Last week, I went to Disneyland Paris. It’s one of the Disney parks that perplexes fans. We don’t know what to think of it. While visually stunning, it lacks substance. Due to corporate woes and mis-management, it’s been largely untouched as a resort. It consists of two parks, Disneyland Park and Walt Disney Studios Park. The resort has seven owned hotels with a number of partner hotels too. But big changes are coming to Disneyland Paris. The Walt Disney Company finally have full ownership of the resort and operations, allowing them to unlock investments ($1.4bn has already been announced). I wanted to go now before changes would come. Think of this as a review, I’ll follow up when I visit after substantial change. If I had to summarise, I feared the worst but was ecstatic when my expectations were exceeded beyond my wildest dreams… well, this is Disneyland after all!
Let’s start with transport links. The UK has left the European Union, which when looking to the future, isn’t a good thing. I travelled with Eurostar. They offer direct trains to Marne-la-Vellee twice a week. Those not familiar with Paris, Marne-la-Vellee is literally Disneyland Paris, you are 50 feet away from the resort’s security hub. So I took a train to Paddington, a cab to St. Pancreas and the Eurostar to Marne-la-Vellee, checked into my hotel on the train and went straight into Walt Disney Studios Park when I arrived. This compared to the near 24hrs of travel I do to get into Walt Disney World is phenomenal. All it took me was 8hrs. But, will Brexit mean Eurostar will be more expensive? Yes, almost certainly. But I can say without a doubt, the ease of use makes it worth it. Other forms of transport include flying, where you can get a shuttle for €20, and Eurotunnel or Ferry which is comparable.
Accommodation is very much up to that Disney standard. I chose Disney’s Newport Bay Club. It’s a ‘Moderate-Deluxe’ in Domestic Disney standards. The rooms were great, the cleanliness was good. As expected, the theming was spectacular. This hotel was recently renovated and it really shows. I have no issue saying it’s my favourite Disney hotel. I mean globally, not just in terms of Disneyland Paris.
is what I would say is an over-exaggeration of the themed lands.
Main Street feels distinct, the cars are driving. Fantasyland is vast and magical. Discoveryland (Paris’ equivalent to Tomorrowland) feels like you’re on a base on another planet. Disneyland Park is the Magic Kingdom formula done right. But the one thing I wanted to focus on is the Castle. When I first entered the Park this trip, it made me cry. It’s a beautifully grand castle that is tall and slender, but it comes alive at night and especially during Disney Illuminations. It’s incredibly interactive, having a dragon in the basement, shops on the ground floor and a Sleeping Beauty walkthrough attraction on the upper floor. It’s beautiful, and it’s my favourite castle.
Walt Disney Studios Park
is a look at how films are made… rather how films were made in 2002…
I’ll get onto it later but this park is severely outdated. It even has the old tram tour from Disney’s MGM Studios. But this park has a Toy Story Playland, Tower of Terror, an Animation building (which has some stunning artifacts) and my favourite… the Ratatouille themed area. The area has one ride, one shop and one restaurant. The Ratatouille attraction shrinks you down to the size of a rat and takes you with Remy on an adventure to get to his restaurant without getting caught. It’s on a trackless system, with simulation effects on each ride car. It combines 3D IMAX screens with huge props. The way the ride is choreographed is phenomenal. It’s hard to explain fully and I encourage you to get a FastPass if you ever go to the park, it’s definitely worth it.
Because Disneyland Paris is so small, it feels welcoming and far more relaxing than Walt Disney World or even Shanghai. Whereas with Walt Disney World, you are constantly planning, and having shorter days because you’re doing so much. Paris is much more leisurely. That’s both a pro and a con. Let me explain.
Disneyland Paris could be done in a weekend. Two days if you work efficiently. Disneyland Park for 1.5 days and Walt Disney Studios for half a day. So for someone like me who went for 5 days, it was pretty relaxing, I got to go on my favourite attractions more than once and I wasn’t tired in doing so. Hell, I struggle to do everything I want to do at Walt Disney World and I’m usually there two weeks at a time (haven’t been to the Enchanted Tiki Room in 12 years). But it’s a shame really. Studios is outdated, so is Disneyland Park. Expansions have come and gone but the substance still lacks. I say this having gone there and loving it. It’s an incredible Disney resort but there just needs to be… more. People don’t want to see how films are made anymore (Studio Tram Tour). People know that car stunts aren’t that choreographed and the explosions are CG (Moteurs, Action). As fascinating as it was for a Disney fan like me to explore the Nautilus from 20,000 Leagues Under The Sea, why would anyone born after 1999 know what that even is? It’s sad, I love this park but it isn’t working. Walt said, “Disneyland will never be complete, it’s always in a state of becoming”, so why has Disneyland Paris remained untouched?
