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Review

REVIEW – Disney FanDaze: The Inaugural Party

One of the most highly anticipated dates of the year, and after nearly a year of teasing, leaking and speculating, 2nd June finally came upon us and saw the launch of Disney FanDaze. Dubbed the ‘Inaugural Party’ at Disneyland Paris, fans have been eagerly waiting for a promised night of rare characters, exclusive conferences and a celebration of all things to be a big Disney fan. Did Disney FanDaze live up to these expectations and prove to be a night of fun in the fandom? Or has DLP bit off more than they can chew in giving this status to become a reoccurring event?

Before we get started, I must stress first that this is a review solely on the night of the Inaugural Party and nothing else either prior or after the event. The build-up to the FanDaze event has already been well documented including many of the flaws. This is designed to be a look at the night from the view of someone who experienced it for themselves. Every opinion is different, every experience is different. This is merely my own.

One direct consequence that was predicted from the fallout of Disney FanDaze’s marketing and communication was that a low number of attendees was expected for the event. Many were anticipating a very quiet night due to this as well as questions over the financial success because of it. These concerns were well and truly quashed however when FanDaze saw a considerable turnout in numbers. It seems that last minute advertising to visiting guests in Walt Disney Studios Park and hotels worked as crowd levels were way beyond that of the < 2000 many had guessed.

So it is fair to say the Inaugural Party was a success in attendance, but was it too successful?

Throughout the night there were reports of major wait times and mayhem at one spot in particular – the ‘Heroes & Villains Alley’ at Studio Tram Tour. This was something I personally didn’t experience first hand but did hear stories from the queue line in the aftermath of the event. The moment I spotted the line for the 8 character zone snake out on to Hollywood Boulevard, I wrote it off as a no-go. I made the choice to sacrifice the possibility of meeting Hercules and Hades for an enjoyable evening. I am so glad I did. For the Inaugural Party a rule was established in how the character meets were to operate. Guests were allowed a maximum of 15 seconds with their chosen character(s) to include pleasantries and all photos. When this was implemented and enforced by cast members it was nothing short of perfect and seamless. With multiple CMs stationed to each meet the process of handing over your personal camera or phone and PhotoPass was virtually instantaneous. It was moreover made doubly fast and convenient by having the FanDaze PhotoPass (available through packages or at an additional cost) on a dedicated lanyard. This all lead to an efficient, safe and enjoyable character experience that saw even the most daunting of queues end within minutes.

As for the characters themselves, each and every one I met was an absolute blast all for their own reasons. We were promised rare and interesting characters with plenty of surprises along the night and we were not disappointed in that department. From Darkwing Duck and Launchpad, the Frozen gang and Big Hero 6 to even Kronk and Kuzco in his llama form, FanDaze was certainly a night for the Disney obscure, rarely seen or complete debutants. Adding up those who met together I managed to grab photos with a total of 10 characters, with countless other brushes past, high fives, dances and other fun interactions throughout the night. It’s difficult to narrow down a favourite, but meeting Kronk and Llama Kuzco was a very welcome surprise I didn’t expect. A special mention must also go to the extremely entertaining Bowler Hat Guy, who kept dancing and fooling around all night long.

Of course, Disney FanDaze wasn’t just about the character meets, there were also shows and a parade to enjoy! There was quite the buzz in the build-up for ‘Max Live! Getting Goofy With it’ and the ‘Dance Your DuckTales’ parade, though it felt like there was next to no buzz for ‘Oh My, Ortensia’ other than the first ever appearance of the titular character. That all changed for me however once I caught the show as I absolutely adored it. The show went for a truly “Golden Age of Hollywood” vibe in a musical tone, highly taking inspiration from the gone but not forgotten Residents of Main Street show that saw success in 2014. This sort of show is exactly what Walt Disney Studios Park needs in as a permanent feature. Maybe a toning down would be required, such as the removal of Ortensia’s car entrance, but otherwise I see no reason why something of this exact vein cannot be performed daily on the Hollywood Boulevard walkway.

The next on my agenda was the ‘Dance Your DuckTales’ parade, and oh boy what a parade that was. Bringing back the newly found favourites in the tricycles (most famous for their debut on the 12th April 2017 and then again at Halloween), it felt more like a high octane, energetically fused cavalcade rather than a full parade, but to its credit rather than detriment. As the impossibly catchy ‘DuckTales’ theme song rang out across the parade route, guests were encouraged to join in on the periodic parade stops as Donald, Scrooge, Launchpad and the nephews all took part in a dance-along. The best way I can describe the dance is like an updated, but just as silly version of the ‘Birdie Song’ famous from the 80’s and 90’s, and taking part was some of the most fun I have ever had in a Disney park. I genuinely couldn’t stop laughing as I danced alongside my friends to the upbeat, catchy music, colourful tricycles and silly moves. We were even rewarded for our participation with a flurry of feathered confetti. Feathered confetti!

The fact that while writing this review I am listening to the parade’s soundtrack, whilst taking periodic pauses to perform the actions, speaks volumes to how fun it was. It may very well be one of the funnest pieces of entertainment I have ever witnessed in Disneyland Paris, and I would be delighted to see it return again for another round of DuckTales (woo-oo!).

