Jobs that make dreams come true at Disneyland Paris

The Times newspaper has published an interview by York Membery with Simon Opie of Disneyland Paris.
Jobs that make dreams come true at Disneyland Paris

There is no question who are the stars of the show. As children and parents jostle for position, as music blasts from speakers on lamp posts, Donald, Goofy, Pluto, Eeyore, Piglet, Minnie and Mickey wobble on to the outdoor stage. Cue cheers and squeals and the highlight of many a trip to Disneyland Paris, that celebration of old-fashioned American kitsch on the outskirts of the French capital.

For Simon Opie, however, this is a serious business. As product integration vice-president at the resort, “I have responsibility for developing the entertainment programme — and that extends to the accompanying food offers and character dining experiences we’ll be putting together, as well as the relevant merchandise”. An enormous brief, in fact, that includes managing 450 product development staff.
A far cry, too, from his humble beginnings in an entertainment career as the production manager of the Oxford Playhouse, a job opportunity so attractive that he left Oxford University, where he had been reading English, before graduating to take it up. “The theatre was always my passion and it was a great opportunity which I knew I had to grab.
“Back then I had a budget of a few thousand pounds to juggle, whereas now I’m responsible for the opening of a €70 million [£60 million] attraction — Toy Story Playland.”
Mr Opie went on to work as a production manager in the West End before taking a senior management position with the Tussauds Group. He joined Disneyland Paris three years ago. Now 52, he says that his “focus, first and foremost, is on providing visitors with a first-class experience”. That, and “providing a style of leadership that encourages, rather than stifles, the park’s creative talent, who are so essential to our success.
“The great thing about this business is that there’s always something new to do or create, and that’s a great stimulus. But cheesy as it might sound, the thing that still gives me most satisfaction is being able to walk out into the park and see people having a good time and know that I’ve contributed to them having a good time.”
One of his biggest challenges on joining Disneyland was learning the language. “Like every other British employee, I’ve had to work at my French, because you need a command of the language to work here.”
Katy Harris, the resort’s show director and a fellow Briton, argues that being a child at heart has helped her to achieve her Disneyland career. “You have to be able to dream big dreams and, despite my age, I’ve never really grown up,” she says (she is 41). “I still have the spirit of a kid, and I’m able to see things through a child’s eyes, and that helps me when it comes to creating a kids’ show.
“It’s a big challenge coming up with new shows and parades, but being able to take part in the whole creative process, from the writing to the directing, is tremendously satisfying.”
At the moment she is incorporating the heroine of The Princess and the Frog, the new Disney film, into the resort’s Once Upon a Dream Parade. Creating a parade is a big challenge: they can consist of 150 or more performers. Each float in a parade is a moving theatre with its own sound and light system. “You’re never quite sure if everything’s going to be working 100 per cent until the parade takes place.”
After making her stage debut aged 14 in a panto, Ms Harris studied musical theatre at the Arts Educational School in London before going on to appear as a dancer in West End productions. She joined Disneyland Paris initially as a performer. “Having some performance experience really helps you understand what your performers are capable of delivering,” she said. “You also need to be able to keep the organisational side of things together because you have to remember that we put on most of our shows five times a day and everything has to work like clockwork.”
Inevitably, things will go wrong. Sue LeCash, show costume designer/head of creative costume, will never forget the day that she was working on a television show when the studio audience got to see more than planned of an actress. “We had to unroll someone off camera on to the stage — but quite a lot more of her clothes than expected came off so she ended up on stage in nothing but her underwear.”
Ms LeCash, 67, has worked in the entertainment industry for 40 years but says that she still relishes arriving at Disneyland Paris each day for work. “It’s a fascinating job because, as a costume designer, I’m integral to the creative process and work closely with the show director and the set designer. We make thousands of costumes every year because we need about six to ten costumes per performer to cater for their different sizes.
“Another big challenge here at Disneyland is creating costumes that can be worn outside all year round so we’ve had to create undergarments that performers can wear to keep themselves warm.”
After studying dress design at St Martin’s College of Art in London in the early 1960s, she got a job in the costume workroom of ATV, the television company, at Elstree Studios. She won an Emmy award for the costumes on the 1975 television series, Edward the Seventh in a career that has included working with big names from Tom Jones to Kermit the Frog — to, of course, Mickey.
She joined Disneyland Paris in 1992 as designer and manager of creative costuming for animations and entertainment. Since then she’s created hundreds of costumes for the resort’s parades, shows and characters and done everything from dress stilt-walkers to create walking carpets for the Aladdin parade.
Costume design is a specialised career and Ms LeCash advises those wanting to follow in her footsteps to enrol in a costume design course. “A broad knowledge of costume — anything from period costume down to the latest entertainment shows — is essential. You also need to have an eye for modern fashion. What’s more, you need to know how a costume needs to be cut, because you have to calculate the amount of fabric you’re going to need and know how the fabric is going to react … It’s incredibly interesting for someone like me who’s into costumes.”
Source: The Times

