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The blog of author Dennis Cooper

France’s Lost Amusement Parks – Planete Magique (December 20, 1989 – January 2, 1990) & Mirapolis (1988 – 1991)

 

1. Planet Magique

_______
The story

‘In 1983, the renowned French cartoonist Jean Chalopin, with the assistance of artistic director Bernard Deyriès, proposed to the city of Paris that he build a covered amusement park for the city’s youth in the heart of the city that would rival the great amusement parks of Los Angeles. The project, Planete Magique, addressed the themes emblematic of entertainment parks: comic books, cartoons, mythology (Atlantis …), adventure (Star Wars … the Lost Ark), and science (NASA …). He also intended to include the achievements of his own company Chalopin DIC, which either produced or represented popular French franchises such as Ulysses 31, The Mysterious Cities of Gold, Inspector Gadget, The Littles, and The Entrechats. The park would utilize advanced technologies such as touch screens, digital photography, polarized glasses, and electronic or computer gaming.

‘The theme park was to occupy 1,100 square meters of the theater Gaite Lyrique, a historical monument which had been abandoned since 1977, was badly decayed and in need of either restoration or demolition. The mayor of Paris, future French President Jacques Chriac issued the building permit. At a press conference on September 18, 1986, Chirac announced the project publicly after numerous administrative procedures. The budget for the project was 280 million French francs (42.7 million Euro), 100 million francs of which was loaned by Paris City Hall, which granted Chalopin exclusive use of Theatre Lyrique for 50 years.

Planet Magique took four years to construct in the nine floors of the building, beginning in 1987. The building’s historic facade and lobby were renovated, but the famed ‘Italian theater’ that occupied the majority of the structure was destroyed and replaced by a concrete spiral. In late 1987, Chalopin sold his share of the company DIC, causing the project to have no rights to the cartoon series and characters around whom which the theme park was to have revolved. A number of the park’s major attractions had to be hastily revamped, including the ambitious Cities of Gold, which was superficially revamped into a walkthrough Inca Empire. The majority of the rides and attractions that Planet Magique had promised and advertised were either heavily modified or cancelled altogether.

‘The park opened to the public hastily on 20 December 1989 before it was remotely near completion. 30000 visitors attended during the first week, but they were wildly and vocally disappointed, as was the press, and the park closed only 12 days after it opened. Its 90 employees were laid off, and 80 companies who had provided loans to the theme park were unpaid. After closing, the project’s stated budget was revealed to have been greatly underestimated, and the park had cost close to 400 million French francs (61 million Euros) in December 1989.

‘In order to avoid the huge financial loss and hoping to save face, the City of Paris agreed to a recovery plan of the site, and it reopened on 8 December 1990 under the aegis of a new shareholder: the group North France. It had no greater success on its second attempt. The number of visitors to park on weekdays did not exceed ten persons, and the rides and attractions were more often broken down than functioning. Planet Magique filed for bankruptcy on May 3, 1991 and closed permanently in June 1991. Following the closure of the park, the arcade and easily recoverable materials were removed. The site was then abandoned until 2004 when work began on Gaite Lyrique, a new center dedicated to contemporary music and digital art, which opened to great success in the spring of 2011.’ — collaged

 

_________________
The rides & attractions
(c. 2000)

Navette
nacelle à sensation sur rail permettant de rejoindre le 7e étage en quelques secondes.

 

Talisman
jeu laser interactif avec un thème moyenâgeux au milieu d’automates, d’effets d’animation, etc.

 

Machine voyage temps
ascenseur rotatif menant dans différentes salles consacrées soit à l’Égypte, soit la Grèce antique, soit Léonard de Vinci, etc. Un défi interactif attend le public dans la salle.

 

Ouragan
illusion d’un ouragan avec perte de repère spatial, vibration du siège, à la manière d’une mad house.

 

Cites d’or
jeu interactif d’énigmes menant jusqu’à la salle du trésor des Incas apparenté au thème Les Mystérieuses Cités d’or.

 

Dragon bleu
un rail suit un circuit fermé, le long d’une paroi presque verticale. Des sièges, imitant ceux des spationautes, y sont suspendus. Un certain nombre de commandes sont mises à disposition, permettant aux clients de répondre aux différentes questions, de participer aux jeux interactifs ou d’effectuer des rotations avec le siège. La plus impressionnante reste celle autour de l’axe horizontal, permettant au siège de se trouver à presque 45° de la verticale vers l’avant. L’usager se retrouve penché en avant, seulement retenu par la ceinture au-dessus d’un vide correspondant à la hauteur de plusieurs étages.

