After three years of renovations the Disneyland Hotel at Disneyland Paris finally re-opened on Jan. 25 with a new focus on luxury.
With a five-star rating and a manager whose resume includes the Ritz and the Mandarin Oriental, the hotel, which is located over the main entrance to the park, boasts a spa, kids club, styling studio similar to Florida’s Bibbity Bobbity Boutique and even a pillow menu (there are seven different types of neck support to choose from) in addition to its 487 rooms and suites.
More from Variety
While Disney’s last foray into experiential accommodation ended in tears when Orlando’s Star Wars: Galactic Starcruiser hotel shut down last fall just eighteen months after it opened, the company’s latest endeavour (which launched just a week before new Pixar Place Hotel at Disneyland in Anaheim) proves lessons have been learned about what guests actually want.
Gone are the windowless cabins and mandatory character interaction. Instead visitors can enjoy breathtaking views of Sleeping Beauty’s castle and soak in high-tech animated details, including a life-size version of Aurora’s dress made from fibreoptic fabric that turns from pink to blue at the touch of a button. “You’re not only coming here to sleep in a bed,” manager Majbritt Iaconis tells Variety. “Why are you coming here? It’s for all the different experiences on offer.”
Promising “excellence and immersive storytelling,” the hotel aims to offer both an extension of the company’s two French parks (as well as Disneyland Paris there is also a separately-ticketed park called Walt Disney Studios) and the first word in comfort, combining themed restaurants, character encounters and interactive suites inspired by classic films including “Beauty and the Beast” and “Cinderella” with amenities such as 24-hour room service and high-end bath products.
Disney’s French team, led by veteran Imagineer and art director Sylvie Massara (who was also responsible for the resort’s 2021 Marvel-themed hotel), were tasked with bringing the studio’s films to life, with Disney’s Burbank HQ providing archive art and props for inspiration as well as approving designs and interactive details, such as a glowing glass slipper in the Cinderella suite. Pixar Studios artists designed a “Brave”-themed tapestry, which was brought to life by craftsmen from a 130-year-old weaving workshop in the North of France and now hangs in the hotel’s Royal Banquet restaurant.
Throughout the hotel even the most commonplace items have been endowed with Disney details and Massara tells Variety she watched the classic films “picture by picture to see the details,” a task that transported her back to her childhood. The patterned carpets are dotted with princess emblems (Snow White’s apple, Jasmine’s lamp), the doorknobs on the nightstand are shaped like roses and the swirls on the metal railings in the Castle Club lounge are replicated from the castle railings designed by iconic Disney Animation artist Mary Blair in the 1950 version of “Cinderella.” The hotel’s prize item is undoubtedly the 12,000-piece glass chandelier that greets guests in the hotel lobby; at its centre dangles a castle carved out of crystal.
“I thought about comfort,” Massara says. “About what you are expecting to have from a five star hotel. So it’s more the level of comfort but not the style because the style was inspired by the animated films. It’s a mix of comfort and stories.”
While Disneyland Paris wouldn’t disclose how much they had spent on the renovations, which included commissioning 27,777 costume pieces for the hotel’s 800 staff, the hotel’s press release says it “represents a significant milestone in the resort’s ongoing investment and development.” Celebrities invited to the opening weekend — which featured fireworks and a light show at the hotel — included “Bridgerton” star Nicola Coughlan, “Poldark’s” Eleanor Tomlinson and some of the French “Emily in Paris” cast.
It’s certainly clear that following Disney’s 2017 buy-out of fellow shareholders (the park was originally majority owned by the French government) there has been a massive investment into Disneyland Paris, not least with the opening of the Marvel Avengers Campus in Walt Disney Studios in 2021 alongside the Marvel-themed Hotel New York. The next step is World of Frozen, which opened in Hong Kong last fall and is currently being built in Paris (an opening date has not yet been confirmed).
Last September Bob Iger and parks chief Josh D’Amaro confirmed they planned to double investments to $60 billion across the company’s parks and resorts over the next 10 years. In yesterday’s earnings call, Iger said the company is “Turbocharging growth in our parks and experiences.”
Some of the changes have led to grumblings in recent years that Disney parks are increasingly pricing out regular guests at the expense of those with bigger bank accounts and the new Disneyland Hotel, which boasts a Frozen-themed royal suite that reportedly costs $11,000 per night, likely won’t dispel those suspicions.
A Bloomberg report last fall found that visitors are spending 40% more per day in the U.S. parks than they did before the pandemic. “It’s a premium product, and it’s basically for rich people,” media analyst Laura Martin told the publication. Citing increases in ticket prices and extras such as paid-for fast passes, a CNN report this week was headlined: “It’s never been more expensive to be a Disney fan”
Disney reps are keen to emphasize that it’s possible to do the parks at all levels. Disneyland Paris guests can choose from seven on-site hotels, the cheapest being Davy Crockett ranch, which offers self-catering cabins.
But the resort’s newest hotel is unabashed about its target audience. It even offers an extra Castle Club level, with a private elevator to take guests directly to the entrance of the park as well as access to an exclusive lounge which offers views of the nightly fireworks show. The hotel gift shop even includes a Givenchy concession selling kids t-shirts for $177 so real-life little princes and princesses are adequately attired.
Despite the price tag, the hotel is already attracting die-hard Disney fans. Iaconis says that in the two weeks the hotel has been open she has already had one regular parkgoer — who describes Disney staff there as his family — sobbing onto her shoulder. “The guests I have met since the opening are going back to childhood,” Iaconis says. “There is a lot of emotion.”
Best of Variety