Walt Disney Studios Park’s €2 billion expansion – A speculative look

Disneyland Paris will never be the same again. Coming out of nowhere and completely unexpectedly, Disneyland Paris and The Walt Disney Company have announced that Walt Disney Studios Park will be receiving a €2 billion expansion master plan including fully dedicated lands for Frozen, Star Wars and Marvel. Among the announcement (including a very classy video message from Disney CEO Bob Iger) we were also treated to this gorgeous piece of concept art depicting the WDS expansion plan and what we can expect from the future of the second gate.

Wow. Just, wow. I am in no way exaggerating when I say upon first reading this story I was left speechless, shaking and on the verge of tears with joy. This is the news Disneyland Paris fans have been longing to happen for the best part of 16 years. Calls have been made endlessly for a master plan to be made for Disneyland Paris’ second gate, we now finally have the details on that master plan and can see it with our own eyes. This is a moment many of us have dreamed of, myself included, but this has completely surpassed even my wildest of imaginations.

Of course, there’s an awful lot of detail here, in text and in that beautiful piece of concept art. Using the speculative side of me and wearing my ‘Wannabe Imagineer’ hat, I went through each and every area of this expansion news to give my ideas and theories as to what it all could possibly mean. I am by no means confirming any of this (aside from what has already been confirmed) and I am not in any way, shape or form revealing insider information. I am merely just an over excited fan looking to splurge his excitement of this amazing story and give my ideas and guesses.

Still following? Great. I suppose the best place to start than anywhere is right at the top and what was officially stated by Disney.

The Official Statement

The first news of this giant master plan came from the official Disneyland Paris news sources including a lengthy official statement on the Disneyland Paris news website.

You can of course read the full statement for yourself, but the main details of it include the fact this is a €2 billion euro investment into Walt Disney Studios Park. Roughly converting that into US Dollars that puts the project at $2.45 billion. The massive, park changing redevelopment Disney California Adventure saw in comparison only cost $1.1 billion. This means, in theory, WDS is going to receive over twice as much financial investment into the future redesign of the park than DCA did; the park many now revere as the best Disney park in the world.

Also mentioned in the statement is that this multi-year project will “roll out in phases beginning in 2021”. Little else is known what exactly they mean by that but I assume this would mean this expansion will well and truly go underway in 3 years time. If I were to guess I would say Marvel will be the first of the three new lands to open with it’s footprint already part of the WDS landscape and the recently announced Marvel retheming of Rock n Rollercoaster confirmed to be a part of this new area.

Marvel Land

As previously announced, a retheme of Rock n Rollercoaster to better fit that of Marvel and the Avengers will soon be on the way to the Studios and it seems to perfectly fit into the master plan’s iteration of the transformed Backlot and as of yet unnamed Marvel Land. Going by the artwork and knowledge of the current RnRC building it seems that the new look attraction’s facade will be an entire semi-circular one wrapping around from the current ‘end’ of the park to what is currently unused land.

Directly next door to the updated coaster is what appears to be a Quinjet, the aircraft most famously used by the Avengers making appearances in both superhero mash-up blockbusters including several standalone MCU epics like Captain America: The Winter Solider and Thor: Ragnarok. It’s anybody’s guess what this could be but given the vessel’s close ties to S.H.I.E.L.D. and the Avengers I certainly wouldn’t rule out possibly a simulator style attraction based around Earth’s Mighty’s Heroes. This is only emphasised for me as the showbuilding is somewhat reminiscent of Star Tours’; another simulator attraction.

This does however very bluntly confirm something – the Stunt Show and Armageddon will be removed to make way for Marvel. While it is possibly the latter’s building may stay intact as a suspiciously small, square structure does appear just behind the Tower of Terror, the elusive Quinjet attraction cannot exist without the full demolition of Moteurs. Another structure seemingly being saved is what currently houses Blockbuster Cafe and Restaurant des Stars. Unfortunately the concept art can given us a lot to work with but I would imagine at least one eatery will stay for the land. Did somebody say shawarma?

Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge

It’s true, all of it. The massively discussed and anticipated Star Wars land due to open in Disneyland Resort and Walt Disney World very soon will also be making its way to Walt Disney Studios Park! This would have been news to jump up and down and dance to Yumb Numb all night alone, so the fact it has been announced in addition to everything else has left me in a state akin to Han’s re-animation from the carbon freeze.