 

Gadget

 

BD ZAP
photo dans des décors de la bande dessinée belge avec Gaston Lagaffe, Les Tuniques bleues, Yoko Tsuno ou Papyrus. Le sponsor est Dupuis

 

Garage navette

 

Aladin
petit walkthrough sur les 1001 nuits.

 

Entrechat

 

La Maison de Barbie
l’univers de la poupée au travers d’écrans interactifs. Le sponsor est Mattel.

 

Vecteur beauté
simulations de maquillages sur écrans en utilisant la photo numérique. Le sponsor est Yves Rocher.

 

Cartoon center
salle de diffusion de dessins animés.

 

Toboggan
un toboggan.

 

Planete roll
voitures de course télécommandée.

 

Le Bouquet
spectacle musical d’automates.

 

Triangle des Bermudes
salle de jeux d’arcade.

 

Planete Molle
plaine de jeux intérieure avec piscine à boules, échelle de corde, ateliers ludiques et éducatifs, etc. Le sponsor est Swatch Group

 

Abre a parfum

 

Transistor
discothèque pour les plus jeunes. Le sponsor est Coca-Cola.

 

El Dorado
jeux vidéo.

 

Nintendo
jeux vidéo sur NES. Le sponsor est Nintendo.

 

____________________
The ruins explored in 2002


video


slideshow
—-

*

 

2. Mirapolis

Mira refers to the idea of mirror of the infinite, eternal and all symbolic thereto. Polis means the size of cities and ancient kingdoms. It is reminiscent of fabulous adventure … and future.’ — Anne Fourcade

‘The first grand scale theme park ever built in France, Mirapolis was located at Cergy Pontoise, a city 30 miles northwest of Paris. With a surface area of 220 acres, this amusement park opened in 1987. It featured up to 45 attractions. With its immense Gargantua statue, the world’s second largest hollow figurative structure after the Statue Of Liberty, Mirapolis was recognizable from miles away. So why did this park last only 5 years ? First of all, the huge expanse of the park proved to be a very bad idea. The several roller coasters were located too far from each other, and people had to walk so far they found it annoying. Also, during the first year of operation, workers from nearby fairgrounds, angered by the competition, protested and sabotaged the park, distributing thousands of fake entrance tickets as well as breaking into the park to physically damage the buildings and attractions and physically attack the workers and visitors, causing Mirapolis to suffer huge financial losses. Within two years, the park’s owner filed a petition for bankruptcy. One year later, the park, already a skeleton of itself, closed for good. In 1995, the Gargantua statue’s head threatened to fall down and was dynamited.’ — The Lost France

 

Genesis

1982: American architect and theme park designer Anne Fourcade, formerly a higher up at Disneyland, proposes to build the first French amusement park in the city of Cergy Pointoise near Paris.
1984: Saudi businessman Gaith Pharaon decides to invest in the project. The budget is estimated at 500 million francs (more than 76 million euros).
1985: The theme park, now named Mirapolis, is green lit. The Society of Economic Studies and Strategy Consulting announces that France is very favorable to the emergence of theme parks and provide a bright future for the profession.
15 July 1985: Beginning of the construction of the park.
28 October 1986: Installation of the head of Gargantua, 11 m high, 28 tons.
May 20: Mirapolis is officially opened by Prime Minister Jacques Chirac . The park is open 10 hours a day and 200 days per year. It is forecast that between 2 and 2.5 million visitors will visit the park per year which corresponds to a turnover of 300 million francs (more than 45 million euros). The park could have, in theory, balanced its operations this year.
May 21: Mirapolis opens to the public. Entry costs 100 francs (15 €) per adult and 70 francs (10 €) per child. On this first day, 15 hours of violent incidents and acts of sabotage occur. 150 local fairground workers force their way into the park denouncing “unfair competition”. They are armed with iron bars and clubs and destroy several facilities. There are 10 serious injuries, 650,000 francs of damage (99 000 €), and one million francs worth of commercial harm (152,500 euros). There are 3,000 visitors the first day.
May 22: Only 300 individual tickets are sold.
May 23: 10,000 visitors, half of which are at reduced group rate.
May 24: 1500 people come to the park entrance with fake invitation cards that had been distributed the day before by angry local fairground workers. The workers dump nails on the highway that leads to Mirapolis.
June: After 15 days of operation, there are only about 100,000 visitors when 150,000 had been expected. Moreover, it is mainly school groups with restricted rates.
October: Mirapolis closes its doors after a disappointing first season. It has drawn 600,000 of the expected 2.5 million visitors. There is a 20 million francs (3 million euros) loss. Anne Fourcade Anne withdraws from the project.

