On 2nd June 2018 a special event took place at Disneyland Paris, in the Walt Disney Studios Park, the inaugural Disney Fandaze Party. This event was billed as a special ‘fan’ event, aimed at those who love everything Disney and Disney parks related. The event got going from 8pm on the Saturday lasted until 2am Sunday morning.
There were several packages available offering hotels stays and special dinners but the majority of guest purchased a stand alone ticket. Prices for a standard entry ticket started at £87 with conferences an optional add-on. Full hotel, dinner and VIP perk packages pushed the price up to over one thousand pounds which was for the truly die hard fans.
This was the first Disney party I had attended that required pre-registration. This took place in the Dome at Disney Village. Never been here before? If you imagine a white circus tent-like structure then you wouldn’t be far wrong. This is one of the locations that Disney use for conferences and special events. I had seen pictures of long queues within the Dome posted on Twitter as excited patrons queued for their party packs. Naturally, I was worried by the time I arrived I would be faced by an even longer queue. However, when I arrived at 4pm on the day of the party the Dome was deserted of patrons but well staffed with cast members which meant my experience of registering was surprisingly easy. I even had my choice of check in desk to use! At the Dome I was given a Fandaze lanyard, Fandaze pin, Fandaze wristband and a program for the evening. I had also booked a premium conference so I was excited to be presented with my access ticket.
Disney confirmed that they expected around 3000 people to attend the event. (I did the sums too, 3000 people paying at least £87 means that this will have raised a huge amount of money!) Estimates for the crowds post event ran to around 7000 attendees. The queue for the standard entry line snaked around the entrance courtyard and looked like it was about to snake all the way into the village, half an hour before the party was due to start. To be fair, Disney managed this queue well, they had barriers set up to accommodate the early bird fans. Disney ensured that once the queue reached past the point of the barriers that everyone in the line had their entry wristbands which made a difference getting everyone into the park. When the queue began moving it really flowed. A sea of Cast members were lined up at the entrance with handheld scanners to check tickets. Any regular visitor to Disneyland Paris will know how frustrating it can be when the person in front does not understand how to scan their ticket. These were no regular guests, with these fans there was no slow down at the turnstiles for this event. Within 5 minutes of the line beginning to move we were through the gates. The pre-registration and early collection of wristbands obviously made a difference and speeded up the entry process.
Once within the park I excitedly proceeded to the opening ceremony in Production Courtyard. The opening ceremony was wasted on most people as they lined up at the barriers ready to race to their first desired character meet at rope drop. The event was introduced by a duo of presenters and Catherine Powell (the CEO of Disneyland Paris) who welcomed everyone to the event. When the ropes dropped there was an initial burst of excitement as people rushed into the park to be first in line to meet their favourite characters.
If seeing or meeting characters is your thing then the Fandaze event is perfect for you. There were meet and greet locations with contemporary characters such as Bolt and Mittens ranging to 90’s throwbacks such as Hercules and Darkwing Duck. This event was clearly aimed at millenials. One noticeable difference from a usual Disney meet was that Characters striked a pose for waiting onlookers between meets. Those that just wanted to see the characters without the personal interaction were able to get a photograph of their favourites.
When the event was announced it was clear that certain characters would be present. Of course the usual Disney crew of Mickey, Minnie and Donald were in attendance. Early rumours sent waves of excitement as full lists of characters present began circulating on social media. When Disney released the official program for the event the number of character meet and greet locations were smaller than originally expected. However Disney really surprised and delighted fans with random characters out and about, which did not require any queuing to meet. A great example of this is Bullseye, Woody, Jessie and Buzz from Toy Story who were let loose to roam around in Toy Story Playland. Other notable characters that were roaming around were Roger Rabbit, The Arisocats and Chef Remy. The characters walking around added a touch of magic to the event as it made you believe that anything could happen and anybody could pop-up over the course of the evening.
The event and much of its merchandise was Oswald related. Oswald the Lucky Rabbit is a classic Disney character that many will probably not recognise. Oswald’s girlfriend, Ortensia, made her much hyped world debut at this event. In fact these two characters had never before been seen together within any Disney Park, worldwide making this was a Fandaze exclusive. If rumours are to be believed some guests travelled hundreds of miles from all over the world just to see these 2 characters! The duo starred in a snazzy 1920s dance scene in the middle of Hollywood Boulevard. Although I attended the event knowing very little about this black and white bunny by the end of the evening I had grown a real affection for the character and just had to get some Oswald merchandise. Disney doing what it does best… persuading me too part with my cash.
