Deep in the bowels of La Chateau de La Belle Au Bois Dormant, a dragon's muffled growl drew a curious contingent of visitors from Anaheim.
Its eyes glowed red and steam rose from its nostrils as it lurked in a shallow pool, suddenly lunging toward the huddled crowd in a toothy roar.
It is unlike anything that guests at Disneyland have experienced, like the Middle Eastern village here set in the middle of Adventureland or the sugar-coated popcorn and delicate Caribbean fruits served by street vendors.
These are the sights and flavors of the Walt Disney Co.'s newly opened $4-billion creation, Euro Disneyland. It is the entertainment giant's latest export of a dream that began in Orange County, and it has drawn a delegation of 77 civic, government and business leaders from Anaheim to this former sugar-beet field, about 20 miles east of Paris.
In many ways, the trip is a venture into Anaheim's future, as Disney and city officials continue negotiations for a $3-billion expansion of Disneyland.
While some members of the delegation are traveling for pleasure, some, like Supervisor Harriett Wieder and Anaheim Planning Commissioner Glenn Hellyer, could be making key decisions that determine the shape and size of the planned Disneyland expansion. Those decisions will involve zoning, transportation, environmental concerns and other issues.
Also at stake is Anaheim's tab--estimates have ranged as high as $1 billion--for roads, utilities and other improvements to accommodate the expansion.
Although the weeklong trip was arranged by Disney, each delegate is paying $1,767 for air fare and four nights in a hotel. The Anaheim City Council is represented only by Councilman Irv Pickler.
Although Euro Disney does not yet extend over its full 5,000 acres, Anaheim banker Stanley Pawlowski said Tuesday what many in the Anaheim group would only whisper: "This place is better than Anaheim Disneyland. It's just bigger, more expansive. There is clearly more room here."
"It's a shame Walt couldn't be here to see this," former Anaheim Mayor Jack Dutton said, pushing back from a salmon lunch at the very California Euro-Disneyland Hotel. "This just proves what you can do with imagination, more land and a lot more money."
As in Anaheim, the park's signature piece is Sleeping Beauty's castle. Rising from Main Street USA, Le Chateau is about twice as tall as its California counterpart and is built on a grassy knoll that drops to a waterfall at the main entrance.
"This is the best castle we've ever done," said Disney executive Judson Green, who helped oversee park construction in Europe. It is the attention to detail that sets this castle apart, park officials say. Even its salmon color was part of a strategic decision to provide contrast to the often dreary Parisian skies.
Although not a concern Tuesday, with blue skies and temperatures in the 70s, the region's often cool and damp climate spurred designers to construct two covered arcades that house boutiques and souvenir shops to occupy guests during inclement weather.
"We're learning some lessons here, some we might be bringing to Southern California," Green said.
Anaheim Disneyland President Jack Lindquist hinted that one of the first projects future California guests might see duplicated from its sister park in Europe is a replacement of Disneyland's Tomorrowland with Euro Disney's Discoveryland.
The move could come with the expansion planned during the next decade.
Discoveryland does include the most popular Anaheim elements--Star Tours is here, along with the popular rocket rides--but unique to this land are attractions featuring the galactic adventures of "Captain EO" and the popular Videopolis, a rock 'n' roll entertainment center equipped to host live stage shows.
Already on the drawing board for Anaheim, but receiving a test run here are hotels that carry heavy entertainment or architectural themes. Among six hotels at the Euro Disney Resort, guests can choose the up-scale Hotel New York at $300 per day, where towers evoke the images of the Manhattan skyline. Or, for about $100 a night, they can bunk at the Hotel Cheyenne in the midst of a frontier village with gravel streets. And at the Hotel Santa Fe, a giant, full-color billboard of Clint Eastwood stands over the entrance.
The themes, which are proving extremely popular with European guests fascinated by the American West, were also apparently a hit with the Orange County delegation.
"Isn't this neat?" said Anaheim Police Chief Joseph T. Molloy, admiring the old west decor and room lamps made in the form of cowboy boots.
In another area, Pickler mugged for photographs outside American Indian tepees.
The concept of themed hotels is expected to be copied in the Anaheim expansion, where plans call for the addition of 5,100 rooms. According to Disney drawings, the hotels in Orange County would include, for example, the distinctive Victorian design of San Diego's Hotel del Coronado.
Disney officials said it was the design of the Hotel del Coronado that inspired the Euro Disneyland Hotel.
In fact, the Parisian amusement park is so inspired by the California lifestyle that popular French wines must be specially ordered in Euro Disney Hotel dining rooms, General Manager Charles Henning said.
"You've got to ask if you want French," Henning said. "We showcase California vintages here."
For Americans homesick for a burger and malt, there is Annette's. Patterned after the chain of Ruby's restaurants located throughout Orange County, the shop is located in an area just outside the theme park called Festival Disney. This district is a virtual celebration of American food and drink, where visitors to the Carnegie Sports Bar can just as easily enjoy a Lone Star longneck as a Kronenbourg draft.
Elvis Presley is a staple on Annette's jukebox, and Marcy McFadden, 27, of Newport Beach keeps things running smoothly.
A former Orange Coast College exchange student to France, McFadden landed the job at Annette's last October and intends to remain as long as she can.
"It's been a lot of work," McFadden said. "Since I don't have any family here, I have adopted the other people who work in the shops nearby. The mix of people involved in this project has been great."
Not everything is perfect, though. McFadden's assistant, Sasika Van Haaren of Holland, said some employees are having trouble mastering the uniquely American practice of having waitresses deliver their orders on roller skates.
"Some we only let escort people to the tables," Van Haaren said. "They need some practice."
But McFadden and others are noticing that Europeans, particularly the French, who were initially critical of the Disney invasion, are beginning to take to this new development that one intellectual likened to an "American nightmare."
"They are intrigued," McFadden said. "They come here, but some don't want anything to eat. They just want to look. During the pre-opening period, there was a lot of mystery, a lot of negative stuff. But now, I see kids on the metro (local rail system) with Mickey Mouse ears. I never thought I'd see that in France."
Disney's Green, who along with company Chairman Michael Eisner was pelted with eggs in Paris when Euro Disney first announced its public stock offering three years ago, has watched acceptance grow.
"This was such a huge investment and most of Europe didn't know what we were offering," Green said. "Now, the proof is in the pudding. If there are some who do not care to partake, that's OK."
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