 

1988

May 12: Opening day after a further 100 million francs (15 million 245 €) investment. The singer Carlos occurs every Sunday in the park for four months. Now, the park offers more than 45 attractions. Admission prices revised downwards to 75 francs (11.5 €). New attractions include a 4-D cinema, a flight simulator rider, a large lake, a carousel-type ride called Balloon Race, and one of the largest roller coasters in Europe (Miralooping).
October: Season 2 ends with one million visitors. Slight improvement over the first season, but 1.2 million visitors had been necessary to recoup.

 

1989

April 1: Opening of the third season. There are eleven new attractions including a second roller coaster and a Ferris wheel at a cost of 30 million francs (more than 4.5 million euros). Entrance fees: 110 francs (16.75 euros) per adult and 80 francs (12 euros) per child.
April 30: The inauguration of Parc Asterix, a direct competitor.
July 11: In an attempt to draw attention to the park and increase revenues, a major boxing event is held there, attended by many stars (Yannick Noah, Jean-Paul Belmondo, etc.). The operation is a fiasco. The French boxer René Jacquot, defending the title of world champion, is knocked out in the first few seconds of the first round. In addition, the match is prematurely interrupted by a power outage.
November: Season 3 ends. Annual attendance has fallen to 640,000 visitors.
December 21: the appointment of an administrator, Ms. Jeanne Bertrand. The park’s accumulated debt is 85 million francs (13 million euros).

 

1990

January 8: An additional 15 million euros is invested in the park.
January 22: The owner of the park, the company Paris-Parc, files for bankruptcy with 330 million francs in liabilities (50 million euros).
March: The Mirapolis site is pre-selected for as a possible location for the future Stade de France along with twenty-five other sites. The stadium would be built on the site of the park.
April 7: Mirapolis opens in confusion. A third of the park is closed for the entirety of the season. 420,000 visitors are expected this year. Price changed again: 100 francs (15 €) per adult and 75 francs (11.50 € ) per child.

 

1991

March 23: Mirapolis opens for its fifth season without changing prices.
Oct. 20: This is the end. Last day operating Mirapolis. The park closes at 18:30 permanently. This year, 400,000 visitors passed through the doors.
End 1991 : Crédit National Park, the park’s last buyer, withdraws in the face of the imminent arrival of EuroDisney. The amusement park Mirapolis has ceased to exist, despite the 700 million francs (106 million euros) invested.

 

Extinction

1992: Contrary to rumor, no attraction is left open this year. The attractions are dismantled and sold to amusement parks in the Netherlands, Germany and Belgium. Park Berlin Spreepark acquires thirteen Mirapolis attractions.
12 April 1992: Disneyland Paris opens. It precipitates the end of the operation of Mirapolis in view of the competition it represents.
31 December 1992: Following the end of the lease, Mirapolis becomes an industrial wasteland.
13 October 1993: The company Cergy-park, the park’s owner, obtains a demolition permit.
31 August 1995: the statue of Gargantua is partially dismantled and blown up. This is the end.

 

 

