Friday, October 31, 2008

Le Premiere Guide de Souvenir D'Euro Disney

Euro Disneyland; by Dora Loewenstein (editor), et. al. Dusseldorf, Germany; The Walt Disney Company/Mohndruck Graphische Betriebe GmBH, 1992; 96 pp.

{That's "The first souvenir guide to Euro Disney" for those of you that don't know French - at least that's what Babelfish tells me. :) }

It's been a while since I've done a review of one of the souvenir guidebooks from the Disney theme parks, so I decided to pull down a guidebook from my bookshelf that a many of you may not have seen before. Euro Disney was the first souvenir "coffee table" book from Disney's first European theme park, first sold just after the opening of Euro Disneyland in April 1992. The book sold for 105 francs in 1992, which, according to some handy websites on the Internet, would have been $18.75 for any American visiting the park at that time, or about $27.39 today; in other words, this wasn't a cheap book, but the quality of the book shows when you look at it. They spared no expense on the park; looks like they spared no expense on the souvenirs, either.

I love the first edition theme park guidebooks, because I love seeing Disney's solution to a dilemma they've run into every time they've opened a new park - namely, how do you get across the experience of this new and different place when there's not much you can show of it just yet? Like we saw in the review for the first souvenir guidebook for Disneyland look for the March 6th post on the blog if you haven't read it), they primarily relied on concept art from Walt Disney Imagineering, which for me makes this book all that much more fun; until Alain Littaye and Didier Ghez published Disneyland Paris: From Sketch to Reality a few years ago, this guidebook was about the best source of Imagineering concept art on the park. (And by the way, if you're a fan of the Disney parks and of Imagineering concept art, get a copy of Alain and Didier's book. Now. Well, OK, finish reading this first.)

Fortunately for Disney, Euro Disneyland (it feels so strange not calling it Disneyland Paris!) was far enough along on construction at the time this book was published that they were able to take some photos of the outsides of buildings in the park; you can tell that in some photos, they really had to struggle to find a camera angle that didn't reveal the building was unfinished. There are also photographs of mock-ups of the resort's hotel rooms and a few photos of what I assume are concepts for cast member costumes; let me say that after looking at the pictures, I feel sorry for any actual cast members who had to wear these outfits! In some cases, the photographers didn't quite succeed and scaffolding is still visible in the shots. In a few others, they dropped all pretenses that the park was finished and showed the park under construction. I think it's pretty cool to see these very early photos of the park.

Disney also needed some shots of families enjoying their day at Euro Disneyland for the book; since the park wasn't quite that ready for the photographers, they went to the Magic Kingdom at Walt Disney World and took a bunch of pictures of families wearing and carrying what must have been prototypes of opening day souvenir merchandise, like T-shirts and balloons. In some cases, they also used generic and stock shots from the MK and hoped nobody would really notice, and to be fair, a non-Disneyphile probably wouldn't. But since I'm assuming most of you reading this are serious Disney fans, you'll probably figure out which pictures are from WDW - and you'll probably have a fun time doing it.

Euro Disney is a really fun book from a visual standpoint. As far as the text... well, not so much. I think the book is unusual in that it spends the first 24 pages telling the reader not only the story of the Euro Disney Resort, but also the story of Walt Disney, the Walt Disney Company, and of the other Disney theme parks that were around when Euro Disneyland opened. The descriptions of the attractions and the dining and shopping opportunities at Euro Disneyland are a little too enthusiastic for my tastes and sound more like the writers were trying too hard to convince someone that everything in the park was absolutely wonderful.

Euro Disney is a fascinating look at the beginnings of Disney's first European theme park, filled with concept art and pre-opening photographs of the resort. Unfortunately, this book may be a somewhat difficult to find; I only see it come up rarely on eBay and other auction sites. Later guidebooks are a little easier to find, but they tend to be smaller, thinner, and in paperback, which makes the newer books feel kinda cheap in comparison to this one.

While you're looking, there are a couple of great books out there on the park that should be easier to find; one is the previously mentioned Disneyland Paris: From Sketch to Reality, and there's a good general history of the building and early years of operation of the resort called Once Upon An American Dream by Andrew Lainsbury.

Many American Disney fans may not get the chance to visit Disneyland Paris, or at best may get to visit once or twice in their lifetime; this is a shame, because it really was and is an amazing place. If you can't get to Europe anytime soon, picking up this guidebook or one of the other books I've mentioned may be the next best thing.

1 comment:

Kevin said...

There's also a great book about Disneyland Paris - written in french unfortunately - called "Disney et la France" by Sebastien Roffat. The author made an amazing work of research and compilation about the convention between TWDC and french government or about DLP's first years. No pictures though, but it's a must-have for DLP and theme parks enthusiasts, as well as "DLP : From sketch to reality" (Ghez / Littaye).

There's also books less interesting such as "Mickey l'arnaque" (G. Smadja, an infamous book written by a communist columnist), "L'empire Disney" (R. Lanquar, which include a small part about negociation between TWDC and french government), "Hop!" (the autobiography of former EuroDisney boss, Philippe Bourguignon) and "Disney land : Le royaume désenchanté" (P. Ariès, another infamous book without interest written with the only purpose to denigrate DLP through strange and stupid analysis).

Meanwhile, english readers will enjoy "Once upon an american dream" (A. Lainsbury) as well as "Disney touch" (R. Grover) and "Work in progress" (M. Eisner) which include a few interesting pages about this subject.

A french reader ;)