After a day full of epic adventures and heroic encounters, recruits might be in need of a place to recharge, somewhat removed from the constant activity of the busy Avengers Campus. It’s a good thing because Super Diner, located a few steps from the old Stark Motors factory, welcomes hungry heroes for delicious Reuben Sandwiches. And it is precisely in this setting that we went to meet some of the members in charge of this project:
- Keith Rector, Field Art Director, Walt Disney Imagineering Paris
- Sébastien Dhainaut, Set Designer, Walt Disney Imagineering Paris – Design & Show Quality
- Thomas Krause, Graphic Designer, Walt Disney Imagineering Paris
The oldest restaurant in any Disney park
Before creating a new story for Super Diner, the existing restaurant already had an extensive one on its own!
When tasked on the project, the team did a lot of research to better understand the origins of this authentic diner. “When we were thinking about transforming the place, even before the concept of Super Diner, there was this rumor among cast members that Marylin Monroe dined there,” explains Keith. “So I did a lot of research because it didn’t seem true (and in fact, never found proof). I found out that it was originally a local diner, built in 1935, located in New Jersey and called the Excellent Diner. It was then owned by a small family and at some point, in 1975, the diner closed.”
“The diner was then shipped to Europe by a German collector who wanted some kind of nostalgic Americana,” Thomas adds.
It eventually closed around the development of Walt Disney Studios and was finally purchased by Disneyland Paris to complete the initial offering of the park. When the second gate opened in 2002, it became Café des Cascadeurs, a place where stunt people would gather around after a successful performance of “Moteurs… Action! Stunt Show Spectacular.” With the closure of the show and the upcoming arrival of the Avengers, it was time to find a new idea for the diner.
Giving it a new life
Honoring its legacy while ensuring its future has been key for the teams who decided that just like all of Avengers Campus itself, the place would have this “old” layer combined with more modern elements.
Sebastien was most notably in charge of the interior design. He explains: “We wanted to keep the essence of the place in the interior, while bringing it into the 21st century because the story of Avengers Campus is happening right now, today. All the furniture was redone, and we redesigned the space. We kept the open kitchen side while improving the comfort of the cast members and guests. In the end, the retro vibe is still here while changing the materials chosen and the colors which are warmer than before.”
Thomas then joined the team where he brought his graphic expertise to the mix: “For the outside, where we added a marquee, a big freestanding menu and some murals, we really wanted to evoke the 1940s American diner aesthetic to complement this amazing piece of history. I added lots of reds and chrome detailing to tie in with the adjacent Avengers Campus architecture, while the name Super Diner is, of course, a nod to Super Heroes.”
To make the final result as authentic as possible, Thomas looked at as many 1940s and 1950s American diner graphics he could find. “Our perception of these diners is a little clouded because there have been so many revivals of that mid-century style, so many ‘back to the ‘50s’ diners and retro paraphernalia, and those are often not very true to the real thing. We really had to go past that and find real menus, real napkins, real signage, etc. from that era.
I came across a lot of beautiful matchboxes that had illustrations on them of the restaurant where they were given out and did a similar illustration for the Super Diner. It ended up on the menus, the placemats and the sandwich wrappers.”
In this new story, in the 1940s, Super Diner was the place where factory workers from Howard Stark’s Accutech flying cars company, conveniently located next door, would go for a much-needed break and lunch. The place was then owned by Angie Martinelli, close friend to Peggy Carter, who had a dream to open her own diner. When Tony Stark decided to refurbish the whole place into its new campus, he decided to keep the diner so that recruits could have lunch there.
Adding depth and details
As a reference to its original name, the tagline of Super Diner became “an Excellent Family Diner.” “For me, this is a piece of history that has genuine authenticity at Walt Disney Studios Park,” explained Keith. But that’s not all! Since the place was to be sponsored by Coca-Cola, both parties wanted to make a seamless integration of the brand. I think the best example is the ad located on the wall terrace. If you look closely, you’ll see that it’s an actual ad we took from their archives, we simply upgraded the car that appears on it to make it a Howard Stark flying car.”
Thomas added, “Due to its ideal location, we wanted to shine light on the diner itself and its history, and we found a nice tie-in with the Marvel Cinematic Universe developed in the movies and series through the character of Peggy Carter, who at one point worked at a mid-century diner called the L&L Automat. I should definitely give credit to Lorraine Huriet, production assistant and huge fan, who provided us with all this amazing input. This resulted in a few props you can see around the diner, such as newspaper articles and memorabilia from the L&L.”
Music also plays its own role in the diner. After considering different iterations of atmosphere set in the fifties, the decision was made to make the audio something Tony Stark would like to hear while eating there. “This extra layer of modern soundtrack on top of the old elements allowed us to also give the music the Avengers Campus twist,” Keith explained. Fans will easily recognize iconic hits that have created powerful moments in the movies from the “Immigrant Song” by Led Zeppelin in “Thor: Ragnarok” to “Just a Girl” by No Doubt in “Captain Marvel.”
Dinner is served
After all these months of hard work, recruits can now enjoy a delicious meal in an authentic setting where you can truly feel the dedication of Imagineers.
“I remember one morning near the end of the project,” Sebastien goes on. “I just sat there, looking at my previsualization concept and looked at the place. This was it. We had achieved what we originally envisioned.”
For Keith, the best part was to see all lines of business and partners really get behind the vision and story they had created: “I love the fact that we had the custom menus and custom wraps, all in service of the guest experience. Small details that make a difference.”
And Thomas concluded: “It’s the first time since I’ve started working at Disney that I’m seeing a project open its doors; it’s really satisfying to see people enjoy your work! It’s amazing to me how fans are picking up on these details. It’s a real incentive to keep striving for quality.”
Thank you to the team for the excellent time shared with us at the diner!