*

p.s. Hey. ** David Ehrenstein, Hi. Thanks for big up on Tanner. Agree ‘Messidor’ is fantastic and currently almost impossible to see as far as I can tell. And RIP Rutger Hauer, yes. And … Everyone, Mr. E’s FlaBog sinks its teeth into Robert Mueller under the title ‘Swan’s Way’ right here. ** Sypha, Hi, It’s been years since I saw ‘True Romance’, but I do remember thinking it really missed his direction. I’m in the camp with you that Tarantino is a really fantastic writer. Most of his scripts are top pieces of work. ** Steve Erickson, Great, your Hoberman interview, exciting! Everyone, Mr. Erickson has interviewed the great and influential film critic J. Hoberman centered around the latter’s new book ‘Make My Day: Movie Culture in the Age of Reagan’, and their tete-a-tete is sure to be a real treat. So let’s meet over there. Glad to hear you’re now into the construction phase of your new film. Sounds very intriguing already. I would second your question as to why you’re wasting your brain cells on Twitter, but I’m not on Twitter, so what do I know, but, based on your ongoing reportage here from Film Twitter at least, I’ve never had the slightest interest in checking it out, I’ll say that. ** KK, Hi! Yeah, thanks so much for occasioning the post. I continue to find the idea that you skip over here from your Astronomy class, which I romantically imagine taking place inside a Planetarium with desks, very refreshing. Yes, Matt is very kindly sending me his book, and I’m using a bit of what energy I have to check my mailbox. It is hell on earth here. 109 degrees today. And I don’t have AC. Very few people in Paris do because, well, this was never supposed to happen. Should the forecasters be right, it’s supposed to become at least semi-liveable again starting tomorrow. But, yes, it is shocking here. Excellent that Matt has your mss. and you’re in the refining stage. I trust he’ll prove to be an expert finesser. That’s very cool! I hope the Tarantino is fun. I hear it is. ‘Crawl’ has finally opened here, and its air-conditioned location is pretty irresistible at the moment. Yes, ‘Flaming Creatures!’ Masterpiece-like. Have a great one, man. ** Right. So today I indulge my amusement park nerdiness yet again, and I call upon all park nerds, defunct park nerds, French history buffs, nerds re: entertainment-based architecture, and so on to similarly indulge. Thank you. See you hopefully without rivulets of sweat pouring down my face tomorrow.

5 Comments

  1. Shane Christmass

    July 25, 2019 at 12:48 pm

    Hi Dennis – you ever seen a movie called ‘Slayground’?

    Not a great movie by any means – but the big final shoot-out conclusion takes place in a Blackpool amusement park. Trailer doesn’t really do that justice – you get a little taste – https://youtu.be/tKkYq3lRmg4

    You heard the Freddie Gibbs / Madlib album?

    Also – you been following this? https://www.cnn.com/2019/07/24/americas/canada-couple-murder/index.html

  2. Failed amusement parks are so ineffably sad.

    I’ve always found Quentin to be engaging and gregarious personally. Fun to talk to. Don’t much care for his movies. As a screenwriter he’s very flashy. He’ writing B-movie scripts for A productions.

    My sale continues as ever. Anyone for back issues of “Cahiers du Cinema”

  3. Hmm, the idea of “La Maison de Barbie” is quite a bit more fabulous than the reality of these photos. I fear we’re getting into UK Xmas Wonderland territory here.

    This is me back in Dundee with my dad, and the climate is pleasant after the broiling heat of yesterday in Leeds. I hope Paris is getting more bearable by the day.

  4. Wow, these places look humongous. Can you still sneak in and enjoy the atmosphere?

    You probably know Spreepark in Berlin?
    https://www.abandonedberlin.com/2010/04/spreepark-and-how-to-get-in.html

    I’ve never been. Maybe a future trip!

    Hope you’re enjoying an air-conditioned movie, Dennis. Geez, I can’t even imagine 100+ weather in Paris.

    Bill

  5. Well, in an attempt to due something more constructive than browsing Twitter with my time when I’m bored and in front of my computer, I downloaded a beat-making application today. Once I figure out how to use it, I will be producing hit songs! (Seriously, it’d be interesting to post a beat on YouTube and see if anyone has any interest in using it, although YT is clogged with dozens of “{any remotely popular rapper} type beat” entries.

    How are you holding up under the 108 degree heat? JG Ballard’s apocalyptic novels look closer and closer to social realism.

    I’m also still working on looking at YT videos for use in SEASICK. I’ve realized that I’m not sure how many I need because I don’t know how long it takes to read the voice-over. I need to get a friend to sit down with it, read it out and record it.

    Do you still follow Ka5sh? I learned about him from one of your Gig Days. I liked his first ep a lot, although an interview confirmed what I suspected from it: he’s deliberately making pastiches of various rappers and hip-hop styles. But I have no idea what he’s going for since then: he released a much weaker second ep, then two singles on two different major labels last year. He released a new single, “Lights Out,” featuring Lil B a few days ago. It’s entertainingly ignorant in a crunk-meets-SoundCloud fashion.

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