Prop decorators, cabinet makers, carpenters, upholsterers, letter painters and more! Altogether, there are more than 250 cast members who contribute to the preservation of Disneyland Paris‘ heritage by using their know-how across the resort.
Behind all Disneyland Paris decoration are craftsmen and women, often unknown but essential to guarantee the incredible level of detail that the resort is known for. Central Workshop cast members work in the parks, hotels, and at Disney Village to take guests on a journey through immersive environments.
Let’s take a look at these crafts — and the guardians of the magic at Disneyland Paris.
Among the 250 talented cast members working at the Central Workshops, 10 or so are responsible for maintaining and refurbishing the many sets and accessories at Disneyland Paris. They regularly walk through the parks to take stock of anything that may need attention. Any accessories identified are then restored in the workshop using traditional techniques and returned to their original location.
To do this, Central Workshop cast members work in close collaboration with Walt Disney Imagineering teams, which provide very precise specifications to follow. They then define the most suitable process for restoring the accessories. Some objects were found in antique shops nearly 30 years ago, so cast members sometimes need to carry out meticulous research in order to restore them as accurately as possible. It’s not always a question of giving the objects a ‘fresh look’ though. Prop makers sometimes work with objects that have been bought new, and the challenge lies in giving them an aged look. Each year, no less than 500 accessories are refurbished.
Letter painters are responsible for restoring shop signs, restaurant signs, and even the lettering on the Disneyland Railroad steam train cars. Using traditional techniques, they work with oil paint, gold leaf, or silver leaf, depending on the surface. In order to withstand the elements and last for a long time, they sometimes use copper leaf that is painted gold, which is the case with horses on the Carrousel de Lancelot, for example.
A team of a dozen boilermakers also work in the parks, hotels, at Disney Village, and even backstage. They are in charge of rebuilding the rail sections of the attractions and can also work on the vehicles that travel in the parks. Recently, they rebuilt several sections of the iconic Big Thunder Mountain attraction. The temporary closure of the resort allowed the team to carry out this large-scale work during the day, without having to close the attraction or wait overnight.
These cast members typically have initial training as propmakers, which enables them to master various production techniques like modeling or the creation of moulding, as well as provides them with knowledge of different materials like resins, paints and plaster. As passing on knowledge is important at Disneyland Paris, cast members are also trained internally in other crafts to broaden their capabilities and encourage versatility. These include carpentry, cabinet making, upholstery, glassmaking, ropemaking and even seamanship — the creation of rope knots, which can be seen on the 20 kilometers of bamboo fences in Adventureland. They are also trained in welding and ironwork.
“All of the objects and accessories that we work on have a life of their own, some for almost 30 years in our parks,” said Eric, a prop master and glassmaker responsible for the restoration of glass objects like lamps and lanterns. “Every piece tells a story. It is important that we respect this history by working in a traditional way, using a reference that is as close as possible to the original object. And of course, we take into account the evolution of the safety standards for the techniques we use.”