GRAND EUROPEAN ADVENTURE
* Yup, she's still with us
D . .I . .S . .N . .E . .Y . .L . .A . .N . .D
* This post contains much comparison between Disneyland Paris and the Walt Disney World Resort in Orlando, Florida. An acquaintance with the latter may prove useful.
Thursday, April 9th was the day set aside for Disneyland. Of course, with this family, you wouldn't expect us not to go, would you? That morning, we hopped on the RER train to Marne-le-Valée/Chessy, or DISNEYLAND. It was a 40-minute ride, and whilst on the train, it was brought to our attention by the contrôleur that the rail passes that we had bought at the same time as our Disney tickets specifically to get to Disneyland were in actuality passes to Versailles. In the opposite direction. So, of course we had to buy correct tickets then and there, 25€ each. Mom was eventually refunded for the other ones. Now, if we had used public transport on our previous Schmermund adventure, something like this would definitely have happened, but instead we rented a car, which came with its own set of problems.
Disneyland Paris is made up of three parks: Disneyland Paris, the Walt Disney Studios, and Disney Village. We first went to the Walt Disney Studios. It's a lot like Hollywood Studios in Walt Disney World (Florida), but obviously much smaller, and proportionately less fun. The only two things we did there were the Rock 'n' Roller Coaster and the Disney Animation tour. We brought Mom onto the Rock 'n' Roller Coaster for her first time; Aunt Janet sat it out. For all intents and purposes, it's the same ride as in Florida, but for two exceptions: it's completely in the dark (no neon road signs or giant doughnuts), and the Aerosmith soundtrack includes lyrics (which Mom sang at the top of her lungs). Needless to say, she liked it. The Magic of Disney Animation is again just like it's clone* in Hollywood Studios, Florida. Mushu tells everyone (in a selection of six different languages) all about the character design process. But seriously guys, Mulan came out in 1998. I think it's time for an update. The rest of the Studios is mostly shows, which we didn't have any time for - we were only there for the day. The other interesting ride there, and certainly the most popular one, is Crush's Coaster. Based on Finding Nemo, it is a combination roller-coaster-Mad-Tea-Party; the cars all spun as you went on the coaster. Unfortunately, with a 60-minute wait, we could only watch. Incidentally, the Partners statue (with Walt and Mickey holding hands) is at the Walt Disney Studios, rather than Disneyland Park, which I found interesting.
* Or, rather, predecessor.
After lunch, we went into Disneyland Park, where the real magic is. Disneyland Hotel is right at the gates of the park, and visitors have to walk underneath the hotel in order to reach the ticket barriers. Disneyland Park is set up much like the Magic Kingdom in WDW: Main Street, Adventureland, Frontierland, Fantasyland, and Discoveryland - which takes the places of Tomorrowland, but with the same rides. This park's Sleeping Beauty's Castle* is the smallest of all the Disney Parks' castles, but one of the more interesting. Inside is a really expensive (but pretty) handmade glass shop, with an artisan working right there. The upper floor houses a walk-through Sleeping Beauty story, and underneath the castle is a dungeon passageway with a huge dragon, the largest Audio-Animatronic at the time of its creation (since beaten by the yeti of Animal Kingdom's Expedition Everest). Also, you can walk around outside the castle on the parapets, which offers a great view of the park and also for any parades going by.
* Le Château de la Belle au Bois Dormant
First, we went to Discoveryland. Whereas WDW's Tomorrowland is themed to the 1960's retro-futuristic design, Discoveryland is based on the writings of Jules Verne, and therefore is designed to look like a late-19th-century Universal Exposition, with lots of green and brass. I think the aesthetic is miles better than Tomorrowland. Mom, Anthony, and I went on Space Mountain Mission 2 - a more intense version of Space Mountain (Mission... 1, I guess...) It had more stuff to look at (planets, stars, explosions?) and included a 360° loop. It is almost as good as the original; it just isn't the same. Louder, faster, loop-ier, yes, but not Space Mountain. Then, we went on the ill-fated Les Voyages de la Nautilus. Poor 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea. Why does Disney still hang on to you and torture all fun out of you? A walk-through to make Grandpa wet himself in boredom, with an attack by a 'squid' that seems more like a leisurely chat with a passing almond. I'll bet this generation (that being my own) has never even heard of 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea. Disney closes the Carousel of Progress and the original* Enchanted Tiki Room and leaves this? I'm puzzled. Anyway, after that diverting five minutes, we walked back to the castle to watch the parade. Discoveryland also has a Buzz Lightyear's Space Ranger Spin clone, an Arcade, Autopia (Tomorrowland Speedway), Orbitron (Astro Orbiter), and Star Tours.
* Read: BETTER
Two things I'd like to point out about the Share a Dream Come True parade: Prince Phillip (I have to assume it was he dancing with Aurora) looked more like Enchanted's Prince Edward, but wearing a top hat. Why? And, Maleficent was bright red and looked like she was on fire. Why? Beats me, it's French. Now, on to Fantasyland.
