After payment at the thematic toll plaza, Guests make their way into the 100-acre, 10,000-space parking lot of Disneyland Paris. In 1992, it was the largest parking facility in Europe. The parking lot is bisected by a narrow one half mile long central spine that is composed of five separate sections of moving sidewalk. Each section is off-set from the other to break up the monotony of a single straight line.
Disney typically provides trams to move Guests from a parking lot to a theme park, however, in Disneyland Paris; a moving sidewalk was installed because the cost of setting up a tram system was considered extremely high. The trams would take up significant storage space and require a large maintenance garage and support crew. Instead, 150,000,000 French Francs were spent on a simpler moving sidewalk solution.
Yet above all, there simply wasn’t enough space to run an efficient and safe tram service. While the trams would have had to follow the same corridor as pedestrians, the drivers would need to frequently slow down and speed up and serious accidents could occur because of impatient guests jumping off (or on) the tram without having the permission from a Cast Member to do so.
Installing a moving sidewalk allowed for more thematic options (form, color, lighting, music, landscaping and paving) and it was considered more environmentally friendly while motion sensors would automatically turn off the moving sidewalk when no one is using it.
Tents protect the moving sidewalk against inclement weather and serve as a functional flow indicator into the Park for guests. There are three sizes of tents: the largest, a 10x10 meter tent that denotes an “entry/exit point” of the moving sidewalk from the parking lot, located 200 meters on center; an 8x8 meter tent at a mid-point, and 6x6 meter tents as the fill-in units.
The tents were designed by Disney Imagineers and built by a French firm called ‘Arcora’. They consist of a steel frame covered with a neutral colored and blue striped geo-textile material. The cover had to be translucent and flexible to create a tent-like appearance that also allows up-lights to create a warm glow in colder winter months.
The hollow columns are important structural, functional and aesthetic elements that hide drainage, electrical, audio and public address systems and were colored in the same hues as the Disneyland Paris toll plaza and all other Guest Entry structures.
Custom designed “bowl” shaped light fixtures illuminate the moving sidewalk and adjacent paving and plantings. Each light fixture features eight, 500-watt light bulbs. The light beam is pointed upward to create significant indirect bounced light and a warm glow.
The 10x10 meter tents have a beautifully airbrushed archway that appears as a 3D ribbon designed by graphic artist Stuart Bailey. Tony Baxter suggested the Imagineers working on the project to have Walt Disney Animation design portrayals of Disney characters to hide the lightning rods found atop the largest tents from view of the guests.
The entire moving sidewalk sports colorful flags and is lined with Tivoli lights and speakers for piping in Disney Music and announcements. Along the moving sidewalk, internally illuminated thematic movie poster cabinets were stationed to highlight important events.
At the end of the first half of the moving sidewalk, guests enter an open plaza designed by Pam Schirmer. The plaza is paved with granite and porphyry stones that were cut into shapes of Mickey’s head. There, two service buildings are located: the Bus Driver’s Lounge & toilets and the Animal Care Center (originally sponsored by the cat food brand “Friskies”).
The Bus Driver’s Lounge is a modest place for bus drivers to congregate and rest. The adjoining public toilets introduced some of the first energy efficient self flushing toilets in France.
On the other side of the plaza is the Animal Care Center where guests can board their pets. The kennel was created as a necessary back up for guests bringing their pets to the Resort, not realizing that animals can’t be taken inside the Parks and Hotels. The Animal Care Center is also the place where Disney security dogs were kept and cared for. Inside the kennel’s lobby, graphics of famous Disney cat and dog characters can be found.
The Bus Driver’s Lounge and the Animal Care Center are simple, functional, one story buildings. They were intentionally not themed to any part of the Disneyland Park. Only the original (pink) color scheme hinted of the strong ties to the upcoming Disneyland Hotel.
The low planters in front of each building provide simple seating for those waiting for others. And the trellis screens help to enforce a clearer flow of “in and out” of the toilets and the kennel. The screens are covered by lovely flowering vines and the same 3D ribbons found on the toll plaza, moving sidewalk, picnic area, (original) Fantasia Garden gates and the Disneyland Hotel.
When leaving the plaza, the second half of moving sidewalk takes guests out of the lower parking lot, upward to the Esplanade and onto the Fantasia Gardens.
Now, the Disneyland Park is within reach!
We would like to sincerely thank Mr. Jack Perry (Senior Landscape Architect & Facility Design Manager for Euro Disney’s “Guest Entry Sequence”) for helping us to write this article. It has been published in loving memory of Guest Entry Sequence Show Producer, Mr. Eric van Dyke.
Photos Nrs. 1, 3, 6 - 10, 12 - 16, 18 - 21, 25 - 27: (C) Bert Snyers for Designing Disney Research Center. Photos Nrs. 2, 4, 5, 11, 17, 22 - 24: (C) Collection of Mr. Jack Perry.
Concept Art: (C) Disney.