No other details have yet to be announced, and some have speculated that it will be a scaled down version of the US’ Galaxy’s Edge, but I am more of the opinion that it could be purely down to concept art interpretation and the interest of space in the artwork. Aside from the clear visualisation of where it will be (between that of Marvel and Frozen) we can’t even properly make out the entrance or any attractions yet. This could of course all be deliberate as Imagineers wait until the rest of the project has truly went underway before committing themselves to a specific layout.

One thing that does make ponder however is what will become of Star Tours and the other Star Wars related attractions over at Discoveryland? We recently got the welcome addition of Battu (the in-universe name of the planet Galaxy’s Edge is set) as a final destination in the updated Star Tours, beautifully tying this announcement together. Will we eventually see the Starspeeder 1000 and its port make the physical jump to the Studios? This would of course leave big room open in the east side of Disneyland Park. Not to jump far too ahead of myself or seem greedy, but given that Walt Disney World’s Tomorrowland will soon have a shiny new Tron Coaster parked beside its Space Mountain, it does make you wonder…

Frozen Land

Search through my old articles and chances are you’ll see me bring up Frozen every so often. Read through these articles and you’ll more than likely find a reoccurring belief that Disneyland Paris is in dire need of a permanent Frozen presence. I once theorised the possibility of turning Critter Corral into a miniature Frozen land, I am so glad to be wrong.

I’m floored by this concept art of the Frozen land coming to WDS. In what I suspect will eventually be titled simply “Arendelle”, the area will not only include the famous castle and abode to Anna and Elsa, but also the iconic, stunning ice palace atop a HUGE mountain. By the looks of things this could very well end up becoming the new park icon with its massive size, exclusivity to the park and super-weenie view from the long walkway down the center of the park. It would certainly be one impressive landmark to have next to the likes of Sleeping Beauty’s castle, Spaceship Earth and the Tree of Life as park representing sights.

As for actual attractions and experiences to be had inside Arendelle none have been announced as of yet, but I would be shocked if a permanent meet and greet for Anna, Elsa and the rest of the Frozen gang isn’t a certainty. There’s also the possibility and certainty of a restaurant and gift shop coming in what appears to be the Arendelle village just below the mountain. Already I’m having imaginations of how stunning this area could look with a festive overlay, taking inspiration from Olaf’s Frozen Adventure.

Will Frozen Ever After of Epcot fame get the clone treatment? It’s possible, but given the extensiveness of this massive expansion I certainly wouldn’t rule out something unique to occupy either the castle or mountain. Perhaps a brand new dark ride making better use of trackless technology? The shiny floor and silky smooth motions that come with such an attraction would lend themselves perfectly to a sled moving along an icy lake, for example.

The big lake

It’s something WDS fans have begged for ever since the park opened in 2002, now we have confirmation that a giant mass of water is coming to the Studios. Stretching beyond that of the current Studio Tram Tour (another deadwood attraction destined for the scrapheap to make this expansion a reality), the lake seems to be the centerpiece of everything new and the breaking-off point to each of the new themed lands. It also appears that the lake will flow into a river or stream going around the Arendelle castle; only furthering that part of the expansion’s beauty and authenticity to the source material.

The big thing this has lead fans to speculate on, and with good reason being as Disney hinted at it themselves in the official statement, is that the lake will play stage to future shows and entertainment. This is something I definitely think is possible and very welcomed especially as this expansion more than extends Walt Disney Studios Park’s footprint into one guests could spend all day in. Indeed, with the sheer size of the lake and the beautiful view of the Frozen mountain, we have the potential for nighttime spectaculars to rival and even beat Disney Dreams!

The question I’m now asking, what will the lake be named? Lake Studio? Lake Bob (in honour of the CEO who has made this a reality)? Or my personal favourite, Lake NI DLP Geek?

Corridor to the future

Perhaps the most puzzling piece of expansion jigsaw is that of the long, peculiar walkway that stretches from the exit of Studio 1 towards the new lake. A literal pathway were old meets new, it will surely find an inspired name to fit such an historic occasion for the park but other than its practical purpose it remains a mystery. Will this walkway carry any theming with it? What are those yellowish banners displayed along it?