As an optional add-on to the standard ticket guest could attend there two conferences: the panel with Duffy and Friends and a talk with a current Disney Imagineer. I had purchased a ticket to the Imagineering conference and was pleased to see that Disney had made the ticket into a souvenir by printing it far bigger than it needed to be. The conference was with Tom Fitzgerald, a Disney Imagineer that was responsible for creating and improving several attractions recently across the the Disneyland Paris resort. His current project is a reimagineering of Phantom Manor in Disneyland. Tom informed the excited audience that the original voice over recording that Vincent Price made for the ride will once again feature in the revamped attraction. A little snippet of information that had not been spoken before which satisfied the curious audience. It was lovely to see how passionate Disney employees are about the park and its future. Tom loved talking about the expansion of the Studios park which, although it is still in its early planning stages, looks set to make a much more immersive and interactive park. Being a fan of Disneyland Paris is not simply loving the parks, the rides or the characters but also loving the behind the scenes magic and this conference was clearly aimed at those who wanted an insight into how everything works within the Disney organisation. I came away wondering if many people loved their jobs or the organisation they work for as much as Tom clearly does. It was very inspirational.
Many of the rides were open at this event. With the event aimed at people meeting characters and visiting conferences the rides had understandably short queues. I managed to walk straight onto the Tower of Terror, Ratatouille, Toy Story Parachute Drop and RC Racer. It was possibly the shortest queue times in the history of the Studios park. As there were no queues when I went on these rides, I was able to balance doing attractions alongside attending conferences and enjoying my character meets. I managed to have a great event with a bit of everything on offer thrown in.
The Dance your Ducktales Parade was a bit of fun that burst onto the scene. The tricycles that the Duck characters came out on were small scale when compared to a typical Disney parade but looked nice with the Ducktales logo. The dancers were wearing white dungarees with coloured t-shirts to represent, Huey, Duey and Louey. Given that is was featured heavily in the promotional material I had built this up in my head and luckily I was not too disappointed. The dance routine was the main focus of the production but the part that was really exciting was the canon that fired out paper duck feathers (although I felt sorry for the clean up crew that were following behind).
The main stage located within the Production Courtyard was used for the Max Live event. This was billed as a concert headlined by the one and only Max, son of Goofy. This exceeded all my expectations. There were several songs with dancers, pyrotechnics, flames, water sprays and bubbles. In the evening when it was dark there were projections onto the Tower of Terror behind the stage to illuminate and extend the colourful imagery of this show which looked truly stunning. Before Fandaze I was expecting this to be a pretty boring part of the night (I’m not really a big Goofy Movie fan) but it turned out to be far better than I originally expected, a mini Disney show in its own right.
The Animation theatre hosted a talk with a Disney Legend, animator Adreas Deja. Andreas was responsible for creating of the best known Disney characters such as Roger Rabbit, Gaston and Jafar. The talk with the animator was free to everyone and was a surprising highlight of the evening. Andreas talked about his career and how he came to develop his characters. He even put on a masterclass to show us how to create drawings of these characters with Disney providing paper and pencils so everyone could have a go as well.
In the run up to the event there an emphasis on special event food and merchandise that would only be available through the event. The food was a disappointment as there did not appear to be any special offerings. While many of the more expensive packages included brunches, dinners and buffets, those with standard entry tickets had the option of purchasing a party cupcake for 6 Euros, if they noticed the A4 sign behinds the tills. Unfortunately for those that did fork out the 6 Euros the small size of the cupcake really made it not worth the money. I did not notice any other special food available.
Special Fandaze merchandise was also created for the event. However, Disney released it into general sale the day before the party. This was a disappointing part of this event for me as I had my heart set on a Fandaze baseball cap and Fandaze t-shirt. These were no where to be found so I believe both had sold out by the time I reached the shop. I still managed to pick up a Fandaze mug and an Oswald and Ortensia plush toy, however Disney could have maximised my spend if they had adequate supply of the t-shirts and hats. It was really annoying to see on social media that people were buying and wearing the ‘event merchandise’ before I was able to get to the party when it had been marketed as event exclusive items, it did make me feel cheated and considering the high cost of the party ticket I felt Disney made a mistake here.
The event concluded at 2 am with a Grand finale parade. This was a walk through of all the characters that were featured at the event. I thought this was a really nice way to finish the evening; as it gave you one last chance to snap a picture of your favourite character. Was this event a success for Disney? Well I would say yes overall. It certainly showed that Disney understand their core fan-base. I do feel there is a little room for improvement next year as I fully expect this event to keep returning.