Last week I took my wife to Paris for our tenth wedding anniversary, leaving the kids behind with grandparents. But while we spent a day looking at the sights, trying not to hum “Eyes of Notre Dame” or imagine Remy scampering along the Seine, we allowed Disney to fill most of our vacation, ultimately spending four days at the parks. It was my fourth visit to this resort, but my wife’s first.
I’ll save the trip report on Disneyland Paris (and the status of things) for next week’s update; this time around I’m too busy raving about Crush’s Coaster to be distracted by anything else. Yes, I said it. This is a fantastic coaster, possibly my favorite ever Disney coaster. Maybe that opinion would change if I rode it once a year (let alone every weekend), but by gum as a first-time visitor I was blown away. It way exceeded expectations.
The big building in the back houses the coaster.
Theming in the queue is fairly minimal.
Maybe that has something to do with the park it’s in, the “second gate” called Walt Disney Studios Paris (WDSP). I’m going to save the WDSP discussion for next time, too, but suffice to say this park has a poor reputation. Some of it is earned, but the park is not nearly as bad as the reputation would have you believe. Especially with Crush around.
In the loading zone, cars keep creeping forward so you have to board carefully.
The ants go marching two by two…
So what is Crush? I expected something on the scale of Goofy’s Barnstormer or Gadget’s Go Coaster, perhaps a little bigger, with some of it indoors. I did not admittedly read much about it ahead of time (intentionally), so it’s possible that few of you had the same wrong preconceptions I did. But that’s not what this coaster is. It’s much larger.
A quick outdoor portion starts the ride.
First of all, there’s a dark-ride type element to it for 3-4 rooms, where you’re moving slowly through “dry for wet” sets like you see at the Seas with Nemo and Friends. But because it’s a coaster rather than a rattling Omnimover, the “feeling” is different. Smoother and quicker; snappier and snazzier. You go “up” the broken submarine (while Bruce tries to attack you from outside—this is not without its scare element), and then you are released into the East Australian Current (EAC) to surf along with Crush.
The outdoor portion as seen from riding backwards.
The EAC is the coaster part of the ride, and it’s big. I don’t think it’s that much smaller than the space needed for Rock ‘n Roller Coaster. It might be taller, too. It’s a ride in almost-darkness; they have swirling green/yellow dots to imply you’re underwater, and it’s an effective bit of show design. But what is the most effective at all is the coaster’s movement. Your car will swivel freely by gravity (think: Primeval Whirl) but the track is not just a wild mouse. It’s a track characterized by long, swooping arcs that go way up and way down back-and-forth across the warehouse, as if the space were a giant half pipe. Since your car swivels with gravity, you might end up on the top as the car crests a hill, but then gravity will turn you slightly as you move into and beyond the turn.
Big swooping arcs! Our car got e-stopped on the ride.
It feels quite natural and exactly the way surfing and ramp-skateboarding does (I’ve done both). It feels like halfpipe-skating, and yes, wave surfing (hence the turtle Crush theme). In another park they could easily use this same ride system and call it Tony Hawk’s Halfpipe or Surfing with Tom Curren.
Twisty track is way more fun when the car swivels freely.
The ride vehicle seats four, with two people facing forward, and two facing backward when the ride starts. They build in visuals for the backward-only folks during the first few themed rooms (another reason to love the ride), and there’s a quick trip outdoors just as the ride begins that everyone enjoys. Once the coaster joins the EAC, though, there is no ‘front’ and ‘back’ to the vehicle. You spin on your axis at just the right speed and craziness. Sometimes that means no spin, but usually it varies between slow and fast, and it feels natural. It feels for all the world like we’re really in the East Australian Current, darn it all, being jostled by the current, spun at times (never too little, never too much), and at the whim of the larger flow of water. When was the last time Disney Imagineers put together such a fully believable illusion?
More swooping dives. You can see the upramp tunnel (themed inside like the sub) at the base.
Roller coasters, when done right, engender a feeling of euphoria. Certainly that’s the case for me when I ride a well-crafted hyper coaster (my favorite variety) like SFOG’s Goliath, Busch Garden Williamsburg’s Apollo’s Chariot, or Cedar Point’s Millennium Force. Disney coasters usually entertain not for the physical thrills, but for the theming. Crush’s Coaster entertains a bit by theming, a bit by thrills you don’t normally get at Disney rides (and yet still not blackout-inducing high-G thrills that other parks resort to), and a bit by virtue of its unique ride system and resulting sensations. The thrills are gentle but real, and they don’t “feel” like any other roller coaster out there.
This E-ticket ride earns an A+ from me. I really want them to bring a version to DHS now. The rumored spot is in the former Who Wants to be a Millionaire studio (between Toy Story Mania and the Backlot Tour). It would fit fine there as part of the Pixar universe, but frankly the ride is so good I for one would forgive any minor theme violation (heck, simply being in a park that pretends so ineffectively to be a working studio is itself a theme violation, so who’s counting?)
Now is the time to order any of the three books I have for sale this holiday season. The first, announced previously, is Jason’s Disneyland Almanac (coauthored with Jason Schultz), and it’s nothing short of a daily history of Disneyland Resort. Park hours, daily weather, and any significant event (VIP visitor, ride opening, ride closing, change of name, the debut or ending of entertainment, the opening or closing of shops and restaurants, etc) is listed here, and summaries of each year provide perspective. The book is in 8x10 format, has 334 pages, and the list price is $24.95. It’s available at CreateSpace (where we get the maximum royalty) and at Amazon.com.
The second is a Christmas in Walt Disney World book, where I’m the third author. It’s largely a photo book, with over 300 full-color pictures crammed onto 96 pages. It has a dual focus, looking both at the present (we even fit in the holiday version of Magic, the Memories, and You! castle projections) and the past. For the present, the book tours the parks and resorts – you’ll perhaps be surprised by how much is at the resorts – and shows what’s there. For the past, the book provides images of things you just can’t see any more, like the Christmas tree outside the Great Movie Ride (and its train set at the base), bygone Christmas parades at the Magic Kingdom, and the much-missed Lights of Winter at Epcot. The retail price is $22.95 (sometimes they put it on sale online). This book is available at CreateSpace (where the authors get maximal royalty) and Amazon.
The third is the 2011 Walt Disney World Earbook. This one chronicles all the additions, removals, and changes to the parks and hotels in the past twelve months. It’s 164 pages of full-color photos, with most items receiving an entire page full of pictures (some much more). A timeline adds info about specifics, and an index makes finding information easy. $24.99 from Amazon.