New Generation Festival

Here is the announcement from Disneyland Paris about next years New Generation Festival! 
A new generation of Disney stars and stories are landing for one year only at Disneyland Paris from April 2010.
Join the festival-fun at the all-new generation shows and parades – where new Princess Tiana jazzes up the Once Upon a Dream Parade, and gourmet chef Remy drives you wild with excitement in Disney’s Stars ‘n’ Cars. Or choo-choo-choose which star to meet first on the Disney all stars express and at Monsters Inc. Scream Academy –shriek n’ greet like no other!
And, starting from Summer, shrink to the size of a toy in Toy Story Playland for the BIGGEST new family attractions: Toy Soldiers Parachute Drop, Slinky Dog Zig Zag Spin and RC Racer.
Finally, gather in front of Sleeping Beauty Castle for a true Disney showstopper finale – an all-singing, all-dancing, all-together perfect end to the perfect day.
The Disney new generation festival might only last a year but your all-new memories will last a lifetime.
Shows & Parades
Welcome Princess Tiana to the Disney’s Once Upon a Dream Parade
Princess Tiana from Walt Disney Pictures’ “The Princess and the Frog” brings a little jazz, snazz and pizzazz in the Once Upon a Dream Parade. She is joining the Disney Princesses in their Dreams of Romance. Hop along with your little ones to twist and twirl to the romantic music from each of their worlds and give a warm welcome to this new Princess.
Ratatouille starring in Disney’s Stars ‘n’ Cars
Drive your little ones wild with excitement as Disney’s Stars ‘n’ Cars presents the all-new Ratatouille roadster. It’s a party on wheels that goes into a spin when Remy pulls up alongside you! Get a taste of his cooking capers and the other crazy cars and characters. It’s the perfect recipe for a fun-filled motorcade.
Disney all star express
Get on track with the festivities on the Disney all stars express. This is your ticket to choo-choo-se which of your favourite Disney new generation Characters you want to meet n’ greet first. Will it be Buzz? A rendez-vous with Remy? Shootin’ the breeze with Woody? All aboard! It’s Minnie and her all stars express!
Disney showtime spectacular
It’s Showtime! It’s time to shine. It’s time to gather in front of Sleeping Beauty Castle on Central Plaza stage for an explosion of music from maestro Mickey. Together with an all-new A-list of guest stars it promises to be an all-singing, all-dancing all-new showstopper finale!
Monsters Inc. Scream Academy
All screams are welcome at Disneyland® Paris. Thrill-filled shrieks, surprised yelps and screams of delight! At Monsters Inc. Scream Academy we welcome screams to break the decibel meter! Join in the tonsil-tingling fun as you shriek n’ greet Sulley and scream as loud as monster-possible – it’s ear-popping fun for all the family.
Toy Story Playland
Opening Summer 2010 at Disneyland Paris
Toy Story Playland has the BIGGEST new family attractions. They’re GIANT – when you’re shrunk to the size of a toy! Join the toys for playtime in Andy’s backyard where everyone can explore this oversized world with its three larger-than-life rides – Toy Soldiers Parachute Drop, Slinky Dog Zig Zag Spin and RC Racer. Andy’s away and the toys are ready to play!
Toy Story Playland is inspired by Disney•Pixar film Toy Story
Toy Soldiers Parachute Drop
Attention! Your mission – join Andy’s troops for a high flying adventure – Toy Soldiers Parachute Drop. When Sarge yells “Go! Go! Go!” , hold on tight as you fall from way up high in a simulated parachute drop. Over and out!!
Slinky Dog Zig Zag Spin
Everyone’s tongues and tails are wagging about the all-new “zigzag-a-coaster” Slinky Dog Zig Zag Spin. Family pups of all sizes will howl with laughter as they join Slinky in a rollicking spin to catch his own tail. It’s barking mad fun in Toy Story Playland.
RC Racer
Andy’s speediest toy car is sure to get you and your family’s adrenaline pumping. RC Racer is the most thrilling new ride in Toy Story Playland. Race along a 25 metre-high half-pipe coaster, as RC zooms you around at full speed…it’s a real gas.