Disneyland Paris, originally Euro Disney Resort, is an entertainment resort in Marne-la-Vallée, a new town located 32 km (20 mi) east of the centre of Paris, and is the most visited theme park in all of Europe. It is owned and operated by The Walt Disney Company and is the only resort outside the United States to be. The resort covers 4,800 acres (19 km2) and encompasses two theme parks, many resort hotels, a shopping, dining, and entertainment complex, and a golf course, in addition to several additional recreational and entertainment venues. Disneyland Park is the original theme park of the complex, opening with the resort on 12 April 1992. A second theme park, Walt Disney Studios Park, opened in 2002. The resort is the second Disney park to open outside the United States following the opening of the Tokyo Disney Resort in 1983.
Until June 2017, Disney only held a majority stake in the resort, when they bought the remaining shares. In 2017 The Walt Disney Company offered an informal takeover of Euro Disney S.C.A., buying 9% of the company from Kingdom Holding and an open offer of 2 Euro per share for the remaining stock. This brought The Walt Disney Company’s total ownership to 85.7%. The Walt Disney company will also invest an additional 1.5 Billion Euro to strengthen the company.
Seeking a location for a European resort
Following the success of Disneyland in California and Walt Disney World in Florida, plans to build a similar theme park in Europe emerged in 1972. Under the leadership of E. Cardon Walker, Tokyo Disneyland opened in 1983 in Japan with instant success, forming a catalyst for international expansion. In late 1984 the heads of Disney’s theme park division, Dick Nunis and Jim Cora, presented a list of approximately 1,200 possible European locations for the park. By March 1985, the number of possible locations for the park had been reduced to four; two in France and two in Spain. Both nations saw the potential economic advantages of a Disney theme park and offered competing financing deals to Disney.
Both Spanish sites were located near the Mediterranean and offered a subtropical climate similar to Disney’s parks in California and Florida. Disney had also shown interest in a site near Toulon in southern France, not far from Marseille. The pleasing landscape of that region, as well as its climate, made the location a top competitor for what would be called Euro Disneyland. However, shallow bedrock was encountered beneath the site, which would have rendered construction too difficult. Finally, a site in the rural town of Marne-la-Vallée was chosen because of its proximity to Paris and its central location in Western Europe. This location was estimated to be no more than a four-hour drive for 68 million people and no more than a two-hour flight for a further 300 million.
Michael Eisner, Disney’s CEO at the time, signed the first letter of agreement with the French government for the 20-square-kilometre (4,940-acre) site on 18 December 1985, and the first financial contracts were drawn up during the following spring. The final contract was signed by the leaders of the Walt Disney Company and the French government and territorial collectivities on 24 March 1987. Construction began in August 1988, and in December 1990, an information centre named “Espace Euro Disney” was opened to show the public what was being constructed. Plans for a theme park next to Euro Disneyland based on the entertainment industry, Disney-MGM Studios Europe, quickly went into development, scheduled to open in 1996 with a construction budget of US$2.3 billion. The construction manager was Bovis.
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