. A “theatre” would be found playing a short video clip of the then Euro Disneyland before familiar faces Mickey, Minnie, Donald and Goofy would be just around the corner to meet and greet expo guests. They were even accompanied by Curro, the expo’s official mascot and strangely snowman-looking bird.
Just as Disney were latecomers to the Seville expo, they were also early leavers as the Euro Disney pavilion closed up on 13th September 1992. What’s most fascinating however is the structure and preview center inside was then transported across Europe to play host in several major cities. As someone who never heard of this preview pavilion ever existing until very recently, I’m very intrigued to know where did its continental journey take it?
I am absolutely fascinated by this little piece of Disneyland Paris history. To have something so iconic and unique to the resort scaled down as a replica and made available to audiences all over Europe must have been such an interesting and odd experience at the same time. It’s very rare today to see such a major project taken on purely for advertising so major credit must be given to TWDC and S.C.A. for such a bold idea. I wonder how many people visited this pavilion before becoming lifelong fans of the resort?
25 years on and it seems this old marketing stunt is just the stuff of memory today. I feel I will be very unsuccessful in my hunt, but I would love to know what happened to this castle replica once the expo and sequential European tour ended. The obvious answer may be it was simply dismantled and scrapped, but a part of me feels an Imagineer or two may have wanted to take a piece as a personal souvenir. Afterall, not many will get an opportunity to have a Disney castle turret displayed in their office.
UPDATE: Disney Imagineer Tom Morris, who lead the original Fantasyland design and process for Disneyland Paris, has very kindly shed some more light on the replica castle for us on Twitter.
It was a traveling promotional piece devised by Disney Marketing under the direction of Tom Elrod; I provided some guidance. It was built in UK, made of steel & FRP. Show inside was a ring of monitors showing an inspiring sizzle reel!
— Tom K Morris (@TomKMorris) January 16, 2018
Have you ever heard of this bizarre but unique piece of Disneyland Paris history before? Maybe you actually attended the Sevilla Expo or saw the castle in your local city? I’d love to hear your thoughts and any stories you may have in the comments and on Twitter!