Disneyland Paris

From Sketch to Reality

Most of my favorite books about Disney theme parks are “Yester books”—books that are out of print and no longer sold by their publishers. Such books are sometimes available from used book resellers at astronomical collector’s prices. One such book is Disneyland Paris, From Sketch to Reality by Alain Littaye and Didier Ghez.

The book was originally published in French and English limited editions back in 2002. It sold out.

In 2012, author Alain Littaye teamed up with MiceChat’s Dusty Sage for a final printing of the Collector’s Edition of Disneyland Paris, From Sketch to Reality. Alain had discovered that although 2,000 copies of the English language editions had been authorized, only 1,270 had been produced in 2002 due to printing expenses and other reasons.

But there was a catch. It would be a costly venture to print the rest. Would enough buyers be interested?

The solution was to take pre-orders. If enough people pre-ordered by March 15, 2012, the printing would proceed. The pre-order customers would make the venture viable and be rewarded with a lower price than later customers.

I originally published the article below on February 24, 2012. It used to end with instructions for how to pre-order. It’s now almost a decade too late for that. There’s an Amazon link at the end so that you can see the asking price for used copies.

Werner Weiss, Curator of Yesterland, December 31, 2021

I consider myself fortunate to have many of the best Disney theme park books and DVDs on my bookshelf—titles such as Disneyland, The Nickel Tour, Disneyland: Inside Story, Disneyland Hotel: The Early Years 1954-1988, and Walt Disney Treasures: Disneyland Secrets, Stories & Magic. I highly recommend these titles to you—but be prepared to pay more than their original prices.

Disneyland Paris, From Sketch to Reality

Screen capture taken February 23, 2012 (minor editing for clarity)

It’s a great book—but $1,171.69 (new) or $863.81 (used) is too much.

For a short time, a particularly rare book, Disneyland Paris, From Sketch to Reality, is available at a price that may sound high—around $150—but is actually a decent value for this gorgeous book. And this is for a limited Collector’s Edition. It’s printed on Papier Couché Brilliant, and it includes special lithographs.

It’s not just a particularly rare book; it’s also a particularly enjoyable book for anyone who enjoys Imagineering art, Disney park history, armchair travel to the most beautiful “magic kingdom” style park in the world—and even getting bird’s eye views of it.

Disneyland Paris, From Sketch to Reality

Artwork copyright Disney

Preliminary concept art for Main Street, U.S.A., set in the 1920s

Between the time that Michael Eisner signed a letter of intent with the Prime Minister of France in 1985 and the opening of Disneyland Paris (originally as Euro Disneyland) in 1992, a Walt Disney Imagineering (WDI) team headed up by Imagineer Tony Baxter dreamed up and designed a most wondrous Kingdom.

The new park would be based on the tradition brilliantly established by the original Disneyland (1955), supersized at Magic Kingdom Park (1971), and polished at Tokyo Disneyland (1983). Once again, the centerpiece would be a fairy tale castle. There would be Main Street, U.S.A, Frontierland, Adventureland, and Discoveryland (in place of Tomorrowland).

But this park would not be assembled from reused renderings and cloned attractions. This would be a unique park. Even Disney’s signature attractions such as the Haunted Mansion would be reimagined.

Disneyland Paris, From Sketch to Reality

Artwork by Eddie Sotto copyright Disney

Concept art for an elevated train within a Main Street arcade

The design team tried many new ideas—sometimes to deal with the often cold and wet climate of Paris, sometimes to serve the expectations of the European clientele, and sometimes just to do something better than ever before. Wonderful concept art emerged from this effort.

And this book has many fine examples of this artwork, including much that was not actually built. In a way, this book provides an opportunity to visit the Disney Park That Never Was.

Disneyland Paris, From Sketch to Reality

Artwork by Tim Delaney copyright Disney

Concept art for interior of Space Mountain, with multiple attractions inside the structure

We think of Space Mountain as an indoor roller coaster. But imagine Space Mountain as a vast indoor space with Les Mystères du Nautilus, an underwater restaurant, a train station, and even Star Tours.

The chapter on Discoveryland shows concepts that were tried and eventually either discarded or refined to become what was built. It’s fun to see the creative process and to admire the ideas—even those that never made it.

Disneyland Paris, From Sketch to Reality

Photograph copyright Disney

Working on the Columbiad launch cannon at Space Mountain

There are also plenty of photos of what was actually built. If you’ve never been to Disneyland Paris, it’s a chance to admire the details that set this park apart from its stateside cousins.

The book has a staggering 750 images!

Disneyland Paris, From Sketch to Reality

Photograph copyright Disney

Imagineers hard at work on a model of the entire park

This Yesterland article took a long time to write. It’s not that it’s a terribly long article or that I had to do loads of time-consuming research.

I’ve been trying to write with my copy of Disneyland Paris, From Sketch to Reality at my desk, and I kept opening it to random pages and enjoying the wonderful artwork, photos, and stories.

Here’s a conversation with Alain Littaye, who created the project for Disneyland Paris, From Sketch to Reality.

Werner Weiss: The book is spectacular. What motivated you to pursue such an ambitious project?

Alain Littaye: Mainly the fact that, back in 2000, there was no book at all telling the story of how Disneyland Paris was created. I also knew that there was great WDI artwork and that, along with stunning pictures of the park, it would make a beautiful book. It sounded quite easy at the time.