Well, let’s talk Michael Eisner. The former CEO was known for his selfishness, his lack of judgement and over-confidence in departments he knew little of. One department he liked to meddle with was Walt Disney Imagineering. Long story short, it’s because of Eisner that Euro Disney settled in France (not the better option of Spain). It’s because of Eisner’s lack of knowledge in hospitality that the EuroDisney project was over budget and was operating at a loss from day one. There were too many hotels. The hotels were all designed by famous architects so they cost more to design, Disney misunderstood construction costs. A resort which was meant to cost $2.2bn, ended up at $5.5bn. EuroDisney (the company in charge of operations.) was restructured 3 times but it was all unsuccessful. Disney didn’t fully own this resort. It was 50% owned by the state, which the state later sold to the public who have now sold it all to Disney. Disneyland Paris has hardly seen any big expansions. That was until Ratatouille at Walt Disney Studios. The $275mill attraction has given a much-needed boost to the park. That would be the end of the story if two major events didn’t shake Paris. The Charlie Hebdo attack and the Bataclan shooting. Following the latter, the resort closed for four days while Disney re-thought their security from the ground up. The effect of these events on the tourism industry in Paris can be compared to that of the US after 9/11. Where in that instance, the Disney parks were big enough to stay afloat, Disneyland Paris is struggling, not even the 25th Anniversary could save it. That’s why Disney have bought EuroDisney and its why BIG changes are coming. There’s a lot of speculation. But I have six main things that would improve the resort for years to come.
Marvel – Walt Disney Studios needs a Marvel makeover, starting with Tower of Terror. Do what they’re doing at Disney’s California Adventure and make a themed land where the Studio Tram Tour is. It makes perfect sense and is ideal for the park
Expand everywhere, not just Studios – as much as Walt Disney Studios needs this makeover, Disneyland Park has remained largely unchanged since 2005. If there’s a higher attendance at Disneyland Park, there’ll be a larger attendance at Walt Disney Studios. I’d like to see Star Wars Land, sure. But it would be more plausible to build a New Fantasyland (Which I discovered was planned from a cast member, but has since been scrapped)
More original entertainment – Stage shows, parades, fireworks, doesn’t matter, Disneyland Paris know how to do entertainment.
Frozen – Whether this be by building a themed area or even putting a dark ride where Snow White is.
Forget the behind the scenes, focus on being in the scenes – This is what Disney’s California Adventure is doing as is Disney’s Hollywood Studios. I’m presuming this is what the plan is, but I think it’s obvious that the French people aren’t interested in how films are made anymore.
Reduce the cheesiness – just… watch the parade and see for yourself…
That's not to say they’re not on the right track. For example, entertainment at Disneyland Paris is nothing less than spectacular. The show Mickey & The Magician has won countless awards and is a prime example of Disney using their IP, with its strong messages, to delight and inspire guests young and old. In my honest opinion, this is the best example of entertainment Disneyland Paris has ever shown. Compared with their peers, Disneyland Paris has one of the most spectacular night-time shows in the world. Disney Illuminations uses technologies seen across the Disney parks around the world such as high pressure water jets, water curtains and low level pyrotechnics and combines them to create a moving and unforgettable experience.
Star Wars has taken over Discoveryland. Space Mountain has become Hyperspace Mountain, Star Tours has been given a refurb and the Discoveryland Theatre is now home to the Jedi Training Academy.
I guess to sum up how I felt about the resort is quite difficult. I’ve always been critical of it, but I’ve been like that out of love. Disneyland Paris is beautiful. But it’s like a time capsule, I felt like I was in 1992 Disney for the 5 days. Which is great for my nostalgic side, but less for my Disney fan side. I want this resort to succeed, it’s Europe’s Disneyland. It has to be fresh, it has to be beautiful and because it’s a Disneyland, it needs to evolve. It won’t be long before I go back, I have friends who are cast members there. As of a few weeks ago, I have financial interest in the resort. Disneyland Paris has a bright future, it starts now.