“Beautiful… but French”
I just discovered something strange. Despite the fact that I wrote more than 100 trip reports over the past five years, I’ve always ignored Disneyland Paris. This site contains reports about all Asian and American Disney theme parks, but the European resort was missing for some mysterious reason. It’s about time to change that. And although European Disney fans love to complain about Disneyland Paris, there’s much to be loved. We should actually be happy that there’s a Disney resort within a good 3 hours’ drive from our front door. After all, this is a luxury that most people can only dream of. So sit back, relax and enjoy your virtual trip to Euro Disney. Or was it Disneyland Resort Paris? Or just uhm… Disneyland Paris?
Disneyland Park is known as the most beautiful of all Magic Kingdoms. This is noticeable if you take a look at some classic Disney attractions. The French Space Mountain, for example, is one of the world’s most stunning indoor coasters. Actually it should be referred to as Hyperspace Mountain nowadays. This indoor roller coaster fell victim to the Star Wars mania, but I admit that I actually like the new version. Hyperspace Mountain is equipped with brand-new trains and they make the ride remarkably more pleasant than it was. It’s still not the smoothest ride, but at least it doesn’t give headaches like it used to. The lighting and sound effects have all changed and look elaborate. Hyperspace Mountain is more than just a cheap overlay; it feels like a high-quality coaster.
Another world-famous coaster can be found on the opposite side of the park. Frontierland’s star attraction is known as Big Thunder Mountain. This mine train coaster is generally considered as the best of its kind, which is mostly due to its unique location. No other theme park has ever attempted to place a roller coaster on a private island, right? Thanks to this crazy idea, Big Thunder Mountain is so much more than a simple family coaster. Unfortunately, the experience is regularly interrupted and hardly a day goes by without technical difficulties. Big Thunder Mountain has been Disneyland Park’s least reliable ride for a very long time. And although the park tried to fix this issue during the latest big refurbishment, it doesn’t seem as if Big Thunder Mountain performs better nowadays; it’s still horribly sensitive to breakdowns.
With the exception of Main Street USA, every land got its own roller coaster. Discoveryland and Frontierland were lucky, but Adventureland and Fantasyland drew the short straws. They received Indiana Jones et le Temple du Péril (an uncomfortable, funfair-style roller coaster) and Casey Jr, a beautifully integrated, yet rather underwhelming powered coaster.
Dark ride lovers are spoiled at Disneyland Paris. The park offers the classic series of Fantasyland dark rides (including a stunning version of It’s a Small World) and Buzz Lightyear Laser Blast seems to be even more popular than at other resorts. The most brilliant dark rides have been placed in Frontierland and Adventureland, though. The latter is home to Pirates of the Caribbean, European style. This dark ride has been a Disney classic since the original version opened in 1967 and its popularity remained unchanged ever since. Disney Parks & Resorts gave this concept a new impulse by adding film characters to the attraction. I’m not opposed to this change, but I wouldn’t call it a huge improvement either. I understand that the general public adores these recognizable characters, but the authentic charm of this dark ride was partly lost due to these changes. Please don’t get me wrong: the European Pirates of the Caribbean is fantastic, but it really didn’t need Jack Sparrow and company, imho.
Mr. Sparrow steals the show in Adventureland and Mr. Ravenswood does the same thing in Frontierland. Phantom Manor is a legendary attraction and it somewhat differs from the American and Japanese Haunted Mansions. This is true for both the exterior and the interior. Phantom Manor has a unique story line and that story actually involves the rest of Frontierland as well. And although most guests will probably never notice that story, they’re still able to discover a world-class dark ride. Phantom Manor is at least as impressive as its predecessors in other corners of the world. And please give a warm applause for John Debney, who orchestrated the ride’s brilliant soundtrack.
First impressions are important. And honestly, Disneyland Park makes the best possible first impression. The Disneyland Hotel acts as a majestic entrance to the park, while the European version of Main Street USA is definitely the most beautiful of them all. We like to complain about lacking maintenance and the park is in desperate need of new ride, but this section of the park is top-notch. I’ve rarely seen so many details and so much beauty as here. I adore the picturesque Sleeping Beauty Castle and I love the covered arcades on both sides of Main Street, especially during Europe’s cold an rainy winters.
The visual splendour isn’t limited to Main Street USA. On the contrary. In fact, almost every land at Disneyland Park is considerably nicer than its siblings in the United States, Japan, Hong Kong and China. Tomorrowland was transformed into the timeless Discoveryland and the European Fantasyland looks a lot better than most other versions. It’s a land full of detailed facades, playfully designed fountains and frivolous gardens. The Japanese version is too grey, the Californian version is too cramped and the Orlando version looks bizarre due to its clash between Old and New Fantasyland. One of the hidden gems at Fantasyland is Storybook Land, the home of Casey Jr and Pays des Contes de Fées. This area is incredibly cute and especially the boat cruise through a miniature fairy tale land is worth a visit.
Before 2012, Disneyland Paris usually ended the day in silence. There were fireworks and/or the Fantillusion Parade during the Summer months, but the park lacked nocturnal entertainment during the rest of the year. Fortunately, that era has ended since the 20th anniversary of the resort, when Disney Dreams was introduced. I never expected to write this, but our European Disneyland suddenly had one of the most breathtaking shows Disney had ever created. Disney Dreams was simply fabulous: the story was clear, the projections used clever tricks and the special effects were simply beautiful. I’ve seen the show dozens of times, but I always got goosebumps from the first to the last second. For Disneyland Park’s 25th anniversary, Disney Dreams was replaced by Disney Illuminations, a show with similar ingredients. I expected it to be equally grand, but damn… that’s not the case. Illuminations starts promising, but the second half of the show is rather pointless. So uhm, Disney… can we please get back Disney Dreams?
WORTH A VISIT?
Disney Illuminations provides a disappointing end of our day at Disneyland Park. And I hate to write this, but Illuminations actually covers my feeling about this park rather well. Don’t get me wrong: I love visiting Disneyland and I enjoy the park’s unique beauty (it’s undoubtedly the world’s most beautiful Magic Kingdom), but the park is in desperate need of new rides and experiences. The last new ride has been added 12 years ago. And for the most recent new attraction that wasn’t a replacement, we need to go back to 1995. Of course, Walt Disney Studios was opened and expanded in the meantime, but that’s not a valid reason to ignore Disneyland Park. Especially now that the adjacent park is facing a period of extraordinary expansion, I hope Disney will provide extra capacity for Disneyland Park.
When will Disneyland Park finally make use of its theaters year-round for qualitative performances? When will they build that long-awaited new E-ticket? When will they find ways to optimize the total capacity of the park? When will they be able to keep rides in the state they’re supposed to be in? And when will they stop shutting down restaurants at 4 PM when the park is open until late? It’s time for Disneyland Park to live up to its status of Europe’s number one tourist destination.
Photo Gallery 2006, 2007, 2008, 2010, 2011, 2013 & 2014
MAIN STREET U.S.A.
DO YOU WANNA BUILD A SNOWMAN?
What’s your favourite attraction at Disneyland Park? Do you agree about the indescribable beauty of the European park? Is this Disney resort suffering from its location in France?