Werner: Did you know what a big project it would be when you began?

Alain: Not at all. What I didn’t know is that it was going to take five years from the moment we started the book until when it was released. I’ve done a lot of books in my life, and there is no doubt that this is the one that took the longest time to complete. But, it’s also the one I’m most proud of, mainly because I was also the publisher of this book. So, if I thought that the book needed 100 more pages to be better, I was able to make that decision on my own.

Disneyland Paris, From Sketch to Reality

Artwork and photographs copyright Disney

Page layouts from Disneyland Paris, From Sketch to Reality

Werner: Does that mean the book became larger as you worked on it?

Alain: This is what happened: Originally the book was planned to have 200 pages or so, but when I saw all the fantastic material that we could use, I knew that the book needed to have more than 300 pages to be perfect and tell the whole story. In the end, we ended up with 320 pages. What I’m really proud of with this book is that it is one of the very rare cases where the ideal won out over practical reality. As we know, generally in life, the opposite happens. But not with this book! I was determined to have it as perfect as possible—or nothing at all. Determination was the secret to this book.

Werner: What did you enjoy most as you worked on the book?

Alain: Definitely doing the layouts, finding and selecting the pictures and going through all the Walt Disney Imagineering artwork. There are 500 photos of the park and 250 WDI images in the book, so that’s a lot! But I always enjoy doing this sort of work because it allows you to use intuition, feeling and vision. You must not be intellectual when you’re doing this sort of task, you must “feel” it.

Disneyland Paris, From Sketch to Reality

Photograph copyright Disney

Two-page spread of Imagineers at work on the dragon for Sleeping Beauty Castle

Werner: Can we expect any other Disney park books from you?

Alain: A lot of my readers have asked me if I could do the same kind of book about Tokyo Disney Sea. I know there is stunning WDI artwork for TDS, and, of course, the park itself is so gorgeous that anyone could shoot great pictures of it. So, yes, a book about TDS should exist, but it must be done with the goal of making a gorgeous book first and not only of making money out of it. That’s the other secret: Never think first about making money; just do the best possible book, the kind of book that every fan dreams to own, and it will find its audience. The other important thing is the intention with which you are doing things. Readers instantly know if something was created out of passion or out of a desire to make money. But when you put passion and love in what you create they also feel it. It’s the intention with which we’re doing things that count. That’s what creates the magic in life... So we shall have to wait and see if it is possible to do another book, without compromises, in today’s environment.

Disneyland Paris, From Sketch to Reality

Aerial photograph copyright Yann Arthus-Bertrand.

Example of one of the aerial photographs from Disneyland Paris, From Sketch to Reality

Werner: Is there anything else you want to tell Yesterland readers?

Alain: Yes, anyone who loves Disney theme parks and Imagineering will appreciate this book, because that what it is all about, how WDI created a gorgeous magic kingdom. The beautiful aerial photos of the park, shot by world famous photographer Yann Arthus-Bertrand, provide a visual image of Disneyland Paris from angles readers could never see in person. I also hear a lot about the pages and artwork in the book pertaining to “the Disneyland Paris that never was.” The original concept for Discovery Mountain, for instance, was a stunning idea that people just fall in love with. It may not exist in the real world, but it does in this book.

Disneyland Paris, From Sketch to Reality

Artwork by Herb Ryman copyright Disney

Two-page spread inside the back cover with a concept painting of Main Street, U.S.A.

Werner: Disneyland Paris, From Sketch to Reality is one of my very favorite books in my fairly extensive collection of books about Disney theme parks.

Alain: I’m always overwhelmed how much people who own the book treasure it. In the ten years since the book was published, I’ve never seen or heard one person who didn’t love the book. Absolutely everyone seems to love it, and that’s really the best reward for all the time and effort that it took to bring the book to life. I remember a letter from the late Bruce Gordon (famous Imagineer), after the book was published, in which he told us that Disneyland Paris, From Sketch to Reality was “probably the best book ever done on a Disney theme park.” That was very kind coming from him, especially considering that he was also writing books about Disney theme parks, and some of his books, like Disneyland: The Nickel Tour, are considered among the greatest theme park books ever written.

When I saw on Amazon that the book was selling for well over $1,000, I couldn’t believe it. No one should have to pay so much to own this book. I’m really delighted to be working with Dusty Sage and others to bring this book back to print so a new generation of theme park lovers can add this book to their collections (in a good spot, hopefully). Sadly, we only have the rights to finish out the Collector’s Edition run with 730 new books. And that will be all; this journey will finally be at an end.

Disneyland Paris, From Sketch to Reality

Artwork copyright Disney

Disneyland Paris, From Sketch to Reality Collector’s Edition

Werner: Thank you for answering my questions—and thank you for creating such a great book!

Amazon links to the original 2002 edition and the 2012 Collector’s Edition:


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© 2012-2021 Werner Weiss — Disclaimers, Copyright, and Trademarks

Updated December 31, 2021

Photo and artwork credits and copyrights below each image.
Disclosure per FTC guidelines: Werner Weiss has owned a copy of Disneyland Paris, From Sketch to Reality for many years. Mr. Weiss does not have any financial interest in the publication or sale of the new, limited printing of the Collector’s Edition of this book.