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]