My favourite ride in the Magic Kingdom has always been it's a small world.* And I was very pleased with Disneyland Paris's version. Very pleased. Only two things passed my strict 'Is It Better Than Disney World?' test: this was one of them. Disneyland Park's it's a small world is just fantastic. It is much bigger than WDW's (at least it seems that way) and does its very best to include every nation. And I mean every. The Middle East gets its own room; Latin America gets more than the lumped Mexico-or-Peru treatment of WDW; Africa is more diverse. And there's a US room. An entire room! Hollywood! Texas! The Midwest! New York! Canada! It's all there, and it's glorious. I'm sure it's because of the US not wanting to look facetious that there's barely any mention of the nation in the American versions of the ride, but it was really nice to see. Plus, the design of the entire attraction is different (and possibly better, I think): it's all done in cutouts and is very flat, rather than fabrics and elaborate sets in WDW. It makes the figures stand out more, since they are three-dimensional. So, enough about that. I love it's a small world. We also took a trip on Les Voyages de Pinocchio. Talk about a laugh. The ride was good enough - definitely an older, pre-Audio-Animatronics ride, à la Snow White's Scary Adventure, but it goes by so fast, you can hardly see what's happening. We all felt like we were being rushed past all of these beautiful tableaux and hurried to the exit. It took all of 2 minutes. Maybe it's because of the lo-tech quality of the ride, but geez, I thought Europe was supposed to be slower paced! So let's see, what else didn't we have time for in Fantasyland? Snow White, Dumbo, Tea Cups, Peter Pan (still massively popular, heaven knows why, yet also pre-Animatronics), and the ubiquitous Carousel.
* Note correct misuse of capitalisation.
From Fantasyland we traveled to Adventureland, which is dominated by Captain Hook's Pirate Ship and Discovery Isle, a huge walk-through play area not unlike WDW's Tom Sawyer Island. Of course, we went on Pirates of the Caribbean, which is the second ride that passed my test. I liked this Pirates better because of the beginning - it took longer to set the mood, possibly because Europe doesn't have anything like the Caribbean, but that gave more time to relax. Then it picks up where the original starts (without Jack Sparrow and horrible mist-Davy-Jones). There's also a longer ending that winds down and explains that all the pirates are gone and the gold is in caves with skeletons. Very good. However, after that Anthony and I went on Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom, which is a surprisingly bland ride. I was expecting something like Disneyland's (California) Temple of Doom, but this was just your average roller coaster. It feels like a Six Flags ride* and is all around out-of-place. Indiana Jones isn't even a Disney franchise, so I don't know why it's there. Plus, random loops. I don't understand. Boo.
* If you know me, you know that that's not a compliment.
Finally, as the day (and the park) closed, we hurried to Frontierland, where all we had time left to do was ride the Phantom Manor. The queue goes through the front door of the house, which was a nice touch. I much prefer the Florida version, though. This one has a much more explicit storyline, which can be read here (this post being long enough as it is), but did not have nearly enough Pepper's Ghost* illusions for my taste. Very entertaining though; I love that each Haunted Mansion is different. Once we got out of the ride, we had to make a bee-line for the exit, since the park was closing. The steamboat (the Molly Brown, btw) and Big Thunder Mountain Railroad were the only other things in Frontierland. Disneyland Paris (and France in general, I think) really likes the American West. Almost all of Disneyland Paris's hotels are named after the West: Sequoia, Sacramento, Santa Fe... and cowboys, aside from being the typical American stereotype, are pretty popular. Anyway, there weren't any fireworks since the park is way too close to a residential area (the same case as Disneyland), but Mickey was above the gates waving good bye to everyone. All in all, Disneyland Park was great, I wish I had more time to spend there, but of course nothing can beat the Magic Kingdom. I've been spoiled.
* Without getting technical, it makes the ghosts look like... ghosts.
One last thing. We had dinner at Disney Village, basically a much scaled-down version of Downtown Disney. There were a few big shops and some restaurants (American West themed again...) and a Rainforest Café. We had BBQ, in a place with line dancing in French, which was odd, to American country songs*, which was odder. The decor of the room was, as Aunt Janet put it, everything from every western movie: fish on one wall, deer heads and antlers on another, old portraits of U.S. presidents (Washington to Taft, in no particular order) on another. Weird to authentic Americans like us, but I'm sure it's 'just like it' to Europeans who don't know any better. All in all, Disneyland was great, and I'm glad we got to go. I wish I had another day to explore, but Walt Disney World will always take the cake. Disneyland Paris just doesn't feel like Disney, and those of you who have been to Florida know what I mean. Disneyland Paris feels like a cheap (well, maybe not 'cheap') knock-off, which in essence it is. It's a park, yes, which is owned by Disney and has Disney characters, yes, but it's not Disneyland. That's all I can say about that. Hope you enjoyed it, and sorry about the inordinate length. But I'm not really, though.
* Which, I'm pretty sure, are the only kind of country songs.