Disneyland Paris fetes 20th year in big show

Disneyland Paris fetes 20th year in big show

CHESSY, France - The Associated Press
Disneyland Paris fetes 20th year in big show

Mexican actress Salma Hayek poses with Donald Duck during the 20th anniversary celebrations of the Disneyland Resort. REUTERS photo

Disneyland Paris celebrated its entry into adulthood in spectacular style this weekend, with a 20th birthday extravaganza replete with celebrities, parades and a new state-of-the-art show. The resort 35 kilometers east of Paris has a lot to celebrate. After overcoming a rocky childhood, the “Magic Kingdom” now makes up a chunk of the French economy and of Disney’s own revenues.

Mexican actress Salma Hayek and retired French soccer great Zinedine Zidane led celebrations at the park featuring a high-energy projection of Disney cartoon characters onto Sleeping Beauty’s castle crowning Main Street, U.S.A.

Also starring in the event, marked with fireworks and water displays, were Peter Pan and other Disney characters. “Marvelous!” Frenchman Xavier Fin, 40, said on April 1, a day after the show. “I’m here with my son and it’s so great for him to see all the creativity. It’s really overwhelming.”

Beyond the glitz, however, there is a real story for Disneyland Paris to crow about after some volatile years and a rumored brush with bankruptcy. The resort, 40 percent owned by the Walt Disney Co., has come a long way under the marketing mantra “slowly but surely.”

Five years ago, the resort finally started to make operating profits. Building on its fortune, Disneyland Paris became the most visited tourist destination in Europe in 2008. It broke its record for ticket sales last year, marking its 250 millionth visitor since its creation. Over the years, the French have also learned to love Mickey. The resort was decried by some in France as a threat to the French culture, a “cultural Chernobyl” for some, a “construction of hardened chewing gum” for others.