My trip to Disneyland Paris a few weeks ago may have prompted me to write first about Crush’s Coaster upon my return, but that wasn’t my initial destination when arriving at the resort. As a return visitor (this was my fourth mini-vacation to Paris), I knew to head to my favorites and introduce my wife (a first-time Disneyland Paris visitor) to them, which I wrote about last week. Disneyland Paris still packs a punch. This is a park that largely just works.
Its neighbor on the other hand, the troubled Walt Disney Studios Paris (WDSP), has never enjoyed a good reputation. Since its opening several years ago, WDSP has been viewed as a half-day park at best, and a blight on the Disney universe at worst. I’d visited the resort several times in the past, but never this park, so this was my first time. My verdict: not as bad as its reputation. Not a great park, mind you, but not as horrible as the dire warnings seemed to suggest.
I went in preparing for a day as fun as oral surgery (not a bad analogy, all things considered, since I assumed it was my ‘duty’ as a Disney fan to see this supposed abomination of a park. It wasn’t going to be fun, but it was something we had to do). We expected to spend a maximum of four hours there, and instead spent eight. And we still didn’t finish everything.
It’s true that the park suffers from a distinct lack of warmth and personality from the architecture side of things. The studio theme means buildings have to look like soundstages. Alas, did no one tell them this is BORING? They should have learned that lesson at DHS (then still known as Disney-MGM). The park lacks charm and character as a result. And Disney should know by now that to build any park, you must have a large body of water somewhere. It’s just a requirement.
Crush’s Coaster is great, but they also need water somewhere.
Some of the buildings are plopped into the midst of the “soundstages” without any real explanation, like Tower of Terror. That’s true at DHS as well. In both cases, the building is a “parachute” building (like it floated down from the sky to land amid other buildings that all conform to one style different from it).
This park had little here when it first opened. The tram tour was the highlight (what we saw is presumably unchanged from then; a Catastrophe Canyon segment, a boneyard with more movie props than Orlando, and a quickie city street segment with a fire effect). If that were the highlight of the park, I’d be angry too.
The extra scene at the tram tour. Blink and you’ll miss it.
Another anchor was Cinemagique, a Martin Short movie that uses in-theater actors and sets, kind of like Terminator 2-3D (but a storyline more like Forrest Gump).
They’re in love, but separated by the screen.
Then there was also Animagique, a darklight-puppet show kind of like DHS’s Little Mermaid’s first act, only longer and with even more charm. I liked both, perhaps the latter even enough to see again if we had time, but these attractions do not add up to a park. They were no BIG THREE like Disneyland Paris had.
The park also had small stuff, like the Armageddon attraction (think Backdraft, only with fewer effects and a bit lamer) or the Animation building (I like all the zoetropes and similar devices, but there’s not much here to do or see).
Aladdin’s Flying Carpets (which had FastPass?!) has a backdrop…
because the story is that the Director Genie is filming a movie.
I liked the bird’s-eye viewing tower they provide.
Given the lack of marquee attractions at opening, I certainly understand the vitriol that greeted the park when it was new. I would have been right there with my own pitchfork. But the park has since added other things, like the aforementioned Tower of Terror. It’s got Rock ‘n Roller Coaster, which features different effects and sets inside the ride (you “fly through” concert show lighting, mostly).
I kid you not: the storyline is that Aerosmith are now coaster experts
and want you to help them test a new variation.
It’s got Lights, Motors, Action, here named simply Moteurs, Action!, a pun on the French word for “camera” when filming a movie. They say simply “moteur (camera), action!” on a movie set, so the title in French is a pun. I never knew that until this trip. It explains the lame title of the American version of the show.
Moteurs, Action opened in Paris before Orlando.
More recent additions include the Toy Story rides, which are smaller carnival type rides but done up with heavy Disney theming. This area has more charm you might think, and easily rivals Flik’s Fun Fair in DCA.
Add in that incredibly satisfying Crush’s Coaster, and you’ve got almost a full day of stuff to do at this park. I don’t like several things about the design of this park (besides the architecture, I disagree with the lack of restaurants and the funneling of everyone through a single soundstage as the “Main Street” of this park – it’s too crowded). I didn’t like the understaffing (the very slow moving line at the tram tour was a particularly egregious offender). But I do think the park felt like a Disney park.
I liked the 2011 WDSP better than the 2001 DCA. I might even like the 2011 WDSP better than the 2011 DAK, though that’s probably a stretch. If I had to choose just one of those parks as my local park, it might not be WDSP. But neither do I feel WDSP should be consigned to the dustbin of history. It’s a Disney park. Not nearly as good as its neighbor with those sublime big rides and all that attention to theming and detail, but it’s slowly becoming a worthwhile place to visit.
Here's a few more shots from Disneyland Paris that didn't quite fit in to the last post...
Back at Disneyland Paris, the Storybook ride has Peter and the Wolf. More charm than WDSP.
Good Paris theming: a walkthrough of Aladdin’s story (similar to Anaheim’s Sleeping Beauty walkthrough in size).
The Indiana Jones coaster is off-the-shelf, and it shows.
I know it’s probably your first flight, and it’s… mine, too. The old Star Tours still plays here.