Much like that with Galaxy’s Edge and Star Wars, I feel this could be something left deliberately vague until a final decision has been made. Going by this concept art it seems that the walkway will be right beside a very large expansion pad neighbouring the Tower of Terror. I certainly wouldn’t rule out the possibility that – way down the line – this pad would play host to a golden age of Hollywood setpiece, bringing the walkway into a themed zone and becoming more than just a walkway.

Alien Swirling Saucer

Sneakily dotted in to Toy Story Playland while all the attention was focused elsewhere, eagle eye’d fans were quick to spot that the Walt Disney Studios Park master plan will also include a fourth attraction coming to Toy Story Playland.

Judging by it’s appearance and size, it almost certainly appears to be Alien Swirling Saucer that is scheduled to debut in Disney Hollywood Studio’s version of the Pixar themed land this summer. Little is known about the attraction yet other than it is a spinning attraction of some description but fortunately we won’t have too long to wait before we have an idea of what is expected to come beyond the domino covered wall that currently sits in the area.

Front Lot

The crowning jewel of Walt Disney Studios Park at its opening in 2002, Front Lot has forever been a thing of beauty and example of how wonderful a park the Studios can be. Judging by the concept art of the new master plan WDS’ entrance land will remain every bit as beautiful, if not a little bit more.

While mostly remaining completely intact the major difference fans of the area will spot is that Studio 1’s exterior is looking very different, supporting a much bigger opening, a window at its peak and possibly four “posters” on each side as opposed to the current two. This would be a very extensive facelight for first sight to guests entering the park, but looks every bit as beautiful as what we currently have. Interesting to note too that the Cinemagique and Animagique theatres keep their old studio numbering, a fun little throwback to how the park once was?

Expansion pads

One of the biggest criticisms Walt Disney Studios Park received when it first opened was the apparent lack of expansion. The park’s layout left little direction for future projects to go without demolition of existing structures. Imagineering has well and truly learned from their mistakes as this master plan shows a lot of expansion pads just waiting for their time to shine while not looking bare at the same time.

The aforementioned gap between the new walkway and Tower of Terror, between Star Wars and Frozen and even entire east-side of the lake, there is still plenty of room for WDS to grow even larger and get even better. If I were to make some more predictions, I would guest the latter mentioned right side of the lake will be reserved for further Pixar related properties as it would nicely flow beyond the large, black gates that currently stand in Place des Remy. Perhaps the possible success of Incredibles 2 could see superhero family stop next in Toon Studio?

This is a moment for the fans. The dedicated, hopeful WDS fans who always knew that the resort’s second gate can and someday will be a park envious to the world over. Today is the start of that time. We may be a long way away, years away, but we now have concrete proof not only that is is coming, but what we can expect.

A new dawn is rising onto Walt Disney Studios Park, a dawn that will see it transform from the little park that couldn’t into – what I truly believe – will be the ultimate Disney experience in the world.

  1. Jenny

    Interesting, really enjoyed the article. Thanks for posting it.

    I think the stunt show will remain but will now be marvel themed. I think there’s a lot of different things they could do with the concept. I think the artwork shows the building still there with the quin jet in front of it and that, instead of being a new attraction, the quin jet it actually a big statue/decorative piece. It’s fun seeing how differently people have interpreted the artwork so far and I’ve a lot of different theories so who knows.

    I can’t see Star Tours moving over. Don’t get me wrong, I’d like to! But I think it’ll stay where it is (I have no idea on the costs involved but probably wouldn’t be worth it). I think it’ll be like Buzz and stay in Discoveryland.

    I think once it’s all done it will make Discoveryland seem even more disjointed than it already does, which is a shame. Still this announcement was more than I could have hoped for.

  2. Emma's Library

    I’ve also wondered what will happen to Star Tours in Discoveryland. I’ve always thought it looked out of place in Discoveryland but now we’re getting a new Star Wars Land, it seems even more out of place. I suppose if they left Buzz there when Toy Story Playland opened and have no plans to do anything with that, there’s not much they’ll do to Star Tours. We’ll just have to wait and see.

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