Co.Design

The Other Disney World: A Creepy, Empty Village

Outside of Paris lies a “Truman Show like über-replica of a French village from the last century, which seems to have sprung up overnight.”

Christoph Sillem, a German-born French photographer whose pictures you see here, was scanning Google Maps one day recently when he noticed a huge circle about 18 miles east of Paris. “It was actually the ring road surrounding Eurodisney, which got me wondering if Disney had an influence on the environment beyond its circle,” Sillem says. “Getting there, I was surprised to see to what extent this was the case. I found a kind of pre-Disneyland that is meant to get all arriving visitors in a happyclappymickeymood before entering the park, but that was not all.”

What he also found was a life-sized Disney town elaborately designed in the style of Baron Haussmann, the French urban planner who, under Napoleon III, transformed Paris into the fussy gilded museum it is today. With the faux chateaux and the painted shutters and the clipped lawns, Val d’Europe was, Sillem saw, a fictionalized, idealized version of France … in France. But that wasn’t even the weirdest part. The weirdest part was that many stretches of the village were eerily empty—like a pre-dawn movie set. Or as Sillem describes it: a “Truman Show like über-replica of a French village from the last century, which seems to have sprung up overnight.”

He’s wrong about one thing: Val d’Europe did not spring up overnight. Building began in 1987, and the idea was to open Val d’Europe as a companion town alongside Euro Disney Resort in 1992. According to Wikipedia, Val d’Europe and Celebration, Florida, Disney’s other foray into community planning, are descendants of Walt Disney’s original plan for a utopian city of the future—the Experimental Prototype Community of Tomorrow, or EPCOT as we’ve come to know it.

The utopianism continues today. Disneyland Paris plans to add an ecologically minded development, Les Villages Nature de Val d’Europe (literally, “natural villages in the valley of Europe”), which would "offer visitors the pleasure of living in harmony with nature, in the heart of France and Europe." It’d feature an interactive farm, an "Adventure Island," and, as one article reported, "buildings atop pillars in a setting of artificial lakes and lagoons." Leave it to Disney to make sustainable design sound unsurpassingly creepy.

[Images courtesy of Christoph Sillem; h/t It’s Nice That]

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12 Comments

  • Guest

    “...[a] Truman Show like über-replica of a French village from the last century, which seems to have sprung up overnight.”
    Last century meaning the 20th century or last century meaning the 19th century, which for twelve years hasn't been the last century...?

  • Mike

    Just read the Wiki Entry, building work started in 1987 and As of 2005, Val d'Europe has a population of 19,700 people.

    That building work shown is new and an extension of Val d'Europe, it's empty because it's not finished.

    Not that empty a village really.

  • Dan

    Do disney provide policing and fire services to their villages or do the goverment have to do it. How does it work?

  • ♏ Helge-K. Wang

    Well, creepy or not. I think it looks pretty nice, kind of liked the style. :)

  • Burutapen

    Wow, i cannot believe your simplified version of Haussmann's contribution to urban planning in general and Paris in particular. Clearly, his plans were guided by a will to control the citizens through the years of the revolution but, come on! Fussy guilded? One of the most beautiful cities in the world... And then to relate in any way the ugly pastiche architecture in that new town to Haussmann... Come on! Again.

  • Yepper

    I agree Burutapen,

    Is this guy German? He seems to reflect the views of Hitler on Paris. Paris is perhaps one of the bmost beautiful cities on Earh although the French tend to annoy me  at  times.

  • Greg Bryla

     Burutapen, I agree with your comment about Paris. Yes, the residential buildings are very ornate but by activating the street level with retail, the corner bistros and the quality of the open space set Paris so far ahead of Disney's attempt. Granted they had some of the best research it, design it yet building everything all at once lacks the patina and eccentricities that come with time. Celebration is a good example. Maybe in 30 years when things get worn in and people disregard the massive amount of regulatory control of what they can and can't do to their buildings so it doesn't feel so antiseptically clean, the place will feel alive. All that being said, it looks creepy because there are no people...yet.