The final – and pseudo headline act – of Disney FanDaze was of course ‘Max Live! Getting Goofy With It’. A show so hyped up in expectations and buildup to the event I ensured I was up to date on my Max Goof knowledge before watching it. Taking venue on an awesomely themed and extended Production Courtyard stage, the show as the name suggests was a live concert from none other than Max himself as he lives out his Power Line dreams along with a random assortment of guest stars. And random they were. If it weren’t for the previous announcements and leaks that occurred in the buildup to FanDaze, I would never have been able to guessed I’d end up seeing the likes of Nick and Judy of Zootopia fame, Kuzco and Yzma along with two of the Three Caballeros all on stage together performing a collection of obscure Disney hits. Whoever were the creative minds behind this show were clearly working on somewhat of a passion project, the entire show oozed of love and adoration for these characters brought along and none other than for the star himself, Max. After rewatching A Goofy Movie just days prior to experiencing this, it was very pleasant to here voice actor Jason Marsden return to lend his vocals for the show.

Amidst all this fun and excitement, I completely forgot about the ‘Mission Stitch’ show that was performed inside of Stitch Live. Did anyone happen to catch that show? I’d love to hear your thoughts on it and if it would make a quad of excellent entertainment to this magnificent trio.

All of what I’ve described so far certainly made up for a glorious and fun FanDaze night, but my priorities going in were the conferences. My goals for the Inaugural Party were to attend both the conference with Disneyland Paris CEO Catherine Powell and the Imagineering panel with Disney Legend Tom Fitzgerald. It’s amazing to think not only that I was able to tick both of those things off on my list very early into the night, but they managed to make my entire night before the majority of it began.

Making it pretty early to the Animagique Theatre and grabbing a front row seat to the Catherine Powell panel, it was a pleasure and really interesting listening to the resort’s Chief Executive and her time here in Marne-La-Vallee, her history with The Walt Disney Company as well as her future. As Catherine prepares for her amazing promotion and move to over all three of the western Disney resorts, this really felt like a farewell event in honour of her which only makes me more happy to have been in attendance. In her own words though, “this isn’t goodbye” and I well believe that.

My second conference of the night was of course the hard ticketed Imagineer conference with Walt Disney Imagineer, Disney Legend and contributor to some of my favourite Disney experiences, Tom Fitzgerald. Much like Catherine Powell’s conference, we were treated to a lite interview of sorts going through Fitzgerald’s history with The Walt Disney Company, how he made his way into Imagineering and Disneyland Paris along with some advice to wannabe WDI employees. As someone who has been fascinated with Disney parks and Disney Imagineering for as long as I can remember and dreams of someday being a mind behind creating some of the magic, I felt very lucky and inspired by all of Tom’s stories and words of wisdom. I really could sit down and listen to him all day and his great anecdotes from inside Walt Disney Imagineering and the late, greats Marty Sklar and X Atencio. Not only that I was then treated to jaw dropping, gasping for air and shocking excitement news regarding my beloved Phantom Manor and the return of the original Vincent Price audio. This, along with the hinting nugget of info that the Phantom’s identity will finally be revealed, left me in a constant state of euphoria all night long; as anyone who met me after the conference can confirm.

The most magical and biggest highlight of the entire night however was directly after the conference, when I was lucky enough to meet not just one, but both Catherine Powell and Tom Fitzgerald. It was a true honour to be able to meet and shake hands with both individuals who have shaped so much of my life and done amazing work for Disneyland Paris and beyond. I’m sure I sounded like a mumbling fool at the time but I’m so happy to have the photos to look back on. My only regret is that in the rush of the moment, I forgot to wish Catherine well on her future endeavours!

And after all of these amazing content of the Inaugural Party, we still had one more treat to enjoy. Just after 2am, after a full night of crazy fandom, it was time to say “Bye-bye” as the announcement put it with the Farewell Parade. Our goodnight kiss so to speak to an incredible event. It all played out very similar to that of the cavalcades we experienced during 12th April for the 25th Anniversary celebrations, only with added ‘Stars n Cars’ cars and a lot more character interaction then before. Literally every character who appeared at the Inaugural Party in some form, be that meeting guests, performing in a show, in the Heroes & Villains Alley or other, were out on parade for one last time. An excellent opportunity for some truly unique character moments and photos. As well as another chance to get that catchy song playing in your head for the foreseeable future.

It seems kind of bizarre to believe, but after nearly a year of build-up Disney FanDaze: The Inaugural Party is now complete. No more teases, no more guesses and speculation. The event is happened and now is a time to look back and give thoughts on the night. For me, this is without a shadow of a doubt the best night I have ever had on Disney property. It may have had teething problems to begin with, and a lot of communication flaws working up to the night itself, but the party itself has provided me with fun, laughs, dreams coming true and memories I am never to forget. Should this return for another round in 2019, I know I will be there!

What are your thoughts on the Inaugural Party of Disney FanDaze? Were you able to attend the event or did you catch up on all the goings-on back at home? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments below and on Twitter!

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