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Sun 2 Nov 2014 11:02 AM

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Alwaleed-backed Disneyland Paris benefited 4,000 workers with new ride

The latest attraction is based on the popular Ratatouille animated film

Alwaleed-backed Disneyland Paris benefited 4,000 workers with new ride
Disneyland Paris

Disneyland Paris, the French theme park in which Saudi businessman Prince Alwaleed bin Talal owns a 10 percent stake, employed nearly 4,000 jobs during the development of its latest attraction based on the Ratatouille animated film, it was reported.

The Ratatouille ride was based on the 2007 Oscar-winning film about a rat who helped a hapless chef to create amazing dishes in a restaurant in Paris and was unveiled this summer at the park on the outskirts of the French capital.

The attraction uses cutting-edge trackless simulator cars which travel through massive indoors sets and give fans the impression they have been shrunk to the level of a rat and see the world from a rodent’s viewpoint.

Björn Heerwagen, show design and production manager at the theme park to Forbes around 4,000 people were employed in the ride’s development, with 80 percent coming from the local community in France.

It was “five years of intricate construction work,” Heerwagen told Forbes magazine. “Contrary to popular belief, we don’t build everything in America and ship it… We do a lot less in-house production now but it used to be more. In the last ten years a decision was taken to go out and collaborate with vendors.”

Last month it was announced Prince Alwaleed had agreed to join a €420 million ($532 million) bailout of Euro Disney, the Paris theme park’s parent company.

The prince made the decision after visiting Disneyland Paris last month, The Mail on Sunday revealed.

The attraction secured a rescue deal from its biggest shareholder, US-based Walt Disney Company, that will see Disney swap €600 million of Euro Disney’s debt for equity and the deferment of repayments on loans until 2024, as well as new shares issued.

Under the deal, Prince Alwaleed risked having his stake dramatically cut if he did not also invest extra cash.

His support was seen as a crucial vote of confidence in the company, The Mail on Sunday report said.

Disneyland Paris racked up a net loss of $964 million in its first year of operation in 1992 and has only turned a profit in eight of the past 22 years.

Despite recording 14.9 million visitors last year, the theme park lost $99 million.

Prince Alwaleed told newspaper he had been impressed during his visit to the park and would continue to support the company.

“We will fully subscribe to the rights issue because we support France and we support Disney,” he was quoted as saying.

“They will not take our stake. We will maintain 10 percent.

“Operationally there is no problem at all. I went to the hotels. I skinned the park, I skinned the hotels, I skinned everything. Meticulous. It is a top-notch tourist destination.”

However, he said visitor numbers to Disneyland Paris, the most popular tourist destination in Europe, had been disappointing.

“Two years ago we had 16 million visitors to Euro Disney, with half from France. Now it is down to 14 million and most of the loss comes from France. But we are seeing a plateau because revenue was up this quarter,” he said.

The Walt Disney Company has a 40 percent stake, with 10 percent owned by Alwaleed, 5 percent owned by fund manager Invesco and the rest floated on the Paris Euronext exchange.

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