Is a proposed Napoleon Bonaparte-themed amusement park, Napoleonland, the answer to France's economic woes?
French officials envision Napoleonland to be an epic rival to Disneyland - assuming funding is secured for the $280 million idea.
The unlikely historical amusement park would be built on the site of the infamous French military leader's final 1814 victory against the Austrians in the Battle of Montereau. It would open its doors in 2017 -- nearly 200 years after Napoleon's death -- and is projected to bring in 1.5 million visitors in its first year, particularly from China and Russia where the former leader remains popular.
Napoleonland is the brainchild of former French minister, history buff, and mayor of Montereau, Yves Jégo. Jégo pictures the park as a place to watch battle reenactments and even ski through a mock battlefield surrounded by the frozen bodies of soldiers and horses.
Battle reenactments would not only tout Napoleon's successes, but would include daily showings of events like the 1815 Battle of Waterloo (in which the Duke of Wellington ended Napoleon's rule in France) or a water show recreating the 1805 Battle of Trafalgar (where Lord Nelson scored a decisive victory over a French and Spanish coalition aboard HMS Victory but died in the process.)
We are not going to take sides, Jégo told The Times in reference to widely differing accounts of Napoleon's legacy in France and abroad (which range from heroic visionary to brutal dictator). It's going to be fun for the family.
As well as being an instrument of economic development, this is a question of rediscovering our roots and our history, Jégo added. We are going to combine historical truth with pure entertainment.
The curious amusement park would also house a museum, hotel, shops, restaurants, and a congress center. It would create 3,000 jobs and could ultimately rival nearby Disneyland.
Currently, the biggest employer and taxpayer in the region of Seine-et-Marne is Disneyland, which opened in 1992 amid cries from French intellectuals about a cultural Chernobyl. Napoleonland, which would be just 45 miles away, appears to be the counterattack.
The head of Atout France, a tourism body backing the project, claims that bosses at Disneyland once said that only Napoleon had the stature to take on Mickey Mouse.
Theme parks are increasingly popular with French politicians. Puy du Fou, featuring medieval battles, Vulcania, a scientific park, and Futuroscope, boasting new technology, were all created by right-wing figures.
Despite being one of France's most decorated leaders and the best-known Frenchman after Charles de Gaulle, there is not a single national museum dedicated to Napoleon Bonaparte.
Jégo will announce full details of the planned park on Feb. 18 - the 198th anniversary of the Battle of Montereau. In the meantime, he is looking for private sector investors to help fund the project.