Following the success of Disneyland in California and Walt Disney World in Florida, plans to build a similar theme park in Europe emerged In 1972. Under the leadership of E. Cardon Walker, Tokyo Disneyland opened in 1983 in Japan with instant success, forming a catalyst for international expansion. In late 1984 the heads of Disney’s theme park division, Dick Nunis and Jim Cora, presented a list of approximately 1,200 possible European locations for the park. Britain, France, Italy and Spain were all considered. However, Britain and Italy were dropped from the list due to both lacking a suitable expanse of flat land. By March 1985, the number of possible locations for the park had been reduced to four; two in France and two in Spain. Both nations saw the potential economic advantages of a Disney theme park and offered competing financing deals to Disney.
Both Spanish sites were located near the Mediterranean and offered a subtropical climate similar to Disney’s parks in California and Florida. Disney had asked each site to provide average temperatures for every month for the previous 40 years, which proved a complicated endeavour as none of the records were computerised and were registered on paper. The site in Pego, Alicante became the front-runner, but the location was controversial as it would have meant the destruction of Marjal de Pego-Oliva marshlands, a site of natural beauty and one of the last homes of the almost extinct Samaruc or Valencia Toothcarp, so there was some local outcry among environmentalists. Disney had also shown interest in a site near Toulon in southern France, not far from Marseille. The pleasing landscape of that region, as well as its climate, made the location a top competitor for what would be called Euro Disneyland. However, shallow bedrock was encountered beneath the site, which would have rendered construction too difficult. Finally, a site in the rural town of Marne-la-Vallée was chosen because of its proximity to Paris and its central location in Western Europe. This location was estimated to be no more than a four-hour drive for 68 million people and no more than a two-hour flight for a further 300 million.
A railway station, Marne-la-Vallée–Chessy, is located between the theme parks and Disney Village. It opened on 1 April 1992 and is notably served by regional express line RER A which provides a direct connection with the centre of Paris.
The railway station is also served by long-distance high-speed TGV and Ouigo trains offering direct services to many cities across France. Thalys does not any longer operate from the station. There are daily services from and to London St Pancras on the Eurostar.
Free shuttle buses provide transport to all Disney hotels (except Disney’s Davy Crockett Ranch) and Associated Hotels. The yellow shuttle buses go to the main Disney hotels while the pink shuttle buses go to the other hotels further away but still in the Disneyland area.