‘La Girafe Curieuse’ (The Curious Giraffe) is a shop located just behind the entrance to Adventureland at Disneyland Paris. It marks the beginning of the African themed area which continues with a watering hole along to the ‘Restaurant Hakuna Matata’ (originally named ‘Aux Epices Enchantées’) and down to the water's edge with ‘Le Cafe de la Brousse’. In this article, we discuss the background story and design of this beautiful shop with retired Walt Disney Imagineer, mister Chris Tietz, Show Producer Adventureland, Disneyland Paris.
The background story is that the shop is run by an enterprising man who offers adventurers an eclectic array of goods and services. In front of the building, Guests can spot the all terrain truck that he would use to go find various things to put in his shop and to take customers out on safari. The vehicle was purchased by the Walt Disney Imagineering prop department and themed to the safari outpost feel. According to mister Tietz, the all terrain truck was originally intended for use as a point of sale location for souvenirs.
The exterior of ‘The Curious Giraffe’ was inspired by the ‘Indiana Jones Adventure Outpost’ (previously called ‘Guatemalan Weavers’ and ‘Safari Outpost’), a shop in the original Disneyland Adventureland which stands directly across from the ‘Jungle Cruise’ attraction. Both structures are nice examples of African mud architecture. In Africa, mud is / was often used in construction as the material is plentiful and cheap, and clay keeps buildings cool inside.
The façade has three striking features: the tower, thatched roof and bas-relief. The tower has small holes that would offer lookouts and ventilation. The thatched roof is supported by pillars that are set on stone bases to protect them from moist ground. The bas-relief decorated exterior wall was inspired by the sculpted mud decoration found in the Hausa architecture of northern Nigeria.
Once inside, Guests immediately notice the head of a giraffe poking through a hole in one of the walls. It seems like the number of customers drew his attention and the animal is now eager to find out what‘s going on inside the shop. This touch of “whimsy” makes the place more fun. And it’s how the name of the shop came to be ‘The Curious Giraffe’.
According to Mister Tietz, the giraffe Audio-Animatronic was cast from one of the ‘Jungle Cruise’ giraffe molds. This was to be a taste of things to come as far as populating Adventureland with animated animals. Audio-Animatronic birds would appear in the Explorers Club and then nearby would have been the ‘Jungle Cruise’ attraction (that never got built).
The interior of the shop also features props that reflect the owner’s business of selling cameras, tents, fishing gear and attire. Most of the shop’s furniture was custom made. However, some items were purchased, like benches and chairs that fitted the theme. The light fixtures were inspired by both authentic hand made pottery and manufactured lanterns, as a blending of the old and new.
Some parts of the ceiling are made out of exposed wooden beams or sticks. These are the structural method of roof building constructed to hold the plaster roof above. The floor features different patterns. That is mainly for visual interest and to suggest the building materials used as locally found.
‘Designing Disney’ wishes to thank retired Walt Disney Imagineer, mister Chris Tietz for his kind and much appreciated assistance in writing this article!