America = Wild West and Native Americans on Small World
Disneyland Paris has character statues around (we also saw a great Wall-E and Eve).
New Book: The Making of Tron
Longtime readers will remember I got my indoctrination at this Disney thing (beyond the once-a-year visits) when I worked at Disneyland for several years, starting in 1987. I hired in to Cafť Orleans, one of the outdoor restaurants in New Orleans Square. There must have been something in the water, because a second person working there at the time, named Bill Kallay, has now also become an author of a book relating to Disney. Bill and I knew each other only for several months (he had been there for a while before me, and moved on within a year, while I was just starting my Disney career), and we hadnít been in contact since until his book came out. (I received a review copy from the author.)
There have been Tron books before (notably, The Art of Tron). But while such books celebrate the visual imagery of the movie, Billís book celebrates the *story* behind the movie. In fact, itís several dozen stories. Itís the stories of the individuals who pulled it together, the stories of how design was evolved and fought for, the stories of the production headaches and victories. This is not the sort of book you could write by simply living through 1982 (and the years of production leading up to the movieís debut). Bill talked to EVERYBODY involved, and had great access to the writer/director and the various producers (one of whom basically helped Bill through everything). Bill spent five years tape-recording interviews with the key players, and his level of research shows. It truly is an insiderís guide to the movie, and Tron aficionados will be in heaven. It is available on Amazon and features numerous black and white photos.
Finally, here's the latest slideshow I've put together since coming back:
Kevin Yee may be e-mailed at [email protected] - Please keep in mind he may not be able to respond to each note personally. FTC-Mandated Disclosure: As of December 2009, bloggers are required by the Federal Trade Commission to disclose payments and freebies. Kevin Yee recieved a complimentary copy of the book he reviewed in this column.
Kevin is the author of many books on Disney theme parks, including:
The Unofficial Walt Disney World ‘Earbook 2010 is a photo-rich volume of 70 pages that park fans will find especially useful if they want to know what’s changed at WDW since their last visit.
History was on my mind as I composed this book. As you might expect, there is a section on additions, another on removals, and a third on events. But I wanted to make sure to include some prices from January 2010 in the book, the better to capture in future years (and future generations?) exactly what it costs to buy admission, parking, a night at each level of hotel, or such food items as a turkey leg. I also wanted to provide a bit more specificity to the unfolding of events, so the various additions and removals, as well as smaller alterations and debuts, are laid out in a timeline broken down month-by-month.
In short, the book is designed to appeal to those folks who are similarly history-minded, as well as those who are hungry to know what changed at Disney World since their last visit. Or perhaps it’s a worthwhile keepsake for anyone who DID visit in 2010—it captures what was new, after all.
Also recently issued...
Walt Disney World Hidden History: Remnants of Former Attractions and Other Tributes:
As the title implies, this is all about those little things in the parks that have significance to insiders and long-timers, but are never explained or highlighted. When a ride closes, sometimes pieces or props from that ride are folded into the replacement attraction (think of the World of Motion car seen in the queue of Test Track). Other times, designers intentionally craft a tribute to the previous ride—an example of that might be the carving of a submarine in the cement tree created for Pooh’s Playful Spot where the 20,000 Leagues subs used to be.
The other kind of homage in the parks concerns not rides, but individuals. The designers, artists, engineers, executives, and people important to Disney’s history often provide the inspiration for names and titles used at the attractions. Sadly, these are almost always unheralded. All of these remnants and tributes are normally left for the truly obsessed to spot piecemeal. They are usually not even discussed in the official Disney books and tours. This book sets out to change that, and catalog all such remnants and tributes in one spot.
The final result is 225 pages of hyper-detailed historical factoids. Broadly speaking this is a “trivia” book, but remember that it’s a particular kind of trivia. You’ve known before that the Walt Disney World theme parks wove a thick tapestry of details and backstory into a seamless (and peerless) experience. But armed with the specifics of homages and tributes, you’ll become aware that the parks are even more alive, and layered with meaning, that you could have ever imagined.
Might this be an ideal present for the Disney fan on your shopping list? If so, please have a look.
Also written by Kevin...
Your Day at the Magic Kingdomis a full-color, hardcover
interactive children’s book, where readers decide which attraction to ride
next (and thus which page to turn to) - but watch out for some unexpected surprises!
Mouse Trap: Memoir of a Disneyland Cast Memberprovides the
first authentic glimpse of what it’s like to work at Disneyland.
The Walt Disney World Menu Book lists restaurants, their
menus, and prices for entrees, all in one handy pocket-sized guide.
Tokyo Disney Made Easy is a travel guide to Tokyo
Disneyland and Tokyo DisneySeas, written to make the entire trip stress-free
for non-speakers of Japanese.
Magic Quizdom offers an exhaustive trivia quiz on Disneyland
park, with expansive paragraph-length answers that flesh out the fuller
story on this place rich with details.
101 Things You Never Knew About Disneyland is a list-oriented
book that covers ground left intentionally unexposed in the trivia book,
namely the tributes and homages around Disneyland, especially to past rides
101 Things You Never Knew About Walt Disney World
follows the example of the Disneyland book, detailing tributes and homages
in the four Disney World parks.
More information on the above titles, along with ordering options are at this link.