William -- August 2000 -- Disneyland Paris (Offsite)
(Editor's Note: William sent me the following note, rather than changing the text of his report, as he suggested, I just thought I'd include his note here: "Oh, there's one thing about my trip report that I'm a tad embarrassed about. I refer a few times to the size of DLP - and my observations of how "small" it is in comparison with the American parks. Well, you and I know that it's larger that both American Magic Kingdoms... it just didn't seem that way then. So, you can edit it as you like to remove those misleading statements.")
August 6, 2000
I just spent a month studying music in France - during which time, I grabbed a day to spend at Disneyland Paris. I've always wanted to visit! Wow, I'm now bi-Disney-coastal! First, let me say that the attractions there blow away both American Magic Kingdoms (which upsets me, considering Walt Disney World is so much more accessible..with no Atlantic ocean to traverse). However, there are a few things Disney could do to improve our United States counterparts. Think of this as kinda Trip report (which I've never done before! eeck) and assessment of the riches Disney could bring over from Europe.
I think Disney should really consider updating Space Mountain in Florida to resemble "Space Mountain: From the Earth to the Moon" - which has to be the single best roller coaster/Disney attraction in the world. The music is beautifully orchestrated, and transcendent in it's ability to completely "accompany" every twist and turn of the ride. The setting, evocative of Jules Verne's book, really heightens the experience of immersing yourself into a completely different world - while the loops and corkscrews (I think, who knows in the dark...) increase the illusion of weightlessness, making the "space" more sensory overloady. While I do like the charm of Space Mountain in Florida, Disneyland Paris makes it look like Journey Through 1970.
Big Thunder Mountain Railroad. I almost want to call it "Big Thunder Mountain: From Space Mountain to the Frontier" - starts out at the station, and then drops you into a dark, underground tunnel, reminiscent of Space Mountain - which takes you to the island in the middle of the Frontierland lake (don't have my plan de parc handy) where you emerge to experience the aboveground thrills. The ambience is gorgeous, the ride seems rougher and much more "runaway railroad-ish", and just when you think it's over, Disney throws you back down into the tunnel, with a much more dangerous intent than the first tunnel to the island - in fact, you only get a chance to breathe once the ride actually stops. Fun fun fun, and wow, do you get the time for your wait (not that Disneyland Paris, even at the height of tourist season in mid-August seemed at all comparable to the crowds of the American parks) it seemed much more prolonged and unexpected than Thunder in WDW or Disneyland. Rode it once during the daytime, but really got the full effect right before the Main Street Electrical Parade. Granted, Disney can't exactly bring the "island" location to the other Kingdoms, but it could perhaps add some of the underground tunnels, and prolong the experience a bit.
The Pirates of the Caribbean. Never wanting to damage an old favorite, Disneyland Paris brings it to new heights, accentuating it's existing gifts, and caressing new ideas into the mix. There is a much more mystical feel to this Pirates, and a greater exploration of the underground treasure-holding caverns. The balance between the audio-animatronic, and the simple but effective boat ride through the luscious scenery really enlivens the senses, and keeps everything fresh, and...again (this is what they've learned with Disneyland Paris) - unexpected. My heart still belongs to the Pirates of Disneyland - but I may be easily persuaded to reside with the mystical, almost meditative Pirates of France.
Phantom Manor. The score, the score, the musical score. BRING THIS TO THE STATES. Oh, and... two words: Tim Burton. There seems to be a great deal of his influence in the Paris incarnation of the Haunted Mansion, even if it's something as a simple furnishing with his trademark style, or that of his creative designers and collaborators. The ballroom scene itself, is much more realized here, with greater attention to detail, and with a palette of colors unsurpassed at the mansions in the states. The Frontierland theme doesn't always work here, with the early-Victorian ideas within the mansion conflicting with those outside of it, and the storyline of the Bride, while an interesting through line - didn't touch me as much as I wished it would. One of the most interesting things about this Mansion has to be it's queue. I missed the comical cemetery, but thought the simple atmosphere, with a few damaged statues and quiet fountains - complete with a simplified bell rendition of Grim Grinning Ghosts wafting through - made a much colder first impression... and a very valid one - even if the ride itself didn't live up to it. So, okay - bring Tim Burton and every musical idea to the states.
The Time-Keeper - Either I missed a lot at WDW's Tomorrowland, or there is much more footage at Disneyland Paris. I'm not much of a fan of the timekeeper, but I really want to know why the film at WDW is decidedly shorter than that of DLP. Besides the fact that it's lengthier, I also found it quite entertaining - weaving more of Jules Verne into the story, (okay, perhaps it's Patriotic... or maybe it's a continuation of the Discoveryland ever present theme, which almost makes it appropriate to just be rename the place Honey, I Shrunk Jules Verneland). Anyway, it worked, and I didn't miss Robin Williams one bit.
Alice in Wonderland Maze - I think they should demolish Tom Sawyer Island, and construct this maze, complete with Queen of Hearts chateau there. The fact that it's in the middle of Frontierland, clashing with the whole theme deal, increases the validity of it's Lewis Carroll roots. Hello, it's wonderland... trippy and one of the best Disney animated movies of all time. If not on Tom Sawyer Island, then they can turn the 20,000 leagues lagoon/character meeting silliness into a landfill... placing this on the top. My friend and nearly walked by the little maze, thinking it would be a waste of time. We're so glad we decided to go it. It is so much of the book and of the movie, it's frightening. The labyrinth is what happens when you mix The Shining, Harry Potter, the movie Labyrinth, Edward Scissorhands, Much Ado About Nothing and of course, Alice - together. I had more fun with this than some things that pose as rides, like Test Track. Sometimes I think you'd have to be a crash test dummy to enjoy that waste of space. I actually miss World of Motion :( But alas I digress...
Pinocchio - The scariest dark ride I've ever been on. The moment where your vehicle is brought right into a cage has to be the most successful immersion into a Disney film, a theme park has ever accomplished. Again, the ride was done simply, but effectively - and most definitely should have been considered in place of Pooh bear at the expense of Mr. Toad's untimely demise. Eeyore is definitely my home donkey - but this Pinocchio ride really stirred up many childhood memories of watching that masterpiece. I can't remember if this was at Disneyland in CA... if it was, I don't think I had a chance to ride it when I visited.
Now onto the biggest disappointment of the day - thank goodness it was only a 10 minute wait. Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom - in 20 seconds! Oh yeah, and it was backwards with a loop. Yay. What's the point of themeing a backwards roller coaster, the most you see is the car in front of you, without hardly any of the surrounding environs. It was also over much too soon, and I didn't get to see much from the Temple of Doom film itself. Was George Lucas taking a break helping to design the much needed Star Tours II - or was this just an excuse to not have another Splash Mountain in the world?
Oh, and the food! Had a very "karmic" experience (well my friends and I musta done something right to end up eating Dinner right with the Pirates of the Caribbean) - at the Blue Lagoon Restaurant. We split the lobster dish, which, for being very much inland, was Maine delicious. And the mystical ambience of the ride carried right over to the food presentation and setting. I'm a sucker for the Blue Lagoon at DL, but this one seemed to top that one. But then, how could food in France ever be prepared badly?
All in all, for being a very delicate, small park - this Magic Kingdom packed the most punch for it's acreage. I applaud the Disney Imagineers - and wholeheartedly wish to return to the park.. and stay at the beautiful hotel at the entrance - when I return to France next year. One thing that is often lost, was found here in spades...: MAGIC.
thanks for reading... yikes - my first trip report!
Excited from Paris and Disneyland but upset to be back in stinky Manhattan.
- Billy : )