Disneyland Paris is a holiday and recreation resort in Marne-la-Vallée, a new town in the eastern suburbs of Paris, France. The complex is located 32 km (20 mi) from the centre of Paris and lies for the most part within the commune of Chessy, Seine-et-Marne.
Disneyland Paris comprises two theme parks, a retail, dining and entertainment district, and seven Disney-owned hotels. Operating since 12 April 1992, it was the second Disney resort to open outside the United States (following Tokyo Disney Resort) and the first to be owned and operated by Disney.
Disneyland Paris is owned and operated by French company Euro Disney S.C.A., a public company of which 39.78 percent of its stock is held by The Walt Disney Company, 10 percent by the Saudi Prince Alwaleed and 50.22 percent by other shareholders. The senior leader at the resort is chairman and CEO Philippe Gas.
The complex was a subject of controversy during the periods of negotiation and construction in the late 1980s and early '90s, when a number of prominent French figures voiced their opposition and protests were held by French labour unions and others. A further setback followed the opening of the resort as park attendance, hotel occupancy and revenues fell below projections. The complex was renamed from Euro Disney Resort to Disneyland Paris in 1994. In July 1995, the company saw its first quarterly profit.
A second theme park, Walt Disney Studios Park, opened to the public 16 March 2002.
With 15,405,000 combined visitors to the resort's Disneyland Park and Walt Disney Studios Park in the fiscal year of 2009, it is France's and Europe's most visited tourist site.
Following the success of Disneyland in Anaheim, California, and the Walt Disney World Resort in Florida, plans to build a similar theme park in Europe emerged in 1972. Upon 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 of these nations saw the potential economic advantages of a Disney theme park and competed by offering financing deals to Disney.
Both Spanish sites were located near the Mediterranean Sea 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, thick layers of bedrock were discovered beneath the site, which would render 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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